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Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965 by [Burleigh, Michael]
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4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Length: 607 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

WWII’s most important geopolitical result—the succession of Europe by the U.S. in global preeminence—was revealed in phases over the immediate postwar period. Surveyed in this digestible history, the process unfolded in one conventional war (Korea) and a series of insurgency-style wars that Burleigh recounts. These were conflicts in Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaya, India, the Middle East, Algeria, Kenya, Congo, and Cuba. For each one, Burleigh outlines the local balances of power, sketches pithy summaries of the pertinent political and military leaders, and narrates courses of events, some resulting in rebels’ victories, others not. Strife that drew in the U.S., such as in the Middle East, Korea, and Vietnam, produces Burleigh’s best analysis of how America became involved, which shows how the perceived requirements of being a world power overwhelmed realistic assessment of the local situation. Burleigh cites Vietnam and Cuba as cases in which American leaders stumbled because they tended to dismiss the nationalism underneath the insurgents’ communism. Agilely written, confidently argued, this a fine contribution to Cold War history. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

Superb, scholarly, insightful and often witty ... magnificent Literary Review Terrific ... Burleigh writes with a keen eye for self-righteousness, hypocrisy and unintended consequences. He is quite brilliant at puncturing the vanities of history's great and good. -- Dominic Sandbrook Evening Standard A brilliant, complex, contradictory story, replete with character and incident, pungent and pithy and refreshingly free of preaching ... the author delights in the detail, the small moment illustrating a large truth -- Ben Macintyre The Times Vividly written and stimulating ... the raw truth, conveyed in scintillating language by a master of historical irony and of the grimly entertaining. If history for grown-ups is what you're after, this is it. -- George Walden Sunday Telegraph Burleigh is an equal opportunity moralist, not an ideologue, and he stalks his prey with feline grace ... This is a story of personalities as much as one of geopolitical shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights. -- Christopher Sylvester Financial Times The violent geopolitical shifts of the immediate postwar years constitute a dramatic saga, which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit ... lucid and persuasive. -- Piers Brendon The Sunday Times Burleigh is the don of elegant, historical writing and every vignette in this book is arresting. His ability to command his material is truly breathtaking ... damnably good. -- John Lewis-Stempel Sunday Express Harsh and vivid -- Max Hastings Financial Times Magnificent and entertaining Daily Express None of these stories is new, but the rich detail with which Burleigh writes, as well as his piercing analysis, makes them seem so. He nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches ... as a description of the way imperial power drained from Europe to America, his book is quite brilliant. -- Keith Lowe Mail on Sunday

Product Details

  • File Size: 5179 KB
  • Print Length: 607 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 12, 2013)
  • Publication Date: September 12, 2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C1N5W20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,812 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Small Wars in Faraway Places" is a fascinating account of the strategy and high level politics of several fascinating points in history. For covering such a great amount of history in one book it does very well. The anecdotes about nearly every major figure through out those 20 years are fascinating in their elaborate detail and glimpse into their personalities. Mr. Burleigh gives us his opinion of them. The only one of which he seems to think positively is Eisenhower. His diatribe against JFK goes on for pages.

This is a book of the political strategy of the highest leaders and how their personalities influenced their decisions. The "Epilogue Legacies" of the deaths of several of the major figures is fascinating and at times revealing.

Mr. Burleigh reveals his bias, concluding by writing:

"If this book has achieved no other purpose, I hope it has illuminated the fact that the perceived imperatives of world power shaped the foreign policy of the USA quite as much as they did its European imperialist predecessors. The central contradiction addressed by this book has not been between Americans ideals and practice, but the fact that, unlike the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese empires, the USA profited little and lost much from its misconceived adoption of liberal imperialism. For the Europeans it was an alibi adopted to prolong their imperial delusions; the best and brightest of the American liberal establishment were confident they could do it better, and in that hubris lay their own and their nation's tragedy."

The book is marred by run on sentences, lack of clear antecedents for pronouns, bad grammar and rather vague and unusual phrasing and word choices. I would hope that the editors would insist on a grammar oriented editor and put out an improved text.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Burleigh's book covers the reaction of the 'big powers' (US, USSR, Great Britain primarily) to the post war world they inherited at the end of World War II. The period covered (1945-1965) covers well known crises including those in Korea, Greece, Pakistan, Algeria, Hungary, Kenya, Cuba and, of course, Vietnam. His emphasis is on the missteps, bungling and hubris of these big powers, especially the U.S., in dealing with these crises. It makes for interesting and depressing reading. Many of the crises in the book have been presented and discussed in other books in greater detail (e.g., David Halberstam and his work on the Vietnam War, 'The Best and the Brightest') but the value of Burleigh's book is that it discusses these events in one volume with incisive commentary and insight. I particularly liked his take on the personalities of the various players who were active during this period (Presidents, generals, etc.). I didn't necessarily agree with some of Burleigh's comments which sometimes can seem to read as too facile but overall I found the book interesting and very informative. The book is very well written and worth looking at. It is depressing that the rationale for the U.S. in involving itself in various overseas adventures as reported in Burleigh's book hasn't changed much since 1965
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
i enjoyed reading about this period of time in recent history, 1945-1965 & burleigh covered some wars/revolts like algeria, congo etc that many other books do not touch; i really liked his style & the fact that he was very critical & caustic with those he did not agree with even though i did not shrare all his positions re those individuals; i do agree that eisenhower's image has improved with time & i believe will continue as the decades pass; also JFK's image will be viewed much more critcally & historians will be inclined to see him as a man of little substance which he tried to make up for with style as the decades pass & there is more time between those that remember camelot & his tragic assasination; he took many other strong opinions re individuals that were enfluencial in the events of this period; i recomend this book to anyone interested in this critical time period & how it's effects still are with us today in many places
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book with the highest expectations, and I did learn a number of things. The problem is the way the author writes. He presents a lot of facts--some of which are essential for his narrative, some of which he appears to present because they interest him, some of which he found in his sources and just didn't want to waste. This makes for a distracting read. As a matter of fact, the book has too much narrative and too little analysis, so that the reader walks away wondering what the point was. Overall, 2.5 stars
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Format: Paperback
This is a superb book that will inform most readers and irritate many. His biases are plain. He likes De Gaulle and Eisenhower, sees the Kennedys as immoral lightweights, Mao as a formidable mass murderer and so on. Some of his sketches of leaders are several pages long, and often are mixed. His sketch of Nehru, for example, finds feet of clay, overbearing pride, stubbornness and yet, the creator of modern India. He has similar sketches of Jomo Kenyatta, and many others. Even when his bias predominates, as in discussing John Kennedy, the context is instructive and insightful.

The book can be read in sections, depending on your interests. His biases get worse later in the book, particularly in the American-Cuban relationship and the Vietnam war. His description of Ho's life is superb, as is his description of various French and Algerian figures in the Algerian war. His account of the French in Vietnam is the best I have read anywhere. His discussion of the Dutch attempt to regain and then leaving Indonesia is shorter but also quite good. The discussion of the Mau-Mau emergency is also the best I've read.

He starts with Asia. Chapters discuss Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia and the Malayan insurgency (not Malaysia until later). His chapter on Iran is also the best I have read anywhere, and in it Perfidious Albion is about as perfidious as anyone every has been, anywhere. This is close to a must-read if you want to understand today's Iran. His discussion of the Huk difficulties in the Philippines is very good--he really admires Magsaysay and has a kind of hateful admiration of larger than life CIA operatives like Lansdale. Americans in the Philippines parallel Brits in Iran in negatives.

The chapter on Egypt is superb.
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