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



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 timely and impassioned argument for social justice.


Profound contrasts in policing and incarceration reveal disparate Americas.

MSNBC host and editor at large of the Nation, Hayes (Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, 2013, etc.) expands the investigation of inequality begun in his previous book by focusing on law and order. Offering a persuasive analysis, he distinguishes between the Nation, inhabited by the “affluent, white, elite,” and the Colony, largely urban, poor, “overwhelmingly black and brown” but increasingly including working-class whites. The criminal justice system, argues Hayes, is vastly different for each: “One (the Nation) is the kind of policing regime you expect in a democracy; the other (the Colony) is the kind you expect in an occupied land.” In the Colony, “real democratic accountability is lacking and police behave like occupying soldiers in restive and dangerous territory.” Law enforcement, as noted by law professor Seth Stoughton, takes a “warrior worldview” in which “officers are locked in intermittent and unpredictable combat with unknown but highly lethal enemies.” Acknowledging that America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, Hayes traces the country’s history of punishment to the experience of European settlers who, “outnumbered and afraid,” responded with violence. Between 1993 and 2014, although the crime rate declined significantly, most Americans feel that crime has increased and therefore support aggressive police action. Furthermore, although most crime occurs intraracially, the Nation believes that the Colony is a constant, insidious threat; unmistakably, “we have moved the object of our concern from crime to criminals, from acts to essences.” Among other rich democracies, ours is the only one with the death penalty. Whereas in Europe, humane treatment has been widely instituted, in the U.S., perpetrators are treated as unredeemable. “The American justice system is all about wrath and punishment,” the author asserts. Arguing for the erasure of borders between Nation and Colony, Hayes admits, regretfully, that such change might fundamentally alter the comfortable sense of order that he, and other members of the Nation, prizes.

A timely and impassioned argument for social justice.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-25422-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.


A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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