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 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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