A provocative survey of a changing military charged—it seems ever more apparent—with making the world American, regardless...

IMPERIAL GRUNTS

THE AMERICAN MILITARY ON THE GROUND

Prolific world-traveler Kaplan (Mediterranean Winter, 2004, etc.) goes where the boots are. And where they are, he suggests, there stands the American Empire.

“The Big Army doesn’t understand that force protection means force projection. They’re killing us in Iraq because they see that we’re scared.” Thus a Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan, speaking with the customary openness of soldiers in the face of someone they trust—Kaplan, in this case, who over the years has been along for many rides when the bullets are flying and who, at one point, catches himself wondering what for: “I was fifty-one years old. Why was I doing this?” He answers by bringing home absorbing stories from warriors at the edges of the empire, who are somehow different from soldiers in past wars: For them, all the world is “Injun Country,” monitored by “singular individuals fronting dangerous and stupendous landscapes.” Indeed, the troops who patrol the streets of Djibouti and scout the jungles of Colombia and the Philippines look like surfers, talk like cowboys and have a healthy disdain for the meaningless regulations of the Big Army. But, in the parlance, they’re exquisitely sensitive to the mission, which has changed markedly since 9/11, involving a newfound resolution “to whack people quietly” while trying to win hearts and minds. The Big Army, of course, does things more noisily, though its middle managers—the captains and majors who run the show, “the true agents of the imperium”—seem keen to remake the organization for an ever-unpredictable world. Those who question whether or why the U.S. is an imperial nation will not be comforted by Kaplan’s assurances that, after all, “Rome, Venice, and Britain were the most morally enlightened states of their age”—and that democracy at home and a ruthless authoritarianism abroad are not necessarily incompatible.

A provocative survey of a changing military charged—it seems ever more apparent—with making the world American, regardless of the world’s view of things.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6132-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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