A matchless study that combines the brutal facts of war with persuasive findings.




A fascinating study of the way Western values have translated into Western military victories against non-Western cultures.

Hanson (The Soul of Battle, 1999) meticulously analyzes nine epic battles, from Salamis in 480 b.c. to Tet in 1968. In each account he shows how Western liberalism influenced military tactics and brought Western armies crucial victories against conservative or despotic foes. Some readers will catch an offensive triumphalism here, but most will find Hanson’s point insurmountable. Why has the core of Europe never been invaded by non-Western peoples? Why have other cultures mimicked Western militaries (rather than the other way around)? From ancient Greece to the present day, Hanson argues, Western armies have enjoyed a number of cultural advantages over their enemies. Western armies were most often composed of free men, for example, rather than slaves or mercenaries. Free men were inventive by nature and more likely to develop new weapons; they were also more loyal since, rather than being compelled, they chose to fight. Being more loyal, Western warriors were thus more disciplined and developed close-ranked shock tactics (the phalanx being the earliest example) that served Europeans well against the erratic, mob-like battle techniques of other civilizations (e.g., Islamic horsemen or African Zulus). Lastly, Western countries tended to fight wars of annihilation, whereas more warlike, despotic societies (such as the Aztecs) tended to have ritualized styles of fighting that led their armies to engage and then withdraw once their prowess has been displayed. Westerners may be slow to fight, writes Hanson, but once they start they seek to utterly destroy their opponent’s fighting capability. If one finds it hard to see a connection between the Aztecs and, say, the Japanese, consider that the Japanese could have delivered far more damage to the American navy at Pearl Harbor. Instead, after merely crippling the fleet and leaving its most potent vessels (the aircraft carriers) unscathed, the Japanese armada steamed away, expecting the soft, democratic US to sue for peace.

A matchless study that combines the brutal facts of war with persuasive findings.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-50052-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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