A can’t-miss for anyone interested in current military affairs.

A penetrating look inside the military units operating armed drones on remote battlefields around the world.

Phelps, a former Marine who served five deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, works from—and expands on—the principles laid out in Dave Grossman’s On Killing (1995), which investigated the intense psychological forces affecting troops involved in lethal action. The author draws heavily on interviews with members of the armed forces who operate remotely piloted aircraft, as drones are officially known. The military has always sought to increase the distance from which it attacks enemy forces, if only as a way to protect its own soldiers. From spears and arrows to artillery, aircraft, and long-range missiles, the distance has grown steadily over time. From that perspective, RPAs are a natural progression. Phelps, who has commanded multiple Unmanned Aircraft System teams, takes pains to contest the flawed perception that using RPAs is equivalent to playing computer games. The warriors who fire their weapons have often spent weeks or months observing their targets, waiting for a time when there is no risk of killing bystanders. They may know more about their targets than their own next-door neighbors, and they see with unusual clarity what happens after they “pull the trigger.” Inevitably, there is an often devastating emotional effect. Add to that the conditions under which they work, often serving long shifts that lead to dangerous sleep deprivation. Nor does their culture encourage them to seek help for the crushing mental stress. Furthermore, even as the number of RPA operators has dramatically increased, they are still treated as less important than “real” pilots or soldiers who are directly exposed to enemy fire. Phelps provides ample quotations from RPA operators as well as detailed reports of their necessary work. Drone warfare is seemingly ubiquitous, and the author delivers a clear report on how it works and how it affects the users.

A can’t-miss for anyone interested in current military affairs.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-62829-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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