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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review: The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam

Halberstam's magisterial book on the Korean war is a worthwhile read if you're interested in the politics of the post-[WWII]war world. Because we still live in that world, really. The conservative argument in the 1950s was . . . "appeasement." Sound familiar? As I mentioned before, MacArthur is not so alien to the contemporary political sphere. Halberstam actually draws the parallel to the Iraq war at one point. Both wars, if not all wars, are based on miscalculations.

Plus, Halberstam excels at the short character study or vignette. He can give you a relatively full character study in 500 words. It's an amazing skill. I was also impressed by the research that went into this book. Halberstam spoke to scores, hundreds, of Korean war veterans. He tells their stories, and it's a beautiful thing, even when the stories are horrifying.

It's a long book, but worth the slog. At times, you will feel bogged down in Korea. But maybe that's the point.


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