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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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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