An engaging overview bolstered by intriguing appendices, including the August 2009 “McChrystal Report on Afghanistan.”




A brief history of special-forces units, examining how they have altered the ways in which governments approach difficult military problems.

Special-forces units are small, highly skilled groups of soldiers trained for secret operations outside the parameters of traditional military forces. Some of these have connections to organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the United Kingdom’s Special Air Service or Israel’s Mossad. Ex-soldier and Guardian contributor Geraghty (Soldiers of Fortune: A History of the Mercenary in Modern Warfare, 2009, etc.) looks at their post–World War II origins. During the Cold War, special-forces units allowed governments to carry out espionage-related military missions without full-scale war. Similar elite forces developed as an effective way to take on guerrilla warriors and terrorists, particularly in Ireland, Vietnam and Israel. The author entertainingly narrates the tales of various forces and their missions, but he never shies away from the morally gray areas that such units often inhabit. “Much of the history of Special Forces—anyone’s Special Forces,” he writes, “is a story of dirty, morally reprehensible—if effective—work.” Sometimes special-forces operations have failed spectacularly, as when an aborted 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran led to the deaths of several American soldiers. But there have also been impressive successes, including the famous rescue of terrorist-held hostages by Israeli soldiers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. Geraghty effectively shows how the precision allowed by special forces is now being used as part of the U.S. military’s strategy in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, chosen by President Obama to lead the forces in Afghanistan, is a special forces veteran, and the president, in a landmark speech on Afghanistan military strategy, said that the military will have to be “nimble and precise” to be effective. “For ‘nimble and precise’ read ‘Special Operations Forces’ ” Geraghty writes.

An engaging overview bolstered by intriguing appendices, including the August 2009 “McChrystal Report on Afghanistan.”

Pub Date: July 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60598-097-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Borderland/Ivan Dee

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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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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