Given the complications of writing a comprehensive book about an octopuslike agency, Weinberger handles the material well....



A journey through “the agency responsible for some of the most important military and civil technologies of the past hundred years.”

Intercept security editor Weinberger (Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld, 2006, etc.) again sets her sights on the Department of Defense, combining historical context with a focus on waste, fraud, and abuse in one realm of the gigantic government agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, often referred to by its acronym DARPA. Cobbled together in 1958 in the aftermath of Cold War panic that the Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik satellite, the original DARPA personnel felt uncertain about their mission. The already established military services of the Army, Navy, and Air Force seemed to overlap with DARPA’s amorphous mandate. Should a military agency control the government’s rush to match or surpass the Sputnik launch? (At that time, NASA had not yet been created.) Weinberger traces how the pieces fell into place, focusing first on a detailed history of William Godel, a former military member who remained in government as a negotiator with foreign leaders. Godel’s previously low profile receives a boost from Weinberger, a tireless researcher. The ascension of Godel leads to the crispest narrative in the book; after he exits, the story loses steam due to his many successors and the many disparate projects that ended up in DARPA’s jurisdiction. Some of those projects led, at least indirectly, to the valuable creation of the nonmilitary internet plus brilliant devices that could detect tests of nuclear weapons by foreign nations. But when DARPA personnel became deeply involved in strategies to fight insurgent wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the agency waded into controversial waters that caused damage to its standing within the Pentagon.

Given the complications of writing a comprehensive book about an octopuslike agency, Weinberger handles the material well. At times, though, the reading feels like parsing a government agency annual report.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-35179-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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