As a field organizer on the ground for Obama, I was excited to pick up a book about the stories I missed (sometimes you're just more concerned with ev...moreAs a field organizer on the ground for Obama, I was excited to pick up a book about the stories I missed (sometimes you're just more concerned with everything right in front of you). I did not learn anything new from Wolffe's book, except a few anecdotes that I enjoyed. The "Barack X" chapter was particularly well handled and really contextualized Obama's thought and practice concerning race and African-American identity in the US. This book was a bit simplistic, a little too glowing, some of the language is chunky, and is a bit long-winded. The pace of each chapter is a bit tiresome: starts a moment, falls back into the past, discusses the issues, then brings you up to date. However, it was a good quick read and I enjoyed it as a way to look back at the campaign with a little distance. A kind of "best of" reel. (less)
It's nearly impossible to follow such a book as Lenin's Tomb but Remnick does a wonderful job at picking up where he left off. In Resurrection, Remnic...moreIt's nearly impossible to follow such a book as Lenin's Tomb but Remnick does a wonderful job at picking up where he left off. In Resurrection, Remnick focuses on how the democratic revolution contended with disillusion. Yeltsin is the perfect character in this world: democratic promise gives way to oligarchy, poor health, and flirtations with Russia's communist and czarist past.
This book definitely sets the stage for the Russia we know today. Interestingly enough, Putin does not appear on the scene...
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)