A challenge for the general reader but a feast for students of law, foreign policy and international relations.

TERROR AND CONSENT

THE WARS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A distinguished scholar proposes an entirely new way of understanding and combating modern terrorism.

With the startling statement that “almost every widely held idea we currently entertain about twenty-first century terrorism and its relationship to the Wars against Terror is wrong and must be thoroughly rethought,” Bobbitt (Law/Columbia Univ.; The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, 2002, etc.) reframes the discussion, placing terrorism in a historical, strategic and legal context. Building on the premises of his previous work and drawing on a staggeringly wide array of authorities, he argues that with the emergence of the globalized market state, we can expect terror groups to become every bit as worldwide, networked and decentralized as the states themselves. In this sense, the market states have “caused” terrorism or, at least, forced it to assume its modern face. With access to lethal weapons and state-of-the-art communications, future terrorists will make al-Qaeda memorable only as a crude pioneer. To meet this security threat, writes the author, states that depend on the consent of the governed must radically recalibrate their strategies and laws. Bobbitt’s prescriptions for preventing terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, for intervening to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing, and for mitigating the human-rights consequences of natural catastrophes will likely prove controversial. There are many who will disagree with his arguments, including those unconverted to his belief in the waning of the nation-state, those who insist that the target is confined to radical Islam, and those who resist the idea that we are in a proper war and recoil at the prospect of any diminution of our civil rights to fight it. But this is a serious book, and, notwithstanding his impressive theoretical reach and philosophical scope, Bobbitt keeps his feet on the ground, boldly offering detailed real-world proposals to combat the problems he outlines. To learn, for example, that our safety may require the repeal of statutes passed in the wake of the Civil War—specifically, the Posse Comitatus Act—is to glimpse the shaky state of our preparedness for this new conflict.

A challenge for the general reader but a feast for students of law, foreign policy and international relations.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4243-2

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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