Shadow wars, wars by proxy, wars in which the weak predictably beat the strong: This book isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary...



War is hell, especially when the rules of engagement change in bewildering ways, as former paratrooper and current National Defense University professor McFate (Deep Black, 2017, etc.) explores in this combat-tested book.

“Why has America stopped winning wars?” So asks the author, provocatively. Why indeed, given how much of our national treasure goes to the care and feeding of a behemoth war machine? The problem isn’t the military’s, strictly speaking, nor of party politics and its curious ways, though “Congress has been AWOL since the Truman administration.” No, the problem is an endemic American one that centers on “strategic incompetence,” the inability to understand the nature of war and the modern enemy: organizations that are stateless, without standing armies, insurrectionary, enjoying the support of at least a good percentage of the populace, and able to drift in and out of a fight. Against this, writes McFate, American military leadership has taken a Tom Clancy/Red Dawn view that we’re still up against the Soviet Union and its big tank armies—though eschewing the use of nuclear weapons, since gentlemen do not go tossing around atomic bombs in the age of mutually assured destruction. “Preparing for conventional war is unicorn hunting,” writes the author dismissively before proposing a different scenario without failure baked into the recipe. Some of the ingredients are controversial, including the notion that future wars will likely be waged by special forces and mercenary armies, which, though carrying ugly connotations, are more cost-effective than standing national armies. McFate occasionally wanders into odd territory, including the notion that “deep states” will be responsible for world disorder as the nation-states of old fade away. However, it’s not far-fetched to believe, as he does, that “the double helix of corporations and politicos forms the DNA of America’s power structure” and that such elements have a way of fighting for themselves rather than the common good.

Shadow wars, wars by proxy, wars in which the weak predictably beat the strong: This book isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary reading for the strategically inclined.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-284358-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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