Book Review Folder - 2005/2006/2007

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Postby ramana » 10 May 2005 02:21

A book review of Talbot's "Engaging India"

[url=]Diplomatic illusions[url]

Diplomatic illusions
Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb: A Memoir
By Strobe Talbott
Brookings Institution Press, 2004
256 pages; $29.95

By Appu K. Soman
March/April 2005 pp. 65-66 (vol. 61, no. 02) © 2005 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Days after India conducted atomic tests in May 1998, provoking the United States to impose sanctions and virtually freeze relations with India, New Delhi signaled its desire for a dialogue with Washington. The Clinton administration responded quickly, and a series of 14 meetings between Jaswant Singh, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's emissary and later foreign minister, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott followed. Talbott undertook a parallel series of talks with Pakistani officials; Engaging India is his account of this dialogue.

India and the United States started the talks with widely divergent goals. India sought nothing less than a total transformation of Indo-U.S. relations from a state of "cold peace" to a strategic alliance. U.S. aims were far narrower--a compromise between U.S. nonproliferation goals and India's aspiration to be accepted as a nuclear power on par with the officially recognized nuclear weapon states. The Indian tests had blown away the main plank of the Clinton administration's earlier South Asia policy, the goal of which was to "cap, eliminate, and roll back" the Indian and Pakistani nuclear capabilities. With rollback and elimination no longer feasible, the policy centered on "cap." The United States "would limit the extent to which the Indian bomb was an obstacle to better relations if India would, by explicit agreement, limit the development and deployment of its nuclear arsenal," Talbott writes.

Early in the talks, Talbott put forward U.S. "benchmarks" aimed at achieving a cap on India's nuclear capabilities. The United States wanted India to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); to cooperate in capping India's production of fissile material; to create a "strategic restraint regime" under which India would limit its ballistic missiles to the existing Prithvi and Agni, refrain from arming them with nuclear warheads, and not deploy them close to Pakistan; to adopt strict export controls on nuclear and missile technologies and materials; and to resume the India-Pakistan dialogue on Kashmir.

Not much came of the U.S. goals. India appeared willing to sign the CTBT, but failed to muster enough domestic support to actually do so. The refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty eventually ended any prospect of India signing it. On fissile material, some progress was made when India acceded to U.S. demands. Vajpayee made a landmark visit to Pakistan early in 1999 in an effort to peacefully resolve Indo-Pakistani disputes. But within weeks, Pakistani incursions in the Kargil sector of the Line of Control in Kashmir set off a major crisis and killed the dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad for the rest of the Clinton administration. U.S. efforts to restrain India's nuclear and missile programs made no progress beyond technical talks. Less than six months after the tests, the U.S. Congress authorized waiving the sanctions, thus undercutting the administration's only bargaining chip. By late 1999, Clinton, with only one year left in office, decided to go ahead with his long-postponed South Asia visit, brushing aside Talbott's objections about "having let himself [Clinton] be stared down [by India] and thus having devalued American power." The Talbott-Singh talks petered out in 2000.

The importance the Clinton administration gave this dialogue can be gauged from Talbott's assertion that, "From the American perspective, what was at stake was the stability of the global nuclear order." If so, the efforts of those in charge of the U.S. South Asia policy were amazingly lopsided. Talbott gives very little indication that the Clinton administration lost much sleep as nuclear and missile technology and equipment flowed into and out of Pakistan in a steady stream throughout its tenure, giving Pakistan the ability to produce nuclear warheads and their delivery vehicles and spreading nuclear weapon technology to America's adversaries. He writes, "We suspected that . . . North Korea may have gotten Pakistani nuclear technology." In a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Talbott insisted that all Pakistani contacts with North Korea had to stop. Pakistan's response? "Sharif shrugged and lapsed into silence." That apparently ended U.S. nonproliferation efforts vis-à-vis Pakistan. The disparity between the high priority Washington gave to restraining India's nuclear and missile programs and the amazingly benign reaction to Pakistan's proliferation activities makes one wonder whether, for all the hype surrounding it, nonproliferation was the decisive consideration for Washington in India's case only. With India, there simply was no vital American interest that could override nonproliferation concerns.

Talbott claims that "Singh came closer to achieving his objective in the dialogue than I did to achieving mine." But if Washington did not get what it wanted on its benchmarks, it was not because of any extraordinary Indian diplomacy. There is enough evidence of Indian naiveté in the book to establish that skillful Indian diplomacy is an oxymoron. Sanctions were a wasting asset and, even when they remained in place, did not hurt India enough to extract substantive concessions. All India had to do, as Talbott feared, was hang tight for a few months and wait for the flow of events to produce "a breakdown in sanctions without a breakthrough on nonproliferation." Talbott's explanation for this failure to secure Indian concessions is revealing: "Indian democracy, for all its virtues in American eyes, was a complicating factor in accomplishing an important American goal."

Contrary to Talbott's claim, India did not get more of what it wanted--a better relationship with Washington. He exaggerates when he asserts that his book "is the story of the turning point in U.S.-Indian relations." At the outset of the dialogue, Clinton wanted South Asia to be "front and center" for the remaining years of his presidency, wanting his administration "to be bold and in the lead on this one." Talbott seems to have interpreted this part of his mission rather elastically. His sole contribution was to rebuff Singh's every overture, as he relentlessly pursued a cap on India's nuclear capability. When Washington talked about better Indo-U.S. relations, it meant only slightly better relations than the low point reached after the tests, never the kind of improvement India sought. In return for Indian compliance with the benchmarks, all that the United States would offer was "easing sanctions and throttling back on the campaign of international criticism we were orchestrating"; Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty-related sanctions and restrictions on India imposed before the tests would have remained. Clinton's India visit was rich in atmospherics but devoid of substance.

Descriptions of melodramatic meetings in which Pakistani officials alternated between bluntly rejecting Talbott's approaches and pathetically pleading their helplessness make for entertaining reading. They do not mitigate for the book's failure to offer much by way of new information on substantive issues.

Engaging India is also marred by several factors that cast doubts on its credibility. Talbott refers to the Clinton administration's efforts to block Russian sales of what he calls "rocket engines and related technology to India for use in its missile program." The rocket engines--cryogenic engines, for use as the last stage in rockets for placing geostationary satellites in orbit--in fact, had nothing to do with India's missile program. U.S. companies had also bid for the contract for their supply. Talbott offers a lengthy account of U.S. efforts in 1994, which he led, to get Pakistan to stop its fissile material production in return for the supply of arms stalled by the invocation of the Pressler Amendment by the previous Bush administration. Pakistan rejected the proposal. Nevertheless, the Clinton administration put its full weight behind the passage of the Brown Amendment, which authorized the supply of some of the arms. Talbott simply ignores this episode. Another of Talbott's "revelations," which created quite a sensation in the Indian media, was that Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes was strip-searched at a U.S. airport. Fernandes himself clarified that all he was asked to do was to remove his coat, shoes, and socks and spread his arms wide.

Historians, who will eventually have access to the archives, are unlikely to give the Singh-Talbott dialogue the importance the contemporary Indian media gave it and that Talbott claims for it in his book. Both sides pursued unrealistic aims. While New Delhi completely failed to gauge American intentions, Washington's aims were far in excess of what it could leverage. The book is at best a flawed narrative of a flawed and not very consequential exercise in diplomacy, in pursuit of unachievable goals.

Appu K. Soman, author of Double-Edged Sword: Nuclear Diplomacy in Unequal Conflicts (2000), is a senior research fellow in the Program on Global Security and Disarmament at the University of Maryland.

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Postby Ujjal » 10 May 2005 03:12

While New Delhi completely failed to gauge American intentions, Washington's aims were far in excess of what it could leverage. The book is at best a flawed narrative of a flawed and not very consequential exercise in diplomacy, in pursuit of unachievable goals.

I would disagree to some extent. I completed this book on May 1st. The Diplomatic exchanges may be termed as "flawed" but the description of these exchanges were not flawed. They made be considered "one sided" because its "his book" but he also gives good insight about what was going on inside GOTUS Administration. Moreover, personally, he was bent over supporting India's test as way to check Chikom, but since he worked under someone, he had to do whatever his boss directed. If you read the book, you could see instances where time and again he appreciated the strong character JS showed under heavy pressure from both GOI and outside world.

On a side note, he is a staunch Pro-India hawk.

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Postby ramana » 16 May 2005 19:23

Kishore Mahbubani's Beyond the Age of Innocence- A Worldly view of America

An important book on international affairs

Singaporean scholar and diplomat Kishore Mahbubani is a great admirer of the United States. He is also a stern critic. I think these qualities are exactly what America needs now at the time of our greatest strength. What Mahbubani wants is to gently admonish the United States for acting unilaterally and without the benefit of international law, while at the same time remind us all of America's greatness and all that America has done for the world.

He emphasizes that the US is not and has not been an ordinary superpower. Unlike other great states, it has not sought empire or the economic enslavement of the vanquished. Instead it has rebuilt the enemy, as in Germany and Japan, and as it is presumably trying to do in Iraq. These extraordinary behaviors by a nation state mark the US as an enlightened nation, a nation that knows that world stability and the economic success of other nations only contribute to stability and the good life at home.

"America atypical human society," he writes, "unlike any other. Until recently, it has served as a powerful beacon, pointing to a future for all of humankind. That is its essence, its real mission: to remain true to its soul and remain an extraordinary society." (p. 211) Mahbubani adds that in other parts of the world, the men who open doors for you...look down in a sort of implicit bow," but that "New York doormen never look down. They look you straight in the eye and behave as total equals... They may the building" and "receive tips...but they possess not an iota of inferiority." (p. 210) He calls this "an enormous leap upwards in the human evolutionary ladder." He believes that "America has largely escaped the pernicious effects of class stratification prevalent in the rest of the world." (p. 211)

His main point, however, is that America power reaches with its tentacles, both soft and hard, into every country of the world and affects everybody from the poorest to the wealthiest. Yet the only people who have any direct say in what the US does are Americans who can vote for its leadership. Consequently there is great frustration throughout the world with a power that to some extent controls them, but that they cannot control.

Mahbubani believes that it is especially important that America use its military power wisely. If we do not, the rest of the world will view our "soft power" suspiciously "as an increasingly frayed velvet glove that covers a mailed fist." (p. 197)

As an example of the wise use of military power, Mahbubani notes that "Global trade continues to grow steadily. Many reasons explain this: technology, open markets (an ideology spread by American influence), political stability, global trading rules (another American legacy). But one important factor that is rarely mentioned or recognized is the spread of American military power around the world. American military power keeps global sea and air routes open. Any force that tries to disrupt these routes will have to reckon with America. Since no country can, global trade has flourished." (p. 140)

Consequently, Mahbubani argues, the rest of the world benefits "enormously and directly from the global American military presence, which costs American taxpayers over $400 billion a year. But other nations pay not a penny for this." (p. 141)

What Mahbubani would like to see--barring a sharing of power--is a foreign policy by the US that understands the extent of its power and uses that power wisely for the benefit of all and not just for narrow, short-term American interests. He believes that what is good for the rest of the world is good the for the US. If the rest of the world suffers because of unenlightened US policy, as it sometimes has in the past, the US itself will suffer as well.

He makes it clear that the neocon dream of an American Empire is a delusion based on an unrealistic understanding of both America and the modern world. He writes, "With all the military power in the world, America appears incapable of subjugating one medium-sized country in the Middle East because it is incapable of administering the kind of brutal suppression the British applied when they conquered Iraq in 1917." (p. 10) He adds on page 202, "If America cannot tolerate the sight of its soldiers abusing a few Iraqis, how can it build an empire?"

Then there is the question of legitimacy. Although they have no vote on who is elected president of the United States, Mahbubani believes that the planet's 6.3 billion citizens "are the ultimate custodians of legitimacy in the international environment." (p. 186) Since most Americans believe in the rule of law and in the idea that some actions are legitimate within its scope and others not, it behooves our government to act accordingly. Mahbubani's point is that if our use of power (as in the invasion of Iraq) is not seen as legitimate, we will lose prestige and credibility in the world, and with that loss, we will abdicate moral leadership and ultimately become isolated from the rest of the world. In the "Age of Innocence" that would have been okay. China existed for centuries isolated from the rest of the world as did the US (for the most part) until the first world war. However in the modern world where everyone is so closely connected, such isolation is not possible.

A note on Mahbubani's choice of title and his message: "The Age of Innocence" was before the modern age, before the globalization of the planet. There is a novel by Edith Wharton with the title The Age of Innocence published in 1920 (but set in the1870s). With every country in the world affecting not only its neighbors but countries around the globe, there can no longer be any innocence of intent in foreign affairs.

He was on the UCTV's Conversations with History program.

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India and the United States: Estranged Democracies, 1941-199

Postby Naren R » 19 May 2005 05:42

Not sure if this was linked to earlier. I thought it might be worth posting, if just for the new readers on BR.

India and the United States: Estranged Democracies, 1941-1991
by Dennis Kux (PDF format)

edit: Finally!! got it to work
Last edited by Naren R on 19 May 2005 05:54, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Paul » 19 May 2005 05:50

On a side note, he is a staunch Pro-India hawk.

He should be. He was almost strangled by a Pakistani Diplomat in a meeting.

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Postby svinayak » 22 May 2005 07:11

Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism
by Timothy Naftali

In this revelatory new account-parts of which were written at the request of the 9/11 Commission-national security historian Timothy Naftali relates the full story of America's decades-long attempt to fight terrorism. On September 11, 2001, a long history of failures and missteps came to a head, with tragic results. But, says Naftali, it didn't have to be so.

The United States hasn't always failed at counterterrorism. At the end of WWII, the government had established a seamless system for countering the threats of Nazi terrorists. But those capabilities were soon forgotten, and it wasn't until 1968, when Palestinian groups began a series of highly publicized airplane hijackings, that the United States had to take counterterrorism seriously again. In Blind Spot, Naftali narrates the game of catch-up that various administrations and the CIA played-with varying degrees of success-from the Munich Games hostage-taking, to the raft of terrorist incidents in the mid-1980s, through the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. The learning curve was steep, yet these years brought unheralded achievements: the United States neutralized Abu Nidal, Abimael Guzman, and Carlos the Jackal-three of its greatest terrorist enemies. In riveting detail, based on newly researched documents, recently uncovered archival information, and interviews with the key participants, Naftali describes these earlier successes and explains why they did not translate into success against Osama bin Laden later in the 1990s.

Until 9/11, the domestic threat of terrorism was the largest blind spot in United States national security. For the first time, Naftali shows that holes in homeland security discovered by Vice President George H. W. Bush in 1986 were still a problem when his son became President, and why George W. Bush did nothing to fix them until it was too late. For anyone concerned about the future of America's security, this masterful, dramatic, and at times disheartening history is necessary and eye-opening reading.

From the Back Cover
Advance Praise for Blind Spot:

"An engrossing narrative of mistakes, missed opportunities, and the occasional triumph, Blind Spot surprises and enlightens. Timothy Naftali's provocative analysis of US counterterrorism should force a profound reappraisal of our current efforts. This important and fascinating work is necessary reading for policymakers and the public alike." -Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom

"You are going to want to read this book. With Blind Spot, Timothy Naftali has done everyone interested in the history of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism a great favor: he has combed through all the archives, interviewed all the key participants, and dug up a great many stories that have never seen the light of day before and put them all in one terrifically readable place. The result is a book that weaves the full tapestry of American efforts against the world's worst terrors, illustrating both the revealing details as well as the larger image of America's long unwillingness to take this threat seriously until the horror of 9/11 forced us to do so. Anyone who wants to understand that story will be well-rewarded by starting with this smart, splendid book." -Kenneth M. Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm, former director for Persian Gulf Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council

"In this fascinating, well-researched, and important book, Timothy Naftali has done an excellent job of using the lessons to history to illuminate one of the central issues of our time." -Michael Beschloss, author of The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945

"The best book yet on U.S. counterterrorism. America's current problems can be properly understood only if they are put in long-tern perspective, and Tim Naftali does this brilliantly. Blind Spot is a must-read." -Christopher Andrew, author of The Sword and the Shield

"The blind spot in Timothy Naftali's important book was the inability of American presidents, despite frequent warning, to recognize the danger posed by Osama Bin Laden. That a huge failure occurred has been obvious since 9-11, but Naftali, a leading scholar of American intelligence organizations, has something bigger on his mind than the now-familiar missed clues and failures to communicate. In this deeply researched book certain to spark controversy, Naftali argues that successful intelligence campaigns against Nazi and Soviet spies prove the United States knows how to run counter-terror operations. But until 9-11 the blind spot kept American presidents and the American people alike from seeing that the time had come to make hard decisions to fight new enemies already gathering to strike." -Thomas Powers, author of Heisenberg's War and The Man Who Kept Secrets

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Postby svinayak » 22 May 2005 08:05

Grand Strategies in War and Peace
by Paul Kennedy (Editor)

This book has a lot going for it, not least of which is an editor with an excellent reputation. The authors of the individual essays are also well-known and respected within the field, and the essays are well-written and cogent. However, despite Paul Kennedy's explanation in the preface, the essays concentrate primarily on either military strategy during wartime or preparation, primarily military, for the next war. What consideration is given to economics, alliances, and diplomacy is geared toward military preparedness. This makes the essays much narrower than Kennedy's definition of grand strategy implies, and I cannot help but wonder about the choice of essays.

Within this narrow field, however, this book is excellent. The essays are clear, easy to follow, and persuasive. Most do an excellent job of providing not just a history lesson, but an analysis of the positive and negative aspects of the strategy. Of particular use were the three essays concerning British strategy in the War of Spanish Succession, World War I, and World War II. The essays on German and French policy also covered more than one war, making them useful for an analysis of how policy changes over time. Both successful and unsuccessful examples are given, and much thought is given on why this is so.

Beyond this, all I have are minor quibbles, the most serious being the fact that this is, essentially, a series of case studies. The focus of the book is on Western Europe, and this is somewhat disappointing, given that other countries are becoming more and more prominent on the world scene. An analysis of Chinese, or even better, Japanese policy would have been useful, especially given its unique position. The end notes are placed at the very back of the book, making it difficult to check references, etc. The first essay could have used tighter editing as well.

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Postby svinayak » 22 May 2005 08:31

No Place to Hide: Behind the Scenes of Our Emerging Surveillance Society
by Robert O'Harrow "

You've rented a car to drive from Connecticut to Virginia. You head south on I-95, but at times, your speed creeps up to 80 mph like many of the drivers around you. Finally, you stop to buy gas but your credit card is rejected at the pump. The reason? The company who rented you the car has been monitoring your driving in real time. Not only that, they've fined you three times, at $150 per violation, for speeding, and already deducted it from your credit card. Sound impossible? It's not, and Robert O'Harrow's NO PLACE TO HIDE describes how car rental companies can do it, and have already done it.

Perhaps you have never heard of Acxiom, Seisint, ChoicePoint, HNC Software, TransCore, Searchspace, and Verint? Well, that's just the way those companies want it. And they are just some of the companies who know all about you - your name, address, and social security number, every place you've ever lived, your credit histories, who your friends are, what you say and do on the Internet, where you travel, even your faces, fingerprints, and DNA. In the interest of catching terrorists and preventing terrorism, federal and local law enforcement agencies have increasingly turned to these companies for help - all conveniently situated outside the privacy laws and Patriot Act restrictions and free to collect virtually any information they can lay their hands on. The result is a boom in the "total information awareness" business that is creating a world of commercial "big brothers." It is a world about which most Americans are blissfully, and foolishly, unaware.

Faster machines, bigger databases, more networking, and microminiaturization to the level of flea-sized RFID chips and "smart dust" will only make these systems more and more pervasive. But as O'Harrow repeatedly demonstrates, mistakes get made and innocent people's lives are ruined without recourse. One of the strengths of NO PLACE TO HIDE is the author's retelling of nightmarish occurrences that victimized innocent American citizens, stories that resound with the eerie randomness and facelessness of Kafka's THE TRIAL. The author points out as well that system missions creep from anti-terrorism to criminal behavior to ... what? Furthermore, he demonstrates that these systems are so uncontrolled an open-ended in their use, law enforcement personnel can use them for any reason whatsoever, even for personal reasons or for personal gain. As O'Harrow quotes one sheriff's deputy from Michigan, "There isn't anybody, anywhere in law enforcement, that doesn't check people out. If they say they don't I'd stake you a hundred that they're lying."

After all, could he ever have imagined being able to turn us so aggressively against ourselves? Or, to quote Ben Franklin in what is probably the best sentence in the book, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." When are we finally going to wake up from our 9/11 stupor and heed Mr. Franklin? Perhaps NO PLACE TO HIDE is the alarm we need.
George Orwell envisioned Big Brother as an outgrowth of a looming totalitarian state, but in this timely survey Robert O'Harrow Jr. portrays a surveillance society that's less centralized and more a joint public/private venture. Indeed, the most frightening aspect of the Washington Post reporter's thoroughly researched and naggingly disquieting chronicle lies in the matter-of-fact nature of information hunters and gatherers and the insatiable systems they've concocted. Here is a world where data is gathered by relatively unheralded organizations that smooth the way for commercial entities to find the good customers and avoid dicey ones. Government of course too has an interest in the data that's been mined. Information is power, especially when trying to find the bad guys. The mutually compatible skills and needs shared by private and public snoopers were fusing prior to the attacks of 9/11, but the process has since gone into hyperdrive. O'Harrow weaves together vignettes to record the development of the "security-industrial complex," taking pains to personalize his chronicle of a movement that's remained (perhaps purposefully) faceless. Recognizing the appeal of state-of-the-art systems that can track down a murderer/rapist with heretofore unimaginable speed, the author recognizes, too, that the same devices can mistakenly destroy reputations and cast a pall over a free society. In a post-9/11 world where homeland security often trumps personal liberty, this work is an eye-opener for those who take their privacy for granted. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly
The amount of personal data collected on ordinary citizens has grown steadily over the decades, and after 9/11, corporations that had been amassing this information largely for marketing purposes saw an opportunity to strengthen their ties with the government. But what do we really know about these data collectors, and are they trustworthy? O'Harrow, a Pulitzer finalist who covers privacy and technology issues for the Washington Post, tracks the explosive growth of this surveillance industry, with keen attention to the problems that "inevitable mistakes" along the way have created in mainstream society, from victims of identity theft who have been placed in financial jeopardy to travelers detained at the airport because of the similarity of their names to those of criminal suspects. O'Harrow gives the government's push for increased surveillance heavy play, but he effectively presents the story's many sides, as when he juxtaposes the perspectives of a Justice Department attorney, a civil liberties activist and Senator Patrick Leahy in the first chapter. His evenhanded account underscores the caveats of surveillance, as well-intentioned people can deploy technologies for all the right reasons only to see their apparatuses misused later on. This is a thought-provoking, comprehensive account that strikes the right balance between dismissive and alarmist.

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Postby svinayak » 30 May 2005 07:05

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War
by Andrew Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich has written a book for the ages. His The New American Militarism: How Americans Are seduced By War, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, ISBN 0-19-517338-4, is the most coherent analysis of how America has come to its present situation in the world that I have ever read. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. And he is retired military officer. This background makes him almost uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.

Bacevich admits to an outlook of moderate conservatism. But in ascribing fault for our plight to virtually every administration since W.W. II, he is even handed and clear eyed. Since he served in the military, he understands the natural bureaucratic instincts of the best of the officer corps and is not blinded by the almost messianic status that they have achieved in the recent past.

His broad brush includes the classic period, the American Revolution - especially the impact of George Washington, but he moves quickly to the influence of Woodrow Wilson and his direct descendants of our time, the Neoconservatives. The narrative accelerates and becomes relevant for us in the depths of the despair of Vietnam. At that juncture, neocon intellectuals awakened to the horror that without a new day for our military and foreign policy, the future of America would be at stake. At almost the same time, Evangelical Christians abandoned their traditional role in society and came to views not dissimilar to the neocons. America had to get back on track to both power and goodness. The results of Vietnam on American culture, society, and - especially - values were abhorrent to both these groups.

The perfect man to idealize and mythologize America's road back was Ronald Reagan. Again, Bacevich does not shrink from seeing through the surreal qualities brought to the Oval Office by Reagan to the realities beneath them. The Great Communicator transformed the Vietnam experience into an abandonment of American ideals and reacquainted America with those who fought that horrible war. Pop culture of the period, including motion pictures such as Top Gun and best selling novels by many, including Tom Clancy completely rehabilitated the image of the military.

The author describes how Evangelical leaders came to find common cause with the neocons and provided the political muscle for Reagan and his successors of both parties to discover that the projection of military might become a reason for being for America as the last century closed.

One of his major points is that the all volunteer force that resulted from the Vietnam experience has been divorced from American life and that sending this force of ghosts into battle has little impact on our collective psyche. This, too, fit in with the intellectual throw weight of the neocons and the political power of the Evangelicals.

Separate from but related to the neocons, Bacevich describes the loss of strategic input by the military in favor of a new priesthood of intellectual elites from institutions such as the RAND Corporation, The University of Chicago and many others. It was these high priests who saw the potential that technology provided for changing the nature of war itself and how American power might be projected with `smart weapons' that could be the equivalent of the nuclear force that could never be used.

So it was that when the war we are now embroiled in across the globe - which has its antecedents back more than twenty years - all of these forces weighed heavily on the military leaders to start using the force we'd bought them. The famed question by Secretary of State Madeline Albright to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" had to have an answer and the skirmishes and wars since tended to provide it.

Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.

It is in his prescriptions that the book tends to drift. The Congress must do its constitutionally mandated jobs or be thrown out by the people. Some of his ideas on military education are creative and might well close the gap between the officer corps and civilians that he points to as a great problem.

But it is the clearly written analysis that makes this book shine. It should be a must read for those who wonder how we got to Iraq and where we might be heading as a society. The nation is in grave danger, and this is a book that that shows how we got to this juncture. Where we go from here is up to us. If we continue as we are, our options may narrow and be provided by others.

A short trip outside the US, say to Canada, will serve to give any American a notion that something is wrong at home. After a few weeks away, he will return and suddenly notice just how cluttered is the social landscape, how really different life is here: all those silly ribbons and asinine slogans plastered on cars; the martial tone of radio and TV spots and the obligatory mention of 'heroes' everytime someone mentions soldiers, policemen, or firefighters; the incongruous military garb donned by Bush every time he wants us to believe he really is a leader and not the inarticulate chucklehead we suspect he is; the ridiculous 'patriotic' oaths now appearing at the bottom of government job applications (e.g. my son recently made out an application to work as a substitute teacher, the final line of which read: "I am an American citizen and a patriot"); newspapers everywhere that seem to have been written in the basement of the Pentagon; and much more you can probably supply from your own observations.

But a trip outside the country is not a luxury everyone can afford. If that's the case for you, take instead a trip to your local library or favorite bookstore and pick up Bacevich's book. The good professor will show you the why behind all the martial hoopla that sullies life in the USA today, and just how we came to be the Kaiser's Germany of the early 21st century.

(Oh, and don't forget the footnotes packed with insights. As an example,take a look at the last note for chapter 5, the one that deals with the failure of American Catholicism to act as a counterweight to Evangelical bloodlust. If you're Catholic -- and even if you are not, perhaps -- you will know Bacevich has fingered one of the most devastating results of the recent homosexual scandals.)

Last edited by svinayak on 31 May 2005 08:01, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Vivek_A » 31 May 2005 07:04

I browsed through Thomas Barnett's the Pantagon's new map at my local barnes and Noble. I looked at a couple of pages on India from the index.

I didn't know a lot of IN officers are graduates of the naval academy at annapolis. Barnett talks about his experience when he was in India for the fleet review(2001?). He said the mumbai crowd roared with approval when the American warships were displayed. The brits only got mild cheers.

He also says America's only interest in Kashmir is to prevent a nuclear war(which fit in well with the current American enforced solution on solution no shooting..)

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Postby rsingh » 11 Jun 2005 21:50

Just finished "Thug-The story of India's murderous cult" by Mike Dash
Granta Books, London ISBN 1 86207 6049
Well researched book. On places author seem to suffer from Raj hangover but overall a must if you want to know about India of early 19th century. Details about life of common man, thugs, merchents,police, jamindars and armies etc are revealing. Poor were real poor and rich.... super rich (private banks with branches in Japan etc.).An horizantal and vertical map of society from 1800 to 1835.

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Postby dinesha » 14 Jun 2005 17:37

Strategic triangle
Examines the triangular relationship of China, India and Pakistan through the prism of nuclear deterrence

NUCLEAR DETERRENCE IN SOUTHERN ASIA — China, India & Pakistan: Arpit Rajain; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., B-42, Panchsheel Enclave, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 480.
On May 5, 2005, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched yet another Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) into orbit from Sriharikota on the Andhra coast to put two satellites into orbit. President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was on hand to cheer the scientists on their achievement. Meanwhile, foreign ministers from around the world attempted on May 2 to revive efforts for breathing life into the 35-year-old Nuclear Disarmament Treaty which has failed repeated efforts by countries to reach understanding to eliminate the nuclear threat. These two developments highlight the effort of humanity to confine the nuclear monster of war and to ensure that human knowledge of the atom is put to use for the benefit of man and not for destruction. It was the U.S. that first used the atom for warlike purposes at Hiroshima and to this day it is the U.S. and developed Western nations that are effectively blocking efforts to stop further research into and production of nuclear weapons.

Arpit Rajain has produced an excellent study of the nuclear menace particularly in Southern Asia. He has over three years amassed considerable information on the status of nuclear development in China, India and Pakistan. The study shows that China, which has been perforce admitted into the select band of nations led by the U.S. and Russia possessing a nuclear arsenal, along with India and Pakistan, which have gatecrashed into that band, are three nations which have actually fought wars. The Ussuri River issue, which saw the erstwhile Soviet Union engaged in aggression against China, the India-China war and the Kargil crisis between India and Pakistan brought nations close to using nuclear weapons. This region is almost a laboratory experiment to expose the dangers of nuclear war to humanity. Nuclear weapons were rattled as deterrence. But "nuclear weapons were not created to deter. It was deterrence that was conceived in regard to nuclear weapons." So far talk of deterrence has been largely theoretical and talk of minimum and maximum deterrence are yet to be tried out.

First use
The author goes into the prospects of use of nuclear weapons by the three countries. China, by its very age-old ethos, culture and traditions is unlikely to use nuclear weapons, which it produced mainly on its own even as a deterrent against foreign threats. India from its traditional and historic culture has formally come out against "first use" of nuclear weapons. When countries, which had developed nuclear arsenals like the U.S. tried to prevent Indian studies of the nucleus even for peaceful purposes, India achieved nuclear weapon capability on its own. Pakistan has nuclear capability and a rudimentary nuclear arsenal. But all the three countries, with China at the top of the pyramid in terms of nuclear weapon capability are potential users of the nuclear weapon as a "deterrent" when faced with foreign threats. All of them have also the capacity to load and deliver nuclear weapons against an adversary. The PSLV launch by India is an indicator. None of the three countries of the region are likely to give up their right to use nuclear weapons at least as a deterrent. Both China and India are unlikely to be the first to use these weapons. The same does not hold true for Pakistan. Apart from the three countries dealt with in this book, others are also unlikely to accept the U.S. diktats and give up efforts to enter the restricted nuclear weapons club even if in the scenario where the U.S. has emerged as the only superpower. Iran, Korea and others are bent on achieving nuclear capability one way or the other. The world threat is further complicated by the growing band of non-state players like the Al-Qaeda, which could pose threats to various areas of the globe chasing their convoluted goals.

Nuclear policy
So far as India is concerned, the author says that after a long spell of confusion and lack of clarity, India has over the past half a decade, begun thinking seriously of a nuclear policy. He feels that in this region China is the long-term threat. "China's primary national goal is to become a strong, modernised, unified and wealthy nation." He feels that "there is no need for South Asian states to weaponise without affirming the Clauswitzian distinction between war and diplomacy. It is imperative, meanwhile, that Pakistan, China and India determine whether nuclear weapons are military or diplomatic weapons." He quotes one writer on the subject: "If the U.S., the mightiest country militarily, declares that it needs nuclear weapons for its security, how can one deny such security to States that have real cause to feel insecure." And with threats all round, with the U.S. pushing for nuclear disarmament by countries other than itself, with Iraq still fresh in memory, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a far cry. Simultaneously as the dreaded nuclear weapons of mass destruction fall into the hands of more and more nations and terrorists, their use is ever more frightening. Very recently nuclear weapons were rattled in the engagement between India and Pakistan over Kargil. Can we always avoid their actual use?

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Postby ramana » 15 Jun 2005 07:25

A few reviews.
Brief Reviews

Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2005

The Challenge of Hizb ut Tahrir: Deciphering and Combating Radical Islamist Ideology. Edited by Zeyno Baran. Washington, D.C.: The Nixon Center, 2004. 119 pp. $6.95, paper.

The Nixon Center's February 2004 Istanbul workshop on Hizb ut-Tahrir was intended both to "decipher and combat radical Islamist ideology" in general and to assess the specific terrorist threat posed by the group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The meeting was off the record and not all participants permitted their work to be published. The proceedings consist of a short paperback book of twenty brief and informative papers. They provide diverse portrayals of Hizb ut-Tahrir but offer no operational or strategic consensus.

Five papers are of special note because they highlight the academic, law enforcement, political, religious, and social perspectives—those of Rohan Gunaratna (Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore), Madeline Gruen (New York City police department counterterrorism research analyst), Rusen Cakir (writer on Turkish Islamist movements), Mateen Siddiqui (vice president of the Supreme Islamic Council of America), and Michael Whine (counterterrorism expert for the Jewish community of the United Kingdom).

Their assessments of Hizb ut-Tahrir diverge as much as their backgrounds. Gunaratna identifies members of the Al-Qaeda organization connected with the group (such as Pakistani Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Jordanian Abu Musah al-Zawaqawi, and Indonesian Hambali) and concludes that this proves "adherents of HT are actively engaging in global terrorism." In contrast, Cakir finds it unlikely that Hizb ut-Tahrir would use terrorism in Turkey. Gruen finds that "in the United States, HT was following the patterns of white ethno-nationalist groups, who are exploiting interests in the Internet, computer games, and music," and predicts that HT will continue to make da'wa (propaganda) efforts in the United States. Siddiqui emphasizes the virulently anti-Semitic, totalitarian nature of the group and its close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood with its objective to establish an Islamic "world dominance through Islamic rule." Whine reports that "there is no evidence that HT is involved in or engages in terrorism in Europe" but holds that it "represents a long-term threat of subversion."

Challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir informs but does not draw conclusions, leaving the reader wondering whether Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group linked to Al-Qaeda that must be eradicated, or an elitist club to be scrutinized but tolerated.

Beila Rabinowitz

The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign against Terror. By Ronald Kessler. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. 496 pp. $27.95 ($15.95, paper).

Kessler, a New York Times journalist and best-selling author, gained impressive access to the CIA and recorded interviews with many of its highest officers, past and present. The result is the CIA at War, a tantalizing journey into the organization, its history, secrets, travails, and successes.

From a Cold War operation run by Ivy League East Coast insiders to an enormous apparatus of human and technological counterterrorism headed by a son of immigrants, the CIA has chalked up remarkable successes (identifying the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba) and astonishing failures (being hoodwinked by a brace of double agents, many of whom continued in their ruinous ways after failing polygraph tests).

What emerges is a CIA that suffered long bouts of institutional atrophy, congressional hostility, and public lack of confidence, all of which made for staggering lapses in national security. A long period of patient reconstruction and striking success in the post-September 11 war on militant Islam has since followed. Kessler's access to contemporary officials, not least the media-shy George Tenet, makes by far for the book's greatest interest.

Allowing for Kessler's clear partisanship for Tenet, this book makes for a corrective to the view of the CIA as napping while dangers multiplied. The CIA's failure to preempt Al-Qaeda is located in a combination of Clinton administration uninterest, legal and technical shackles, and a prevailing mood of complacency in Washington.

Kessler offers teasing glimpses, interesting anecdotes, and even occasionally absorbing testimony, but in the end, these fail to satisfy as the author ultimately is limited by his sources. Whether they have truly been forthcoming and whether he has given due weight to the variables involved is a matter for judgment. Kessler's story is additionally fitful and riddled with digressions (for example, five pages on the CIA's public image immediately following the September 11 attacks).

Daniel Mandel
Middle East Forum

Dark Victory: America's Second War against Iraq. By Jeffrey Record. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004. 375 pp. $24.95.

In 1993, Record, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staff member, authored Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War[1] in which he took President George H.W. Bush to task for not ousting Saddam Hussein. In the present book, Record takes George W. Bush to task for having corrected his father's mistake.

The new book, while well written, is reduced by the author's permeating antipathy for so-called neoconservatives, alleging without proof that a sympathy for Israel's Likud Party colors their view of the world. While it is true that neoconservatives tend to be staunch supporters of Israel, every president since Harry Truman has defended Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. Nor is there anything new about U.S. support for democracy or opposition to terror. The only recent development is a willingness of the U.S. government to reach out to new partners, even if this means working without traditional allies. Record further blames neoconservatives for "the president's controversial use-of-force doctrine," curiously overlooking the impact of 9/11 on Bush's thinking.

Record holds neoconservatives responsible for pursuing policies that cause many adversaries to dislike the United States. He laments "the Bush administration's foreign policy fails to grasp the fact that others do not see us as we see ourselves—that is, as a benign and historically exceptional force." But the Bush administration does grasp this; it just believes that being respected is more important than being liked. The costs of winning Syrian, North Korean, or Chinese favor for U.S. policy would be too high if it meant abandonment of democracies such as Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. Conversely, Libyan strongman Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi may not like the United States, but it was his respect for the Bush administration's willingness to back force with military action that led to his decision to abandon his nuclear ambitions.

Record's style is confident and authoritative with plenty of facts cited and examples given. A close read, though, shows that Record ignores facts that undermine his arguments. For example, he trumpets a 1999 UNICEF report that relied on Iraqi government statistics to conclude that sanctions on Iraq killed 500,000 Iraqi children; he ignores a joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization study the following year that found that half the Iraqi population was overweight, and that hypertension and diabetes—not diseases of the hungry—were among the leading causes of Iraqi mortality.[2] Other facts he simply gets wrong. How could the Defense Department have airlifted Ahmad Chalabi into Iraq during military operations when Chalabi had returned to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq months before the war began?

Dark Victory has many other weaknesses. Record engages in one-man's-terrorist-is-another's-patriot moral relativism. He conflates the Afghan mujahideen with Al-Qaeda, an anachronism that ignores a decade-long fight between Al-Qaeda pan-Islamists and Afghan nationalists such as Ahmad Shah Masud. While determined to debunk any analogy between postwar Japan and Iraq, Record ignores the South Korea example, frequently cited by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Notably absent from a book about Iraq is any consideration of what Iraqis think; Record writes as if Iraqis do not exist.

A book should be more than a glorified op-ed. Unfortunately, Dark Victory is not.

Michael Rubin

Disarming Iraq. By Hans Blix. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. 285 pp. $24.

Blix has produced a straightforward, easy-to-read account of the U.N.'s Iraq inspections and the crisis at the U.N. in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war. With its clear style and blunt but polite language, his book will be much appreciated by those critical of that war.

In a book so full of criticism of others, however, there is remarkably little self-criticism. For instance, the attitude of key Washington decision-makers towards Blix was much affected by his role in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iraq inspections pre-1990. Blix describes the IAEA's activities in that period in a mere page and a half, without a single reference to his own role as the organization's head at that time and with some incomplete references to how far Iraq had gotten with its nuclear programs. Blix asks why U.S. and British leaders listened "so little and, in the cases of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Wolfowitz, seem to have had such disdain for the assessments and analyses of the IAEA." Perhaps part of the reason is that IAEA under Blix's leadership had been so wrong for so long about Iraqi activities before 1990.

Blix writes at length about his poor relations with Washington, implying that the fault lies with the crazed ideologues of the Bush administration. But Blix pays no attention at all to U.S. concerns that the inspection process was diverting attention from the nonproliferation goal; in plain English, that sustaining the process had become the main objective, rather than achieving the original aim. Washington saw inspections as a useful way to verify the detailed and compete declaration of weapons of mass destruction activities Baghdad was obligated to produce; in the absence of such a declaration, the inspectors could not find what Iraq had hidden, given the vastness of the country. One would search Disarming Iraq hard and long for any acknowledgment by Blix of this American concern. The author would have done better to repeat his 1992 assessment, "Without information about the location of possibly hidden nuclear material and installations, no meaningful inspections are possible."

Patrick Clawson
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. By Bat Ye'or. Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005. 384 pp. $49.50 ($23.95, paper).

In 1985, Bat Ye'or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam,[3] a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality. Bat Ye'or's documentation and argument convinced most of her (relatively few) readers.

Now she surprises again (and to a substantially larger audience). The term "Eurabia" in her title was the title of a journal initiated in the mid-1970s by the "European Committee for Coordination of Friendship Associations with the Arab World," and it is still used in the sense of bringing Europe and the Arabs together as in Eurabia Studentenvereniging, the name of a Rotterdam University Moroccan-Dutch students' union.

Bat Ye'or turns the word on its head and uses it to refer to a grandiose scheme, created by unaccountable civil servants and politicians eager to please their Arab counterparts, a scheme that aims at furthering these highly ideological aspirations for Euro-Arab unity, a scheme that, for obvious reasons, can never be allowed to stand the test of being voted upon by European (or Arab) electorates. Her extensive documentation leads to the breathtaking conclusion that the outlook of those insignificant-looking friendship associations has developed into the European Union official policy and ideology.

This Eurabian ideology, for instance, claims a moral equivalency between the Crusades and jihad, ignoring that jihad was unremittingly active in Asia, Africa, and Europe centuries before the crusaders conquered Palestine. Moreover, the last crusader was buried centuries ago while jihadists appear to be very much alive. The Eurabian ideology blinds a number of Western politicians to the fact that extensive Islamic territories lie close to Europe and that millions of Muslim immigrants have settled in European cities, causing those same politicians to overlook the hostility that now reverberates in Western Europe, as exemplified by the ritual assassination of Dutch filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam, on November 2, 2004.

God blinds those whom he wants to destroy; Bat Ye'or's Eurabia offers a powerful tool for those who wish to see.

Johannes J.G. Jansen
Utrecht University

Oasis of Dreams: Teaching and Learning Peace in a Jewish-Palestinian Village in Israel. By Grace Feuerverger. New York and London: Routledge Falmer, 2001. 218 pp. $25.95, paper. Israeli and Palestinian Identities in Dialogue. Edited by Rabah Halabi. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. 204 pp. $60 ($21.95, paper).

That the Arab-Israeli conflict can be resolved within the confines of an encounter group is the unlikely premise behind the Jewish/Arab "joint model village" of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salam. Quite unintentionally, these two books confirm the allegation previously voiced in the exchange between Joseph V. Montville, Edward Alexander, and Ahmad Yusuf in this journal[4]—that the original idea of an apolitical meeting point for Jews, Muslims, and Christians has been perverted into an ideological project centered on the doctrine of Israeli guilt and Arab innocence.

Feuerverger, an associate professor of teacher development at the University of Toronto, undertook multiple visits to Neve Shalom where she applied her belief that the theories of American psychologist Carol Gilligan and French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva offer insight into the dynamics of the Middle East. The result is adequately conveyed by her subchapter headings: "Reflexive Ethnography on the Border of Hope," "Between Aesthetics and Rigor: An Interactive Methodology," and so on. Combined with these pseudo-scholarly vacuities are the author's personal musings on her background as a confused Jewish Diaspora academic. Further added to the mix are extracts from her personal journal as well as interviews with various characters she encountered, with one section entitled "In Their Own Voices: Interviews as Resistance to Hegemony." Feuerverger's book stands as a testament to the boundless naiveté and self-obsession of North American academic liberals.

Explaining their work at Neve Shalom's School for Peace, former headmaster Halabi and his colleagues have produced a numbingly predictable collection of jargon-ridden essays on the mechanics of "dialogue." In his introduction, Halabi casually discloses that Israel's goals include "subjugating the Arabs by force" and that its methods involve "the system favored by the imperialist nations in the early 1900s." Among the Jewish contributors, Arie Nadler ridicules the idea of "conflict-resolution" and calls for an "interidentity dialogue about power and equality," while on the Arab side, Ramzi Suleiman warns the discussion "facilitators" that Jewish participants must not be allowed "to impose a ‘veto' on political and conflictive aspects." In short, despite its name, the School for Peace teaches not the reconciliation of differences but the promotion of conflict.

Paul Bogdanor
London, England

Operation Iraqi Freedom and the New Iraq. Insights and Forecasts. Edited by Michael Knights. Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004. 375 pp. $19.95, paper.

The 2003 Iraq war has spawned much punditry. Journalists, think-tank scholars, and academics compete to publish articles or offer television commentary. But their analysis falls short, particularly as few of them have spent time in Iraq, much less speak its languages. Happily, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the New Iraq, a collection of short essays by scholars at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and compiled by Knights, a British scholar and defense journalist, offers real substance and quality.

Michael Eisenstadt, director of security studies at The Washington Institute, highlights lessons learned from Britain's post-World War I occupation of Iraq. Written before the U.S. occupation commenced, Eisenstadt's analysis proves remarkably prescient. Knights and former Defense Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey White contribute a number of short essays analyzing the military component of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The detailed essay showing how basing restrictions shaped the conduct of war will be highly useful to military historians and tacticians. The section on postwar coalition security policy is more relevant to the general reader. It provides useful analysis of the new Iraqi army, the alphabet soup of Iraq's other reconstructed security forces, and the multinational divisions. Of particular interest is the synopsis of a speech by General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne, on lessons of the Iraq war.

In a section analyzing the Sunni insurgency, White becomes a bit mired in the weeds, but Jonathan Schanzer brings useful field research to his analysis of the Ansar al-Sunna terrorist group, foreign jihadists, and other Sunni organizations. The section on the Shi'ite opposition is perhaps the weakest in an otherwise strong collection, for there is no mention of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi and minimal mention of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the faction-ridden Da'wa party, all of which play key roles. The synopsis of a presentation by Yitzhak Nakash about the Shi'ite in Iraq's future is valuable but too brief to fill the gap.

A section on the post-Saddam economy and politics contributes valuable nuggets. Barham Salih, who became deputy prime minister in the interim government, discusses how Iraqi Kurdistan fits into the rest of the country while Soner Cagaptay provides good insight into the oft-forgotten Iraqi Turkmen community. More discussion of Kurdish politics and the question of federalism would have been helpful, though.

Unfortunately, Iraq's constitutional debate is ignored and questions of transitional justice and the trial of Saddam Hussein are dealt with only in passing.

Little writing produced in the wake of the Iraq war are as detailed and informed as that included in this collection. Despite an emphasis on military strategy, Operation Iraqi Freedom is a valuable resource for those needing nuance and informed comment beyond the news headlines.

Michael Rubin

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building. By Noah Feldman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. 154 pp. $19.95.

Feldman, a New York University professor of constitutional law who briefly worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority on preparation of Iraq's interim constitution, argues, "Having thrust the Iraqis into [their current] situation, we have an obligation to enable them to climb out of it." It would, indeed, be interesting to see an argument made about whether the United States has such an ethical obligation, and if so, how far does it extend. Unfortunately, Feldman makes no such case: he simply presumes that the United States has the duty to create in Iraq, in his words, "a legitimate democratic state." That is a remarkably tall order for such a fragile nation with such limited democratic traditions. The presumption that this is what we owe Iraq is breathtaking, yet it is an article of faith as much on the liberal Left (from which Feldman comes) as on the neoconservative Right. And the hubris extends to confidence that Washington is well placed to carry out this far-reaching transformation of Iraq's political culture; for all his caveats about how hard the task will be, Feldman insists that an active U.S. role is the essential ingredient for success. One might have thought that the nationalist resentments at the U.S. presence and the obvious disappointment of Iraqis in what Washington has been able to accomplish in the first year and a half since Saddam's fall might have led to a bit more humility. But it remains an article of faith for Feldman that if only the United States buckles down to the task, Iraq can become a democracy soon.

Feldman's optimism about Washington's ability to transform Iraqi politics would be more convincing if he demonstrated a better understanding of the obstacles ahead. His account concentrates on what he calls the transformative effect of elections. At least that is a step forward from some earlier writings,[5] in which he argued that a well-crafted constitution would be revolutionary—a stunningly naive view in light of the history of constitutions that remain dead letters (perhaps the most democratic constitution in history was that of Stalin's Soviet Union). In his effusive praise for how elections "provide large-scale accountability" and "reveal public preferences," Feldman passes over the minor problem that most elections to date in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East have done nothing of the sort. The region is well acquainted with elections that rubber-stamp power arrangements based on force, not on the people's will. To date, the U.S. appointees to the Interim Governing Council have maneuvered to keep in their hands the reins of power. Few in Iraq or the Middle East will believe that Iraq is a democracy until the first government is peacefully voted out of office, an event not likely to happen any time soon.

Patrick Clawson

Who's Left in Israel? Edited by Dan Leon. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2004. 189 pp. $49.50 ($24.95, paper).

Leon, former editor of New Outlook, has collected articles by Israel's most vociferous and venomous far-leftists to show that, despite the enormous discrediting of leftist ideas over the past fifteen years, "peace" is still possible if Israel adopts an uncompromising anti-Zionist, Marxist agenda. The happy result of that would be (depending on the writer) either a two-state solution or a one-state solution. (The latter means Israel is eradicated and replaced by a single Arab-majority state.) All the authors agree that Israel's electoral Left is too moderate, too cowardly, and insufficiently anti-Zionist.

Uri Avnery, the father of Israeli anti-Zionism, the man who obediently marketed every slogan coming out of the PLO, is, amazingly, in this volume among the less extremist writers; he actually proposes a solution that will leave Israel in existence alongside Palestine in a two-state solution. This is rejected by other writers, such as As'ad Ghanem, a political scientist at the University of Haifa, who wants a single "non-denominational" state, stripped of all Jewish symbols and identity with no ties at all to Jewish national ambitions. This is the "state for all its citizens," that has become the mantra of Israel's far Left.

Tamar Gozansky, an unreformed Stalinist, who sat until recently in Israel's parliament as representative of the predominantly Arab Hadash party, offers boilerplate Marxism with knee-jerk denunciations of "state capitalism," privatization, and "concentration of capital." Shulamit Aloni, who once ran Meretz and was Israel's minister of education for a while, complains that the schools do not spend enough time bashing religion and promoting the Left's notion of human rights.

Lev Grinberg, in the news recently for publishing an article denouncing Israel for conducting "symbolic genocide" against Palestinians when it assassinated Sheikh Yassin of Hamas,[6] has an article that denounces what he calls the "Ashkenazi Left." Despite Israel's having pursued the Left's failed policies since the early 1990s, Grinberg is livid that most of the Left rejects his extremism. Menahem Klein, from Bar Ilan University, recently made a speech declaring Israel's very creation a catastrophic mistake;[7] here he insists on the transfer of all of East Jerusalem to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Ilan Pappé, best known for his role in the infamous Tantura affair,[8] is even more explicit than Grinberg in denouncing the non-fanatic Israeli Left for its failure to reject Zionism altogether. Pappé dedicated his last book to his sons, whom he wished would grow up in "Palestine"—or in a Middle East from which Israel has been eradicated. Pappé's proposal is that Israel allow unrestricted immigration for any Arab claiming to be a Palestinian.

Henriette Dahan-Kalev, a "gender sociologist" from Ben-Gurion University, denounces Israel for supposedly suppressing the Mizrahi (Oriental Jewish) "narrative." That most Oriental Jews vote against the Left might have something to do with her hostility. Amira Hass, arguably the most extremist anti-Israel columnist in the Israeli media, dismisses all Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy as a conspiracy to advance Israeli "colonialism." Arella Shadmi, a radical feminist, denounces the Ashkenazi militarist, bourgeois, patriarchal conspiracy. Alon Tal, an adjunct at several Israeli universities, declares Israel must foreswear economic growth to pursue fashionable environmentalism; no more immigrants—they'll crowd the lizards!

Despite all its nonsense, Who's Left in Israel? has value as a guide to the mindset of Israel's hard Left today and perhaps the harder Left tomorrow.

Steven Plaut
University of Haifa

[1] Washington: Brassey's, 1993.
[2] Assessment of the Food and Nutrition Situation: Iraq (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2000), p. viii.
[3] Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.
[4] See Joseph V. Montville, "Neve Shalom: A Model of Arab-Israeli Coexistence?"; Edward Alexander, "No, an Exercise in Jewish Self-Debasement"; and Ahmad Yusuf, "No, but a Useful Step toward Bi-Nationalism," Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1998, pp. 21-32.
[5] The New York Times, Sept. 24, Nov. 13, 2003; Feb. 20, Sept. 24, 2004.
[6] La Libre Belgique (Brussels), Mar. 29, 2004.
[7] Ma'ariv (Tel Aviv), Feb. 1, 2004.
[8] Solomon Socrates, "Israel's Academic Extremists," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2001, pp. 10-3.

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Postby Tim » 18 Jun 2005 06:13

Vivek A,

I don't think many Indian Navy officers are graduates of the Naval Academy (in Annapolis). We do have a number of Indian Navy officers (and, this year, a Coast Guard officer) at the US Naval War College in Newport, RI (where I work) - usually between 2 and 5 per year. These are substantially more senior officers who have already reached the level of Lt. Cmdr. to Captain. The current Indian CNO and his predecessor are graduates of the Naval War College, and both have come to visit in the last three years.

Barnett used to work at the Naval War College, so that is probably what he is referring to in his book.


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Postby Gerard » 18 Jun 2005 16:44

Open Secrets. India's Intelligence Unveiled by M K Dhar

Released when intelligence agencies of major global powers are facing flak for incompetence and fabrication, Open Secrets is the first attempt to break the taboo of shielding the Indian intelligence fraternity under a permanent veil.
Open Secrets is a depressing hidden camera fixed on the systemic failures of Indian polity and intelligence. It illuminates the weaknesses of India's national security setup and exhorts urgent patchwork.

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Postby svinayak » 21 Jun 2005 05:51

Running The World:
the Inside Story of the National Security Council and the ARchitects of American Power
by David J. Rothkopf

The NSC is a semi-defined group—the president, vice president, secretaries of defense and state, national security adviser and staff, and other officials as needed—with the open-ended mission of helping the president decide and coordinate military and foreign policy. Its institutional vagueness makes it an ill-chosen framework for this engaging but unfocused study of postwar American policy making. Working from interviews with NSC members, Rothkopf, an academic and Clinton administration commerce official, examines the NSC's history from its 1947 inception onward, reviewing its performance in major foreign policy crises and tracing the rising influence of the NSA post. He delves into bureaucratic minutiae, but focuses on such "Shakespearean" human factors as the character and managerial style of the president and the personal "chemistry" and patronage networks among his cabinet and advisers. Rothkopf prefers a centrist, internationalist security policy, with experienced hands restraining ideologues; he therefore gives high marks to the NSC under Nixon, Carter and Bush 41, while castigating the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations. He presents a wealth of information, but the NSC's ad hoc purview, unstable structure and personality-driven dynamics make it hard to discern a coherent outline of American policy among its wranglings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

A behind-the-scenes look at "the most powerful committee in the history of the world," the small group of men and women who work, often in secret, within the White House to make the most fateful decisions of our time.

Never before in the history of mankind have so few people had so much power over so many. The people at the top of the American national security establishment, the President and his principal advisors, the core team at the helm of the National Security Council, are without question the most powerful committee in the history of the world. Yet, in many respects, they are among the least understood.

A former senior official in the Clinton Administration himself, David Rothkopf served in government with and knows personally many of the NSC's key players of the past twenty-five years. In Running the World he pulls back the curtain on this shadowy world to explore its inner workings, its people, their relationships, their contributions and the occasions when they have gone wrong. He traces the group's evolution from the final days of the Second World War to the post-Cold War realities of global terror-exploring its triumphs, its human dramas and most recently, what many consider to be its breakdown at a time when we needed it most.

Drawing on an extraordinary series of insider interviews with policy makers including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, senior officials of the Bush Administration, and over 130 others, the book offers unprecedented insights into what must change if America is to maintain its unprecedented worldwide leadership in the decades ahead.

One can ignore the cover and title as sales hype for the book; this is a solid history and analysis of the NSC from around 1945 to the present day; it is a 550 page book in small font so it is fairly detailed and lengthy book; generally speaking, this is an impressive effort in terms of the volume of information, the amount of detail, and the scope; the book is mainly text and notes but it has a few pictures. The book gives the reader an up close look at the workings of the NSC for various administrations going back to approximately 1945 - 46, and The National Security Act of July 26, 1947, which was used to create the National Security Council under Truman. The early role of the NSC was to coordinate other departments and act mostly in an advisory role to the preseident.

The NSC was started under Truman but became much more important under Eisenhower, who as a former general, appreciated good preparation, research, and security planning of foreign policy. The NSC included the President who was the chairman, the Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, and Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization. Also, other cabinet members participated including the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the JCS, and the Director of Central Intelligence. This form of the NSC, refined by Ike, has continued through to the present day, with the formality and the impact of the NSC rising and falling, from one administration to the next, depending on the president and how he viewed and utilized his advisers. Kennedy did water down Eisenhower's NSC a bit and changed the NSC to permit the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to in effect run the committe, but the overall impotance of the NSC was restored somewhat by Kissinger working for Nixon.

I guess what I found interesting about the book was the idea that the author belives that Kissinger, especially in the time just before the Nixon resignation, changed the importance of the NSC as a body. It is generally well know Kissinger was involved in both policy-making and implementation. In the early days of the Nixon administration, Kissinger kept a low public profile at the NSC - before the Nixon visit to China - but he emerged after that trip as a media star - and continued that during his famous Middle East shuttle diplomacy. In a very interesting section of the book, we learn how Kissinger convened a meeting of the NSC while Nixon slept prior to his resignation and Kissinger on his own, but chairing the NSC as an assistant to the president or in effect acting as the president, put the US armed forces on a high DEFCON alert status - something that normally only the president would do. Similarly, after Nixon's resignation, Gerald Ford was not comfortable with Kissinger but opted to keep him on for the sake of continuity. In addition, and as an example, the author gives us some insight into the Kissinger - Arthur Schlesinger rivavlry, that was won out by Kissinger, but Kissiger was sometimes outmanoeuvered by Rumsfeld in the Ford administration.

The book goes on to outline the long Kissinger legacity at the NSC where many subsequent advisers and members had direct and indirect ties to Kissinger. It chronicles the changes under Carter and the use of the NSC by Clinton, but Kissinger dominates a large central section of the book. The importance of the NSC rose and fell with subsequent administrations including the Reagan and Bush Republican administrations, but the ghost of Kissiger lingered on through people such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, and other advisers, who have direct and indirect links back to the Kissinger era.

This is an impressive and a detailed look into the workings, the history, the people, the internal politics, the accomplishments, and the mistakes made by the National Security Council. Most readers of American history and politics will enjoy and appreciate the book. Incidentally, the author himself has ties to Kissinger through Kissinger Associates. Also, he is a well known author of five other books, and has lectured at Columbia.
The author in the introduction gives a story of his visit to India in Jaipur and Jaishelmar in 1989 with his father and discussing the fall of Berlin and imminent collapse of Soviet Union.

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Postby svinayak » 21 Jun 2005 06:08

The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course
by Richard N. Haass

Richard Haass, the President of the Council of Foreign Relations, argues that with the immense resources and unparalleled power of the United States there is a unique oppurtunity to shape the international system and manage the process of globalization that is favorable to American interests. To do so, American policymakers must be serious about maintaining America's global role by pursuing a judicious and realistic foreign policy that seeks to strengthen American global leadership to better manage the process of globalization. Haass argues that the effects of globalization are and will to continue to be so extensive that careful management of globalization is an imperative task that only American leadership can accomplish.

Haass comes from a different school of thought that much of the Bush administration. Though serving as Director of Policy Planning during the first two years of George W. Bush's State Department, Haass espouses a worldview very different from the Manichaen ideological perspective of much of the Bush administration's influential neoconservatives. Haass comes from the old Republican tradition that emphasizes realism and international cooperation which is a refreshing perspective in this turbulent time.

The Oppurtunity is one of the best books I have read in a long time. One can't but help to agree with Haass's compelling arguments and interesting insights. It is essential reading to understand America's global position.
Richard Haas enjoys an impressive high profile. He is the President of the Council of Foreign Relations and served on a number of high posts in previous administrations. In this brief book, Haas provides a number of arguments to sustain his perspective on handling America's foreign policy. According to Haas, America should restore its previous policy of containment, détente and trying to defeat world dictators by eroding their ability to sustain their tyrannical rule. A case in point is Saddam Hussain.
Haas argues that had the United States opted for tightening the grip around Saddam's neck by cutting off his trade links with neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan and subsidizing the losses these nations might have incurred due to such trade interruption, the confrontation with Saddam Hussain could have cost the United States much less treasure and blood. Haas should have said, however, how he believes sanctions could have ever affected Saddam. If the Iraqis were to live spending their last one penny, that penny would be in Saddam's pocket and he would have maintained his power despite his people's poverty by murdering every one of them. Saddam's rule was not based on economic prosperity or illegal trade with Jordan, Turkey and Syria. His rule was one of tyranny and brutal oppression and the only way to topple him was through the usage of power.
Now Haas believes that despite Saddam's tyranny, his rule was not disruptive of America's national security. At this point, America should question the moral ground at large of its relations with Saddam. Should he have been removed for his threat on America only or shouldn't the world's superpower go after the world's bloodiest dictators to save his people of his murderous grip?
Another point Haas failed to answer, assuming containing dictators that posed no threat to America's security was a good idea: how would America be able to fight poverty and tyranny that breed terror with such containment policies? Saudi Arabia is America's good ally and yet 15 of its citizens, frustrated by their rulers' tyranny and oppression, committed 9/11. Most of these Arab dictatorships are in the first place based on preaching anti-Americanism to divert their people's frustration with domestic problems and blame other nations, on top of them America, for their agony.
Haas should have reconsidered his call on the foreign policy to go back to the old school that had proved in the past - time and again - its futility. And before he urges the administration to abandon its current military confrontation strategies that might bring improved home security, he should have come up with a third option that could have been better than the two only ways currently at the disposal of Washington.

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Postby ramana » 01 Jul 2005 20:46

From Telegraph, 1 July 2005
An Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire By Arundhati Roy, Penguin, Rs 395


An Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire By Arundhati Roy, Penguin, Rs 395

What was a suspicion when The Algebra of Infinite Justice was published is now a conviction. Arundhati Roy works better in brief cloudbursts of insinuating prose, shocking proof and daring-do in the thick of happenings (whether nuclear tests, hunger strikes or Supreme Court-baiting) than in a sustained battery of 14 essays. For one, it saves her from repetition (of stock phrases and information) and two, it is less of a strain on the reader who is, after all, an “ordinary person”.

We might divide her current volley into two aspects — what she teaches and what she preaches. But her subject is no longer the more ordinary Bhaiji Bhai, one of the displaced on the banks of Narmada whose anger she was so desperately trying to whip up in the last series of essays (“Bhaiji Bhai, Bhaiji Bhai, when will you get angry?”). She seems no longer unsure of the anger of the displaced (Kallu Driver’s pointed invective — “Maaderchod” — directed at all politicians involved in Harsud town’s destruction, in fact, unsettles her). And so, she concentrates on generating the “power of a dissenting public” — the English-speaking middle class.

But why should ordinary people be angry? Because they are being stopped from seeing the obvious — the way the Empire, that is the United States of America, has been or will be ruining their lives, if not by open conflict (as in Iraq now) then through “neoliberal capitalism” which intends to “Free the markets. Screw the people.” Assisting this “hidden fist” are loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries which push through unpopular reforms and quell mutinies with the help of vile bureaucrats and contemptible courts. The corporatized media and foreign-funded NGOs are all cogs in this giant wheel. Fair enough.

And the antidote? “Globalized dissent”. Against international, national, regional or provincial governments and institutions that support and service the Empire. There, Roy seems to have bitten off more than she can chew. The ensuing confusion is obvious. At the end of almost every essay, Roy struggles to answer the question she sets herself, “What form is the resistance going to take?” Most of the time, Roy tries to remain a strict Gandhian, preaching civil disobedience (imagine more of it in Bengal!) and harking back to the Dandi March, but the lure of violence is too much to resist. So despite cautioning against terrorism, she says, “If we are only going to support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.”

Roy assures ordinary folks that the battle has already begun. There are people who have laid the steps so that “we” may climb out of the crevice. And that the corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what is being sold to us. “We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.” Our striking Marxists perhaps agree with her wholeheartedly.

The best piece in this collection is “The road to Harsud”, a chilling account of a gigantic fraud being perpetrated in the name of development. Ravaged by greed, it is waiting to drown under the cold waters of the Narmada. In this ghost town, there remain only those who have not been able to give the patwaris the “feelgood” (bribe), and so are denied their rightful compensation. Roy drives into the forests around and then into the tin sheds for the displaced families to find a lone Kallu Driver lambasting politicians in his unique way. Did Roy try explaining the workings of the Empire to him? Or did he know already, unlike our call-centre boys?


Need to keep abreast of the contra opinion to the US Empire thinkers. Arundhati Roy is better advised to re-read Hind Swaraj by Mahatma Gandhi if she wnats to be inspired about using non-violence. The reviewer appers to disagree with Roy on many points.

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Postby AJay » 01 Jul 2005 22:33

ADMINS: Please move to the appropriate thread, if needed.

Web Site Makes Gov't. Reports Available - Yahoo! News

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer Mon Jun 27, 9:51 AM ET

WASHINGTON - A new Web site aims to make widely available to the
public certain government reports about topics from terrorism to
Social Security that congressional researchers prepare and distribute
now only to lawmakers. centrally indexes them so visitors can find
reports containing specific terms or phrases.

The site - - links more than a half-dozen
existing collections of nearly 8,000 reports from the Congressional
Research Service...


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Postby svinayak » 11 Jul 2005 23:40

Greenspan's Fraud : How Two Decades of His Policies Have Undermined the Global Economy
by Ravi Batra

Ravi Batra is a Professor of Economics at SMU Dallas TX. This very readable book is partly about Greenspan's career in government, and politics, but mostly about the economic policies of the last three decades. Batra explains how the Federal Reserve has impoverished most Americans to enrich the wealthy, and attacked the middle class to benefit Big Business.

Chapter 1 tells the real impact of Alan Greenspan, how he unwittingly effected a global crash and spread economic misery (p.5). Greenspan's frauds swindled millions of families (p.6), while he benefited from his tax policies. Chapter 2, one of the most important, explains the fraud that was used to raise Social Security taxes in 1983 and then squander this money on tax cuts for the wealthy (p.12)! Greenspan's fraud was that he helped to raise payroll taxes, then sought to lower Social Security benefits (p.36). Chapter 3 discusses Greenspan's worship of "free profits" (p.48). Adam Smith was against mergers of competitors, and government regulation to restrict competition (p.50). The fallacy of Classical Economics is they could not account for depressions of falling output and rising unemployment (p.60). Batra explains the fallacy of "Supply Side Economics" (pp.68-70). Chapter 4 explains "Greenspan's Intellectual Fraud" (p.74) as deceiving an audience by using fake or selective data for monetary gain. Greenspan saved the country from a Reagan Depression in 1987 by flooding the markets with liquidity (p.91). Afterwards he raised interest rates to regain this money and prevent inflation (p.92). Chapter 5 reports the global effects of Greenspan's policies. The 1981 tax cut led to soaring interest rates and a steep recession (p.123). Cutting the interest rate resulted in higher stock prices (p.136). The bubble of speculation inevitably burst (p.139).

Chapter 6 notes that economic theories can't explain the causes of a stock market bubble (p.141)! Batra says it is a mismatch between supply (productivity) and demand (wages and debt). When wages are high from productivity there is prosperity without a crash (p.143). Stagnant or falling wages create unemployment (p.146). Expansionary fiscal policies create a debt that comes due (pp.147-148). Regressive taxation and low wages create a global crisis. Chapter 7 explains how the income tax rate affects our standard of living. Reagan's tax cuts created a giant budget deficit and high interest rates (p.169). Clinton's raised income tax rates was followed by relative prosperity. Bush lowered the top income tax rate, which always hurts the economy and stunts economic growth (p.173). Chapter 8 documents another of Greenspan's frauds, the claim that minimum wages create unemployment. This lie has been proven wrong since 1935. Greenspan wants increased immigration to keep wages down (p.191)! High money growth causes inflation (p.192).

Chapter 9 discusses the trade deficit, which could cause the budget deficit (p.199). A country that exports goods has a trade surplus, one that exports services or farm products has deficits (p.204). Prosperity comes from manufacturing (p.205). Regressive taxation has forced a gap between wages and productivity (p.214). A regressive value-added tax makes it worse. The merger mania results from a lack of competition and the desire for monopoly control of output. Chapter 10 tells how Greenspan's policies changed but still aimed at the economic destruction of the middle class (p.217). Most Americans have seen a drop in their living standards since 1973 (p.219). Regressive taxes, higher health insurance, and lowered pensions make it worse (p.220). The effect is rising bankruptcies, mushrooming debt, and a drastic decline in the household savings rate (p.221). Countries with ultra-regressive taxes like VAT (value-added taxes) experience the same slow growth and higher unemployment (p.229).

Chapter 11 lists the needed economic reforms. Batra lists the top-ten problems that need fixing (p.236). Returning Social Security to a pay-as-you-go system will benefit the economy (p.240). An ethical economic policy benefits all of us, an unethical economic policy creates massive debt and increasing poverty (pp.244-245). Batra lists 6 reforms for wages and taxes to bring back prosperity (p.247). A separate export exchange rate will benefit manufacturing (p.251). Reducing the wage gap will reduce recessions, inflation, and poverty (p.253). The long-run cure for economic imbalance is economic democracy (p.255). [But his proposals seem to idealistic, and lack the checks and balances needed in the real world.]

Greenspan was not Wall Street's first choice in 1987 when the Federal Reserve Chairman's position became vacant - Paul Volcker was. Volcker had a reputation for having previously tamed inflation - however, "inflation-tamers" are usually not popular with politicians (high interest rates and tight money slow the economy), and Reagan instead picked Greenspan.

Greenspan had chaired a committee on Social Security reform in 1983, which raised the tax S.S. tax base. One of that group's recommendations was to keep S.S. cash surpluses separate from the General Fund. Greenspan, however, later supported combining them for eight more years. Greenspan then later also supported cutting S.S. benefits to help "cover the ballooning Federal deficit" - despite there being no connection, thus becoming the basis for the author's accusation of fraud.

After Bush I became President, Greenspan then supported a tax cut. Thus, his position had become favoring both income tax cuts (favoring the wealthy) and S.S. cuts (hurting mostly the low-income). Meanwhile, the "no lock-box" approach to S.S. funds continued without Greenspan's opposition.

Greenspan then went on to publicly worry about "irrational exhuberance" in 1996 - evidenced by rapidly rising stock prices - but then did nothing to slow the rise. (Another flip-flop.)

When Bush II arrived, Greenspan supported large tax cuts on the basis of forecasted massive surpluses. Unfortunately, those surpluses never occured, and instead massive deficits have ensued.

Another Major Flip-Flop: The trade deficit caused Greenspan to express worry when it was much smaller than now, and then to declare it was "not a problem" in '03. Meanwhile, American manufacturing has been largely devasted, and many who have not lost their jobs have lost pension and/or healthcare benefits, and the latest data even show a decline in inflation-adjusted incomes.

Batra also points out that Greenspan has seemingly taken the risk out of business borrowing by bailing out those caught in the Mexican devaluation, Asian, Russian Capital Management, etc. crises. Meanwhile, the U.S. "housing bubble" steadily builds up, and Greenspan has taken both sides ("no worry;" "yes, it's a problem in some areas") of that issue as well.

Finally, Batra asserts that income inequality has reached its highest level since '29, despite income equality being strongly related to real economic growth.

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Postby svinayak » 17 Jul 2005 05:01

Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future
by Ben J. Wattenberg

Ben Wattenberg's "Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future" is a remarkable book and, in terms of its importance for our country and the world, it should attract a great deal more attention than most of the presidential campaign advertising.

Mr. Wattenberg reports conclusively that the world will have far fewer people than was expected even a decade ago, that in numbers and age and gender patterns this smaller population will be distributed in ways that will be significant, and that the implications for the environment, the economy and national security will be quite profound.

The biggest news is that in sheer numbers the human race is now likely to peak at 8.5 billion people instead of the United Nations projection of 11.5 billion. Even the U.N. demographers now agree that the population explosion will never reach the numbers they had once projected.

The biggest reason for this dramatic decline was captured in an earlier book by Mr. Wattenberg, "The Birth Dearth." Women are simply having fewer children and the result is that in some countries population is already starting to go down.

As Mr. Wattenberg notes, in order to sustain the current population, the average woman would have to have 2.33 children. Falling below that average will result in a population decline. Today some 40 countries are already below the replacement rate and Mr. Wattenberg expects virtually every country to be below the replacement rate by the end of our lifetime.

Fascinatingly, after all the focus on Chinese compulsory population control, it is not China that has had the most rapid change in birthrates among Asian countries. That honor goes to South Korea, where women now average only 1.17 children (even lower than Japan). China has dropped to 1.825 and is still declining.

Mr. Wattenberg makes so many fascinating points in this thin book that it is impossible to cover them all in a review. However, a few deserve to be singled out.

Europe is going to lose population dramatically by mid-century and therefore become significantly older. This will almost certainly entail a significant shift in power and in economic competitiveness away from an aging and shrinking European Union.

Mexico is on the verge of dropping below the replacement rate; over the next generation this will almost certainly slow the rate of migration to the United States. Russia is facing a demographic crisis, with the shortest lifespan for males of any industrial country and a catastrophic decline in women willing to bear children.

Mr. Wattenberg highlights the intellectual dishonesty of the Paul Ehrlich, left-wing environmentalists and their factual mistakes over the last generation. Mr. Ehrlich had predicted famines beginning in the 1970s. They simply haven't happened. The global warming projections all assumed a population of 11.5 billion. If the human race peaks at only 8.5 billion people - 3 billion fewer than predicted - and then starts a long-term decline, how that changes all those gloom-and-doom predictions.

Mr. Wattenberg highlights the unique role of the United States as the one industrial country that will keep growing. American population growth is a combination of the highest birthrate of any industrial country (2.01 children per female) and our willingness to accept immigration. Mr. Wattenberg projects that the United States will continue to grow in economic and other forms of power, while Europe and Japan decline dramatically. Indeed, in the Wattenberg vision of the future, there are only three large nations by 2050: China, India and the United States.

This is a book that should lead to very profound discussions, given its implications for pension programs in Europe and Japan, its implications for economic development throughout the world and its implications for environmental management and an honest assessment of the future.

Finally, this book is a tribute to the continued, persistent willingness of Mr. Wattenberg to take facts as they are presented and follow them without an ideological or political agenda. Hopefully it will lead many policy-makers to think deeply about how much the future will differ from their current expectations and then to ask how those differences should change American and world policies.

World depopulation has become the most important, and alarming, new demographic trend to emerge in the past few decades. While the world has experienced low fertility rates before, they have been due to great social disruptions such as war, famine, depression or plague. But the rates always went up afterwards.

Things are different now. The global downward trend in fertility is both long-term and pronounced. The numbers are alarming. There are now 63 nations with below-replacement fertility. The replacement level is a Total Fertility Rate of 2.1 children per women. Yet everywhere TFRs are plummeting. Today all 44 modern nations, with the exception of Albania, are below the 2.1 replacement level. America is just on that level.

And consider this incredible statistic: European TFR has fallen for fifty consecutive years. Many European nations have a TFR of 1.2, such as Italy, Greece, and Austria. Spain's level is down to 1.1. The UN estimates that Europe's population of 728 million people today will shrink to 632 million within 50 years.

The trend in the developing world is even more staggering. In 35 years the TFR there has fallen from 6.01 to around 2.8, and it continues to spiral downwards. South Korea, for example, has a TFR of just over 1.1, while China's rate is 1.8. This is down from 6.06 for China in the late 60s.

Fertility rates are falling rapidly in Arab and Muslim nations as well. For example, forty years ago the TFR in North Africa was 7.1 children per woman. Today it is 3.2 and still falling.

Now Wattenberg has written on these issues before. In 1987 he wrote The Birth Dearth. So why another book? What really shook up Wattenberg, and spurred on this newer book, was the fact that the UN made a major readjustment of its population projections in 2002. For decades prior to this date the UN had been predicting upward population trends for the developed world over the next half century.

But in March 2002 it made a major revision of thinking on the trends in the developing world. Before this time it assumed that the TFR in the poor countries would fall to just 2.1 children per woman. It now changed that figure to 1.85, a full quarter of a child per woman. That meant that world population in the future would go down, not up. It is this new demographic that has really set off the alarm bells.

Wattenberg gives us plenty of statistical information. And he points out that the US is one nation that seems to be bucking the trend. American TFR has actually risen lately, mainly due to immigration. But around the rest of the world the picture is bleak indeed.

The causes are all the usual suspects: urbanisation, education, women in the workplace, contraception, abortion, etc. But the real question is, what will be the effect of this world-wide population implosion? We just do not know because it has never happened before, at least on such a large scale. How will economies fare? How will societies change?

We do know that we are experiencing aging populations. But with a shrinking supply of babies, and therefore taxpayers, real crises are and will develop in simply meeting the needs of the growing elderly population. Who will pay for their pensions and medical care? These problems will be pronounced in all of the West, but especially in Europe and parts of Southeast Asia.

Wattenberg looks at a number of implications of the New Demographics, including the geopolitical situation. Concerning the issue of freedom and democracy, the trends up until recently had looked grim. The free Western world (with the exception of America) was experiencing population decline. In the meantime, the non-democratic Muslim world was growing. Now most populations are in decline, include the Muslim world. With shrinking populations go declining defence budgets. America is the last remaining Western democracy that still has the numbers to sustain a viable defensive structure. In a world threatened by international terrorism, that defence capability is welcome indeed.

But how things will progress in the future is an open question. For America to maintain its role as leader of the free world, it will have to keep its population levels up. Can immigration do this? As to immigration in general, he thinks this is mainly a healthy thing, and disagrees with those like Patrick Buchanan (The Death of the West), who describe it in worst-case scenario terms. In the short term America and the world should continue to benefit from immigration. The long term gets a bit unclear however.

Wattenberg also looks at the issue of illegal immigration. In total, illegal immigrants make up only about 3 per cent of the US population. He thinks that overall their presence is not an overwhelming problem, with potential positives often out-weighing the negatives.

He concludes by noting that the Less Developed Countries could in fact experience a "demographic dividend". He notes that poor countries with falling fertility rates are growing wealthier quicker than are the rich modern nations. In the meantime the New Demography is bad for most Western nations. Thus the need to spread the vision of freedom and democracy around the world, lest non- (or anti-) democratic nations win by default, by simply taking over due to sheer force of numbers.

No one really knows where these trends will take us. Much of Wattenberg's book could be called speculative. But it is important that good minds pay close attention to these changes. This book is a very helpful contribution to that effort.

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Postby svinayak » 17 Jul 2005 07:32

Free World : America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West (Vintage)
by Timothy Garton Ash

Colossal events such as the fall of France during World War II or the dismantling of the Berlin Wall create seismic shifts in geopolitics. Alliances are broken or forged. Power and influence are redistributed. According to Timothy Garton Ash, author of Free World: Why a Crisis in the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war in Iraq have produced such a crisis in the West. French and German opposition to America's war have signaled a severe rift between these one-time staunch allies and have raised questions about European identity, the role of Britain in this struggle, the direction of U.S. foreign policy, and most important, the spread of freedom and democracy to the poor and voiceless millions in the developing world.

France's attempt to become the voice of the European Union and to defy the will of the U.S. marks a departure from an age-old power structure. Or does it? In clear and engaging prose, Ash, an expert on European-American relations, places the crisis in a historical context dating back to the Second World War. Ash maintains that the future of the West depends on the EU's choice between Gaullism (Europe as "not-America"), or Churchill-style Atlanticism (Europe as a partner of the U.S. with England providing the bridge between the two). At the same time, the world's hyperpower, the U.S., must decide if it will continue to pursue unilaterally its foreign policy of self-interest combined with a Wilsonian edict to spread democracy, or embrace the kind of transatlantic interdependence that already exists in the business world. Wisely, Ash cautions against oversimplification and effectively deflates the myth that there is one America or one Europe. He shows that "There are not two separate sets of values, European and American, but several intersecting sets of values." Therefore, he urges cooperation between these two great powers. Only then, says Ash, can the West reverse its potential decline and spread its legacy of democracy and freedom to the "unfree" world. --Silvana Tropea--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly
A Great Britain caught between America and its Continental neighbors—on Iraq and much else—commences Ash's look at the 21st-century's strains on relations in the West. As the eminent British scholar and journalist (The File) moves on to the Continent, he echoes several recent critiques of the call for a unified Europe to act as an alternative superpower, citing the "uneven development" of the European Union. He suggests, however, that the European community still has a vital role to play in advocating the spread of freedom around the world, and looks forward to the day when America treats Europeans as "full partners in a common enterprise" in doing so. For Ash, that enterprise is largely economic. He calls for a global "war on want" and urges Western nations to open their borders to trade from developing neighbors; emigrants from undeveloped countries in the Arab world will turn to Europe, he argues, for homes and jobs. He also points to the imminent threat of global warming, which inspires his harshest criticisms of the current American government. The combination of sweeping historical insight with journalistic immediacy, related in Ash's own conversational style, should help this incisive commentary on world affairs stand apart from its competitors.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The metaphor that portrays hyper-power America as a modern version of the Roman Empire has become exhausted through overuse. And it was always a stretch to cast a republic with an elected and temporary chief magistrate and a traditional distaste for direct rule over foreigners as heir to the imperial purple of the Caesars. But there are other classical models to guide our thinking about the current nature--and the frustrations--of America's overwhelming raw power. Ancient Athens would seem the most congenial, as a freethinking and free-trading democracy of extraordinary cultural vigor and depth, while the official duty-honor-country virtues of warrior Sparta find a distinct resonance in the martial wing of the American character.

The Athenian inspiration can, however, be deceptive. Timothy Garton Ash, in Free World: America, Europe and the Surprising Future of the West, an idiosyncratic exploration of where the world is going wrong and how to fix it, quotes the celebrated Melian dialogue from The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. Mighty Athens, scorning to issue any plausible justification for their assault on little Melia, says bluntly: "You know, and we know, as practical men, that the question of justice arises only between parres equal in strength, and the strong do what they can, and the weak submit."

The Melians reply in tones that find their echo in the case against the Iraq War made at the U.N. Security Council by French and German diplomats. "As you ignore justice and have made self-interest the basis of discussion, we must take the same ground, and we say that in our opinion it is in your interest to maintain a principle which is for the good of all--that anyone in danger should have just and equitable treatment and any advantage, even if not strictly his due, which he can secure by persuasion."
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Garton Ash comes to this point, which questions the way the United States wants to relate to its friends and foes in this doubtless finite period of American ascendancy, at the end of a wide-ranging but essentially schizoid book. The first 170 pages analyze what he calls "The Crisis of the West," the erosion of that free world alliance that prevailed in the Cold War and has spread peace, democracy, and prosperity throughout most of the rich white world. This is a tour de force. It contains a pungent although hardly original assessment of the potential and limits of American power, noting, "How long can a country with a $500 billion budget deficit and a wade deficit of about the same size, sustain a $400 billion annual defense budget and meet a growing demand for social spending?"

He also considers the constraints upon European ambition. The argument in Europe, he suggests, will be about how to respond to America, with a choice between a new form of Gaullism that seeks to build an independent European superpower and a renewed effort to restore a modified form of the traditional Cold War Atlanticism. The argument in the United States, he writes, will be about America's own role in the world; to simplify, "it is the debate between multilateralism and unilateralism."

That argument will unfold, Garton Ash maintains, in the light of "[t]he American creed," which "has two gods; one is called Freedom, the other is called God. In the scattershot of early 21st-century capitalist democracies, religion is more than ever at the heart of American exceptionalism. America's muscular Christianity feeds into a moralistic rhetoric of freedom which many Europeans dismiss as humbug" Indeed, Garton Ash goes on to say that modern Germans believe that today's imperial Americans "say Democracy and mean Oil" Ash suggests that such European mockery is misplaced, that President Bush "clearly saw the war on terror as part of a Christian's good fight against evil" and that Europeans are mistaken to assume that America's rhetoric of freedom merely cloaks self-interest and greed.

Garton Ash also has limited respect for Europe's delusion that it is finally fulfilling Immanuel Kant's dream of a zone of perpetual peace, where reason and a sense of the common good hold sway among civilized nations who have grown out of war. He does not quite as this reviewer maintains, that Europe has known peace since 1945 only because with American troops at one end and Soviet troops at the other, the warlike tribes of the old continent finally had some adult supervision. And he understands that 50 years of NATO and American taxpayers bought Europe's peace and much of its prosperity.

Garton Ash takes an even sharper look at British pretensions to be a pivotal power, the hinge on which the future of the Atlantic alliance may turn. Since he is on occasion consulted by Tony Blair, who talks of Britain as the "bridge" across the Atlantic, Garton Ash's doubts are interesting. He suggests that the problem is not Blair's personal diplomacy and the anguish over the Iraq war, but that a Britain still divided over its membership in the European Union does not have "a minimal consensus about what it is and where it would like to be." He may be wrong here; in my view, Britain sensibly wants to go on having it both ways as long as it can, to be reasonably engaged in Europe while remaining America's best friend, just in case. The trouble will really come if the trans-Atlantic divisions grow so wide that Britain is forced to choose between them, which is why any British prime minister (not just Blair and Thatcher) will strain every nerve--and commit lots of available troops--to prevent the breach from becoming that serious. And Britain these days is not the enfeebled old has-been of the 1970s, but a very serious player.

Garton Ash does not cite, although it might have been useful to his argument, Goldman Sachs' recent prediction that the G-7 summit of the major industrial nations in the year 2050 will include only Britain among the European powers. Having soared past Italy and France, Britain's vigorous post-Thatcher economy is now closing in on sluggish Germany; British GDP per capita is already notably higher than Germany's. For Garton Ash, Britain is torn four ways, between its European vocation and its American alliance, and between its traditional complacent insularity and its increasingly cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic character. Whereas Germany was the divided nation of the Cold War, Britain is now the divided country of this post-Cold War era of the Crisis of the West, "the seismograph on whose trembling needle you measure the improvement or deterioration of relations between Europe and America."

On Europe, Garton Ash concludes that the great divisions over Iraq, between America's supporters led by Britain and its critics led by France and Germany are far more profound and important than any passing diplomatic spat. "The whole of the new, enlarged Europe is engaged in a great argument between the forces of Euro-Gaullism and Euro-Atlanticism. This is the argument of the decade. On its outcome will depend the future of the West" It is little use mouthing the old platitudes about common democratic values, he says, arguing that Europeans and Americans diverge ever more sharply in their attitudes to religion, to the role of the state, to the environment, to the use of force, to gun ownership, and to capital punishment. He has a point, except that opinion polls in Britain and France make it clear that the public would bring back the rope and the guillotine overnight if the political elites would give them the chance to vote on the matter.

But Garton Ash rejects the arguments of Jacques Derrida and Jurgen Habermas, two of the most eminent European philosophers, who saw in these divergent values the emergence of a specifically European identity, rooted in antipathy to America. This, for Garton Ash, would be self-deluding folly, not because the values are diverging, but because such a new Europe would be doomed to failure since so many European states would refuse to proceed on such a basis.

Senior aides in the National Security Council know Europe's gloomy demographic projections by heart. One recently pointed out to this reviewer that while Europe commanded 24 percent of global GDP in 1990, its share has now dropped to 18 percent. And unless Europeans start breeding again soon, they will be struggling to maintain 10 percent by 2050. The Bush team sees Europe playing no serious role in the big U.S. foreign policy of the 21st century--the struggle for mastery in Asia (India and Japan are far more important in this context)--and fears that Europe, with its fast-growing Muslim population, is likely to play a spoiling role in the other grand challenge of the Middle East.

The world would appear to be heading, over the next few decades, into a globalized version of the 19th century European balance of power, in which China, Europe, Japan, and perhaps India and Russia all play the game of nations while the United States gauges if it can afford to reenact the British Empire's role as the great oceanic power. In such a world, even if it overcomes the fiscal challenges of its deficits and pension obligations, America will need friends.

he power of the purse rests with the state and its employees--who thus enjoy the governance of vast bureaucratic empires, great patronage, and wide swathes of the lives of their fellow citizens.

By contrast, the United States federal government raises in taxes some 18 percent of American GDP (although thanks to the deficits, it spends rather more). So the American functionary has but a fraction of the power, patronage, and prestige available to his counterparts in Europe. There is, accordingly, no such thing as an American social model. There is, however, a new kind of globalized economic system marching through events. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the United States has pioneered--and countries like China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan have quickly adapted and started to develop--state systems that are far more growth-oriented than the old European social model. This new economy is defined by a number of qualities, including intense global competition and a relentless drive for more productivity. Its champions, like the Bush administration, insist that the new reality requires high returns for shareholders and managers along with lower corporate and income taxes.

The final flaw in Garton Ash's argument takes us back to Thucydides and the Melian dialogue. Great powers have traditionally acted the way they do partly because they can, thanks to their military and economic might, and partly because they feel that they must or risk an erosion of their defining status. The world in which Garton Ash and the rest of us all grew up was based on an aberration, in which the American great power of 1945 acted in another way altogether, with far-sighted altruism and "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind," to build the alliances and institutions that did not just defend the West, but also enriched and improved it. It may not be too much to ask that the United States, informed by that essentially decent American creed that Garton Ash identified, behave in that wise way yet again. But it was certainly too much to ask of ancient Athens, whose troops put Melia to the sword. The one ray of hope is that if any superpower can rise to the occasion, it will be this one. As Winston Churchill once noted, "You can always rely on the United States to do the right thing. Once it has exhausted the alternatives."

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Postby svinayak » 26 Jul 2005 00:30

Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Hardcover)
by Robert Pape

Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but there is great confusion as to why. In this paradigm-shifting analysis, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has collected groundbreaking evidence to explain the strategic, social, and individual factors responsible for this growing threat.

One of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject, Professor Pape has created the first comprehensive database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world from 1980 until today. With striking clarity and precision, Professor Pape uses this unprecedented research to debunk widely held misconceptions about the nature of suicide terrorism and provide a new lens that makes sense of the threat we face.

FACT: Suicide terrorism is not primarily a product of Islamic fundamentalism.

FACT: The world’s leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka–a secular, Marxist-Leninist group drawn from Hindu families.

FACT: Ninety-five percent of suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of coherent campaigns organized by large militant organizations with significant public support.

FACT: Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.

FACT: Al-Qaeda fits the above pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se, one major objective of al-Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region, and as a result there have been repeated attacks by terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.

FACT: Despite their rhetoric, democracies–including the United States–have routinely made concessions to suicide terrorists. Suicide terrorism is on the rise because terrorists have learned that it’s effective.

In this wide-ranging analysis, Professor Pape offers the essential tools to forecast when some groups are likely to resort to suicide terrorism and when they are not. He also provides the first comprehensive demographic profile of modern suicide terrorist attackers. With data from more than 460 such attackers–including the names of 333–we now know that these individuals are not mainly poor, desperate criminals or uneducated religious fanatics but are often well-educated, middle-class political activists.

More than simply advancing new theory and facts, these pages also answer key questions about the war on terror:

• Are we safer now than we were before September 11?
• Was the invasion of Iraq a good counterterrorist move?
• Is al-Qaeda stronger now than it was before September 11?

Professor Pape answers these questions with analysis grounded in fact, not politics, and recommends concrete ways for today’s states to fight and prevent terrorist attacks. Military options may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but a lasting solution to suicide terrorism will require a comprehensive, long-term approach–one that abandons visions of empire and relies on a combined strategy of vigorous homeland security, nation building in troubled states, and greater energy independence.

For both policy makers and the general public, Dying to Win transcends speculation with systematic scholarship, making it one of the most important political studies of recent time.

About the Author
Robert A. Pape is associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he teaches international politics and is the director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. A distinguished scholar of national security affairs, he writes widely on coercive airpower, economic sanctions, international moral action, and the politics of unipolarity and has taught international relations at Dartmouth College and air strategy for the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is a contributor to The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, and The Washington Post and has appeared on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight, National Public Radio, and other national television and radio programs.

Robert Pape has written an excellent book that describes the real reason why there is suicide terrorism. According to Pape suicide terrorism occurs when there is an occupation of the terrorists homeland by a foreign power of a different religion. Pape dismisses the notion that suicide terrorists are proverty stricken loners, because most of the research now indicates that a great percentage of those willing to become suicide terrorists are highly respected members of the middle class in their countries. Pape is also critical of the reasons that stress religious upringing in motivating suicide attacks since Islamic fundamentalists from North Africa and Iran do not commit suicide attacks, but Christian Lebanonese were willing to become suicide bombers for Hezbollah in the eighties. Pape writes that suicide attackers come from states that were under foreign occupation such as Lebanon and who feel colonized by the presence of American troops such as Saudi Arabia. The solution to the problem of suicide terrorism Pape writes is to withdraw military forces from Iraq and Saudi Arabia while offshoring military equippment in case a crisis emerges in the future. With the absence of American presence and greater Homeland security the recruits for suicide terrorism will dry up. Overall, Pape makes a great point that the military strategies used by Bush and Blair which are advocated by scholars such as John Gaddis is heading America for certain defeat unless the American government heeds Pape's advice.

One aspect of this top scholarly work is the way that it reverses many misconceptions, particularly about the originators of the suicide bombing techniques that many people now sadly take for granted.

For example Pape writes:
"Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers."

The Terrorist (1999) AKA Theeviravaathi, directed by top Indian director Santosh Sivan is a powerful film about this very subject - you can find it on IMDB.

As well as reversing this commonly held misconception that it is fundamentalism that is primarily responsible for such attacks, Pape goes on to suggest a solution - based on the conflicts that he has analyzed - that ending an occupation drastically reduces and in many cases entirely stops the suicide bombings.

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Postby svinayak » 30 Jul 2005 23:36

Our Culture, What's Left of It : The Mandarins and the Masses (Hardcover)
by Theodore Dalrymple

It is difficult to write a review of this book without appearing ridiculously gushing. It contains some of the most profound literary, cultural and political comment that exists, and is rooted in extensive experience as a prison doctor in the UK and elsewhere which most left liberal pundits would avoid like the plague. Extreme independence of mind, sharp observation and deep humanity all combine to produce a truly indispensable book.

Addendum: Mr Bourne in his review grabs the wrong end of many sticks. Perhaps he should play fewer computer games (see his other reviews) and get out more often. He claims that "penury and depredation" existed before the welfare state: so what?

Contrary to what Bourne says, Dalrymple does not blame modern art for the failure of civilization. However, he does link the nihilism of Brit Art with the dominant cultural ethos of modern Britain, which is hardly controversial, an ethos which is apparent throughout popular culture, all the universities and even the dumbed down BBC. Dalrymple understands, on the basis of his experience of the world, and his profound knowledge of the cultural and scientific heritage of the West, now routinely denigrated in...the West, that culture is all important. Once that's gone, we are lost.

Dalrymple is criticised for relying on "personal experience" with little data. This criticism is often made of Dalrymple by people who have no or little experience of anything, and therefore do not value experience. It is also made by people who seem to think that only pseudo-scientific sociologists wearing white coats and armed with meaningless charts and graphs, can offer an "objective" view of society. This is a deeply philosophically illiterate view. Presumably they think that Sebastian Haffner's memoir of the early years of Nazism, in which he described the mass yobbishness and dumbed down idiocy engulfing large sections of German society, is "scientifically" worthless because not backed up by "data" but is only based on "personal experience". Indeed, how did Shakespeare manage without "data"? Well, maybe he was just very intelligent...

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Postby svinayak » 31 Jul 2005 23:18

The War On Truth: 9/11, Disinformation And The Anatomy Of Terrorism
by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

In The War on Truth - the long-awaited sequel to The War on Freedom - Nafeez Ahmed provides the most comprehensive and controversial critique of the government's official version of what happened on 9/11. In this extensive new analysis, Ahmed doubles the data and investigates the worldwide web of terrorist networks across space and time. Deconstructing the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report and the Joint Congressional Inquiry, he exposes disturbing liaisons between American, British and European intelligence services and al-Qaeda operatives in the Balkans, Caucasus, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and Asia-Pacific - liaisons linked not only to 9/11, but also to prior terrorist attacks including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 US embassy bombings.

Against this background, Ahmed accomplishes the most detailed and wide-ranging study to date of the powerful vested interests and intrigues responsible for the collapse of US national security in the years and months leading to 9/11. Government documents, whistleblower testimony, and the findings of official inquiries are scrutinized to trace the innermost workings of the intelligence community, revealing precisely which government policies and operations facilitated the 9/11 intelligence failure, and pinpointing the specific agencies, individuals and decisions that emasculated the US air defense system. Finally, Ahmed unlocks the underlying geostrategy of the War on Terror - the culmination of a decades-long plan to secure and expand an increasingly unstable system. For anyone who remains uneasy about government policies on, and after, 9/11, The War on Truth is an invaluable resource that will radically alter perceptions of international terrorism, national security, and the clandestine machinery of Western power.

"Nafeez Ahmed's understanding of the post 9/11 power game, its lies, illusions and dangers, is no less than brilliant. Everyone should read this wise and powerfully illuminating book." --John Pilger

"The new book by Nafeez Ahmed, based on very extensive and deep research, is by far the best on the 9/11 syndrome. Articulating and documenting what many feel, and empowering them into action, the book will have an impact on entrenched US empire elites unwilling and unable to take it on. Votes of thanks to Ahmed, and to Interlink!" --Johan Galtung, Professor of Peace Studies; Director TRANSCEND

About the Author
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in Brighton, and the bestselling author of The War on Freedom: How & Why America was Attacked: September 11, 2001, which won him the Naples Prize, Italy's most prestigious literary award. He has a first-class Masters degree in Contemporary War and Peace Studies from the University of Sussex, where he is currently a PhD candidate in International Relations. A regular political commentator on BBC Southern Counties Radio, Ahmed has been named a Global Expert on War, Peace and International Affairs by The Freedom Network of the International Society for Individual Liberty in California. His latest book is Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq.

This book is quite simply the best book on 9/11 to date. Much better than its predecessor 'The War On Freedom' - in this book Ahmed has surpassed himself in the depth of the research and in the richness of his writing, which has matured and evolved like the metaphorical caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly perfect in its poise, flight and execution.

The blurbs and editorial reviews about this book speak for themselves but for anyone who has any doubt or confusion as to which book to read from the 'alternate' 9/11 market then be in no doubt... John Pilger has called this book "Powerfully Illuminating" and Ahmed "Brilliant". No other 9/11 truth book has had such a great, definitive and lets face it mainstream review. I am sure they all have something to contribute to the overall movement and to be honest the more books on this topic the better, well with the caveat that they contribute facts and information and not fanciful theories. (The 'no plane' hit the pentagon springs to mind).

Anyway what really sets this book apart from everything else is that this book DOES NOT talk about anything that is not already documented and factual, it does not waffle on for pages about the towers being demolished or any other mind boggling conspiracy. What it does tell you though is the truth about Al- Qaeda and its web of global links. It puts 9/11 in a historical and political context, which no other book does. The breadth of analysis is outstanding. And it does ask so many pertinent questions - questions that would have otherwise been missed. It isn't just about asking questions and then sitting on the proverbial fence, but is rather about asking the RIGHT questions.

'The War on Truth' will appeal to anyone - whether you know nothing about the so called 'truth movement' or a die hard conspiracy theorist. It lays all out for you, fact by fact....all you have to do is sit back, read and then draw your own conclusion. But do read first before snubbing this book - and then come back and either write praise for it or a critique - but criticize its contents, try refuting what's documented within its pages, not what you think Ahmed should have written and included in it. (If that's the case then truthsayer / ontopicks write your own book).

This books needs to be pushed to the forefront of mainstream; more people need to read it and discuss it - even if they hate it.

Ahmed has done us a great service - and outdone himself yet again - with this brilliant sequel to The War on Freedom, his 3rd book. This book isn't about resolving theories of MIHOP or LIHOP, which is of course a fairly banal issue of internal interest to the 9/11 truth movement rather than the uninformed patriotic public unaware of 9/11 as "the big lie". It's an unprecedented, courageous confrontation with the entire political history of international terrorism in the post-Cold War period.

Ahmed doesn't repeat unnecessarily the writings of other authors who've written on 9/11. This is because The War on Truth is a work of original research, and isn't actually derivative of those other authors in any sense. Also, Ahmed's expertise - the realm of political science and international relations - leads him to focus on exactly that. Physical theories are simply not the remit of his actual thesis, which is a political thesis about, to paraphrase him, the symbiotic ties between Western power and international terrorism. To be frank, Ahmed's work consistently outclasses every other 9/11 author for its sheer detail, meticulousness and wealth of documentation.

The War on Truth is based on more than 1,000 sources - largely mainstream news accounts, official documents, critical analysis of the official inquiries, and occasionally the critical use of the findings of some other researchers. To say that it's based on "left-gatekeepers" is simply disingenuous. This book is based on such an abundance of rich and credible sources, it's almost impossible to keep track except for Ahmed's superb, lucid narrative.

The overall result is a powerful and sophisticated argument that contributes new knowledge not only to the 9/11 truth movement, but to political science in general. Ahmed completely eclipses Tarpley and others with a detailed examination of the systematic linkages between western military intelligence services, regional intelligence services, and al qaeda networks, across several different continents. For instance, he does detailed case studies of al qaeda activities in algeria, chechnya and the philippines - and finds that the respective al qaeda terrorist networks are fundamentally subverted and coopted by local state intelligence services backed by the west! he extends the analysis to Madrid: and finds that the al qaeda perpetrators of the Madrid bombings were double agents working as informants for the Spanish government! So he goes much further than Tarpley in his analysis, and far deeper.

And he ties it all together with a fascinating overview of how al qaeda DOES exist, was created by the western powers, but ultimately manipulated and coopted by them not only during the Cold War but well after the end of the Soviet Union until today in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, the Middle East (yes, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), etc. Most disturbingly he demonstrates beyond doubt that these policies inevitably and directly produced anti-western terrorist attacks, with the full awareness of western government elements maintaining these 'ties with the devil',as Ahmed ironically describes them. And his focus is not only Bush, but Clinton. Not only the USA, but Europe and Britain.

As for his discussion of the hijackers - I've never read such a detailed and well documented account of the odd liaisons between the US military intelligence services and the alleged 9/11 hijackers. Ahmed doesn't bother going round in circles wondering whether or not the hijackers existed, or were actually on the plane, or not - he simply presents report after report showing that these guys were monitored round-the-clock by the CIA and FBI both before and after their entry into our country, were trained by the US military, and were steeped in completely anti islamic practices like alcohol, cocaine, and lap dancing. And he clearly suggests, at one point, that these guys were probably double agents, although with characteristic and welcome caution, he doesn't labour the point and again leaves it to us to make up our own minds.

This is ultimately the real value of Ahmed's work. By sticking to simply laying out fact after fact in such intricate detail, he offers us a powerful antidote to the prevailing myth that can be given to anybody, whatever the political standpoint. Whether you're into MIHOP, LIHOP, or know nothing at all about the problems with the 9/11 official story, you need to read this book, urgently. It gives us the big, "geopolitical" picture of international terrorism and al qaeda as products of a worldwide system of western power, "symbiotically conjoined" to the "arteries" of that power, to paraphrase Ahmed again. So buy it, read it, get your friends and family to read it, and send copies to your representatives. This is probably the most important book you'll ever read.

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Rising Elephant

Postby Sri Kumar » 03 Aug 2005 07:42

Recently read this book by an author: Ashutosh Sheshabalaya titled:
The Rising Elephant: The Growing Clash with India Over White Collar Jobs and Its Challenge to America and the World; Common Courage Press, 2004

While much of the book is about the transfer of white collar jobs to India from the West, the author makes some interesting points about India and Indian accomplishments (in many fields) being consistently under-rated in the western press and society. For a full review, here is one of several sites (Yale GLobal Online Magazine)

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Postby svinayak » 04 Aug 2005 08:51

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Paperback)
by Robert Spencer

From the outset this proves to be very much the case as the reader is taken into a courageous investigation of Islam.

Replete with references as well as quotations and examples direct from former practising, learned Muslims, the claims that Islam is a "peaceful" and "tolerant" religion are examined in considerable depth for a book of this nature.

Many quotes are provided which reveal fundamental differences between the statements made by Jesus Christ and Muhammed. This is done with the declared intent of providing the reader with an opportunity to visualise what is cited as the "fallacy" of those who claim that Islam and Christianity are basically "equal" in their ability to inspire good or evil.

Furthermore, these quotes are provided for the reader to understand that a "distinction" can be drawn between what are described as the "core principles" that guide faithful Muslims and Christians.

Beginning with an examination of the life and character of Muhammed himself, the study proceeds to discuss a plethora of other subjects including the alleged Islamic "oppression" of women, historical revisionism, the Crusades, the purported "dangers" of criticising Islam, "Islamophobia" and "Jihad".

The reader is provided, in no uncertain terms, with a visualisation of what allegedly faces the US, Europe, the West & indeed the International arena, should we fail to come to terms with the consequences of what is described as the "real" message and implications of Islam, which are purportedly being denied the public by the powers that be.

One former Muslim is quoted as saying that the theory and practice of Jihad was "....not concocted in the was taken from the Koran, the Hadith and Islamic tradition...".

This statement is then elaborated and clarified by stating that it is the "divinely ordained duty" of Muslims to fight in the literal sense until man-made law has been "replaced by God's law". (The latter being described as Sharia and Islamic law).

Further to the subjects already mentioned, the book analyses a series of issues which many readers will find disturbing, such as the investigation of the much-publicised promise of "virgins" in Paradise to Islamic martyrs.

Many concerns are echoed towards the end of this work, including a call for what is described as "responsible reporting" from the media and honesty from law enforcement officials about jihadist attacks in the US. This is made whilst still recognising the need to confront an official fear pertaining to vigilantes who would victimise innocent Muslims should certain information be publicised.

Concern is also expressed with reference to the post September 11th statement by US President Bush who warned the world that " are either with the terrorists or you're with us...". The book alleging an official refusal to acknowledge who the terrorists really are and what they are fighting for that has subsequently seen the US administration still counting as friends and allies, many states where jihadist activities are extensive.

Many will perceive this book and it's message to be highly contentious and perhaps even offensive, but I feel that it is required reading at this time, irrespective of the reader's personal views. Thank you.

I served as a Foreign Service Officer in a Middle Eastern country where I witnessed black African slaves in Arab households in 1978. I am also familiar with the history of the forcible domination of Middle Eastern and North African Christian and Jewish societies by Islamic hoards launched by the Mohammed himself, the 800 year Islamic domination of Spain , the brutal Islamic domination of Orthodox Christian societies in Greece and the Balkans until less than 100 years ago and the despicable treatment of non-Muslims in every Islamic-majority country down to the present.

So what? Well... I am constantly and increasingly amazed and dismayed how many friends and acquaintances, many with postgraduate educations, have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what Islamic societies are actually like (subjugation of women, honor killings, etc.) or that any of the events I describe above actually occurred. Just a week ago an intelligent, educated friend who often visits Europe said words to the effect, "Yes, yes, Islamic terror is awful but didn't we start it all with the Crusades?" I was appalled he had no awareness that the Crusades were a much-too-late response to Muslims overrunning the Holy Land 500 years earlier or anything about the historic Islamic quest for world dominance at the expense of all other belief and social systems.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) is a useful "second opinion" about to Islamic dogma, thought, tradition and history for those have only heard the version presented by PBS, the BBC and various Islamic apologists. It will enlighten any non-Muslim who wants to understand what Jihad is all about. While arguably superficial by necessity because Spencer covers so much ground in a relatively small space, it provides enough information for most people. This book can also serve as an introduction for those inclined toward deeper study of religious, historical and comparative social analysis books that treat Islamic topics more comprehensively.

Bravo! Robert Spencer has done Christian Civilization a great service by identifying our next Demonic Enemy. Despite the suspicious timing of the demise of one Demonic Enemy (Soviet Communism) and its replacement by Islam as the next Demonic Enemy, both with identical doctrines of World Domination, we can do nothing but welcome Spencer's concept with joy. Christian warriors need a Demonic Enemy to fight -- without one we lack a sense of purpose!

The plan is clear. They're demonic, we can give no quarter. The bombing begins immediately -- we start nuking the Islamic parts of the world off the map, one by one. Sure "it won't be tidy" as our SecDef Donald Rumsfeld the Great constantly reminds us, but it will be worth it. Any qualms that innocents might die in the process should be set aside -- the centuries of scholarly work developing Christian Just War Doctrine can answer all objections. After all, just look at our invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war of aggression, but sanctified by our Fearless Christian Commander In Chief, toughened and steeled by his years of combat duty and piles of medals for bravery as he emulated Our Lord Jesus, who was of course noted for his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, his mastery of numerous weapons, and his incredible personal body count as he led the War Against Demons in his short time on Earth.

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Postby Agnimitra » 05 Aug 2005 22:03


This article deserves to be saved and used whenever Chinese drones start blabbering about how Tibet, etc has been part of China since the Stone Age. Also to be used when our revolutionary comrades start talking about "Western imperialism", "Indian running-dogs", etc.

Book Reviews: China's imperialist and colonist foundations

China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia by Peter Perdue. Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005. Price: US$35, 725 pages.

Taiwan's Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683-1895 by Emma Jinhua Teng. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2004. Price: US$49.50, 370 pages.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, China as a state underwent a great transformation, the consequences of which reverberate to the present day. Through extensive and sometimes protracted military conquest, China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911), effectively altered the special understanding the empire ruled from Beijing by doubling the territory under its command and colonizing the lands of what we know today as China.

The territory directly controlled by the Qing's predecessors, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), only went as far north as Beijing, and the western frontier began at Gansu. Taiwan lay overseas and beyond the fringe. With the rise of the Qing dynasty in the mid-17th century, and its extensive state-building enterprise in the 18th, Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Manchuria and Taiwan came under the jurisdiction of the Chinese empire for the first time in history. Indeed, in less than 200 years the Qing widened their frontiers in a fashion as dramatic, if not more so, than the US. Through literary and scientific works, and state-building institutions, the Qing redefined the entire spatial and ethnic composition of what constituted the Chinese state.

Yet our modern day histories of China either treat the Middle Kingdom as a static socio-political phenomenon of two millennia or fail to address the vast measure of expansion the Qing achieved. Early European Sinologists and the later Harvard crowd have created the image of a 2,000-year stasis of politics and culture that could not for the life of it modernize, and which eventually failed because of the rise and encroachment of the West. Chinese histories have likewise made China out as a great peace-loving nation that fell victim to Western imperialism. In these standard histories, China has always been China, from the Taiwan Strait to the western ridges of the Himalayas.

Such history, however, is akin to writing US history without the mention of westward expansion, or to treating US republicanism as a mere transplanting of the British parliamentary system. A key development in the historical process is missing. Furthermore, this traditional history of China sets it apart from the rest of the world, as a unique and timeless civilization.

In the past decade, China scholars have flexed their creativity to break the chains their academic forefathers have forged, and produced a number of insightful works on the history of China. This new breed of scholars has torn up all that we thought we knew of China's past to reveal a dynamic, evolving, and in many ways modern Chinese state and culture. Works from scholars such as Pamela Crossley and James Hevia showed a state partaking in the formation of nationalism and the subjugation of empire. James Millward's book on Xinjiang, Beyond the Pass (Stanford, 1998), was the first work to look at the incorporation of a non-Han Chinese territory into the Chinese state proper. In these works the specter of Chinese imperialism and colonialism - in the Western sense - becomes clear.

Peter Purdue's new work, China Marches West, and Emma Jinhua Teng's first book, Taiwan's Imagined Geography, take this new trend in China scholarship to the next level in exploration of how the Qing effectively conquered and colonized neighboring regions to make them parts of their empire; parts that are considered integral to China today. As they demonstrate, the Qing conquest of non-Chinese lands through military force, and central rule from a metropolis, are very much the characteristics of an imperial tradition.

The Zunghar state
Key to Perdue's argument in China Marches West - and one of the book's major contributions - is the Zunghar state. In the 15th century, Central Asian nomads had carved out a territory in what we know today as Western China and Mongolia. Over the next two centuries they formed a state called Zungharia, which expanded north into Russia and west to the Pamir Mountains to encompass all of modern day Xinjiang, half of western Mongolia and parts of Siberia. "The Mongols ... created an increasingly state-like apparatus of rule in Central Eurasia, one that grew from a loose tribal confederation to approach the structure of a settled regime". (p 518)

Perdue points out that the Zunghar state was nomadic in its roots and offered the last alternative on the world scene to the settled agriculture society. It is true that it built capital cities, sponsored trade, developed bureaucratic procedures and even promoted agriculture, but the state drew much of its resources from taxes on caravan trade and tribute from its neighbors. Furthermore, in times of drought or hardship, nomads would invade settled areas on the Chinese frontier.

For China's emperors - both in the Ming and Qing - the existence of the Zunghar state, which refused to acknowledge the superiority of the dynasty, threatened not only Chinese territory, but also the majority Han-Chinese metaphysical world order. "If they were allowed to survive they would seriously endanger the nation," Perdue wrote." (p 251)

Thus began the Qing conquest of the west. Military campaigns in the late 17th and early 18th centuries attempted to bring the Zunghars into submission, but truces were broken and rebellions rose. In the 1750s the Qing employed what Perdue calls the "final solution" to the northwest frontier problem. What took place was one of the largest genocidal wars in history, even by today's standards, and the complete extermination of the Zungharian peoples. An estimated 600,000 people were killed and the steppe depopulated.

The Qing set up Xinjiang as a military camp and later employed Mongolian collaborators to govern the region. In the 1760s Han-Chinese civilians began to migrate westward, and by 1781 some 20,000 households were established in Xinjiang. Imperial conquest had succeeded and formal colonization had begun.

The secrets of Qing success
Yet herein lies the puzzle: previous dynasties had for centuries attempted to neutralize the western nomads; how did the Qing not only succeed in neutralizing but completely eliminating them?

Perdue cautions against viewing Qing expansion here as "a linear outgrowth of previous dynasties". Rather, "it represents a sharp break with the strategic aims and military capabilities of the Ming dynasty." (p 507) The Qing had developed the necessary military, economic, and diplomatic institutions not only to wage a successful campaign in the west but to undertake a vast expansionist project that began in the early 17th century and ended in the mid 18th. We must view these institutions and innovations as creations of the Qing, not developments from previous dynasties.

The Qing began as a Manchu tribe {not Han, but Mongol. The Manchu aristocracy always had contempt for the Han} in the northeast. They had organized their society to make war and united all the regional tribes under one banner and then marched on Beijing where the Ming dynasty lay in disarray and crisis in 1644. In possession of the resources of China, the Manchus continued expansion and institutional change. They pushed commercial penetration, agriculture reclamation, revamped transportation networks, mapped the empire, and streamlined the bureaucratic command system. All of these innovations, Perdue argues, allowed the Qing to move their militaries further west then any previous dynasty, and to succeed in battle.

As titillating and provocative as this book is, it is quite unfortunate that the main points become so obscured in a rambling narrative of Chinese history. At 725 pages, China Marches West is like a Charles Dickens novel: intimidating, dense, discursive at times, and full of information or stories that have nothing to do with the main narrative. Half of the book could have been cut out, and a remaining quarter placed in footnotes; Perdue's thesis would be better served. The well-known story of the succession battle for emperor Kangxi's throne, for example, gets rehashed here, though contributes little to our understanding of Qing relations with Zungharia. Or even more turgid, all of part three meanders through military colonies, harvests and currency in the Qing empire. Over 100 pages of tedious statistics and graphs and charts to make what point?

The book reads at times like a collection of neat ideas about China, which the author never takes the time to fully think through. He only teases by dropping the most provocative thesis in the very last sentence of a section or chapter. "[The Qing] conception of space left no room for an autonomous Mongolian state," (p 457) he writes in conclusion to a section on Qing map-making, but never explains why this annuls the possibility of the autonomous Mongolian state. Or the very alluring thesis articulated but not explored that Zungharia represented the last of the alternatives to settled agriculture society.

Indeed, the reader is often at quite a loss of what to make of all this pedantry. Even the narratives of military battles often seem to lead nowhere. Not until chapter 15, the second last chapter of the book - over 500 pages into the thing - does Perdue explain the method of his madness to his readers. Should this chapter have stood at the very front of the text he might have saved his readers much bewilderment and frustration.

Taiwan: From mud ball to green gold
If Perdue's book is Bleakhouse, then Teng's is Heart of Darkness. Concise, clear, direct, poignant. In the opening pages of Taiwan's Imagined Geography Teng tells the reader that the travel writing, pictures and maps on which she basis her analysis mark a transformation in Chinese consciousness over the course of 200 years of a desolate island beyond Chinese territory into an integral part of the Chinese empire. "In examining the process by which Taiwan was incorporated into the imagined geography of the Qing empire, this book helps to explain how an island that was terra incognita for the better part of Chinese history came to be regarded as an integral part of China's sovereign territory." (p 7)

Not until the 17th century does Taiwan make an appearance in the Chinese history books, and then only as an island beyond the seas to which the last of the Ming pretenders fled after a defeat at the hands of the Qing. When they fell to the Qing in 1683, emperor Kangxi wanted nothing to do with the island, and even entertained proposals to depopulate the island and leave it to the snakes and monkeys. Yet in the end, after a year of deliberations, the Qing decided to bring the island under imperial control for much the same reason as they opted to conquer the west: security.

Once this decision was made, Teng argues, "Qing expansion into territory beyond the seas entailed a shift from the established conception of China to a new spatial image of an empire that transgressed the traditional boundaries." (p 3) She shows how the Chinese conception of territorial space changed through cartography and the rise of geography as a precise science. The mapping of territory made it apparent that no longer was the emperor's domain confined to a traditional continental representation, but now stretched overseas.

When Taiwan entered the dynastic map, Teng says, the literature followed. Travel narratives, pictures and more maps arose to acquaint Chinese audiences with the island. These works represented a distant land and different peoples of the frontier to Chinese readers and helped transform this foreign place into a more familiar part of the empire. "Over the course of two centuries of Qing colonial rule, Chinese literati produced a significant corpus of travel accounts, maps and pictures of Taiwan, providing a wealth of knowledge about the once-unknown island and concomitantly transforming its image." (p 27)

By the end of the 19th century, these 200 years of familiarizing the Chinese population with Taiwan had transformed the national consciousness about the island from contempt to inclusion. No longer a "mud ball beyond the seas", Taiwan had become a "land of green gold"; a known and familiar part of the Qing empire.

Teng's concluding chapter, titled "Taiwan as a Lost Part of My China", brings her argument full circle. The writings of Chinese literati in years after the Sino-Japan War of 1895, which forced the secession of Taiwan to Japan, reflect a longing for the beautiful island. Writers of the early 20th century "shedding tears" for this "beautiful land" certainly came a long way from their 17th-century predecessors who held it as but a undesirable island to be discarded.

Nationalist history
Both Taiwan's Imagined Geography and China Marches West have held nothing back to punch holes in the contemporary nationalist myths about China. The People's Republic of China, and the diaspora of Chinese nationalists, claim that all the territory once held under the Qing dynasty make up the absolute totality of the Chinese state. They condemn separatist movements and claim that these lands are an integral part of China.

Neither Taiwan nor Xinjiang are an integral part of China, as these two books show, but rather imperial spoils of the Qing dynasty.

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Postby Manu » 06 Aug 2005 01:51

Pakistan and the Emergence of Islamic Militancy in Afghanistan
Pakistans interaction with Afghanistan was to an extent influenced and fashioned by the historical legacy of pre-1947 Afghan-British Indian relations. This intriguing study explores how the Pakistan Armys involvement with the Afghan Islamists became integrated with the Pakistani elites post-Cold War strategic agenda. The analyses take into account the nature of the Pakistani polity and the foremost role of the Pakistani military in policy formulation.

Particular attention is given to the interrelationship between the changes in the geopolitics of the Southwest and South Asian regions with the security policies of the Pakistani decision-making elite. Security concerns play a pivotal role in Pakistans attempt to create a client state in Afghanistan in order to enhance Pakistans wider economic and political influence in the region.

Continued interest in the region since the events of 9/11 make this volume highly suitable for courses on South Asian studies, international relations and political Islam. It will also attract readers interested in terrorism and contemporary politics of South and West Asia.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship in a historical perspective
Pakistan-Afghanistan ties, 1947-1977
The Zia regime and Afghanistan, 1978-1988
The concluding years of the Cold War and the Afghan conflict
Pakistan and the Islamic State of Afghanistan, 1992-1995
Pakistan and the Taliban, 1996-2001
Appendix A
Appendix B

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Postby JTalreja » 08 Aug 2005 21:03


Will really appreciate if someone knows some good book stores to visit in Mumbai. Also, if any China experts are around then would appreciate a list of books on chinese military, history, political issues.


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Postby kgoan » 11 Sep 2005 11:36

Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam

By Robert Dreyfuss

About the book:
The first complete investigation of America's most dangerous foreign policy miscalculation: sixty years of support for Islamic fundamentalism

Devil's Game is the previously untold account of America's misguided efforts, stretching across six decades, to cultivate the Islamic right in an effort to dominate the economically and strategically vital Middle East. Drawing on archival research and interviews with policy makers and CIA, defense, and foreign-service officials, Robert Dreyfuss argues that America's historic alliance with the Islamic right is greatly to blame for the emergence of Islamist terrorism in the 1990s.

Among the hidden stories of U.S. collusion with radical Islam that Dreyfuss reveals here are President Eisenhower's 1953 Oval Office meeting with a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United States' later secret alliance with that group and their Saudi patrons against Egypt's President Nasser. Dreyfuss meticulously documents the CIA's funding of the Iranian ayatollahs in the coup d-etat that restored Iran's shah to power, the United States' support for Saudi Arabia's efforts to create a worldwide Islamic bloc as an antidote to Arab nationalism, and the longstanding ties between Islamic fundamentalists and the leading banks of the West. With clarity and rigor, Dreyfuss also chronicles how the United States looked the other way when Israel's secret service supported the creation of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and how a secretive clique of American strategists in the 1970s exploited political Islam to conduct a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan -- leading directly to the rise of the Taliban.

Wide-ranging and deeply informed, Devil's Game reveals a history of double-dealing and cynical exploitation that continues to this day -- as in Iraq, where the United States is backing radical Islamists, allied with Iran's clerics, who have surfaced as the dominant force in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. What emerges is a pattern that, far from furthering either democracy or security, ensures a future of blunders and blowbacks.

Robert Dreyfuss, who covers national security for Rolling Stone, has written extensively on Iraq and the war on terrorism for The Nation, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones. A frequent contributor to NPR, MSNBC, CNBC, and many other broadcast outlets, he lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Postby svinayak » 12 Sep 2005 00:10

The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Hardcover)
by Andrew G Bostom, Andrew G. Bostom (Editor)

The politically correct would have it that Islam is a religion of peace, but in this far-ranging collection of Muslim and non-Muslim eyewitness accounts, theological treatises by great Muslim scholars and jurists throughout history and historical surveys of superb historians, Islam has in fact practiced a grisly jihad campaign against non-Muslims from its earliest days, in the hope of satisfying the Prophet Mohammed's end goal---forcing the "one true faith" upon the entire world.

In 759 pages, divided into eight parts, Dr. Andrew Bostom has provided a fantastic compendium of historical surveys; jihad literature; classical Muslim scholarly treatises; historical overviews from important 20th century historians; foldout, color-coded maps; eyewitness accounts of jihad campaigns from the Near East, Asia Minor, Europe and the Indian subcontinent; historical and contemporary accounts of jihad slavery; and Muslim and non-Muslim chronicles and eyewitness accounts of jihad campaigns.

It is hard, after viewing these compelling accounts and histories, to continue to believe that radical Islamists are in fact all that radical. For Islam, at its core, seems to be a faith bent upon the conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims.

In part two, Bostom collects many jihadist teachings in the Qur'an, for example, Qur'an chapter 9, verse 29, "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth even if they are the people of the book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and fell themselves subdued." These teachings fill all of two pages in the text.

But Bostom does not stop there. The third chapter is devoted to classical and modern teachings of Qur'anic commentators on Chapter 9, verse 29. Al-Suyuti (d. 1505 CE), for example, writes "Fight those who don't believe in God nor in the Last Day [Unless they believe in the Prophet God bless him and grant him peace] nor hold what is forbidden that which God and His emissary have forbidden [e.g. Wine] nor embrace the true faith [which is firm and abrogates other faiths, i.e., the Islamic religion] from among [for distinguishing] those who were given the Book [i.e., the Jews and Christians] until they give the head-tax [i.e., the annual taxes imposed on them] (l'an yadinl) humbly submissive, and obedient to Islam's rule."

Also commenting on the Qur'anic chapter 9, verse 29 are al-Zamakshari (d. 1144), al Tabari (d. 923), al-Beidawi (d. 1286), Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) and al-Azhar, al-Muntakhab Fii Tafsir al-Qur'aan al-Kariim, 1985. Let no one say that Bostom has taken these teachings out of context, for the classical and contemporary commentators interpret the passage in precisely the same way as it appears.

Chapter 4 is then devoted to jihad in the Hadith, with commentary from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

Part 3 presents the classical writings of Muslim theologians and jurists on jihad. This 110-page section spans the entire history of Islam, beginning with commentators from the 8th century and continuing through the 20th century. Bostom has gleaned writings of Malik B. Anas (d. 795) from the Muwata, as well as a 1915 Ottoman Fatwa.

He also includes several works translated into English for the first time. For example, Ibn Qudama (d. 1223), writes, "Legal war (jihad) is an obligatory social duty (fard-kifaya); when one group of Muslims guarantees that it is being carried out in a satisfactory manner, the others are exempted." Almost everywhere in this text, the author is belligerent. "It is permitted to surprise the infidels under cover of night, to bombard them with mangonels [an engine that hurls missiles] and to attack them without declaring battle (du'a)."

Similarly, the renowned Sufi master al-Ghazali (d. 1111) writes (now in English for the first time), "One must go on jihad (i.e. Warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year... one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and drown them." The marriages of slaves, al-Ghazali continues, are automatically "revoked. One may cut down their trees.... One must destroy their useless books." This belies the notion that Sufism is peaceful.

Al-Hilli (d. 1277) appears for the first time in English on the traditions concerning the tax on certain infidels, who have not been enslaved or murdered. And the Persian scholar Muhammad al-Amili (d. 1621) has been translated from Farsi concerning Jihad holy war: "Islamic holy war against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax."

The 117-page Part 4 includes overviews of Jihad by important 20th century scholars, including Edmond Fagnan, on jihad according to the Malikite school, Roger Arnaldez on the holy war according to Ibn Hazm of Cordova, Clement Huart on the law of war, Nicolas P. Agnides, on the classification of persons under Islamic law and John Ralph Willis on the jihad ideology of enslavement.

As Ibn Warraq notes in the forward to this monumental study of Islamic jurisprudence and prosecution of war, Dr. Bostom (a non-specialist from the field of clinical medicine) is the first scholar to have had translated from Arabic into English the works of al-Bayadawi, al-Suyuti, al-Zamakhshari and al-Tabari, as well as works by Sufi master al-Ghazali, Shiites al-Hilli and al-Amili. He also includes representatives from the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence-Averroes and Ibn Khaldun (Maliki), Ibn Taymiya and Ibn Qudama (Hanbali), Shaybani (Hanafi), and al-Mawardi (Shaafi).

Ibn Warraq continues: Some contend that Dr. Bostom is right to expose history hitherto denied, but this was not the right historical moment to do so. But, as Isaiah Berlin once noted, from the ideologue's willingness to suppress what he suspects to be true has flowed much evil.

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Postby svinayak » 12 Sep 2005 00:39

Christianity And Islam: The Final Clash (Paperback)
by Robert Livingston

Probably the most inflamatory aspect of this book is the title. The rest of the book - although dealing with a very sensitive and controversial subject matter - is done with a commendabley measured and gracious tone. It is clear that this is not your typical sensational end-time, knee-jerk type of book. The author's passion for the field of missions work and his obvious love for Muslims tends to shine through far more than any desire to be the next Hal Lindsey as is so often seen in this genre. Nonetheless, he may just be the next Hal Lindsey. His research, analysis and conclusions are quite fascinating and rather compelling. The author does not exude any stereotypical American right-wing Evangelical Christian/Patriotic rah-rah-rah triumphalism at all. Indeed, the author is part David Wilkerson, part Middle Easterner, part scholar, part preacher. In these days of Islamic Terror, Robert Livingstone has given us all a lot to very prayerfully chew on. A highly recommended work!

Robert Livingstone is a true forerunner! This book promises to be the first to come in what is THE new emerging End Time paradigm. Discerning teachers and students of Biblical eschatology will all soon be falling in line with Livingstone's perspective. Livingstone brings the rare combination of a seasoned and passionate missionary to Muslims and a clear and accurate understanding of the Biblical template of the Last Days. If you have an interest in Islam or the End times, you will find ample information to satisfy your questions. Among the many strengths of this book is that it is not merely a dry study of End Time events, but is instead a vibrant call to respond with a life of holiness, sacrifice and urgency after the example of the Apostles and the first century Christians. This book will mess you up - in a good way! I have already read it twice. Whenever I find something good, books or music, I like to share it. Buy two and pass one around.

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Postby svinayak » 26 Sep 2005 05:03

Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America: Climate Change, The Rise of China, and Global Terrorism (Hardcover)
by Harm De Blij

H.J. de Blij is one of those rare academics and writers who has never lost focus on real issues and challenges affecting our world. As a veteran and highly skilled geographer he is diligently observant, seeks connections and relationships between issues, and places them into an essential geographic context. This is a book about three major challenges facing the US (and the world)- Climate Change, the Rise of China and Islam . It's a book that (thankfully) challenges the sterile prevailing world view and propaganda peddled by many politicians in the US and elsewhere. It is insightful, honest, extremely thought-provoking and says what needs to be said in carefully analyzed and logical sections. Finally, it is beautifully written and easy to read in a style that is engaging, interesting and rich with facts. Highly recommended. Buy it and I guarantee, you will never quite look at these specific challenges or the world in the same way again. It paints a future that is difficult and uncertain and dark in some respects. But far from hopeless. The question is whether the decision and policy makers will rise to these challenges in an enlightened and serious manner? H. J de Blij lays out the challenges in no uncertain terms - how they will be addressed by the international community and the US in particular, remains to be seen. The stakes are very high indeed.
De Blij, a geography professor and former National Geographic Society editor, seeks to rekindle interest in his discipline with this unfocused survey of the world and its discontents. Struggling to describe his notoriously hard-to-define field, de Blij suggests that geographers "look at things spatially" as opposed to "temporally" or "structurally," the "things" being a grab bag of phenomena, including climate, topography, demographics, national boundaries and the distribution of languages, religions, energy deposits and pipelines. It's an often illuminating perspective, nicely visualized in the book's many splendid maps. Unfortunately, while mapping things spatially is a very useful methodology, it doesn't add up to a coherent analytical framework, and often boils down to simply compiling information about places. As a result, de Blij's discussions of global developments, including European integration, the decline of Russia, Africa's ongoing travails and the three challenges mentioned in the title, amount to extremely well-informed but hardly groundbreaking rehashes of conventional wisdom. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Geography professor de Blij writes from a conviction that not only the American public but also government officials can be dangerously ignorant of basic geography, so to enlighten them he discusses three topics with national security implications. His tour of Islamic radicalism has the most immediate relevance and, buttressed by a profusion of maps, it covers Afghanistan, Iraq, the Islamic "front" in sub-Saharan Africa, and--Paraguay? Learning the significance of that outlier to the geography of Islamic terrorism (as well as its unappeasable aims) typifies many of de Blij's informational surprises, which are arranged clearly and spiced with the author's allusions to his career and travels, including China. His observations of attitudes and changes he's seen there are sober divinations of the cold war potential vis-a-vis China and the U.S. The putative threat of global warming receives de Blij's somewhat contrarian assessment, an outgrowth of his geographic summary of the ice age gripping the earth right now, geologically speaking. Accessible expertise vital for the current-events display. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Postby svinayak » 26 Sep 2005 05:25

The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (Paperback)
by Christopher M. Andrew, Vasill Mitrohhin, Christopher Andrew, Vasili Mitrokhin

In early 1992, a Russian man walked into the British embassy in a newly independent Baltic republic and asked to "speak to someone in authority." As he sipped his first cup of proper English tea, he handed over a small file of notes. Eight months later, the man, his family, and his enormous archive had been safely exfiltrated to Britain. When news that a KGB officer had defected with the names of hundreds of undercover agents leaked out in 1996, a spokesperson for the SVR (Russia's foreign intelligence service, heir of the KGB) said, "Hundreds of people! That just doesn't happen! Any defector could get the name of one, two, perhaps three agents--but not hundreds!"

Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin worked as chief archivist for the FCD, the foreign-intelligence arm of the KGB. Mitrokhin was responsible for checking and sealing approximately 300,000 files, allowing him unrestricted access to one of the world's most closely guarded archives. He had lost faith in the Soviet system over the years, and was especially disturbed by the KGB's systematic silencing of dissidents at home and abroad. Faced with tough choices--stay silent, resign, or undermine the system from within--Mitrokhin decided to compile a record of the foreign operations of the KGB. Every day for 12 years, he smuggled notes out of the archive. He started by hiding scraps of paper covered with miniscule handwriting in his shoes, but later wrote notes on ordinary office paper, which he took home in his pockets. He hid the notes under his mattress, and on weekends took them to his dacha, where he typed them and hid them in containers buried under the floor. When he escaped to Britain, his archive contained tens of thousands of pages of notes.

In 1995, Mitrokhin, by then a British citizen, contacted Christopher Andrew (For the President's Eyes Only), head of the faculty of history at Cambridge University and one of the world's foremost historians of international intelligence. Andrew was allowed to examine the archive Mitrokhin created "to ensure that the truth was not forgotten, that posterity might some day come to know of it." The Sword and the Shield is the earthshaking result. The book details the KGB's foreign-intelligence operations, most notably those aimed at Great Britain and the "Main Adversary"--the United States. In the 700-page book, Andrew reveals operations aimed at discrediting high-profile Americans, from Martin Luther King to Ronald Reagan; secret arms caches still hidden--and boobytrapped--throughout the West; disinformation efforts, including forging a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald in an attempt to implicate the CIA in the assassination of JFK; attempts to stir up racial tensions in the U.S. by sending hate mail and even bombs; and the existence of deep-cover agents in North America and Europe--some of whom were effectively "outed" when the book was published.

Mitrokhin's detailed notes are well served by Andrew, who writes forcefully and clearly. The Sword and the Shield represents a remarkable intelligence coup--one that will have serious repercussions for years to come. As Andrew notes, "No one who spied for the Soviet Union at any period between the October Revolution and the eve of the Gorbachev era can now be confident that his or her secrets are still secure." --Sunny Delaney--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The New York Times Book Review, Joseph E. Persico
...a sweeping, densely documented history of the K.G.B. and its predecessor incarnations.... The overall impact of this volume is convincing, though none of the material will send historians scurrying to rewrite their books.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Postby svinayak » 26 Sep 2005 05:35

Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Hardcover)
by David Aikman

"Jesus in Beijing" is a quick summary of the events, leaders, and movements behind the explosion in Christianity in China over the past few decades. Aikman breaks his book up into several sections devoted to topics such as the Chinese church patriarchs, the slightly less influential but still very important church "uncles," famous Chinese Christian women, the roots of Christianity in China, how Christianity is influencing different artists, musicians, and others contributing to present-day Chinese culture, and most controversially, the debate between the government-approved churches of the Three Self Patriotic Movement and the "underground" house churches.

While Aikman is clearly more favorable to the side of the house churches and their leaders, I do believe he was fair to Bishop Ding, the leader of the government's Three Self Patriotic Movement. While it can be argued that Ding has done much to advance Christian freedom in China, Ding also made statements in the past that go beyond simple respect for Chinese law... statements that were clearly pro-Communist. Ding also at times has professed a theology that is beyond liberal to a point that is simply not Christian. Ultimately, it is somewhat telling that Ding never spent a minute in prison while so many other Christians during Mao's reign, especially church leaders, were being brutally beaten and imprisoned for years at a time.

Aikman sides at the end of the book with Chinese Christians that are critical of far right American groups (including some Christians) that seem only to want to exploit Chinese government abuses (which are indefensible) in order to shut off US contact and trade with China. He supports the Christians who believe that China is making progress, even if it has a long way to go. He clearly believes with these Chinese Christian moderates that the worst thing the US could do would be to intentionally antagonize and isolate the Chinese government. So Aikman does understand that there is a reactionary element running in some Christian groups, both inside and outside of China, but he also realizes that there is something suspicious about Christians that are too comfortable with what is still a totalitarian, often repressive, Chinese government as well.

This book isn't the most exciting read as there are several typos, and Aikman's writing is fairly dry. But he has done his homework, he clearly cares about the people of China, both Christian and non-Christian, and he does a good job here of introducing the key players and laying out the background behind a fascinating movement occuring in a country that could very well dominate the 21st century, for good or bad, as much as America dominated the last century.

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Postby svinayak » 02 Oct 2005 06:48

Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore

(Oxford History of the United States, vol. 11) (Hardcover)

by James T. Patterson

Book Description
James Patterson's Bancroft Prize-winning Grand Expectations, the penultimate volume in the Oxford History of the United States, was hailed by The New York Times as "a spirited, sprawling narrative of American life" and by The Wall Street Journal as "a tour de force." Now, in the final chronological volume of this acclaimed series, Patterson again offers an authoritative and vibrant history of a turbulent period in American life. Restless Giant provides a crisp, concise assessment of the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the election of George W. Bush, in a sweeping narrative that seamlessly weaves together social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments. We meet the era's many memorable figures--most notably, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton--and explore the "culture wars" where liberals and conservatives, including a resurgent Religious Right, appeared to cut the country in two. Indeed, Reagan helped to usher in a widespread conservative revolution, but even as the Right was ascendant politically, it did not succeed in reversing more liberal trends. Patterson describes how, when the Cold War finally ended, Americans faced bewildering new developments around the world and discovered--in Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq--that it was far from easy to direct the outcome of global events. In exploring a wide range of cultural, social, and economic concerns, Patterson shows how the persistence of racial tensions, high divorce rates, alarm over crime, and urban decay all led many writers to portray this era as one of decline. But Restless Giant offers a more positive perspective, arguing that our often unmet expectations caused many of us to view the era negatively, when in fact we were in many ways better off than we thought. By 2000, most Americans lived more comfortably than they had in the 1970s, and though bigotry and discrimination were far from extinct, a powerful rights consciousness insured that these were less pervasive in American life than at any time in the past. With insightful analyses and engaging prose, Restless Giant captures this period of American history in a way that no other book has, illuminating the road that the United States traveled from the dismal days of the mid-1970s through the hotly contested election of 2000.

The Brown University historian seamlessly melds the complexities of politics, economics, society and culture into a vibrant and accessible account of late twentieth century America. Patterson's analyses of standard historical fare, interwoven with nuanced observations on diverse issues such as family life, the personal computer revolution, the media and gay activism give this book its singular dynamism. Picking up where his last volume, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974, left off, Patterson opens with Richard Nixon's resignation and plunges into a detailed discussion of "the nation's number one problem," race. Contemporary commentators viewed racial tensions, along with relaxed sexual mores, agitation for women's rights and burgeoning consumerism as symptomatic of the country's "moral decline," spurring organizations like Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority to advocate "pro-life, pro-family pro-morality, pro-American" views. By the late 1990s, media-exaggerated accounts of these "culture wars," had abated, Patterson says. Pop culture icons from Bill Cosby to Madonna and Jerry Seinfeld also populate these pages, but, predictably, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton tower over all. Patterson credits Reagan with "facilitating" the end of the Cold War, but diplomatically sidesteps whether he or Mikhail Gorbachev deserve the ultimate accolades. Although international conflicts distracted Clinton from the domestic policy-making he preferred, a sexual "tryst" led to his impeachment, threatening the "transcendent position in United States history" he sought. The author also touches on terrorism, beginning with the Iranian hostage crisis and culminating in the American intelligence community's knowledge that, by late 1998, radical Muslim terrorists "were considering... hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into buildings." Rich in period details from the somber to frivolous, this is an invaluable guide to the end of an era.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/
This splendid and readable new book is the latest volume in that ambitious series, "The Oxford History of the United States." It thus has the daunting task of matching the quality of other titles in the series, especially Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause (on the American Revolution) and James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom (on the Civil War).

To reach those lofty standards is all the more difficult because the years covered by Restless Giant are not especially distinguished. James T. Patterson, an emeritus history professor at Brown University, had earlier written Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (thus being the only historian to contribute two volumes to the Oxford series), so the decision was clearly made long ago to regard Richard M. Nixon's resignation in 1974 as the "break point" in the story of American politics and society since World War II. But this leaves Patterson with the rather awkward time frame of 1974 to 2000-01 for his second book, not to mention forcing him to settle for an extremely inelegant subtitle. One wonders whether the planners and editors at Oxford University Press were fully aware of this chronological awkwardness when making their early decisions (is there really a recognized period called "Nixon to Bush 43" as there is for "The Progressive Era" or "The Interwar Years"?)

That said, Patterson has risen magnificently to the task of describing and analyzing this rich and confused period. Of course, to undergraduate freshmen these years are already history (none of my students was alive, for example, when Ronald Reagan was elected president), but to other readers this narrative is all too recognizable -- almost yesterday's news, though delivered with great balance. In fact, the many themes covered here -- such as the heated debates over abortion, the role of the Supreme Court, the Watergate aftershocks, the consumer revolutions, the rise of Latino communities and the economic stagnation of black ones, the coming of the Internet, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Black Hawk Down disaster in Mogadishu -- will occasionally seem all too recent. This reader confesses that he sometimes felt that he was reading, say, the Economist's "Year in Review" and then realized that the events in question had taken place 12 or 15 years ago.

To say that 1974-2001 was a confused period is in no way to criticize Patterson; indeed, perhaps it simply confirms the awkwardness of the beginning and end dates. For there is no clear, defining event that gives framework and sense to these particular years. In large part, that may be why so many Americans have felt upset, bereft and adrift from their traditional political, social and religious moorings, whereas others felt liberated, super-charged and excited by their material prospects or changes in lifestyle. This has been a heady but uneasy quarter-century, a bit like the 1890s or the 1920s in some ways, and it is extraordinarily difficult for even the smartest commentator to guess which way the tides are flowing. Patterson certainly gives it a great shot.

I particularly admired two aspects to this book. First, Restless Giant is extraordinarily sharp in its repeated references to and use of American popular culture -- be it the movies of the time or the better known television series -- as key indicators of shifts in lifestyles, tastes and, ultimately, political preferences. And surely the author's policy is right; it is hard to think of a previous society in which broad-based popular culture (or, as T.S. Eliot would put it, "low culture") has been so integrated with national politics and change. The Beatles or Bruce Springsteen were not "just" rock groups, and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities and Michael Crichton's Rising Sun were not "just" novels for the beach.

Second, although Patterson does not claim this to be a chief thrust of his book, he is excellent in his coverage of the rise of the ultra-conservative right, especially the role of the Moral Majority. For all the signs of "confusion" above, therefore, one political trend emerges rather clearly from this 25-year-long tale: the increasing clout of the cultural-religious and political right. And who knows -- it may still not have reached its zenith. This thought, disturbing to many American liberals, does not seem to excite Patterson, whose approach is one of, "I neither approve nor disapprove; I tell the tale."

The chief deficiency of this work is, ironically, the consequence of its strong focus upon the domestic scene. True, Patterson ends with some rueful retrospective comments on the increasing evidence of foreign threats to U.S. security (especially al Qaeda) by the turn of the century, and he has a fine chapter on "America and the World in the 1980s." But because his heart and mind are focused upon our rich domestic scene, he gives little space to the question of how the world outside the "Restless Giant" has been quickly tilting over the past decades, and not necessarily in the Giant's favor. Such considerations need not have added much to an already ambitious book, and this reviewer, at least, would have welcomed Patterson's thoughts on whether the powerful but haphazard nation that has moved from the Age of Nixon to the Age of Bush II may or may not be enjoying a calm before some very severe storms.

For it is not just that al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups are out there, waiting to hurt America and Americans in all the frightening ways that the Bush administration stresses so much. The past 25 years have also witnessed colossal swings in the global balances of power, especially in the rise of Asia. There have been disturbing changes in our environment, to which we have given inadequate attention. There has been significant proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which could ultimately wind up in jihadist hands. There has been a serious overstretch of the American military, especially in Asia and the Middle East, despite colossal Pentagon budgets. There have been major shifts in the place of the U.S. economy in the world, together with America's increasing financial vulnerability. And the Number One Power has become incredibly unpopular in many parts of the world, to a degree that would have amazed such internationally admired presidents as Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

These, too, are part of the complex story of how the world's Giant performed in the final quarter of the 20th century. Patterson's account is, for all the reasons mentioned above, a bold attempt to place some order upon the many domestic turbulences of the age. Still, one cannot help but wonder whether the scholar who covers the history of America during the years 2000 to 2025 may not have a very different story to tell, a story in which people will increasingly look back with nostalgia and some regrets to the Nixon to Bush II years -- years that were exciting, controversial and divisive, to be sure, but also years in which American politicians and voters avoided hard choices, saw the rest of the world through narrow blinders and frittered away their patrimony. Patterson is perhaps too sober and wily to engage in crystal-ball gazing; but because he speaks and writes with such authority upon the entire sweep of American history since the defeat of Germany and Japan, some final thoughts upon those terrible five decades, plus some canny reflections upon where we are now, would have been a grand way to conclude an excellent book.

Reviewed by Paul Kennedy
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.


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Postby svinayak » 22 Oct 2005 01:27

The Great Theft : Wrestling Islam from the Extremists (Hardcover)
by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl

From Publishers Weekly
El Fadl, professor of Islamic law at UCLA and Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is the academic voice of the world's majority-moderate Muslims. His strong credentials and thoughtful approach set him apart from his peers. Here, he successfully argues that the extremist sects of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, blatantly defy the true values of Islam. He clarifies that Wahhabism was once an unpopular, fringe, cultlike movement, which only grew through a chance partnership with the Saudi Arabian ruling family. The discovery of oil created an unprecedented infusion of petro-dollars into the fledgling, conservative belief system. The point of the book, El Fadl writes, is to define "the reality of Muslim thought as it currently exists." He focuses on the extremists' "puritan" view, exposing the hypocrisies and inconsistencies inherent in their "imagined Islam." He doesn't offer specific solutions, but he raises the issues carefully and well. Though the writing can be dry and portions read like a law school lecture, overall El Fadl's book is a fulfilling read for moderate Muslims concerned about conservative leadership and any non-Muslims who want to inform themselves about the extremists' misuse of Islam. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description

Despite President George W. Bush's assurances that Islam is a peaceful religion and that all good Muslims hunger for democracy, confusion persists and far too many Westerners remain convinced that Muslims and terrorists are synonymous. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the recent bombings in London, an unprecedented amount of attention has been directed toward Islam and the Muslim world. Yet, even with this increased scrutiny, most of the public discourse regarding Islam revolves around the actions of extremist factions such as the Wahhabis and al-Qa'ida. But what of the Islam we don't hear about?

As the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam is deemed by more than a billion Muslims to be a source of serenity and spiritual peace, and a touchstone for moral and ethical guidance. While extremists have an impact upon the religion that is wildly disproportionate to their numbers, moderates constitute the majority of Muslims worldwide. It is this rift between the quiet voice of the moderates and the deafening statements of the extremists that threatens the future of the faith.

In The Great Theft, Khaled Abou El Fadl, one of the world's preeminent Islamic scholars, argues that Islam is currently passing through a transformative period no less dramatic than the movements that swept through Europe during the Reformation. At this critical juncture there are two completely opposed worldviews within Islam competing to define this great world religion. The stakes have never been higher, and the future of the Muslim world hangs in the balance.

Drawing on the rich tradition of Islamic history and law, The Great Theft is an impassioned defense of Islam against the encroaching power of the extremists. As an accomplished Islamic jurist, Abou El Fadl roots his arguments in long-standing historical legal debates and delineates point by point the beliefs and practices of moderate Muslims, distinguishing these tenets from the corrupting influences of the extremists. From the role of women in Islam to the nature of jihad, from democracy and human rights to terrorism and warfare, Abou El Fadl builds a vital vision for a moderate Islam. At long last, the great majority of Muslims who oppose extremism have a desperately needed voice to help reclaim Islam's great moral tradition.

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Postby Aruni » 23 Oct 2005 23:19

What did you guys make of The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen? I recommend a read, whether you agree or disagree with him.

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Postby svinayak » 25 Oct 2005 04:17

The Scorpion's Gate (Hardcover)
by Richard A. Clarke

It's 2010, and the newly established Republic of Islamyah;the former Saudi Arabia;is trying to destabilize Bahrain: the Diplomat Hotel has been bombed, and, as the first chapter of this intense debut thriller closes, the Crowne Plaza is "pancaking." Meanwhile, the deposed House of Saud is holed up in Houston; the Chinese are providing arms and training to Islamyah; the Iranians have the bomb. Secretary of Defense Henry Conrad thinks the time is ripe to invade Islamyah and seize its oil, for which the U.S. is locked in deadly competition with China. Cooler heads in the U.S. (and British) hierarchies are very, very alarmed. Sound familiar? Clarke's Against All Enemies delivered an apostate critique of the Bush administration's counterterrorism efforts, along with a vision of the future very much like today. The writing's nothing special; what is special is Clarke's passionate and deftly detailed version of the present, albeit one told in terms of its consequences. It's a brilliant conceit, and though it's sometimes drowned out by the din of various axes being ground ("It''s 68 degrees [in Washington]on January 28 and the White House still claims that global warming isn't a problem?"), the story is crowded with terrific double crosses, defections and deceptions. They're icing, though: Clarke's dramatic micro explanations of how things "really" work;from a hand who served Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes;are the true story. This is the first novel to shift all the way from Clancy's Cold War to the present war on terror.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
In the Reagan administration, Clarke was the deputy assistant to the secretary of state for intelligence and served as the assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs in the first Bush administration. He served for eight years as a special assistant to President Clinton and served as national coordinator of security and counter-terrorism for Clinton and for President George W. Bush. With that experience and probably counting on name recognition, Clarke has written his first novel, a geopolitical tale set five years into the future. It deals with a coup that overthrows a number of Saudi Arabian sheiks, the frantic need to procure oil, and the threat of nuclear war by both the U.S and countries in the Middle East. The large cast of characters includes members of British intelligence, the U.S. National Security Agency, the Secret Service, Navy SEALs, and Iranian Revolutionary Guards--an equal number of good guys and bad guys. With a large print-run planned, the publisher is expecting big sales; and librarians can expect high demand. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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