An informed, smoothly argued brief that will surely rattle windows at the White House.

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THE DISPENSABLE NATION

AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN RETREAT

The dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies pens an insider account of the Obama administration’s diplomatic fecklessness in the greater Middle East.

Drawing from his decades of scholarship and specifically from his two-year tenure as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, the president’s special adviser to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nasr (Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our World, 2009, etc.) accuses the Obama White House of lacking any strategic vision for the Middle East and abandoning diplomacy and economic engagement in favor of shortsighted, tactical maneuvers driven by domestic politics and opinion polls. He charges the administration with preferring the advice of the military and intelligence agencies over its own foreign policy experts, a misguided approach that has bewildered our friends in the region and needlessly antagonized our enemies. He fleshes out his indictment with chapters devoted to Afghanistan, where talks with the Taliban were never seriously considered; Pakistan, where we failed to develop any strategy to end that country’s double-dealing; Iran, where sanctions and blustering war talk bid fair to turn that nation into a version of North Korea; and Iraq, where our withdrawal has done little to lessen sectarian animosities that threaten to reignite. Nasr blasts the administration’s failure to capitalize on the genuine opportunity offered by the Arab Spring, where we’ve cheered from the sidelines the fall of dictators with no real plan to help assure that what follows will be an improvement. The author insists he’s writing more in sorrow than in anger, fearful that this broadside will be employed as a “political bludgeon,” but it’s likely that critics—and, perhaps, especially supporters who expected the wielding of “smart power” under Obama—will happily seize on this picture of a foreign policy in disarray.

An informed, smoothly argued brief that will surely rattle windows at the White House.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-53647-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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