Much food for thought for policymakers, if with a disagreeably Machiavellian tang.

HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A DESPOT

AN ALTERNATIVE FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

The American project to spread democracy is a failure—and so it’s time for some realpolitik instead.

Krasner (International Relations/Stanford Univ.; Power, the State, and Sovereignty: Essays on International Relations, 2009, etc.) offers the rather dispiriting observation that popular self-governance is not part of the natural order and that because “despotism is much more likely than consolidated democracy,” it makes good sense to adjust foreign policy goals to recognize that we’re likely to be dealing with tyrants wherever we turn. Certainly, this has been the case with the current presidential administration, which would seem to have despotic tendencies itself. Elites hold power, and they will do what they can to maintain it, which means that injecting power-sharing values into any discussion of political reforms in exchange for foreign aid is likely to be a nonstarter. Krasner serves up numerous examples from Afghanistan, a failed state into which America has poured buckets of blood and dollars. Attempted institutional reforms, such as tying aid to educating women to become voting, equal citizens, have largely been rejected. Just so, Krasner notes, civil rights standards that give equality to LGBTQ citizens are also likely to be rejected by many societies around the world. Our demand for “good governance,” which would establish such things as inalienable rights, is too often overlooked or subverted, which means that we need to lower our expectations to what the author calls “good enough governance.” This is better than poor governance, he argues, which is responsible for numerous ills that affect the developed world—e.g., setting in motion armies of refugees and migrants and increasing the chances that “some new communicable disease will not be detected at an early stage.” Krasner often resorts to professional jargon (“path-dependent,” “open access order,” “clientelism,” “prebendalism,” and the like), and his argument is both accessible and open to criticism since it goes against—or used to, anyway—the American grain to cozy up to monsters.

Much food for thought for policymakers, if with a disagreeably Machiavellian tang.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-659-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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