**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
This book's central premise is that Nazism is misunderstood. Hitler's antisemitism was not of a more intense degree than that of Imperial Russia; rathThis book's central premise is that Nazism is misunderstood. Hitler's antisemitism was not of a more intense degree than that of Imperial Russia; rather, it was of an entirely different kind. Snyder argues that Hitler believed that the mere existence of the Jew damaged the earth because the Jew created artifices that prevented the natural "Darwinian" struggle between races, which thereby caused humans to be weaker than nature intended. Capitalism and Bolshevism were both Jewish artifices designed to this end, as, indeed, was the state itself.
Snyder then argues that Hitler's program was to annihilate the state itself, not just make it totalitarian. Because he could not do this in Germany, the Holocaust did not begin in Germany. Rather it began in Eastern Europe, where the existing states--themselves young and rootless replacements for the decayed Russian Empire--were utterly destroyed by both Soviet and Nazi occupation.
I'm not done yet, but I'm not sure I understand why, under this logic, killing Jewish peasants would be more effective than killing powerful gentile exponents of "Jewish ideas."
This book arrives in the same year as Francis Fukuyama's Political Order and Political Decay which strikes some of the same basic themes as this book. Together, I would call these books "Neo Hobbesian." While we have ample evidence that prior to civilization humans didn't exist in anything like Hobbes's "state of nature," it appears that when states decay they in fact do. We can't see Hobbes in paleolithic societies, but we can see him in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and Afghanistan today and in Eastern Europe of the late 1930s and early 1940s.
If Hobbes's central thesis is that any state is better than no state (and a genocidal "state" is no state at all if you follow Snyder) then both Fukuyama and Hobbes concur with this argument on more modern grounds. For Fukuyama, it is only in the presence of a strong state that political freedoms can later evolve effectively; for Snyder, it is only in the absence of a state that genocide occurs. Following Fukuyama, it is absurd to carve out lines on a map and say "here is the Republic of X" if the government there cannot (even with corruption) pick up the garbage, defend the frontiers, and provide basic health, education, and welfare services. For Snyder, when a state loses its monopoly on violence to the will of a racial or ethnic group, it ceases to function even if does all the rest. These two concepts bookend this Neo-Hobbesian political theory.
This can be difficult for an American to except, reared as we are on the notion that revolution is justified when certain rights are not provided by the state. But here we must be careful. The American revolution, at least, did not destroy the state as such, it merely replaced the government.
One can prefer a western liberal democracy and still acknowledge that sometimes the alternative to even a bad government if chaos. Again, look to Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia or Libya.
In the 90s, there was much talk of the threat and problem of "failed states." With millions of Syrians flooding the world, it must become clear that failed states are indeed a threat to stability and that illusory notions of pluralistic democratic societies can only come after a long evolution and not at the snap of a finger of western powers. This isn't the "soft bigotry of low expectations," it's the concern for our fellow human that we must have before destroying even an evil state for fear of the obvious consequences. I think of North Korea, a regime that, when it collapses, will probably not do so peacefully.
Finally, Snyder warns that failure to understand that it was the absence of a state instead of an overly powerful one that led to the Holocaust has condemned ideologues on both sides of the political spectrum towards an overly anti-statist view, one which will only lead to further calamity.
I found these arguments persuasive with respect to the narrative of the Holocaust, the understanding of Nazism, and to the future....more
The central thesis of this book is that we need a new nuclear policy for a different, multipolar nuclear world. It's very true. Most anything you readThe central thesis of this book is that we need a new nuclear policy for a different, multipolar nuclear world. It's very true. Most anything you read about the status of our nuclear forces today is not heartening.
Though it isn't the central thesis, the critical argument that makes this thesis ring true is the fact that nuclear weapons have a use, even if you don't fire them. Bracken illustrates several scenarios, results of war games, and historical precedents where the mere presence of nuclear weapons in a country's arsenal (even where erroneous) changed the outcome in a meaningful way. The other central point is that whether or not Americans want to think about nuclear weapons or want to contemplate their use, other countries are. So we need to be ready.
One point missing from this book that needs to be discussed further is that not all nuclear weapons are the same. Some made for artillery-like purposes by the United States and some tested by nuclear states like North Korea are not even measured in kilotons. Others, like the "Tsar Bomba" tested by the Soviet Union in the 60s were 50 megatons and could have been designed for an even bigger explosion. Yes, they are all nuclear weapons. Yes they are all "WMD"s, but there is a huge difference.
A "Davy Crockett" detonated in New York city would struggle to kill as many people as died in 9/11 and would be survivable only about 200 feet away. Tsar Bomba would instantly kill almost 8 million people and would leave everyone in the open from Princeton, New Jersey to Stamford, Connecticut with third degree burns. One would be bad, the other could be civilization destroying.
We can't think of these as all the same thing. Obviously, we don't want any proliferation of any nuclear weapons at all and reducing the existing ones is important too. But we can't base any strategy, including the ones Bracken identifies, by acting as if all are the same. A clear division lies between atomic bombs and fusion bombs, and another even more important cleavage lies between those countries with missile technology and those without it. A country with a 1kt atomic bomb and no missiles can't do anything except get itself nuked back. A country like the US, China, or Russia with megaton-strength weapons on ICBMs can cause a society to collapse. These are very, very, very different problems.