MixedThe New York Times Book Review... a scholarly book, albeit written by a scholar keen to influence the formulation of basic policy ... Kupchan correctly identifies America’s entry into World War II as a turning point. Yet describing its new grand strategy as liberal internationalism involves oversimplifications on a par with labeling what went before as isolationism ... Since 9/11, according to Kupchan, the United States has pursued \'a grand strategy of inconstancy and insolvency.\' I leave it to others to determine if the combined efforts of the Bush 43, Obama and Trump administrations qualify as a strategy. That inconstancy and insolvency have resulted I have no doubt. Nor do I question the imperative of changing course ... As a corrective, Kupchan sensibly advocates a \'middle ground between running the world and running away from it.\' But what is to be gained by identifying that middle ground as a variant of isolationism? Why not instead argue for policies based on realism and restraint, pragmatism and prudence?
MixedThe NationA Good American Family is an empathetic, though not entirely successful, effort to understand why his parents and uncle were drawn to communism in the 1930s and then why, nearly two decades later, they fell victim to a frenzied government witch hunt that targeted them because of these convictions ... such questions are salient today, when the evident exhaustion of conventional politics may once again bring more radical alternatives, whether on the left or the right, into play ... Elliott comes across as bland. While very much the \'good American\' of Maraniss’s title, he was not a terribly compelling personality. Reading about the zealots who sought to destroy Elliott’s life, one wishes that Maraniss had provided a more convincing explanation for why his father chose to follow the course he did ... Maraniss never satisfactorily explains why they found themselves drawn to communism. Of the motives of Elliott’s persecutors, we learn far more: Money, ambition, partisanship, and even boredom, in Baldwin’s case, played a role. These are motives many readers can understand; Elliott’s remain something of a mystery.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Steve Coll has written a book of surpassing excellence that is almost certainly destined for irrelevance. The topic is important, the treatment compelling, the conclusions persuasive. Just don’t expect anything to change as a consequence ... In each chapter of this very long but engrossing book, Coll takes a deep dive into some particular facet of the conflict. Readers will eavesdrop on contentious policy debates conducted at the highest levels in Washington. They will also accompany soldiers and spooks in the field. Yet among policymakers and operators alike, the sense of futility is palpable. If Directorate S has a unifying thread, it’s this: Policies formulated on the basis of trial and error aren’t likely to work as long as they fail to take critical factors into account.\