PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewA comprehensive and at times excruciatingly detailed narrative about Abu Zubaydah and the people who ordered and oversaw his interrogation. The authors managed the extraordinary feat of communicating with him through a \'circuitous route\' that they don’t describe, presumably because it violated the rules of his confinement ... The broad outlines of this story are now depressingly familiar ... Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy...interweave the stories of captive and interrogator, showing how fatally unprepared they were to understand each other ... The Forever Prisoner is impressively thorough, but at times it wallows in the details rather than mastering them. We get a little lost in the acronym-rich language of the bureaucrats, and the repeated accounts of waterboarding and other horrors, vivid at first, become numbing after a while. The book’s most powerful and original passages are about Abu Zubaydah himself.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...argues that the uprisings are in danger of being dismissed as a meaningless experience, not just because of the chaos and terror that followed them, but because of the widespread sense that they have left no real political residue apart from Tunisia’s fragile success at building a democracy ... Drawing on the writings of Hannah Arendt, he argues that the people who took to the protest squares in 2011 \'acted as agents of their own political future\' ... This is a bold claim, and Feldman spins out its ramifications in fascinating and persuasive ways. He recognizes that tragedy was a corollary of these political awakenings in almost every place the uprisings occurred ... share Feldman’s admiration for the Tunisian compromise, but I think he is too sanguine about its meaning. Tunisia is profoundly different from the other countries where uprisings took place: no oil, no major ethnic or religious minorities, an apolitical army, a far less brutal history. Sadly, the continuing tragedies in other Arab countries are more like the classical Greek kind. They are likely to go on inspiring pity and fear for a long time to come.
MixedThe New York Review of Books...How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs...breaks new ground in its discussion of the efforts of Syria’s short-lived National Congress to fuse liberal constitutionalism and Islam. This synthesis—the creation of an ideological common ground—is immensely important because its absence has wreaked havoc in the Arab countries ever since ... aimed at a more general audience...she has oversimplified the moral contours of her tale a little, likening one French administrator to Iago and playing up the Syrians’ hunger for democracy. But she succeeds in restoring the strangeness, and the lost potential, of this aborted moment of self-rule ... Thompson narrates these scenes with great sympathy and appears to believe that something true and authentic is whispering to us across the decades. Other historians have been more skeptical ... I find her emphasis on French villainy a little excessive. Syria’s dreaded security services probably owe more to the legacy of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who starting in the 1950s built the prototype of the modern Arab dictatorship that was imitated across the Middle East. The French legacy was not all bad.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Kevin Boyle\'s Arc of Justice is by far the most cogent and thorough account yet of the trial and its aftermath ... One of its virtues is the way Boyle vividly recreates the energy and menace of Detroit in 1925 ... Boyle deftly shows how the trial took on different meanings for its various players ... Those working-class whites are the only people who remain more or less faceless in Boyle\'s narrative. He does explain how their fear of black interlopers was rooted in the city\'s precarious economics: mortgages were so hard to finance that a drop in property values could mean eviction for many families. But his account lapses now and then toward the simple-minded melodrama that infects some writing about civil rights, in which the \'poison\' of racism substitutes for more complex motives. Boyle has come away from the trial record with no apparent doubts about who told the truth and why. In that sense, his book can seem less sophisticated than a history like James Goodman\'s Stories of Scottsboro, which narrated a similarly charged trial of the same era from clashing perspectives.\
PositiveThe New York Review of Books...[a] revelatory history ... Barr...has a gift for sketching characters ... Barr offers a fascinating account of the British involvement in Oman, where MI6 operatives and soldiers helped beat back a rebellion against Sultan Said bin Taimur in the late 1950s.
PositiveThe New York Review of Books\"At times, Wright seems to go too far, seeing bin Laden and his associates as representing the entire jihadist movement, and he has little to say about political divisions among Islamists as well as about the different goals of such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah in Lebanon. But he has given a finely judged account of both collaboration among terrorists and rivalry between the CIA and the FBI ... More convincingly than any other writer I know of, Wright has been able to reconstruct full portraits of the two men and the effects of their friendship on the broader goals of the jihadist movement.\