Sunday Book Reviews – 6/30/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Unholy Alliance: The Agenda Iran, Russia and the Jihadists Share for Conquering the World by Jay Sekulow (2016, Howard)

Jay Sekulow was known, at the time this book was written, as a lawyer famous for defending religious liberties. He is best known now as Trump’s personal lawyer, a man who will excuse any malfeasance for the sake of his leader. His current actions do not negate the validity of any arguments he made in the past, and this book, weighing in at a short 184 pages outside of appendices and notes, amounts to little more than a simple well-researched and cogent argument.

We must recognize that too many venues in the Islamic world are teaching that a holy war is required; we must accept that political Islam is inherently incompatible with western political philosophy; we cannot allow the split between Democrat and Republican to divert our attention from that fact; we cannot accept the progressive (very carefully distinguished from Democrat in the book) stance that being against jihadists is equivalent to being Islamophobic; we must work against the efforts of Russia to join with Iran to fight against western interests and we must be our higher selves in the fight against jihadists, respecting non-jihadist Muslims and always striving to hold to fundamental principles of human rights for all.

It’s a good position, carefully stated for maximum effect. It is somewhat undermined by his extensive explanations about the beliefs of political Islam, but that seems to be due to his belief, probably correct, that average Americans do not know how to or do not wish to distinguish between religious Islam and political Islam. It is also undermined by his attacks on President Obama for pursuing progressive policy, which, even if true, will blunt the message of his book for Democrats.

All of that considered, it’s difficult to square his arguments with his current positions. He uses extensive notes to provide validation, and despite being a regular guest on Fox News at the time most of those notes come from sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and NPR – places he now calls untrustworthy purveyors of “fake news”. A good portion of the book presents the danger of focusing exclusively on ISIS, explaining that Russia is using the banner of “fighting ISIS” as an excuse to aid in attacks against American and allied forces to support Assad. He repeatedly stresses the dangers of both Iran and Russia.

The book presents a good argument. What is in question is less the strength of his points and more whether he ever believed in them.

Who Was? series from Penguin Books / Basher series from Kingfisher Books (ongoing)

The Basher books are a series of books – originally focused on science – which explain subjects for pre-teen kids. They take a general topic, like Physics, Mythology, and the Human Body, and break it down into subgroups. The Human Body might have, for example, a segment on the nervous system. Then individual members of that subgroup get a cute cartoon drawing and a few paragraphs of text explaining what it is.

They’re miniature specialized encyclopedias with pleasant cartoons, and they’re an ideal method for teaching kids science. There are points of contention – the book on Climate Change, for example, may not be one that certain people would want to buy for their children or grandchildren – but generally speaking they are excellent.

Until you get to their history books.

The Basher books on history are notably skewed to a leftward political bent. Perhaps most egregious is their book on U.S. Presidents, which uses half of Reagan’s time focused on how guilty he was for Iran-Contra but excuses Clinton’s sexual assault charges and cheating on his wife with an intern as “having a way with the ladies.”

By all means, get the Basher science, English and math books. But if you’re considering picking up the history line, know what you’re getting into.

This is particularly important when considered against another extremely popular book series aimed at pre-teens, the Who Was? series. These are somewhat short biographical pieces focused on key people in history, science, sports and popular culture. As such, they provide an option for people wishing to expose kids to history. This is an option well worth exploring.

Having seen a number of the books and finding their reporting somewhat saccharine but accurate, I sampled two of the titles which could be most agenda-oriented: Who Was Ronald Reagan? and Who Is Barack Obama? In both cases I found the books to have been written using a variety of respected biographers, most of whom were inclined to present their subject positively.

The negatives of both men, as presented by their opponents, were only lightly touched upon and the conspiratorial attacks against them were completely ignored. The results were the same saccharine, semi-hagiographic life summaries as the other Who Was? books… which are a perfect way to introduce children to biographies. They are the type of books which will inspire kids to read more detailed works on the subjects. An introductory book on Walt Disney doesn’t need to go into his Nazi sympathizing; budding Michael Jordan fans don’t need to know about his father’s gambling issues, etc… They’re introductions to the concept of biographies, and they serve that purpose wonderfully.

Warning: Netflix has a television series based on Who Was? The show is execrable and consistently presents historical figures saying and doing inaccurate things in an effort to “modernize” the figures. As much as the books are worth picking up, the show is worth avoiding.

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About AlienMotives 1328 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.