“There are no ticker tape parades for diplomats,” a State Department official once said. This book gives them the...

THE AMBASSADORS

AMERICA'S DIPLOMATS ON THE FRONT LINES

An intriguing look at U.S. diplomats in the greater Middle East.

On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamist militants killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in raids on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. Those horrific attacks were only two of more than 400 “significant” attacks on “U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel” since 2001. In his first book, Richter, a former Los Angeles Times reporter in the Washington, D.C., bureau, profiles four diplomats—Stevens, Ryan C. Crocker (ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011-2012), Robert S. Ford (ambassador to Syria, 2010-2014), and Anne W. Patterson (ambassador to Egypt, 2011-2013)—who chose to serve in some of the most dangerous locales of the immediate post–9/11 years. The author, whose reporting has taken him to more than 60 countries, effectively relates the admirable, often inspiring efforts of the four diplomats who did their best in the most trying circumstances; they were indeed “the best people for the worst places.” Richter shows Crocker using a sleeping bag in his Kabul office, Ford traversing the deadly streets of Najaf, Iraq, without a bodyguard, and an Egyptian magazine calling Patterson “The Ambassador from Hell.” Stevens paid the ultimate price for his service, and Richter’s depiction of his demise is both captivating and heartbreaking. The author slips on occasion. Crocker returned to Washington from a Middle East trip in December 2001, not December 2002, and Iron Maiden’s “2 Minutes to Midnight” is a song, not an album. Elsewhere, the author undermines his argument for a U.S. role in “steady[ing] these countries” when he admits that the nations in question are “weak and failing societies” riddled with corruption, incompetent governance, and ethnic and religious infighting. Still, Richter does a service by showing the diplomats’ accomplishments to readers. He also includes a helpful timeline and a 12-page cast of characters.

“There are no ticker tape parades for diplomats,” a State Department official once said. This book gives them the recognition they deserve.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7241-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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