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'Fortress Israel' and 'The Generals'

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Current-day Israel, with its constant state of high alert, may seem depressing, especially when compared with the idealism permeating the Jewish nation- state when it was first created. Tyler poses the vital question of whether the departure from the original vision of the Zionists is justified given the perception of never-ending outside threats. What if that original vision of a peaceful homeland had come true through the medium of contemporary diplomacy? What if Israel had become, as Tyler suggests, “a progressive and humanistic state deeply engaged with its Arab and Islamic neighbors and dedicated to lifting all boats in the Middle East”?

Just as Tyler examines Israeli militarism through a mostly chronological rendering of its commanders, Thomas E. Ricks organizes The Generals, his account of the US military, historically, starting with World War II commanders. As a longtime military correspondent at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (and author of the bestselling “Fiasco”), Ricks has learned to appreciate the difficult balancing act performed by generals. He is no apologist, however, and is quick to criticize generals when appropriate for their tactics and their personalities.

An obvious difference between the United States and Israel, and thus between the two books, is the fact that Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors, while the US does not suffer from such a precarious situation – Sept. 11, 2001, notwithstanding. That means the US generals should presumably view the world as less threatening than Israeli commanders do.

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