A relentlessly admiring portrait of our armed services, but without the traditional overlay of patriotic homilies.




Absorbing continuation of Imperial Grunts (2005), with journalist Kaplan visiting American military forces in another dozen nations as they work to spread the influence of the world’s leading imperial power—a phrase that he insists describes us just as it once did Britain and Rome.

A long chapter follows regular army units patrolling relatively pacified areas in Iraq during 2005. These soldiers embrace “winning hearts and minds” without cynicism, but Kaplan makes it clear they have a crushing task. Surprisingly sophisticated mid-level officers explain that, despite their superior’s proclamations, poor people yearn for security (honest police, a minimum of criminals) more than free elections; then they want work. Most Iraqi insurgents are not religious fanatics but unemployed young men. Fixing this requires patience and money—more of both, Kaplan concludes sadly, than Americans will tolerate. While Imperial Grunts featured army and marine units, this book adds our Air Force and Navy, dazzling high-tech services but run by the same down-to-earth men and women with the same goals: assisting friendly governments, training military forces, providing humanitarian relief and fighting terrorism (a broad term that may include less-friendly political opposition, breakaway insurgents and uncooperative tribes). The chapters on sailors and airmen are less successful; these fighters rarely interact with other nationals, and their consequently simpler views of America’s virtues will make some readers squirm. Sensibly, Kaplan writes mostly on the minutiae of operating extraordinarily complex war machines: nuclear submarines, guided missile destroyers, spy planes. His subjects seem overwhelmingly right-wing and Republican, but units working on foreign soil show a gratifying tolerance as well as a commonsense view of what these nations need that contradicts our leaders’ platitudes about spreading democracy.

A relentlessly admiring portrait of our armed services, but without the traditional overlay of patriotic homilies.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6133-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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


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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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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