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Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965 Hardcover – September 12, 2013
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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
"The new book "Small Wars, Faraway Places" is the vault of knowledge that followers of current events have been seeking.... From the Mau-Mau Emergency in Kenya to the Korean War... to the French misadventure in Indochina and the clash between Arab nationalism and Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine, Burleigh traces 18 distinct story lines of terrorism, counter-terrorism, intrigue, nationalism, and Cold War rivalry. With these stories, the reader can find the tangled roots on nearly all of today's nasty hotspots; he or she can even foresee the sort of messes that modern-day conflicts are likely to create down the road, using Burleigh's patient documentation of troubled areas like Malaya and Algeria as templates.... That "Small Wars" eschews easy answers or one-size-fits-all theories about the conflicts that it documents is a tribute to its author."
--James Norton, The Christian Science Monitor
"Michael Burleigh takes on the interaction between the two great geopolitical dramas of decolonization and the Cold War. The book contains a series of vivid, vigorous narratives, illuminated by telling snippets of information, compelling but rarely flattering portraits of the key characters and some trenchant judgments.... Burleigh brings to life forgotten events."
--Lawrence Freedman, The Washington Post
“Burleigh is hard-hitting in his take on the consequences of the vacuum left behind in the wake of departing colonial powers, especially in his depiction of the Viet Minh’s decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and Britain’s botched handling of the Suez Crisis. Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh’s vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Agilely written, confidently argued, this is a fine contribution to Cold War history.”
“With Small Wars, Faraway Places, Michael Burleigh offers a penetrating and often sardonic narrative of the struggles that formed the world as we know it. Blending engaging characters sketches and telling vignettes with geopolitical analysis, he presents the two decades after 1945 from a vantage point that provides illuminating perspective…. Burleigh’s wide-ranging account brings out the relationship between political challenge and response, along with the difficulties in understanding very different societies from the outside.”
—William Anthony Hay, The American Conservative
“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 (London)
“Burleigh nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to turn the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches.”
—Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent
“A dramatic saga which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit.”
—Piers Brendon, The Sunday Times (London)
“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 geological shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights.”
—Christopher Silvester, Financial Times
“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, London Evening Standard
“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 (London)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
What could have been a key work turns out to be something less.
Don't buy his book. Check it out of the library and skim the parts that interest you.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It would serve as a great tool for anyone who wanted to get the down-and-dirty on the global context of the Cold War, or teach a class or give a...The Year of Living DangerouslyRead more