A lively, contrarian view of history—fruitful reading for peaceniks and warfighters alike.

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REASONS TO KILL

WHY AMERICANS CHOOSE WAR

A provocative essay on our war-loving, bullying nation.

“No other modern nation has a more bellicose record—and our pace is accelerating,” writes Rubenstein (Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs/George Mason Univ.), who reckons that the United States has been at war for more than 20 of the last 60 years, and nonstop since 2001. The reasons for going to war are myriad, but the author writes that they are usually explained in religious or moral terms. These terms, and the ensuing depiction of the enemy as evil, have been enough to chase off opposition to war. Furthermore, even if Americans profess to be peace-loving, opposition to war usually disappears in the run-up to and early stages of any given conflict. Things are getting worse rather than better, Rubenstein argues. What he calls “the current war system, with its pattern of continuous interventions in an ever-expanding zone of conflict,” asks that Americans accept it as axiomatic that our aims are good, our enemies bad and no consent need be sought or given on the part of a populace only a small number of whom actually participate in battle. The author examines the history of American war in light of the “warrior culture” of the Appalachian frontier and the Puritan view that any war fought had to be justified on moral grounds, and he takes a generally evenhanded view of things, even if his argument seems designed to give fits to the warhawks in Washington, D.C. For instance, he writes, it is entirely reasonable to depict the enemy as evil: “Why else would one feel justified in taking someone else’s life or risking one’s own in battle?” Why indeed? Just so, our enemies, being evil, are ipso facto legitimate targets.

A lively, contrarian view of history—fruitful reading for peaceniks and warfighters alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60819-026-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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