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review 2017-01-07 23:39
NeoConservatism: Why We Need It - Douglas Murray

I have a great deal of respect for Douglas Murray. He is a confident and passionate speaker. The positions that he takes are often, shall we say, unpopular. Yet this does not deter him from putting forward his arguments. There are probably many areas where I would disagree with him, but I think it's important to get a range of opinions from across the political spectrum in pursuance of growth and learning, so I picked up his book on a controversial topic.


Neoconservatism is one of those blanket political terms most often associated with those that believe the Iraq War was the correct thing to do and that the correct path for American foreign policy is to pursue the spreading of liberty and democracy to as many nations as possible in order to protect freedom in the US. It is in some ways a product of the Cold War and the idea of the need to shield the free world from the advances of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian nature.


Other than a few core beliefs there doesn't seem to be much in the way of commonality between the people branded neocons. Murray attempts to underpin the roots of the concept and then document how it developed. He believes that it is often misunderstood or misrepresented in mainstream politics. The term has become, as a consequence of the highly-charged nature of the Iraq war, a vague, derogatory word to label those that defended the war and it is perhaps not surprising in 2016, given that in mainstream media and political opinion the war is roundly regarded as a catastrophe. 


Snippets of the book are useful for understanding what neocons roughly believe in, however the scope of that task proves too much for Murray in a mere 223 pages. For such a short book there are too many sections that just don't deliver the punches that I have come to expect from a man of Murray's intellect. When he does get some momentum going it ends up short lived because he moves onto another area and in the end a book that wishes to convince the reader of the need for this philosophy ends up a little bit thin on the ground. I can't help but feel unsatisfied. 

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review 2016-02-04 18:47
Review: Band of Sisters by Kristen Holmstedt
Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq - Kirsten Holmstedt

This was an easy but not very fulfilling read. It was intersectional in terms of race and had all four traditional branches of service was represented. This book was the result of the author's thesis work for her MA in Creative Writing. I think the author needs to stick with fiction, because her nonfiction work reads like a fifth grader's book report. The profiles had no detail or purpose; just snapshots of women in the military deployed and working in Iraq. There was no theme or idea to tie these women together; after each woman was profiled, you didn't read about her again until the epilogue, which was written with a "where are they now?" feel. There was also no information on how these women dealt with the homecoming and readjustment to American life. Turns out, the author's follow up work (When the Girls Come Marching Home) deals with the post-deployment issues and realities. I have the second book on my wish list, but I don't have high hopes for it.

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review 2013-12-13 22:05
This Is Not a Drill - Beck McDowell

This book works on lots of different levels.  There's the broken relationship between Jake and Emery.  There's the health issues that people keep hidden.  There's the courage the teenagers find when they are forced to care for 18 small children.  And there's what happens to soldiers when they return home from war.

It's a difficult read at times, but one I'll be recommending.

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review 2013-10-07 00:00
The Iraq War
The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath - John Keegan John Keegan probably wants to repudiate this book, written in 2004, and filled with a muscular and enthusiastic defense of the Iraq War. keegan stops just short of calling the French cheese-eating surrender monkeys and he chastises the BBC for its nervousness about invasion. All in all, we have a near period piece of 2004 attitudes and expectations, but of course, this is all still written by a skilled and distinguished military historian and thus highly readable. 4/5 for writing, 3/5 for accuracy
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review 2013-08-21 00:00
War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq
War Journal: My Five Years In Iraq - Richard Engel Not just a story about an ambitious, young reporter growing into a respected award-winning journalist.

Fascinating, detailed look into the ongoing problems in Iraq. Engel does a great job of interweaving the modern American invasion/reconstruction efforts with description of the history of conflict in the region - going back to the Sunni/Shiite split 1600 years ago.

USA diplomats would have been well-advised to understand these historical forces before entering into a war that destabilized the entire region.
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