The thesis is sound and relevant to our times. There are certainly cases where the constant "management" of crises has been bad. There are a few whereThe thesis is sound and relevant to our times. There are certainly cases where the constant "management" of crises has been bad. There are a few where "peace" has resulted in genocide where one side couldn't shoot back.
A few quibbles. The thesis of the chapter on the Versailles Treaty is muddled. On the one hand, the author is very critical of British policy in the interwar years and sympathetic to the French position of wanting to punish Germany. (Recent scholarship has conclusively proved that Germany provoked World War I fearing that it wouldn't be able to maintain its edge much past 1914.) But then it turns into a history of the appeasement policy. So was the problem that the Versailles Treaty was inadequate? that the Entente should have occupied Germany? or that the League of Nations should have enforced it?
It would seem to fit better with the thesis of the book that the Entente should have pressed for a stronger victory in 1918. There's some reason to think this might have been possible. The German feelers for an armistice were fueled by a French breakthrough on their southeastern flank and their inability to hold it off and the western front at the same time.
But here's the thing, and I think this reveals the flaw in the thesis of the book: the Entente's refusal to push forward and occupy Germany was no more a betrayal than the German government looking for the armistice. The Entente countries were exhausted and often on the brink of their own collapses. Indeed, Russia had collapsed. The UK and France had seen changes of government in the middle of the war. How do we know that the Entente had the ability to completely defeat Germany in 1918 or 1919?
The countries that were democracies—and this includes France and the UK—might have not been able to sustain a policy of occupation of Germany at the time. Their publics had no appetite for more war. Even the United States who suffered comparatively little in World War II tried very hard to stay out of the next war.
Policy makers are often constrained by what their publics can tolerate. This is part of the price of democracy. The problem with the alternative is that there's no constraint on launching wars, and they do in fact usually come from less than democratic regimes. Men like Lloyd George, Neville Chamberlain, or even Kissinger, have to play with the hand their dealt.
Lewis makes a point of this in the Versailles chapter, showing that the German public (and Hitler) had conviction in their cause of rearmament and national unification. But didn't the Allies have a conviction as well that another disastrous war should be avoided? Why should it have been taken for granted that the British should fight for Austria? Lewis thinks an intervention at that point would have caused Hitler's downfall and avoided the entire larger war.
This is so much Monday-morning quarterbacking. It very well could have gone differently. Britain was far behind in rearmament also—if they suffered a defeat then what?
In the end, when the public accepted that Hitler had to be defeated, he was defeated. They had to be convinced.
To me this means that while we need to understand the value of real victory, we can't just tell the public "you need total victory" and expect them to endure long conflicts. They need to understand both the cause for the need to fight at the beginning and the reasons to persist.
A good short read with some strong insights into a global phenomenon.
In a nutshell, Judis traces populism origins in America and relates a number of pA good short read with some strong insights into a global phenomenon.
In a nutshell, Judis traces populism origins in America and relates a number of post Great Recession instances to these roots, distinguishing them from the normal left-right axis. Judis's argument is that these movements are a symptom of the breakdown of the "neoliberal" order that emerged in the 1970s in response to a number of shocks that undermined the Keynesian consensus of the immediate post-war period.
While showing that today's populist movements defy easy left/right definitions, he notes differences between left-wing-derived populism which pit the "people" versus the "establishment" and the right-wing-derived populisms that include the establishment's favoring of some out group as part of how they disregard the popular will.
These are all very interesting insights and I suspect as the next several years unfold, they will be put into sharper focus. There are a few problems with Judis's claims where I think he is putting the finger on the scale of the left-wing. For example, drawing a line from George Wallace to Perot to Trump on the base of their support dances very close to the edge of reducing everything back to a racial issue, which Judis, in a recent interview at Slate at least, seems to deny. Judis does point out that claims that the right-wing populists are "fascists" is merely rhetorical on the major basis that there is no imperial or expansionist motive in them; on the contrary, they are largely isolationist. More on this below.
Also, I think a deeper dig into American populism shows some essential traits that Judis says are only the most tenuous links. Garry Wills lays some of those traits out in A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. Amateurism, authenticity, provincial, candid, traditional, populist, organic, and spontaneous are some of those traits. There opposite are associated with the "establishment" going back to the Revolutionary period. There's more of a link than Judis suspects.
But here are the major quibbles I have:
(1) It's not just the "neoliberal order" that is breaking down. I suspect that it's the entire post-WWII order that is in a process of decay as it rotates out of living memory and the lessons it taught become merely vicarious and not visceral. Economics explain a lot, but they do not explain how a major party candidate can have a cavalier attitude about NATO, for example. It's not just because we're paying for it. Indeed, the entire idea of a more isolationism means that the belief that the oceans separate us from the world's problems—something Pearl Harbor and 9/11 both seem to refute—has come back into fashion. When was the last time that the UN satisfyingly resolved an international crisis?
Judis spends a lot of time linking the "neoliberalism" imposed by the EU to the genesis of European populism and their morphing from right-wing to something different. (What do you call a politics that is OK with redistribution but only between people in the nation.... national...) But while he mentions the origins of the EU he neglects to connect the dots to it too being part of the Post-WWII order that only accidentally took on "neoliberal" features, the same as the IMF which initially did not impose "Washington Consensus" neoliberalism. The EU was not established as a Thatcherite union; instead it was meant to tie European countries so tightly together they could never engage in a destructive war again. The Eurozone has become less about neoliberalism and more about tight money.
(2) What is the "neoliberal" order? Judis identifies it with Thatcherism/Reaganism and Globalization (I think). But this term is so abused at this point, it's best to throw it out. If the Great Recession was the breakdown of anything, it was of unregulated liberalism. In reality, most arguments against "neoliberalism" amount to arguments against capitalism and trade, and most lefty arguments against trade are really arguments against capitalism. But it was capitalism in a modified form that drove the postwar boom too.
I tend to believe that the mother of the Great Recession was fraud. That's maybe a darker take on it, but it's not the capitalist system per se. It doesn't have to be that way.
As for the trade issue, Judis seems to take it for granted that it has been harmful. Even accepting for the sake of the argument that liberalized trade has hurt the United States, has it hurt the whole world? There are parts of the world that have less people living in poverty now, more stable governments on average now, and higher development indexes than they did before the "neoliberal" move of the 1970s.
(3) Left-wing groups also accuse the establishment of coddling certain groups. Perhaps the right-wing tends to argue that it's illegal immigrants or some other disadvantaged group, but it's a difference of the target, not the existence of a target. Left-wing populists believe the establishment coddles, variously, billionaires, defense contractors, oil companies, the police, Zionists, corporations, and so on. It's merely a question of politics who the out group is. This isn't to say that there's no value difference in whom you choose to blame for the world's problems. Some people deserve more blame than others. But it does mean that there is no scapegoat on the left.
(4) Unrealistic demands. Judis identifies populists as largely using unrealistic demands as a means of separating the people from the establishment and gives several examples including Trump's wall. But his inclusion of Bernie Sanders in this seems a bit misplaced. Sanders indeed ran on a platform that was unlikely to pass Congress, but unrealistic strikes me as a bit odd since many countries have most or all of his ideas, especially universal healthcare and free college.
I don't deny that Sanders's followers had a populist tinge to the manner in which they supported him, but I think there was a lot of that in Obama's 2008 campaign as well. Sanders would have been a conventional politician in the end, just a social democratic one.
**spoiler alert** A fun, contemporary story that manages to blend different genres with characters you want to win and rushes you with good pace and s**spoiler alert** A fun, contemporary story that manages to blend different genres with characters you want to win and rushes you with good pace and suspense to a conclusion. Ultimately, however, this seems like a novelization of a TV show rather than a book meant to be a book with far too much exposition through dialog and characters predictable because we've seen them 100 times before and in desperate need of editing.
Those who have rated this book highly deserve at least half of the credit themselves, since it is surely their own imagination that takes a solid skeleton of a story the distance that the author seems incapable of and who either had terrible editing or none at all.
I've either lived in or visited every location in this novel, with the exception of Amman, Jordan, but including Hebron, which most people don't visit, so I feel qualified to comment on the setting.
I'm grateful for the more accurate depiction of the state of affairs in Israel than you normally see without the despairing cynicism of most whose rose-colored glasses are off. By putting the book's antagonist into the classical, plastic role of terrorist placed in opposition to both the Israelis and the silent majority of Palestinians, however, we lose a lot of nuance for why men like that have the power and influence they do—specifically, the legitimate greivances that often have no other outlet on the one hand, and the narrative that is more widely accepted on the other, one that isn't quite the caricature of this book's lead bad guy.
Instead of a story that is either lawyer-centric and focused on the courtroom as the center of the universe, we have a blend of legal drama, police procedural with a mafia theme, and anti-terrorist spy thriller. Imagine The Good Wife, Homeland, and Law and Order all in one.
The tv-style sequences and action are fun, but there are a number of questionable story choices and some just plain terrible locutions. Fortunately, none of them really take you out of the story, but the story would be better without them. For example, a woman wearing a burqa—an Afghanistan form of dress—in Hebron would indeed stand out. Perhaps the author meant a niqab? Even that is not uncommon in the Palestinian territories. Did the author think it was funny to call Kalakaua street in Waikiki an "arterial vein" or did he just commit first degree Thesaurus abuse?
A few things seemed gratuitous. Did we really need the exchange about the clitoridectomy? Why did they need to do a test on the door guy if it had already been tested before on the daughter? We get it. They're evil, but are they comic book villains?
Many of these flat characters would seem less like oversights in a fast-moving TV show or movie, which is the format that this writing is best suited to. ...more
**spoiler alert** Wouk almost postmodernistly brings in all these differing points of view, including the German, in this drama about World War II, hi**spoiler alert** Wouk almost postmodernistly brings in all these differing points of view, including the German, in this drama about World War II, historical fiction in the best sense. I suspect today's reader will find fault in Wouk's portrayal of women, especially Rhoda, but it strikes me as authentic for the 1940s. It's really only when you see all these points of view that you feel so connected with the history. A black and white narrative wouldn't have done that. Yet he still preserves the clear reality that Hitler and the Nazis were evil, he helps us understand it while helping us understand how the Germans could have gone along with it. It's hard enough to keep from falling into a black and white story, even more difficult when there is a real bad guy.
Read this book. It's got everything. It doesn't try to be edgy. The characters get their resolutions, they have enough depth to justify their actions and no one is perfect.
I get the feeling that Wouk might have written another 1,000 pages. We find out what happens to most of the fictional characters, sometimes through hints—we see that Pug makes it to a three-star admiral in his rejoinder about the Battle of Leyte Gulf; or through Byron saying "mom's all right." But there are not long narrative sections resolving their situations. I notice that it's not 100% explicit that Berel dies saving Louis as it is in the mini-series, though it's implied, and I thought the mini-series wrapping with Natalie singing Louis the Yiddish lullaby is perfect and I wish the book had closed right there without the sort of fourth-wall crashing point about the dust of bones.
These are nitpicks. I do think that the last two years of the war are very abbreviated compared with other parts and largely fall in the fictitious writings of Jastrow, Roon, and Henry instead of point of view narratives, though one of the best in both novels is Jastrow going to the gas. Now that I'm done, I have that kind of phantom-leg syndrome that goes with a great book being finished but it's made worse by how perfunctory the ending is (especially compared to the TV series).
Ross's central contentions here are that the United States' diplomacy has been guided in large part by a fear of angering Arab states that only came tRoss's central contentions here are that the United States' diplomacy has been guided in large part by a fear of angering Arab states that only came to fruition once in the oil embargo of 1979. Ross is a diplomat so I think he might be confusing what might make Arab states' governments angry at us and what might make their populations angry, as though the latter were irrelevant. Indeed, quite often they were. You see this issue play out all the time in Latin America. We want to please our allies, but sometimes those allies are ghastly dictators who are so unpopular that if they ever lose power, their replacements will hate us just for having supported the past bad guy. But I'm not at all convinced that it would matter if we didn't. As much as we aren't often punished for being Pro-Israel, we are never rewarded for distancing from it.
Ross makes the case that we've come closer to peace when we've had administrations that made Israel feel comfortable and backs it up. He also backs up the claim about a lack of retaliation against us for backing Israel up. But aside from not convincing me that relying on this too much wouldn't have caused Arab states we've supported to lose power,
The second major point is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict won't solve the entire situation in the Middle East all at once. Anyone who believes this needs to read more. In fact, it probably won't even make life all that much better on the Palestinians, at least not at first. It's hardly a top concern for people living in worse situations elsewhere, except in propaganda. That's not to say it doesn't resonate, but America's presence in the region will resonate the same way even after that.
I watch the TV mini-series every couple of years and giggle at the terrible miscasting of Allie MacGraw, then 44, as a 28 year-old Polish Jew and, eveI watch the TV mini-series every couple of years and giggle at the terrible miscasting of Allie MacGraw, then 44, as a 28 year-old Polish Jew and, even though I think the character was written with him in mind, of Robert Mitchum, first 66 then 71 in War and Remembrance, of 50 year old Pug Henry. I watch it anyway because it is a great story with history pumping through it--not just as a backdrop, but as an important player. Despite those flaws, it really is some of the best television. Some of those 80s mini-series make me doubt the claim that we are now in the Golden Era of television.
I've had mixed views of some of Wouk's other works. I wanted to like The Hope and The Glory but they seemed like a formulaic Israeli re-make of Winds of War, which was already, as Wouk admits, "the War and Peace of World War II." I didn't like it. Inside/Outside was good, if a kind of typical New York Jewish experience novel.
But Winds of War is at least as good as the miniseries and I'm tickled every time I find a slight difference between them. There is much less approaching, board, and exiting vehicles in the book naturally. A bit less pageantry and ritual. The character of Armin Von Roon in the TV series is a composite of two book characters, the second of whom nonetheless appears very briefly in a scene on the Bremen in the first TV episode. Compared to the TV series, there are very few mentions of the German General Staff and strategy scenes with Hitler, instead we get a quasi-Tolstoy narration from a work by Von Roon giving his views of the grand strategy of the war.
I'm really enjoying this book. Since it doesn't appear to deviate that much from the TV show in the basic plot points, or even in the individual scenes, it could seem boring to read this book, but it's excellent. I'm not quite ready to say War and Peace is the Winds of War of the Napoleonic Wars, but I'm much more interested in WWII than the Napoleonic wars, so maybe that's enough for this one to be my exemplar historical fiction extended family novel....more