A valiant attempt, with many fruitful insights, to help fashion citizens capable of sound independent judgments.

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THE WORLD

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

The president of the Council on Foreign Relations presents “the basics of what you need to know about the world, to make you more globally literate.”

In a follow-up to A World in Disarray (2017), Haass, a former diplomat and adviser for both George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell, examines “the ideas, issues, and institutions essential for a basic understanding of the world.” Though he focuses primarily on the era beginning with the Thirty Years’ War, the author references ancient history when it sheds light on contemporary circumstances. Haass takes a rather middle-of-the-road approach, trying to describe the mechanics of political science and global affairs in a way that provides context and perspective in writing that moves at a lively clip, both compact and inviting. Although he covers all the regions of the world, the lion’s share of the attention goes to, in descending order, Europe, North America, Asia, and everywhere else. The author explores the way things work, or don’t, in the political sphere: How do various state actors contend with terrorism? Did nuclear proliferation ever serve a positive role? Will cybercrime turn the internet on its head? Where are global health and trade headed? Will alliances and coalitions ever be enough to ensure global order? How do we best navigate the increasing effects of climate change? Throughout, Haass tries to track certain historical trajectories, with mixed success. During a discussion of the post–Cold War era, he writes, “no one would have the ability—and few would have the desire—to challenge the primacy of the United States given its tradition, with some exceptions, of not seeking to impose its will on others.” A strong case can be made for the primacy of “exceptions.” In covering so much territory in so little space, Haass can’t help but do a lot of skimming, though the lacunae are beguiling enough to make readers seek out deeper investigations into certain topics—and the author’s “Where To Go For More” section is a good start.

A valiant attempt, with many fruitful insights, to help fashion citizens capable of sound independent judgments.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-56239-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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