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American Diplomacy

Books of Interest
Fall 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, October 2017

BookCover Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Gorbachev: His Life and Times
By William Taubman
W.W.Norton & Company, Copyright 2017
852 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-393-647-013

Asia's Reckoning: China, Japan and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century
By Richard McGregor
Viking Books, Copyright 2017
416 Pages
ISBN: 978-03-995-626-79

Democracy in Iran:
Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed

By Misagh Parsa
Harvard University Press
November 2016
ISBN 9780674545045
416 pages

How Statesmen Think: he Psychology of International Politics

By Robert Jervis
Princeton University Press, 2017
ISBN: 9780691176444
304 Pages

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Foreign Service: Five Decades on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy

By James Dobbins with a forward by Robert Zoellick
Brookings Institution Press, 2017
ASIN: B01N6VFU0O
341 Pages.

A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World's Most Intractable Conflict

By Gershon Shafir
University of California Press, 2017
ISBN: 97800520293502
283 Pages


Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry During The Cold War

By Gregg A Brazinsky
University of North Carolina Press, The New Cold War Series, 2017
IBSN: 9781469631707
448 Pages

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-America World

By Suzy Hansen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux.2017.
ISBN # 0374280045
276 Pages


Cover
Gorbachev: His Life and Times
By William Taubman
W.W.Norton & Company, Copyright 2017
852 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-393-647-013

When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the USSR. was one of the world's two superpowers. By 1989, his liberal policies of perestroika and glasnost had permanently transformed Soviet Communism, and had made enemies of radicals on the right and left. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the Cold War, and in 1991, after barely escaping from a coup attempt, he unintentionally presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union he had tried to save. In the first comprehensive biography of the final Soviet leader, William Taubman shows how a peasant boy became the Soviet system's gravedigger, how he clambered to the top of a system designed to keep people like him down, how he found common ground with America's arch-conservative president Ronald Reagan, and how he permitted the USSR and its East European empire to break apart without using force to preserve them. Throughout, Taubman portrays the many sides of Gorbachev's unique character that, by Gorbachev's own admission, make him "difficult to understand." Was he in fact a truly great leader, or was he brought low in the end by his own shortcomings, as well as by the unyielding forces he faced?

NYT Magazine: William Taubman's grapples with this dichotomy in his masterly new biography, "Gorbachev: His Life and Times," which will surely stand as the definitive English-language chronicle of this most intriguing figure for many years to come. That this book should come out now is fortuitous as Americans debate Russia's role in the world—and in our own political system. To understand today's Russia, it is necessary to understand what happened during Gorbachev's time, how he opened up a hermetically sealed society after 70 years of stifling Communist rule but was unable to solve its deeper problems and was ultimately pushed aside.

About the Author: William Taubman is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Khrushchev and a professor emeritus at Amherst College.

 

Cover
Asia's Reckoning: China, Japan and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century
By Richard McGregor
Viking Books, Copyright 2017
416 Pages
ISBN: 978-03-995-626-79
A history of the combative military, diplomatic, and economic relations among China, Japan, and the United States since the 1970s—and the potential crisis that awaits them

Asia's Reckoning is a compelling account of the widening geopolitical cracks in a region that has flourished under an American security umbrella for more than half a century. The toxic rivalry between China and Japan, two Asian giants consumed with endless history wars and ruled by entrenched political dynasties, is threatening to upend the peace underwritten by Pax Americana since World War II. Combined with Donald Trump's disdain for America's old alliances and China's own regional ambitions, east Asia is entering a new era of instability and conflict. If the United States laid the postwar foundations for modern Asia, now the anchor of the global economy, Asia's Reckoning reveals how that structure is falling apart.

"Skillfully crafted and well-argued. . . . The great strength of Asia's Reckoning is that it encourages the reader to look for continuities amid apparent dramatic change, as well as subtle changes amid apparent continuity. McGregor helps us appreciate the areas where leaders of the US, Japan, and China find it easiest and hardest to find common ground." —Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Financial Times

"[A] wide-ranging study of China's re-emergence as a regional power in Asia after a long hiatus, thwarting the designs of other powers, including the United States and Russia. . . . The U.S. [finds itself] firmly ensnared in the so-called Thucydides trap, ‘the principle that it is dangerous to build an empire but even more dangerous to let it go.' So it is, and the current leadership appears to be at a loss about what to do or to formulate other aspects of any coherent policy in and toward Asia. . . . Geopolitics wonks will want to give attention to this urgent but nonsensationalized argument."
—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Richard McGregor is a journalist and an author with extensive experience in reporting from east Asia and Washington. A 2015 fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., his work has appeared in the International Herald Tribune and Foreign Policy and he has appeared on the Charlie Rose show, the BBC, and NPR. His previous book, The Party, won numerous awards, including the 2011 Asia Society book of the year and the Asian book of the year prize from Japan's Mainichi Shimbun.


 

Cover

Democracy in Iran
Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed

By Misagh Parsa
Harvard University Press
November 2016
ISBN 9780674545045
416 pages

The Green Movement protests that erupted in Iran in 2009 amid allegations of election fraud shook the Islamic Republic to its core. For the first time in decades, the adoption of serious liberal reforms seemed possible. But the opportunity proved short-lived, leaving Iranian activists and intellectuals to debate whether any path to democracy remained open.
Offering a new framework for understanding democratization in developing countries governed by authoritarian regimes, Democracy in Iran is a penetrating, historically informed analysis of Iran's current and future prospects for reform. Beginning with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Misagh Parsa traces the evolution of Iran's theocratic regime, examining the challenges the Islamic Republic has overcome as well as those that remain: inequalities in wealth and income, corruption and cronyism, and a "brain drain" of highly educated professionals eager to escape Iran's repressive confines. The political fortunes of Iranian reformers seeking to address these problems have been uneven over a period that has seen hopes raised during a reformist administration, setbacks under Ahmadinejad, and the birth of the Green Movement. Although pro-democracy activists have made progress by fits and starts, they have few tangible reforms to show for their efforts.

In Parsa's view, the outlook for Iranian democracy is stark. Gradual institutional reforms will not be sufficient for real change, nor can the government be reformed without fundamentally rethinking its commitment to the role of religion in politics and civic life. For Iran to democratize, the options are narrowing to a single path: another revolution.

About the Author: Misagh Parsa is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College.


 

Cover

HOW STATESMEN THINK: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

By Robert Jervis
Princeton University Press, 2017
ISBN: 9780691176444
304 Pages
How Statesmen Think demonstrates that expectations and political and psychological needs are the major drivers of perceptions in international politics, as well as in other arenas. It shows how decision-makers use multiple shortcuts to seek and process information when making foreign policy and national security judgments. Professor Jervis examines how these processes play out in many situations that arise in foreign and security policy, including the threat of inadvertent war.

About the Author: Robert Jervis is the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics at Columbia University and has written several books on the history and psychology of international relations.

 

 

Cover

Foreign Service: Five Decades on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy

By James Dobbins with a forward by Robert Zoellick
Brookings Institution Press, 2017
ASIN: B01N6VFU0O
341 Pages

From Vietnam in the 1960s to Afghanistan in this decade, James Dobbins was on the frontlines of American diplomacy and worked to advance U.S. national interests in some of the world's most difficult and troubled arenas.

In Foreign Service, Dobbins takes the reader behind the scenes at the Vietnam peace talks, the darkest days of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Somalia. He provides a thoughtful insider's account of all these ventures, analyzes the sources of both success and failure, and provides incisive portraits of many of the chief actors.

This compact book tells a big and important story. It has the virtues of narrative verve, authentic personal experience (some literally under fire), and gimlet-eyed judgment on how and when U.S. policies succeed, why they sometimes fail, and why Americans must keep trying.

Review:

Jim Dobbins has taken on a remarkable array of complex diplomatic challenges. As his book explains, he has succeeded with an unmatched commitment to the lessons of history, the importance of facts, and the power of analysis. His career demonstrates what's possible when rigor is combined with persistence, and his memoir illuminates the richness of a life dedicated to service.

—Michael Rich, president of the RAND Corporation

About the Author
James Dobbins served as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Special Assistant to the President for the Western Hemisphere, Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for the Balkans, Ambassador to the European Community, and special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He holds the Distinguished Chair for Diplomacy and Security at the RAND Corporation.


 

CoverHALF CENTURY OF OCCUPATION: ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND THE WORLD'S MOST INTRACTABLE CONFLICT

By Gershon Shafir
University of California Press, 2017
ISBN: 97800520293502
283 Pages
The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the world's most polarizing confrontations. Its current phase, Israel's "temporary" occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, turned a half century old in June 2017. In these timely and provocative essays, Gershon Shafir asks three questions—What is the occupation, why has it lasted so long, and how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His cogent answers illuminate how we got here, what here is, and where we are likely to go. Shafir expertly demonstrates that at its fiftieth year, the occupation is riven with paradoxes, legal inconsistencies, and conflicting interests that weaken the occupiers' hold and leave the occupation itself vulnerable to challenge.

About the Author:

Gershon Shafir is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, and the founding director of its Human Rights Program. He has served as President of the Association for Israel Studies and is the author or editor of ten books.

 

CoverWinning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry During The Cold War

By Gregg A Brazinsky
University of North Carolina Press, The New Cold War Series, 2017
IBSN: 9781469631707
448 Pages

Winning the Third World examines afresh the intense and enduring rivalry between the United States and China during the Cold War. Gregg A. Brazinsky shows how both nations fought vigorously to establish their influence in newly independent African and Asian countries. By playing a leadership role in Asia and Africa, China hoped to regain its status in world affairs, but Americans feared that China's history as a nonwhite, anticolonial nation would make it an even more dangerous threat in the postcolonial world than the Soviet Union. Drawing on a broad array of new archival materials from China and the United States, Brazinsky demonstrates that disrupting China's efforts to elevate its stature became an important motive behind Washington's use of both hard and soft power in the "Global South."

Presenting a detailed narrative of the diplomatic, economic, and cultural competition between Beijing and Washington, Brazinsky offers an important new window for understanding the impact of the Cold War on the Third World. With China's growing involvement in Asia and Africa in the twenty-first century, this impressive new work of international history has an undeniable relevance to contemporary world affairs and policy making.

About the Author: Gregg Brazinsky is an author, researcher, and teacher at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

 

CoverNotes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-America World

By Suzy Hansen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux.2017.
ISBN # 0374280045
276 pp.

You may find the New York Times Review of this book here: A Journalist Abroad Grapples With American Power (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/books/review/notes-on-a-foreign-country-suzy-hansen.html) by Hisham Matar August 28, 2017 and a podcast reviewing the book here: https://www.nytimes.com/column/book-review-podcast.


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