A difficult but important read.
A former U.S. diplomat offers an insider account of his time on the National Security Council during the first presidential term of Bill Clinton, when officials were trying to determine what to do about the genocidal war within the former Yugoslavia.
Those officials debated whether the U.S. should do nothing, intervene alone, or build a coalition with European countries. Scheffer (Law/Northwestern Univ.; All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, 2011), who also served as America’s first Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, sided with Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who leaned toward immediate, decisive military intervention to halt the deaths of civilians and the genocidal aspects of the fighting involving the unstable, Balkanized nations of Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, Scheffer and Albright could not go through with the intervention without the consensus of dozens more individuals representing numerous federal agencies. The book’s cast of characters, listed at the beginning of the book, includes more than 80 individuals, making the chronological three-year narrative difficult to track for casual readers for whom most of the names will be unfamiliar. The other main character in the narrative is the Situation Room of the White House, a space described by Scheffer in great detail. “I always felt I was entering the most important room in Washington, indeed sometimes the world, when I walked through the Sit Room door,” writes the author, who portrays most of the government officials as deeply concerned about loss of life and regional instability. But he notes that morality did not always take a front seat due to concerns about the budget, the re-election of Clinton, and the opinions of overseas allies and antagonists. Scheffer felt compelled to recount the give-and-take of his time in the Sit Room as a result of the brutal genocide in Syria. In the epilogue, the author worries that Donald Trump’s foreign policy will lead to awful consequences for the U.S. and the world.A difficult but important read.
Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018
Page Count: 360
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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