Thursday, August 20, 2015

Marshal K.K. Rokossovsky: The Red Army's Gentleman Commander by Boris Sokolov (Author), Stuart Britton (Translator)

Boris Sokolov’s biography of Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovsky is a noble effort to document the life and history of one of the most accomplished Soviet commanders to come out of the Second World War.  The subtitle, “The Red Army’s Gentleman Commander,” serves multiple purposes as it immediately highlights that other Red Army commanders were “ungentlemanly” and it allows Sokolov to pontificate somewhat on a subject he covers in numerous publications – the true losses the Red Army suffered were much higher than those presented in published works.  In general Sokolov’s biography walks a less than fine line between academic study and a polemical work.  He takes a few too many literary licenses when he goes off on tangents here and there that have no place in a historical work but in a general sense this biography is still full of valuable information.   

Sokolov discusses Rokossovsky’s history and youth in the first few chapters and covers his exploits in the Revolutionary/Civil War period.  The most interesting parts of the book are those that cover Rokossovsky’s actions during the Second World War, or the Great Patriotic War.  In part this is not the fault of Sokolov as there is little enough information available on Rokossovsky from his youth (Rokossovsky wanted to write about the Civil War but never had a chance).  The majority of Rokossovsky’s major campaigns are covered by the author: his actions in 1941 and clashes with Zhukov, the Moscow Counteroffensive and his thoughts about what was done correctly and incorrectly, the operations around Stalingrad and Rokossovsky’s role in the destruction of the German Sixth Army, operation Kursk, operation Bagration, the Home Army’s Warsaw Uprising, and the final battles for Germany.   Before continuing I will say that one of the weaknesses of this volume is that while there are many quotes (more so than western readers might be used to) and the author utilizes a range of archival documentation and published archival collections there is a distinct lack of endnotes/footnotes (something the original volume undoubtedly suffers from as well).  Sokolov is in no way making this information up, as I have some of the collections he uses and can verify the information he presents in a few cases, but the problem remains in that this volume becomes problematic as a source.   Furthermore, some of the source material is dated, unfortunately alternatives were/are hard to find.

Coming back to the text itself, the more interesting chapters were those on the Warsaw Uprising and the final battles/actions of the Red Army in Germany.  Here is where Sokolov presents a wide variety of interesting and pertinent material but at the same time goes off on tangents and at times simply makes up statistics.  The Warsaw Uprising is presented well enough with a lot of information provided from a number of eye witnesses (both Polish and Soviet) but primary source material is a bit sparse for the conclusions he makes.  We know that Soviet forces suffered losses trying to reach Warsaw, with the 2nd Tank Army losing close to 1,000 tanks and having to be taken off the line.  Similar attempts to by the 1st Polish Army resulted in losses for a variety of reasons but Sokolov insists on pointing toward Stalin as the cause.  Even though orders were given to take Warsaw that’s not good enough, for Sokolov armies needed to be moved over to Rokossovsky’s front, supplies diverted, other operations cancelled and postponed, all to help the Poles in Warsaw.  From an ethical standpoint, yes, everything should have been done to aid the Warsaw Uprising.  Unfortunately reality dictated otherwise, the Poles were in an unenviable position and acted in their own best interests then relied on Stalin’s apparent good graces and that of the Red Army to support them in taking the capital of Poland to use as a bargaining chip against Stalin.   They were asking for quite a bit from a man and armed forces they held in high contempt.

Finally, the chapter on the Red Army’s actions in Germany at the end of the war there are two arguments Sokolov expands on.  First is the issue of losses in the battle of Berlin.  He argues against the provided figure of 81,116 irrecoverable losses because in that figure are included losses for the two Polish armies that participated in the battle for the city.  Irrecoverable losses for both armies were 2,825.  Sokolov cites an “official” report from the Polish Defense Ministry that lists killed and missing in action as 11,000, almost four times as large a figure.  What he does then is argue that since this figure is a quarter of the number presented by the Russians then all other losses during the Berlin operation should be multiplied by four.  He utilizes the same argument in other places and I’m simply unconvinced.  I appreciate coming across new information and presenting it (I appreciate it more if it includes a citation) but an extrapolation based on limited evidence is unacceptable for a historian or an academic publication.  A similar argument is utilized when discussing the Red Army’s progress through Germany and Eastern Europe in terms of atrocities and rapes.  There’s no doubt that Red Army soldiers, as well as soldiers from national contingents serving within the Red Army (Poles among them), committed atrocities against the Germans, including wholesale plunder, murder, and rape.  Similar actions were committed when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the allies invaded Western Europe, or the Japanese invaded China.  But to paint an entire armed forces with such a broad brush is unacceptable, at least in my opinion.  In terms of degrees it might very well be that the Red Army’s occupation proved that much more detrimental than that of the allies, unfortunately qualifying some of the actions of Red Army soldiers will prove impossible.  What Sokolov does well enough is present a variety of eye witness accounts to some of the actions that happened on the ground, but he offers little to nothing as explanation for why these criminal actions happened.  Recently Filip Slaveski, in his “The Soviet Occupation of Germany,” offered an enlightening look at the Soviet occupation of Germany including the crimes committed.  Sokolov aimed for emotions, Slaveski offers that and an attempt to explain what happened along with why. 


As much as I appreciate Sokolov’s efforts, there are quite a few weaknesses here that make this far from a definitive study of either Rokossovsky’s life or his actions within the confines of the Second World War.  In part this is a result of many archives still being closed off to research within the Russian Federation but I would also argue that Russian academic standards are still somewhat lacking when compared to their Western equivalents.  Furthermore, while there are some excellent historians within Russia they are still working within a state that continues to view its present as a reflection of past accomplishments and shies away from attempts to take a closer look at its history for fear that a crack in the foundation will unravel a collection of myths better kept under a Potemkin village fa├žade. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder’s “Black Earth” offers a mixed bag for readers.  Those familiar with the topic will undoubtedly find themselves making notes in the margins of practically every other page, while those new to the subject will be awed by what, at best, can be classified as historical “sound bites” or factoids.  As such I have to admit that in places this book is very readable, much more so than your usual historical monograph on these topics.  Snyder is a historian of Poland and it shows well enough as at the heart of “Black Earth” is not so much the Holocaust as is Poland.  The problem is that putting Poland on a pedestal as Snyder so often does leaves a bad aftertaste.  Although Poland participated in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia (using the same ideas of self-determination that both Germany and the Soviet Union utilized during the Second World War) and had similar plans to the Germans in the mid-to-late 1930s in removing Jews from Polish territory, according to Snyder it wasn’t so bad.  Polish citizens and institutions helped train Jewish Zionists to fight in Palestine against the British so that they could pave the way for a Jewish state and rid Poland, and, by extension, Europe, of its Jews sooner rather than later.  The party in power in Poland in 1938 “announced its preference for the emigration of about 90 percent of Poland’s Jews” (59).   But it’s not a big deal, as, according to Snyder, the leader of the party was married to a Jew.  The real difference between the two, for Snyder, is that Germany eventually aimed for the “destruction” of states where Jews lived whereas Poland wanted to create a new state in the Middle East for Jews.  But such a “sound bite” seemingly puts ideology as it would develop in Germany above everything else, the numerous exceptions made by Hitler in regards to decisions dealing with Jews and occupied territories, etc. 

In more than one instance Snyder also seems to be working backwards, with hindsight in mind to make his arguments hold water.  For instance, in discussing the creation of the first concentration camps in Germany he claims that “the concentration camps were training grounds for the more general SS mission beyond Germany: the destruction of states by racial institutions” (42).  But such a claim means that Hitler knew exactly how the Second World War would unfold before it even began.  Snyder also claims German plans for resettling Jews in Madagascar were equivalent to the “Final Solution” (76).  Further examples of using hindsight would be Snyder’s discussion of Stalin wanting to “seize” the opportunity to destroy the Polish state, leaving out any discussion of Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s, the more than two weeks spent by the Soviet Union after Germany invaded Poland in seeing how the western allies would react, or the threats made to the Soviet Union by Germany in regards to what they’d do with territories within the Soviet “sphere of influence” if the Red Army did not invade. 

On numerous occasions Snyder shows a lack of knowledge or understanding for the Soviet position in either the 1930s or throughout the Second World War.  Whether it’s Stalin “waiting for an alliance with Hitler,” for which no evidence is presented, or discussing the crisis over Czechoslovakia where he posits that the Soviet offer of help to defend Czechoslovakia against Germany would, in the end, have turned into some type of “truce with Germany that allowed it to take territory from Poland without having to engage the Germans” (92).  I was not aware that “fantastical what if scenarios” were now the norm for historians.  Snyder also makes the familiar claim that Soviet foreign minister Litvinov, a Jew, was dismissed and Molotov assumed his position just in time to make the non-aggression pact with Germany.  Recent research by Geoffrey Roberts on Molotov suggests that the move had less to do with Litvinov being a Jew than his inability to make a coalition with the western allies work and Stalin wanted someone new to make a foreign policy move that would last. 
Similar to a lack of any understanding in Soviet foreign policy is Snyder’s take on Hitler’s foreign policy.  The claim is made that “Hitler was consciously provoking a European war, and would have taken it in whatever form it came.” (93)  Is this why Hitler consistently said he would avoid conflict if the allies did anything to initiate a war when he remilitarized the Rhineland or when the Anschluss of Austria occurred?  Is this the same Hitler who was surprised when Britain and France declared war over Poland?  Worse was the statement that “Hitler understood the minutia of war; indeed he grasped its details far better than any other head of state and better than most of his generals.” (241) Once again, the sound bites are running the asylum.  No real evidence or further explanations are offered for either that make sense.

When it comes to the Holocaust itself I am somewhat ambivalent about Snyder’s claims.  Some of the arguments presented are comical: “people in Poland tended to hate those from whom they stole because they had stolen from them” (109).  Sure.  But at other times the analysis seems to go deeper and provide an interesting take on events that have been covered in so much detail already.  One of the most important arguments for Snyder is his idea that the Holocaust was, in part, the creation of both the “east” and the “west” meeting in an area that was without coherent rule or institutional policies (143).   That area is within the territories that were “doubly occupied” (he uses that phrase a lot) in what his previous book called the “Bloodlands.”  In some ways it seems self-evident that when you introduce violence and anarchy, little if anything is off-limits.  Thus I cannot say this is a revelation when it comes to the evolution of the Holocaust, more so because today more than ever many researchers are looking toward local collaboration and accomplices to the Holocaust.  In many ways I would agree that the Holocaust would have been impossible to achieve without the numerous variables inherent in both the rise of Nazism within Germany after the Great Depression and the Treaty of Versailles, as well as its evolution on the Eastern Front, starting with the Einzatsgruppen and reserve police battalions leading the way for locals to help perpetrate the “Holocaust by Bullets” and eventually leading to gas vans, death camps and death marches.   

Snyder’s look at the perpetrators themselves also offers a look at research on collaborators that’s already been done.  Often it was the same men (and perhaps women) that offered their services to the institution or government in power and readily switched sides when those in power altered.  Thus those who served the Soviets readily served the Nazis and then once more the Soviets.  They worked within the German military and police institutions and did the same under the Soviets.  They killed Polish or German “spies” under the auspices of the NKVD or Soviet partisans and Jews just as readily under the Nazis.  The latter parts of this text offer a look at what happened to Jews in other states with the argument that those who deemed Jews “citizens” and where state institutions continued to exist, there the majority of Jews survived the war or at least had a better chance to survive the war.  Finally, the second to last chapter looks at those who risked their lives to help Jews, mainly Poles (surprise!).  There is no doubt that tens of thousands risked their lives to save Jews, and, in part, Poles make up the majority of those among the “Righteous” because there were so many Jews in Poland and because of the numerous connections and networks that intertwined both Poles and Jews.  Neither takes away from the selfless actions of the many men and women that chose to go above and beyond what was expected and saved thousands of Jews throughout the war years (and not just in Poland).   Snyder also provides numerous examples of diplomats throughout Europe (from countries like China, Japan, etc.,) doing their utmost in trying to get visas and passports for Jews to get them to safety.  As they are the faces of state institutions, this once more supports Snyder’s larger argument(s).


In the end Snyder’s “Black Earth” is a nice popular history with the needed sound bites to make the general reader shake their head in agreement without actually understanding many of the intricacies at work.  The topics Snyder covers, and forgets to cover, have volumes already written on them that offer much more in-depth analysis.  But, unfortunately, they are not as well written or as accessible to the general public, for whom Snyder is writing.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stalingrad: The City that Defeated the Third Reich by Jochen Hellbeck

Jochen Hellbeck's "Stalingrad" is a testament to how much we still don't know about the Eastern Front over 70 years after the war has ended.  Within the Soviet Union a historical commission was created to chronicle the struggles of the Red Army and the Soviet Union during the war years, to create a history that well enough encompassed the courageous actions of men and women in the face of an enemy that few others were able to withstand, less so achieve victories against.  Unfortunately, while much information was gathered by the historians of this commission, little of this rich material ever saw the light of day.  Hellbeck, however, was given the ability and funding to be able to take numerous interviews from survivors of the Stalingrad battle and weave a compelling narrative about the endurance of the Red Army and the fighting for the city that bore Stalin's name.  In many ways Stalingrad became a turning point in the war against Nazi Germany and while initially numerous Soviet publications appeared on the battle, including memoirs, readers must keep in mind (and many already know) that much of that literature was tainted by Soviet propaganda, rhetoric, and adhered to the whims of Soviet censors.  Those histories and memoirs that appeared in the post-Soviet period are recollections that without doubt have been influenced by time (not to say that they should be dismissed, but simply treated with an understanding of their weaknesses and limitations).  Thus, a work that encompasses written interviews with survivors of the battle mere days or weeks after the fact offer many advantages for those interested in this period and these events.  Of course these accounts are tinged with ideology and Socialist cliches, but they are also rather candid about topics like German prisoners of war, cowardly behavior by some Red Army commanders, commissars and soldiers, as well Hellbeck offers a large number of endnotes that help guide the reader through many of the actions, units, and locations that are mentioned and also helps to showcase where readers can find discrepancies in accounts by the likes of Chuikov and Rodimtsev.  Without a doubt this is a fascinating look at the Red Army and its struggle against the Germans at Stalingrad, the fierce nature of the fighting comes through these interviews on a regular basis and some of the descriptions of the courage and loyalty shown by Red Army troops are truly inspiring.  This is a needed addition to Eastern Front literature and I can only hope that this rich archive is further explored and utilized by historians in the near future.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution by Dominic Lieven

This topic, in many respects, is my bread and butter. I'm a student of Soviet/Russian history and while I specialize in the Second World War, I've also done a fair amount of research on the First World War, including the lead up to the outbreak of hostilities in the summer of 1914. I had high hopes for a new treatment of the outbreak of the war from the Russian perspective, but Dominic Lieven promised much and delivered little, in my opinion. The subtitle, 'WWI & The Road to Revolution' is somewhat misleading. The lead up to the outbreak of the war takes up 312 of this 368 page tome. How can you fit in WWI and the Road to Revolution in some 50 pages?

The author's motives are understandable. There is a distinct lack of literature that concentrates on Russia on the eve and throughout the First World War when compared to the Western Allies or the Axis in Central Europe. Yet the war was begun because of what happened in Eastern Europe and the failure of the Entente to dictate a viable peace at the end of the war meant an environment that would create conditions for the outbreak of a Second World War, that much deadlier than the first. Thus, a concentration on Russia, who saw itself as a protector of the Balkan Slavs, is understandable and welcome. But this effort by Lieven leaves much to be desired. I'm fine with reading both popular history accounts or dry factual volumes that are minefields of little known information. While Lieven aims to be the latter, his writing style featuring thick descriptions of mundane events and minutia just put me to sleep. More so, the treatment of Russia and Russian figures takes center stage to the point where so many personalities are introduced that one simply loses all hope in trying to keep track of who is doing what, believes in what, and whether it matters how much influence they wield if they simply die off before 1914 even comes around. Putting so much onus on Russia and her "important decision makers" means many in the west are left out or are overlooked. Thus in some ways other nations are either reaction to Russian decisions/actions or are making them possible but their own agency seems to be absent. I wish I could say there are better alternatives out there for those seeking much of the information presented here but, again, there is a distinct lack of these studies where Russia is concerned. If you're able to get through this dense diplomatic history of Russia on the eve of war, I can only commend you.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Battle for Moscow by David Stahel

David Stahel's latest work, 'The Battle for Moscow', is somewhat removed from his previous volumes on this topic.  This is his fourth book and it becomes evident that what was clearly visible on a majority of pages in his first three texts is missing from much of this latest effort.  That is, there is a significant lack of tactical and operational descriptions of battles.  At least one amazon reviewer has already commented on how disappointed they were to discover this.  Yet, in this supposed 'weakness' lies the strength of Stahel's argument(s).  The Wehrmacht on June 22, 1941 was a vaunted fighting force that managed to defeat and conquer most of Europe.  The ensuing invasion of the Soviet Union showcased, on the surface, the Wehrmacht's military prowess operationally and on a tactical level as numerous encirclements and victories were achieved.  Stahel outlines them all quite well (mainly in regards to Army Groups Center and South) in his previous volumes.  That is, the Red Army lost hundreds of thousands in the encirclements at Minsk, Smolensk, Kiev, and finally at Viazma/Briansk.  Yet, the narrative that concentrates on the victorious outcomes of those encirclements misses the forest for the trees.

Thus, 'The Battle for Moscow' is a somewhat different creature than Stahel's previous works because it highlights again and again the slow progress of the German Army in the latter half of Operation Typhoon throughout November and early December of 1941.  There are no major battles, encirclements, or defeats of the Red Army because German forces were incapable of launching significant operations to achieve such feats, and when a major city was taken, Rostov by Army Group South, it eventually had to be evacuated due to Red Army pressure and German inability to hold it.  Stahel thus forces the reader to assume the physical and psychological state of the German Army through the numerous diaries, letters, memoirs, and battle reports that he quotes from.  The exhaustion of German troops was palpable on very page as they became bogged down in the mud of early November while hoping for a sudden freeze to create conditions for an eventual lunge toward Moscow.  And when that freeze did come it brought with it new obstacles that while facilitating one last push toward the Soviet capital also meant a whole new level of exhaustion, misery, disease and madness for countless soldiers.

Additionally, on more than one occasion Stahel draws the reader's attention to the genocidal nature of the war that Hitler unleashed against the Soviet Union and the complicity of the Wehrmacht in the numerous stages of the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of Soviet prisoners of war.  One simply cannot discuss Operation Barbarossa or Typhoon without highlighting the numerous difficulties the Germans faced in the rear from Soviet partisans and how they treated the civilian population as the cold set in and they needed both clothing and dwellings to keep warm, which often meant stealing from the local population and displacing it to fend for themselves while appropriating their living quarters.

Finally, much of Stahel's concentration rests on the German commanders and their actions throughout November.  Unlike many self-serving post-war memoirs, archival documentation from this period shows that generals like Bock, Guderian, Kluge, etc., had a choice in how they handled their troops and assignments.  None were forced to go on the offensive, the majority of those decisions they took for themselves based on a variety of factors until their forces were simply beyond the means of, in some cases, even picking up their weapons.  No German general was dismissed at this point (dismissals would come after the Soviet counter-offensive commenced) and yet being on the frontline, knowing the situation their soldiers were facing, they continued to ignore the exhaustion of their troops, the limits of their mobility (lack of trucks, tanks, planes, etc.) and forced their depleted formations onto the offensive again and again.  What was the end goal?  Moscow was never supposed to be captured, but encirclement was no longer an option as the targets were far too distant for what the Wehrmacht could hope to accomplish in November or December.  Thus, Stahel emphasizes the disconnect that existed between the goals of German commanders and the reality of what their forces could accomplish, with the final result being a situation that soon found exhausted and depleted German troops retreating in the face of a well-developed and planned Soviet counter-offensive.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tomb of the Panzerwaffe: The Defeat of the Sixth SS Panzer Army in Hungary by Aleksei Isaev, Maksim Kolomiets, Stuart Britton (Translator)

"Tomb of the Panzwerwaffe" covers the actions of the last large-scale German offensive on the Eastern Front from January through March of 1945.  The majority of this work is concentrated on the Soviet point of view but simultaneously there are reports, figures, and information that details the German side as well.  Isaev and Kolomiets have put out multiple volumes on the Second World War in Russia and this collaborative effort is a great addition to any library on the Eastern Front of the Second World War.  There is not much here in terms of eye-witness accounts as this is an operation and tactical account of the German attack to initially break through into besieged Budapest and then launch an attack against the Soviets around the area of Lake Balaton.  The authors are critical of both sides and their actions when the need arises.  Some archival information provided reveals the lack of readiness on the part of various Red Army formations but simultaneously there is also evident the high quality of actions undertaken by some units when the need appeared.  Soviet forces had been through much and their knowledge and abilities can be seen in detail throughout these operations, whether creating anti-tank kill zones or utilizing dummy positions in order to steer German tanks into tank ambushes.  One of the points the authors stress is the importance throughout these battles of anti-tank self-propelled artillery and artillery formations in general, it was their presence (in regiment, brigade, and division size) that stabilized much of the front with Red Army tank forces playing a secondary role, to a large extent.

While Kolomiets usually deals with a specific type of publication (photo heavy, oversized, and usually focuses on accounts of various battles or periods of the war) Isaev for the most part sticks to operational and strategic narratives in at times rather thick volumes.  I'm not a big fan of numerous photos of knocked out or abandoned tanks, but in the case of this book they served a very important purpose.  The Soviets marked each knocked out or abandoned tank, self-propelled gun, and half-track with markings and numbered them during this period.  This makes it possible to track the damage inflicted on the Wehrmacht in operations around Lake Balaton and compare the knocked out and abandoned equipment left on the field of battle with the numbers claimed by both the Red Army and the Wehrmacht in after-action reports.  While the Red Army claimed some 324 tanks and self-propelled guns burned out with another 332 knocked out, as well as 120 half-tracks burned and 97 knocked out, the German claims were for 42 tanks and 1 halftrack listed as irrecoverably lost, with another 396 tanks and self-propelled guns and 228 halftracks in for short and long term repairs.  Yet the pictures provided show a high number of at least 355, with most showing destroyed tanks and self-propelled guns (279 in total), thus the truth appears to be somewhere in the middle of Soviet claims and German reported figures.  More so, there is also the question of the Germans listing armored vehicles in 'short term' and 'long term' repair, categories which initially mean at least a month out of service, if not more, and indefinitely (respectively).  Additionally, categories can change over time, meaning a tank listed as in for short term repair can then be switched to long term and finally written off altogether.  I will mention that the only real weakness I found here is the limited endnotes and the limited bibliography provided.  Otherwise, this was a very interesting account of the final months of the war on the Eastern Front.

Friday, March 6, 2015

When the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010 by Tony Judt, Jennifer Homans

Tony Judt is a name Europeanists (historians of Europe) regularly encounter.  "Postwar" has almost become a standard text in many ways.  As with many historians in their own right, Judt has opinions on many issues, events, and personalities (whether they are part of his main concentration or not) and shares them with aplomb, for the most part.  This collection of book reviews, essays, and a few personal tracts written after the deaths of three well-known and respected historians are an interesting foray into the life of Judt, his ideas and the stances he took on a variety of contemporary topics.  The book is split into five parts. The first is entitled '1989: Our Age'; 'Israel, the Holocaust, and the Jews'; '9/11 and the New World Order'; 'The Way We Live Now'; and 'In the Long Run We Are All Dead.' These titles are mainly self-explanatory but personally I found one review and one lecture to be the stand outs.

The review of Norman Davies's 'Europe: A History' is absolutely phenomenal.  This is a hack of an historian who has received undeserved praise for reasons that I cannot even begin to fathom and yet his shoddy work is some of the worst drivel I've seen published in the past few decades.  Judt takes him to task for the mediocrity he is and the numerous mistakes, omissions, and worthless excuses for arguments he makes (his more recent 'No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945' is no better).  As well, 'What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy?' was a lecture Judt gave at New York University in 2009 that deals with issues we've recently witnessed revolving around debates about economics, private vs. public, the role of government, etc.  Judt is very much of the opinion that what was done in the wake of the First and Second World Wars throughout Europe and America has slowly been undone since the Thatcher-Reagan era and has caused numerous problems for our society today, which will only continue to get worse.  One argument discussed how corrupt and inefficient publicly run municipalities/works fail to improve when sold to private entities as these sales include large commissions for banks and are a result of selling at a loss.  Additionally they are only approved when these private institutions are assured that in the case of their own failure the tax-payers will bare the burden while the private sector continues to reap any and all rewards.  The numerous safety nets created by governments come at a price, one that we as a society should be happy to pay and to see that others take up a similar cause when we are in need and suffering.  But in a society reared on 'An Army of One' that kind of mentality falls on deaf ears as 'crony capitalism' and 'greed' have created an image in people's minds where the government can do nothing right and corporations are people too.  While these were the most interested pieces, I also found his stance on the issue of where this country was going after 9/11, the usefulness of the UN, and the use of torture worth reading as well.

While the above are some of the more interesting and poignant pieces offered, there are some weaknesses, at least in my opinion. The sections on Israel are rife with contempt for Israeli policies, whether deserved or not, but wholly omit the responsibilities of the other side in this equation.  Judt makes it seem as if Israel has consistently held all the cards in the situation it has found itself in without any agency being given to the Palestinians or their various representatives, nor is any mention made of the numerous states that surround Israel and the role they have played when it comes to both Israeli security and the evolution of terrorism.  Although this collection is entitled 'When The Facts Change' it seems that some facts do not change for Judt when it comes to Israel.  Finally, much of the information presented is fascinating and one begins to crave more, but foot/endnotes are few (partly explained by the fact that these were, again, book reviews, essays and lectures).  Even so, considering there was an editor to this collection, a greater number of citations could have resulted in a better resources for those interested in some of the topics discussed.


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