Since I have been spending the last year reading about Israel and Palestine, I may now class this book as shameless and apologetic w...moreNew review: Aug 09
Since I have been spending the last year reading about Israel and Palestine, I may now class this book as shameless and apologetic when it comes to Israeli militarism. My review below is shameless in many ways and I'm a bit embarrased about it. Oren says he is givng everyone equal treatment, but how can you be Israeli embassador to the US and not be biased?
This book supports Israel myths about itself and its military might and does little to acknowledge that the 1967 war was part of a catalyst of pain and suffering of the Palestinian people. With the Israeli silence surrounding criticism of their own history, you wonder what this "comprehensive book" left out and for what purpose.
Though the author says that he sets out to provide an objective history of the Six Day War, there are two glowing descretions: He's Jewish and Israeli. And though, again, objectivity was the goal, why did I find myself, someone unsure of how he falls on the Jews for Israel scale, thinkng, "Woo! Way to go Israel!" in response to the military narrative.
Yes, it is a good book, and it is probably as objective as possible, eliciting some sympathy for King Hussein and Nasser, while loathing/loving Moshe Dayan--that is, you get to see how it ran from the inside. You get to see read about the involvement of the USSR and USA (especially ambivalent) and Israel's plans for the Palestinians as it became apparent that they would end up with the West Bank and Gaza.
Spoiler Alert!: The Israelis were wary of harming mosques on the way into East Jerusalem, handed the Dome of the Rock over to Muslim authorities ASAP, and wanted to make a federated Palestinian state autonomous to Israel. Of course, still not something that Yasser Arafat would accept; just not impossible enough. And there are always your people who think that the West Bank should be annexed and the Palestinians ousted, but thank goodness these people were on the Israeli margins in 1967. Israel is seen best as a thriving democracy, shown through its fractious cabinet, its loathing of the prime minister, and its fear of international sanction, while the fatal error of the Arab countries was their inability to estimate Israel as such. After the Egyptians lost their air force in the first few hours, it was reported on Cairo radio that the army was penetrating Israel and laying seige to Tel Aviv. Even Nasser was a victim of his own system; no one told him the truth until it was much too late.
I snagged this off of my boss's shelf in my recent obsession with minority conflict and I was not dissappointed. Forman lays out Black-Jew relations d...moreI snagged this off of my boss's shelf in my recent obsession with minority conflict and I was not dissappointed. Forman lays out Black-Jew relations during most of this century with a keen eye for large sociological trends. The book focuses on how Blacks are seen through Jewish eyes; sometimes partner, sometimes persecutor, and always a rival for the coveted "minority" status in America.
While Jews tend to assimilate and then reach back to their roots, and thus, become Un-American, Forman argues that Blacks were seen as moving in the opposite direction--that in order to gain American status they needed to seperate themselves behind ethnic walls. Jewish writers began thier careers as American writers and they would only have been discovered as such. Black writers began thiers with "black" books before being accepted as "writers" without a hyphenation. He documents the rise of the Jewish left and its militant alliance on Black Power and the rationalizations of Anti-Semitism. He introduces the neo-conservatives and their reactions to the New Left liberal frenzy. All throughout this book is the story of the self-conscious Jewish community, struggling to be the middleman between Black culture and White culture and being flatly rejected by both.
"While the Jewish neoconservatives were more forthright in admitting the limitations of their program for Jewish culture, both movements [New Left] were singularly committed to achieving political objectives consonant with Jewish safety and freedom, rather than the search for Jewish meaning in modern America."
It is a sad thesis; that Jewish groups were so preoccupied with their safety and political clout in America, neglected their Jewish culture and religion. Forman warns of the cold reality of Judaism today--that lost in the discussion of minority rights and the American public square, they have neglected to include the "Judaic" and Jewish religion remains outside of the American consciousness. (less)
You cannot conduct a war removed from the front lines. Both Mao and MacArthur were guilty of underestimating the enemy, distrusting their dissenting o...moreYou cannot conduct a war removed from the front lines. Both Mao and MacArthur were guilty of underestimating the enemy, distrusting their dissenting officers, and being so removed the actual, that trapped in their delusional towers, they doomed many men to die. Korea seems to be the perfect microcosm for how ideology has nothing to do with anything when you are on the front lines.
On this subject, Halberstam fleshes out America's greatest sin of being unable to see the nuances in political struggle, instead relegating everything to a monolithic world view. For example--men at this time fought against "Communism" and estimated their enemies as part of the whole, vassals of the Soviets. Indeed, America only saw the gigantic ideological struggle and through this lens, saw Korea as a fight against Communism, instead of a anti-colonial rebellion against meddling Western powers. We did it in Korea. We did it in Vietnam. And we are doing it in Iraq, Halberstam points out. The War on Terror is a falsity; rather, like when we battled Communism as a monolith, we fail to see that we are fighting in the middle of a nuanced nationalist struggle that is not easily managed. The story is not the Cold War--two powers vying for ideological dominance. Rather, struggle is localized, nationalized, and anti-ideological. America continues to make this mistake.
However, the main function of the Coldest Winter is to preserve the "forgotten war." Truman comes off as a hero. MacArthur as a monster. Halberstam also shows you the behind the scenes happenings in all of the major players. An amazing read. (less)
Like some other people have said in their reviews, yes one large thesis, and I am not really sure that Weatherford had the right to make that claim. Y...moreLike some other people have said in their reviews, yes one large thesis, and I am not really sure that Weatherford had the right to make that claim. Yes, reading the book surely gave you an understanding of the course of history that resulted because of Ghengis Khan, but his evidence comes far after the fact, in the later chapters. What was best about the book was the history of the Mongol invasions, which absent of any thesis, I would have enjoyed just as much.
What the book really did excel at was giving me a good sense of who the Mongols were, disputing the stereotypical notions that Western civilization holds on to about the Khans and their followers. Good read. (less)
Franzen story: So a professor of mine from college had invited Jonathan Franzen to come to do a reading. As the after reading reception was dying down...moreFranzen story: So a professor of mine from college had invited Jonathan Franzen to come to do a reading. As the after reading reception was dying down, Franzen removed a plastic bottle from his coat and proceeded to fill it up with all the remaining water he could find. He did this with very little self-regard and then left. My professor was baffled and had no idea if Franzen was serious or joking, doing it on purpose to perpetuate some persona he had created. Regardless, my professor called him, "One of the most self-conscious people I have ever met." That being said, and if you accept this, and have read Franzen before, read the Discomfort Zone. (less)
I probably read the first half aout three times. I find it uberly annoying that I keep reading the first half only. It's like when you're watching Sha...moreI probably read the first half aout three times. I find it uberly annoying that I keep reading the first half only. It's like when you're watching Shawshank Redemption on TV and you keep seeing the last half. (less)