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Books of Interest
January/February 2017

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Margaret Pearson is American Diplomacy's new Contributing Editor for Books and a former State Department Senior Foreign Service Officer. She is a strong advocate for the importance of public diplomacy in the conduct of foreign affairs. In her 27-year career with the Department of State she has held posts in Asia and Europe as well as Washington, D.C.

After two years of Chinese language training in Washington and Taibei Ms. Pearson became a Cultural Affairs Officer in Beijing in 1981 where she worked on the recently minted Fulbright Program, developed U.S. Film Festival in China, and worked with the U.S., Chinese, and foreign press. On her return to Washington she headed the China Desk at the United States Information Agency. Subsequently, she had two assignments at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, one in the US Mission to NATO's press office and the other seconded to the NATO International Staff as Deputy Director of NATO's Press and Cultural Service. In this position she chaired NATO's Public Affairs Council, managed the awarding of public affairs program grants among NATO member nations, and oversaw the NATO Press and Culture budget. Additional assignments included Public Affairs Advisor for the State Department's Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Bosnian War. Later she took assignments as Press Spokesperson and Director of Information at the US Embassy in Paris and Special Advisor for Eastern European Community Property Affairs (Holocaust and Post-WWII property provenance issues) which she managed from Turkey with frequent travel to Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Prior to her retirement, she was a Senior Examiner and head of the Final Review Panel at the State Department Board of Examiners, the office responsible for evaluating candidates for the US Foreign Service. Ms. Pearson holds a B.A. degree from Tulane University and an M.A. degree from California State University, San Diego.

 

 


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New Books Of Interest, January/February 2017

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Failure to Adjust by Edward Alden Ike's Gamble by Michael Doran Morning in South Africa by John Campbell The Terror Years
by Lawrence Wright
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  The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom by John Pomfret

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones

 

 

 

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FAILURE TO ADJUST: HOW AMERICANS GOT LEFT BEHIND IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
by Edward Alden
306 pages

A Council on Foreign Relations book
www.cfr.org

ISBN-13: 978-1442272606

In Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy, Council on Foreign Relations Edward Alden explains why the political consensus in support of trade liberalization has collapsed, and how to correct the course. The United States has contributed more than any other nation to writing the rules that created the competitive global economy of today, helping support stronger growth in much of the world. Yet successive U.S. administrations have done far too little to help American workers succeed under those rules.

Americans know that something has gone wrong in this country's effort to prosper in the face of growing global economic competition. The vast benefits promised by the supporters of globalization, and by their own government, have never materialized for most Americans. This book is the story of what went wrong, and how to correct the course. Alden argues that the federal government needs to become more like U.S. state governments in embracing economic competitiveness as a central function of government.

Against the backdrop of the U.S. presidential election cycle and the controversy over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, Alden shows how the collapse of the consensus on trade has been decades in the making. Using detailed historical research and drawing on his previous experience as a journalist covering the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Alden reveals that U.S. policymakers have long recognized the challenges that Americans would face in the new global economy, but mostly looked the other way.

The problem is not globalization, he writes. "The problem has been the domestic political response to globalization, which in too many ways has been deeply irresponsible. A central task of any government is to provide the tools to help people adjust and succeed in the face of economic change." However, "the story of the last half century has instead been the failure by governments to ease that adjustment," Alden says.

The book's recommendations for the federal government include building on local and regional efforts to attract and develop internationally competitive industries; introducing corporate tax reforms and streamlining regulations; enforcing trade rules to ensure a more level playing field; reforming international rules to constrain subsidies that distort trade; developing comprehensive workforce retraining plans and apprenticeships to help American workers build necessary skills; and expanding trade adjustment assistance to workers displaced by trade.

Alden argues that "with the right support from governments—federal, state, and local—the ingredients are there to build an American economy that not only competes with the best in the world but does so in a way that once again raises the living standards of more of its citizens."

"Ted Alden captures vividly the inherent tension in America's role in the postwar global economy: that between the principal architect and guardian of an open system, on the one hand, and a participant and competitor within that system, on the other. That tension cannot be removed. But in Alden's thoughtful analysis, as the global economy grows, the balance between player and referee that needed to shift in America in favor of the former has been late in coming. It is a really interesting and detailed assessment that avoids overly simple diagnoses and prescriptions."
—Michael Spence, Nobel Laureate and William R. Berkley Professor in Economics and Business, New York University

"Rising opposition to globalization has thrown an already polarized political environment in America into near mayhem, with our key economic partnerships hanging in the balance. Ted Alden provides a cogent and constructive analysis of the origins of opposition to economic openness that charts a viable path forward. It is essential reading for all who care about America's role in the global economy."
—Gordon Hanson, Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economic Relations at University of California, San Diego, and Director, Center on Global Transformation

"Ted Alden hits the nail on the head with this cogent analysis of the trade issue, its impact on American workers, our failure to meaningfully help those adversely affected and what we should now be doing to save globalization by adopting more thoughtful and far-reaching policies."
—Steven Rattner, Chairman, Willett Advisors LLC

 

Edward Alden is the Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) specializing in U.S. economic competitiveness. He is Director of the Renewing America Publication Series, and coauthor of a recent CFR Discussion Paper "A Winning Trade Policy for the United States." Alden was previously the Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times.


 

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IKE'S GAMBLE
America's Rise to Dominance in the Middle East
By Michael Doran
292 pp. Free Press.

www.FreePress.com
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9775-9

 

This major retelling of the Suez Crisis of 1956—one of the most important events in the history of US policy in the Middle East.

In 1956 President Nasser of Egypt moved to take possession of the Suez Canal, thereby bringing the Middle East to the brink of war. The British and the French, who operated the canal, joined with Israel in a plan to retake it by force. Despite the special relationship between England and America, Dwight Eisenhower intervened to stop the invasion.

In Ike's Gamble, Michael Doran shows how Nasser played the US, invoking America's opposition to European colonialism to drive a wedge between Eisenhower and two British Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden. Meanwhile, in his quest to make himself the strongman of the Arab world, Nasser was making weapons deals with the USSR and destabilizing other Arab countries that the US had been courting. The Suez Crisis was his crowning triumph. In time, Eisenhower would conclude that Nasser had duped him, that the Arab countries were too fractious to anchor America's interests in the Middle East, and that the US should turn instead to Israel.

Affording deep insight into Eisenhower and his foreign policy, this fascinating and provocative history provides a rich new understanding of how the US became the power broker in the Middle East.

Doran tells us that the Middle East is in the throes of an historical crisis, a prolonged period of instability. American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts, but… in the Middle East, it is prudent to assume that the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems. Like Sisyphus, the United States has no choice but to push the boulder up a hill whose pinnacle remains forever out of reach.

"Doran's profoundly humbling message will not be very welcome to ambitious policy makers of any political stripe. For that reason, it is all the more valuable as the Obama administration leaves office unchastened by adverse experience—and its potential successors assess the grim options they inherit.Doran's profoundly humbling message will not be very welcome to ambitious policy makers of any political stripe. For that reason, it is all the more valuable as the Obama administration leaves office unchastened by adverse experience—and its potential successors assess the grim options they inherit."
David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic and chairman of the British think tank Policy Exchange, was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush in 2001-02.

"A disturbing history that clearly reveals the dangerous "collective American delusion" about the Middle East, which the author believes still persists today."
Kirkus Reviews

"Doran is so good at bringing Eisenhower and his challenges to life that one can't avoid making comparisons with the tough choices confronting the United States today. I can't think of another book that so thoroughly challenged my assumptions about America's role in the Middle East."
Will McCants is author of The Isis Apocalypse and Director, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at The Brookings Institution

 

Michael Doran, a senior director of the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration and now at the Hudson Institute, is a leading expert on radical ideologies of the Middle East.

 

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Morning in South Africa by John Campbell
244 pages

A Council on Foreign Relations Book.
www.cfr.com

ISBN-13: 978-1442265899

 

This incisive, deeply informed book introduces post-apartheid South Africa to an international audience. South Africa's crushing historical burden of racism and white supremacy continues to resonate today. Nevertheless, despite calls to undermine the 1994 political settlement characterized by human rights guarantees and the rule of law, distinguished diplomat Ambassador John Campbell argues that the country's future is bright and that its democratic institutions will weather its current lackluster governance.

The book opens with an overview to orient readers to South Africa's historical inheritance. A look back at the presidential inaugurations of Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma and Mandela's funeral illustrates some of the ways South Africa has indeed changed since 1994. Reviewing current demographic trends, Campbell highlights the persistent consequences of apartheid. He goes on to consider education, health, and current political developments, including land reform, with an eye on how South Africa's democracy is responding to associated thorny challenges. The book ends with an assessment of why prospects are currently poor for closer South African ties with the West. Campbell concludes, though, that South Africa's democracy has been surprisingly adaptable, and that despite intractable problems, the black majority are no longer strangers in their own country.

Foreign policy professional Campbell uses the idea of morning… to describe post-apartheid South Africa's progress since 1994. The country's history from settlement by Europeans in 1652 to the death of Nelson Mandela in 2013 occupies a significant portion of the book. … Valuable comparisons are made between Jim Crow in the U.S. and apartheid. …When discussing the present day, Campbell describes a South Africa that is on the cusp of political and economic transformation, whether for good or ill, but sees no immediate likelihood of the country going over that brink. …He doesn't shy away from the failings of the deal made to end apartheid, including the fact that whites are still, economically, the dominant race in the country, and the failings of the Mandela and Mbeki administrations to adequately address the HIV/AIDS crisis … Campbell ends the book on an optimistic note, acknowledging that South Africa's young democracy has many opportunities to grow and improve. (Publishers Weekly)

In the process of making the contrarian argument that South Africa's prospects are promising despite the country's current difficulties, Campbell has also written an excellent introduction to the South African political economy…. Campbell's optimism stems from his belief that the country's democratic institutions are strong and resilient and that its people have already completed much of the hard work of building a 'nonracial' democracy…. [T]he book's reasonable tone and fact-based review of the record represent a useful antidote to more common alarmist accounts. Also welcome is Campbell's call for more active and ambitious U.S. engagement with South Africa. (Foreign Affairs)

Readers interested in understanding the differences and similarities between the democratic cultures of SA and the US, the basis for building and sustaining any strategic partnership — variables such as size, location, economic development, racial composition and the number and nature of domestic and international conflicts — will find Campbell's chapter 'The historical trajectory' especially helpful. (Business Day Live)

John Campbell has it exactly right: South Africa's dawn (1994) has given way to a morning after, poised between hope and hangover. After a decade and a half of unworthy leadership, the country suffers from draining coffers, a local currency in free fall, and a stark landscape littered with dashed hopes. But, more than anyone, Campbell shows us how this glass is in fact half full. The unparalleled talent, energy, laughter, and determination in a society unlike any other in the world will carry it through to better times. Such beauty and fascination cannot wither. Campbell's case is beyond convincing—it is proof positive that South Africa will advance at its own pace, in its own time—but advance, none the less. (Daniel Whitman, American University)

John Campbell is the Council on Foreign Relations Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies. A career US diplomat, he served in Pretoria as political counselor between 1993 and 1996 and was US Ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.

 

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The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State
by Lawrence Wright
366 pages

www.penguinrandomhouse.com

ISBN: 9780385352055

In ten powerful pieces first published in The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright, author of the Pulitzer Prize for "The Looming Tower," recalls the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the beheadings of reporters and aid workers by ISIS.

On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, The Terror Years is at once a unifying recollection of the roots of contemporary Middle Eastern terrorism, a study of how it has grown and metastasized, and, in the scary and moving epilogue, a cautionary tale of where terrorism might take us yet.

The Terror Years draws on several articles Lawrence wrote while researching The Looming Tower, as well as many that he's written since, following where and how al-Qaeda and its core cultlike beliefs have morphed and spread. They include a portrait of the "man behind bin Laden," Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the tumultuous Egypt he helped spawn; an indelible impression of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of silence under the control of the religious police; the Syrian film industry, at the time compliant at the edges but already exuding a feeling of the barely masked fury that erupted into civil war; the 2006–11 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, a study in the disparate value of human lives. Other chapters examine al-Qaeda as it forms a master plan for its future, experiences a rebellion from within the organization, and spins off a growing web of worldwide terror. The American response is covered in profiles of two FBI agents and the head of the intelligence community. The book ends with a devastating piece about the capture and slaying by ISIS of four American journalists and aid workers, and our government's failed response.

"Vital prose . . . Wright has profiled the key players, detailed the major events, and tried with an almost forlorn kind of insistence to make sense of the senseless." —Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor

"Vivid firsthand reportage . . . Wright investigates every facet of the shadowy conflict [in] these dispatches from the frontlines of the 'war on terror.' He writes with empathy for every side while clearly registering the moral catastrophes that darken this pitiless struggle." —Publishers Weekly

Lawrence Wright won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Looming Tower" and is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He is the author of eight previous books of nonfiction.

 

CoverThe Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom by John Pomfret

693 pages

ISBN: 9780805092509
ISBN10:0805092501

www.us.macmillan.com

A remarkable history of the two-centuries-old relationship between the United States and China, from the Revolutionary War to the present day. From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap Chinese tea, to the US warships facing off against China's growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China, to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. While we tend to think of America's ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns—rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment—were set in motion hundreds of years earlier.

Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important—and often the most perplexing—relationship between any two countries in the world.

"...exhaustively researched and vigorously told...If the new administration in Washington wishes to get a sense of the broad sweep of American history with China, I can think of few better places to start than this book." —Howard W. French for The Wall Street Journal

"[An] absorbing new book...[Pomfret] weaves a lively tale, peppered with a cast of adventurers, spies, preachers, communists and McCarthyites who have boosted and sabotaged the relationship in turn over the years." —The Economist

"Takes the myriad historical milestones of two of the world's most powerful nations and turns them into one fluid, fascinating story, leaving us with a nuanced understanding of where these two nations stand in relation to one another and the rest of the world." —Publishers Weekly

John Pomfret served as a correspondent for the Washington Post for two decades, covering wars, revolutions, and China. He has won awards for his reporting on Asia, including the Osborne Elliot Prize. He was one of the first American students to go to China after relations were normalized. Pomfret was expelled from China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Most recently, he was a Fulbright senior scholar in Beijing.

 

CoverKarl Marx: Greatness and Illusion

by Gareth Stedman Jones
768 pages
ISBN 9780674971615

www.hup.harvard.edu

As much a portrait of his time as a biography of the man, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion returns the author of Das Kapital to his nineteenth-century world, before twentieth-century inventions transformed him into Communism's patriarch and fierce lawgiver. Gareth Stedman Jones depicts an era dominated by extraordinary challenges and new notions about God, human capacities, empires, and political systems—and, above all, the shape of the future.

Stedman Jones gives weight not only to Marx's views but to the views of those with whom he contended. He shows that Marx was as buffeted as anyone else living through a period that both confirmed and confounded his interpretations—and that ultimately left him with terrible intimations of failure.

Karl Marx allows the reader to understand Marx's milieu and development, and makes sense of the devastating impact of new ways of seeing the world. We come to understand how Marx transformed and adapted their philosophies into ideas that would have—through twists and turns inconceivable to him—an overwhelming impact across the globe in the twentieth century.

"[A] clear-eyed biography of the founding theorist of communism. In Jones's well-drawn portrait, Marx is an unappealing figure… Jones's criticism of Marx's philosophy is sharp but balanced… [He] clears up some of the mythology surrounding this controversial icon and his thinking."—Publishers Weekly

"A deeply original and illuminating account of Marx's journey through the intellectual history of the nineteenth century. Stedman Jones explores the friendships, affinities, rivalries and hatreds that shaped Marx's life with elegance and analytical brilliance. He anchors his narrative in a startlingly textured account of the society and politics of Marx's era. Most important of all, he brings to life the thoughts of a plethora of other writers, showing how Marx's engagements with the thoughts of others enabled him to navigate a course that often had little or nothing to do with the Marxism of the twentieth century. A profound reappraisal and a gripping read."—Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers

"This is a masterly instance of intellectual biography, sure to be the standard work on the subject in any language. Stedman Jones is the only biographer or commentator who successfully explicates Marx's intense engagements with his political milieux. Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion presents not just a 'rounded' picture of his subject, but an intelligible one."—Terrell Carver, University of Bristol

Gareth Stedman Jones is Professor of the History of Ideas at Queen Mary University of London and Director of the Centre for History and Economics at the University of Cambridge.


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