Our new format designed to replace our book reviews places more of the choice on you, the Reader. My colleagues and I at American Diplomacy will identify a variety of new books that we believe may interest you. We'll provide basic information on the books and links to reviews. You will have the choice of whether, or how far, to pursue your interests in the books that follow. From time to time we will feature an original book review or book essay of note. Good reading! And please let us know how you like the new format.
William P. Kiehl, Ed.D.
Contributing Editor, Books
How is religion changing in the twenty-first century? In the global era, religion has leapt onto the world stage, often in contradictory ways. Some religious activists are antagonistic and engage in protests, violent acts, and political challenges. Others are positive and help to shape an emerging transnational civil society. In addition, a new global religion may be in the making, providing a moral and spiritual basis for a worldwide community of concern about environmental issues, human rights, and international peace. God in the Tumult of the Global Square explores all of these directions, based on a five-year Luce Foundation project that involved religious leaders, scholars, and public figures in workshops held in Cairo, Moscow, Delhi, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and Santa Barbara. In this book, the voices of these religious observers around the world express both the hopes and fears about new forms of religion in the global age.
Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology and Global Studies and Founding Director and Fellow of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Dinah Griego is Project Coordinator of the Luce Project on the Role of Religion in Global Civil Society at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
John Soboslai is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In the spring of 2001, George W. Bush selected Dallas attorney Robert W. Jordan as the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s nomination sped through Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and he was at his post by early October, though with no prior diplomatic experience, as Saudi Arabia mandates that the U.S. Ambassador be a political appointee with the ear of the president. Hence Jordan had to learn on the job how to run an embassy, deal with a foreign culture, and protect U.S. interests, all following the most significant terrorist attacks on the United States in history.
From 2001 through 2003, Jordan worked closely with Crown Prince Abdullah and other Saudi leaders on sensitive issues of terrorism and human rights, all the while trying to maintain a positive relationship to ensure their cooperation with the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. At the same time he worked with top officials in Washington, including President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks. Desert Diplomat discusses these relationships as well as the historic decisions of Jordan’s tenure and provides a candid and thoughtful assessment of the sometimes-distressing dysfunction in the conduct of American foreign policy, warfare, and intelligence gathering. Still involved in the Middle East, Jordan also offers important insights into the political, economic, and social changes occurring in this critical region, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Robert W. Jordan is Diplomat in Residence and adjunct professor of political science in the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003 and as a partner in the international law firm Baker Botts L.L.P. for many years where he headed Middle East practice in Dubai. Steve Fiffer has written for the New York Times and is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Three Quarters, Two Dimes, and a Nickel: A Memoir of Becoming Whole. James A. Baker III served as the sixty-first U.S. secretary of state.
The Islamic State is one of the most lethal and successful jihadist groups in modern history, surpassing even al-Qaeda. Thousands of its followers have marched across Syria and Iraq, subjugating millions, enslaving women, beheading captives, and daring anyone to stop them. Thousands more have spread terror beyond the Middle East under the Islamic State's black flag.
How did the Islamic State attract so many followers and conquer so much land? By being more ruthless, more apocalyptic, and more devoted to state-building than its competitors. The shrewd leaders of the Islamic State combined two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam-the return of the Islamic Empire and the end of the world-into a mission and a message that shapes its strategy and inspires its army of zealous fighters. They have defied conventional thinking about how to wage wars and win recruits. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, jihadist terrorism will never be the same.
Based almost entirely on primary sources in Arabic-including ancient religious texts and secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seenWilliam McCants' The ISIS Apocalypse explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future.
William McCants directs the project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution. He is adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University and a former U.S. State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism. McCants has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
In this authoritative and deeply informed political and diplomatic history, Service, a seasoned British historian specializing in studies of Soviet Russia, delivers a masterful account of the final years of the Cold War, when a small, remarkable group of statesmen sought an end to the dangerous standoff between superpowers.
Deteriorating economic conditions prompted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to introduce radical political and economic reforms and seek rapprochement with the U.S. Meanwhile, American President Ronald Reagan, consumed by the potential horror of thermonuclear holocaust and driven by a vision of global military denuclearization, proved open to the initiatives of the Kremlin reformers. Both leaders contended with domestic sectors of resistance who grumbled at moves toward reconciliationhardline American right-wingers skeptical of Soviet reforms and “communist-conservative critics” in the U.S.S.R. uneasy with Gorbachev’s concessionsand pushed through a series of agreements on nuclear arms reduction.
Based on deep, impressive archival research and previously unpublished material, Service strays from triumphalist narratives typical in the West, adopting a bilateral analysis that gives “equal attention to the Soviet Union and America and their interaction in a churning world of transformation.” This study of the end of a cardinal episode of modern history is scholarly yet accessible: detailed, expansive, and engaging.
China's emergence as a great power in the twenty-first century is strongly enabled by cyberspace. Leveraged information technology integrates Chinese firms into the global economy, modernizes infrastructure, and increases internet penetration which helps boost export-led growth. China's pursuit of "informatization" reconstructs industrial sectors and solidifies the transformation of the Chinese People's Liberation Army into a formidable regional power. Even as the government censors content online, China has one of the fastest growing internet populations and most of the technology is created and used by civilians.
Western political discourse on cybersecurity is dominated by news of Chinese military development of cyberwarfare capabilities and cyber exploitation against foreign governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations. Western accounts, however, tell only one side of the story. Chinese leaders are also concerned with cyber insecurity, and Chinese authors frequently note that China is also a victim of foreign cyberattacks predominantly from the United States.
China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain is a comprehensive analysis of China's cyberspace threats and policies. The contributorsChinese specialists in cyber dynamics, experts on China, and experts on the use of information technology between China and the Westaddress cyberspace threats and policies, emphasizing the vantage points of China and the U.S. on cyber exploitation and the possibilities for more positive coordination with the West. The volume's multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural approach does not pretend to offer wholesale resolutions. Contributors take different stances on how problems may be analyzed and reduced, and aim to inform the international audience of how China's political, economic, and security systems shape cyber activities. The compilation provides empirical and evaluative depth on the deepening dependence on shared global information infrastructure and the growing willingness to exploit it for political or economic gain.
Natural resources like oil and minerals are the largest source of unaccountable power in the world. Petrocrats like Putin and the Saudis spend resource money on weapons and oppression; militants in Iraq and in the Congo spend resource money on radicalization and ammunition. Resource-fueled authoritarians and extremists present endless crises to the West-and the source of their resource power is ultimately ordinary consumers, doing their everyday shopping at the gas station and the mall.
In this sweeping new book, one of today's leading political philosophers, Leif Wenar, goes behind the headlines in search of the hidden global rule that thwarts democracy and development-and that puts shoppers into business with some of today's most dangerous men. Wenar discovers a rule that once licensed the slave trade and apartheid and genocide, a rule whose abolition has marked some of humanity's greatest triumphs-yet a rule that still enflames tyranny and war and terrorism through today's multi-trillion dollar resource trade.
Blood Oil shows how the West can now lead a peaceful revolution by ending its dependence on authoritarian oil, and by getting consumers out of business with the men of blood. The book describes practical strategies for upgrading world trade: for choosing new rules that will make us more secure at home, more trusted abroad, and better able to solve pressing global problems like climate change. Blood Oil shows citizens, consumers and leaders how we can act together today to create a more united human future.
Leif Wenar holds the Chair of Philosophy and Law at King's College London. He earned his degrees in Philosophy from Stanford and from Harvard. He has been a Visiting Professor at Princeton and at Stanford, and has been a Fellow of the Carnegie Council Program in Justice and the World Economy.