Book Reviews

  • Bruce Riedel
    Brookings Institution Press, 2019

    A rebellion broke out in Lebanon, and the US intervention that began in July 1958 was fast, designed to avoid alarming tourists and businesses in a city known as the Paris of the Middle East.  Beirut 1958: How America’s Wars in the Middle East Began by Bruce Riedel describes the intervention’s speed and flexibility in the face of surprises. Diplomacy is essential. “In relying on the lens of 1958 to tell the story of US interventions in the Middle East, Riedel demonstrates an uncanny ability to weave together a plethora of disparate political, geographic and demographic factors that define the Middle East,” notes Hassan Siddiq in his review. Riedel worked 30 years for US Central Intelligence Agency and is now senior fellow with the Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution.   

  • Dilip Hiro
    Oxford University Press, 2019

    Saudi Arabia and Iran, locked in a bitter rivalry, seek to influence the Middle East with little reason but their own supremacy. Author Dilip Hiro, based on his own travels and experiences as a journalist, describes a history of troubled relations and power machinations. In her review of Cold War in the Islamic World, Susan Froetschel analyzes the book’s themes. “More than one world leader has warned that enduring search for revenge is a common theme throughout the Middle East,” she writes. “That is why Hiro has no shortage of tales of absolute power used to crush opponents and why no Middle East nation should have a nuclear weapon.”

  • Nadia Murad
    Penguin Random House, 2018
    ISBN: 978-1524760434

    Nadia Murad is courageous and impeturable in detailing her experiences of 2014 in The Last Girl. A Yazidi villager in northern Iraq, aged 21, she witnessed the murder of close family members before being kidnapped by Islamic State militants and escaping three months later. She and other survivors hope to raise global awareness about the plight of Yazidi refugees, bring members of the Islamic State before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, and help survivors of human trafficking to return and rebuild their communities. Murad is the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Peace.

  • Leila Toiviainen
    Melbourne University Press , 2018
    ISBN: 9780522873528

    Gillian Triggs served as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission for five years, vehemently defending the rights of indigenous people, asylum seekers and refugees. Indigenous people represent just over 3 percent of Australia’s population of 24 million, and the number of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country since 1977 represents about 1 percent. Leila Toiviainen reviews Speaking Up by Triggs and points out the book “underscores a contradiction for the world’s developed nations – ongoing disdain for both newcomers as well as the descendants of the original occupants of these wealthy lands.” Though leaders in Australia attacked Triggs for her insistence on protections for vulnerable populations, Triggs remains optimistic for a bill of rights for that country.

  • Chandran Nair
    Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2018
    ISBN: 9781523095148

    Survival of the world’s livable habitat depends on 6 billion people living in developing nations to resist the lifestyles practiced by 1 billion people living in the world’s wealthiest nations. Reckless consumerism has become more threat than comfort, wasting limited resources and poisoning water and air, and government intervention is required. The only solution, author Chandran Nair concludes, is corporations selling less. Susan Froetschel reviews The Sustainable State by Nair and suggests a role reversal is due on leadership: “Developing nations should no longer feel pressured to catch up with advanced nations, and wealthier nations could slow their frenetic pace, becoming more vibrant while learning to live with less.”

  • Hugh Peyman
    World Scientific, 2018

    China’s fast rise from poverty since 1980 with patient ambition and long-term strategic planning may be a well-known story though Hugh Peyman, investment researcher based in Shanghai, offers new perspective with China’s Change: The Greatest Show on Earth. “Peyman argues that China’s success is not about ideology, doctrine or politics, but about process, knowing how to set goals and conceive ideas in a practical way,” explains journalist Humphrey Hawksley in his review. “He paints a picture of a Western democratic system that has lost its way, held back by short-term thinking and conditioned by the electoral cycle.” China’s one-party rule may allow more debate on managing change than many assume and certainly more long-term planning, and Peyman maintains that the West could learn from China’s processes. The book does not detail the consolidation of power by Xi Jinping.   

  • Humphrey Hawksley
    The Overlook Press, 2018

    China ranks 11th among countries with the most coastline, well after Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines and Japan. Supported by the US-led international security and trade rules, China has steadily risen to become Asia’s largest economy and home to the continent’s most powerful navy. “Embedded in China’s thinking is securing itself against foreign intervention,” explains BBC foreign correspondent and longtime YaleGlobal contributor Humphrey Hawksley in Asian Waters. Only the United States could take China on. Hawksley  describes conflicts throughout the Asia Pacific region, explaining how China plots long-term strategies while US policies shift  abruptly under disparate leaders. In her review, Susan Froetschel warns that over-reach could treacherous for any nation hoping to dominate Asia Pacific waters.

  • Michael Wolff
    Henry Holt and Company, 2018

    Michael Wolff insists he had no agenda in writing Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. In interviews, he claims the wish to write that “this unexpected president is actually going to succeed,” before adding “This is worse than everybody thought.” Susan Froetschel reviews the book that focuses on battles between two White House factions and the global implications, especially since the departure of strategist Steve Bannon. The book is a cautionary tale for the world about relying on the Trump administration or the judgment of the American people.

  • Francis Wade
    Asian Arguments, 2017

    Muslim and Buddhist people lived side by side in Southeast Asia for centuries. But the political changes in Burma associated with colonization followed by dictatorship, then gradual reopening of the country renamed Myanmar with the introduction of democracy, have fueled resentment. Neighbors turned on neighbors, with Muslims marginalized and denied citizenship. UN spokespeople have called the plight of the Rohingya people the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.” Journalist Francis Wade explores the history of this ethnic conflict. Reviewer David Dapice, economist of the Vietnam and Myanmar Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, concludes that Myanmar cannot hope to achieve stability or peace without subduing the hatred.

  • Gareth Evans
    Melbourne University Press, 2017

    Gareth Evans’ extensive career has spanned law, politics, education and human rights. A member of the Australian Parliament for 21 years, he also served as foreign minister with influential roles in developing the UN peace plan for Cambodia, the international Chemical Weapons Convention, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. His memoir, relying on a thematic rather than chronological approach, reflects an inspiring life, one committed to striving for a better world. “The red thread running through the book is his deep concern about creating a safe, just and equitable world,” explains Nayan Chanda, founding editor of YaleGlobal Online in his review for Global Asia. “Concerns such as these, and his belief that the world can be made a better place, reveals the ‘incorrigible optimism’ that has driven him to undertake what often could appear as a fool’s errand.”