A compendium of discomfiting, implication-heavy facts, of particular interest to students of geopolitics.

THE DEAD HAND

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE COLD WAR ARMS RACE AND ITS DANGEROUS LEGACY

Stanley Kubrick got it wrong in Dr. Strangelove: There was a Doomsday Machine, but it was in the other bunker.

So we learn in this penetrating look at the history of the Cold War and its many curious assumptions, specifically the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, bearing the apt acronym MAD, courtesy of the late Robert McNamara. One of its offshoots was the notion that the Soviet military created “Dead Hand,” a missile system that led to further assumptions that the civilian leadership and military command system were dead and gone. The Soviet brass, writes Washington Post reporter Hoffman (The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, 2002), worried that human operators might have pangs of conscience and tried to push through a computer-loop design by which the machines would decide when to unleash hell without human intervention. Fortunately, more sensible heads prevailed—but not without a fight. One of the many virtues of Hoffman’s book is that it depicts not just the death-tainted hand of the military-industrial complex in the United States, but also in the Soviet Union, where supposed strongmen like Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov had considerable trouble keeping the warmongers under control. Despite diplomatic agreements and good assurances, the Russian city of Sverdlovsk pumped out anthrax spores as “the Soviet Union promptly betrayed its signature on the [arms control] treaty.” Indeed, readers will realize how lucky we are to have escaped being destroyed at their hands. Yet, Hoffman notes, even today, “in a remote compound near the town of Shchuchye in western Siberia, there are still 1.9 million projectiles filled with 5,447 metric tons of nerve agents.”

A compendium of discomfiting, implication-heavy facts, of particular interest to students of geopolitics.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-52437-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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