Saturday, February 28, 2009

"What Comes Naturally"

New from Oxford University Press: What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America by Peggy Pascoe.

About the book, from the publisher:
A long-awaited history that promises to dramatically change our understanding of race in America, What Comes Naturally traces the origins, spread, and demise of miscegenation laws in the United States--laws that banned interracial marriage and sex, most often between whites and members of other races. Peggy Pascoe demonstrates how these laws were enacted and applied not just in the South but throughout most of the country, in the West, the North, and the Midwest. Beginning in the Reconstruction era, when the term miscegenation first was coined, she traces the creation of a racial hierarchy that bolstered white supremacy and banned the marriage of Whites to Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and American Indians as well as the marriage of Whites to Blacks. She ends not simply with the landmark 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court finally struck down miscegenation laws throughout the country, but looks at the implications of ideas of colorblindness that replaced them. What Comes Naturally is both accessible to the general reader and informative to the specialist, a rare feat for an original work of history based on archival research.
The Page 99 Test: What Comes Naturally.

Friday, February 27, 2009

"My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture"

New from Cornell University Press: My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture by Susan D. Blum.

About the book, from the publisher:
“Classroom Cheats Turn to Computers.” “Student Essays on Internet Offer Challenge to Teachers.” “Faking the Grade.” Headlines such as these have been blaring the alarming news of an epidemic of plagiarism and cheating in American colleges: more than 75 percent of students admit to having cheated; 68 percent admit to cutting and pasting material from the Internet without citation.

Professors are reminded almost daily that many of today's college students operate under an entirely new set of assumptions about originality and ethics. Practices that even a decade ago would have been regarded almost universally as academically dishonest are now commonplace. Is this development an indication of dramatic shifts in education and the larger culture? In a book that dismisses hand-wringing in favor of a rich account of how students actually think and act, Susan D. Blum discovers two cultures that exist, often uneasily, side by side in the classroom.

Relying extensively on interviews conducted by students with students, My Word! presents the voices of today's young adults as they muse about their daily activities, their challenges, and the meanings of their college lives. Outcomes-based secondary education, the steeply rising cost of college tuition, and an economic climate in which higher education is valued for its effect on future earnings above all else: These factors each have a role to play in explaining why students might pursue good grades by any means necessary. These incentives have arisen in the same era as easily accessible ways to cheat electronically and with almost intolerable pressures that result in many students being diagnosed as clinically depressed during their transition from childhood to adulthood.

However, Blum suggests, the real problem of academic dishonesty arises primarily from a lack of communication between two distinct cultures within the university setting. On one hand, professors and administrators regard plagiarism as a serious academic crime, an ethical transgression, even a sin against an ethos of individualism and originality. Students, on the other hand, revel in sharing, in multiplicity, in accomplishment at any cost. Although this book is unlikely to reassure readers who hope that increasing rates of plagiarism can be reversed with strongly worded warnings on the first day of class, My Word! opens a dialogue between professors and their students that may lead to true mutual comprehension and serve as the basis for an alignment between student practices and their professors' expectations.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The Strategic President"

New from Princeton University Press: The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership by George C. Edwards III.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do presidents lead? If presidential power is the power to persuade, why is there a lack of evidence of presidential persuasion? George Edwards, one of the leading scholars of the American presidency, skillfully uses this contradiction as a springboard to examine--and ultimately challenge--the dominant paradigm of presidential leadership. The Strategic President contends that presidents cannot create opportunities for change by persuading others to support their policies. Instead, successful presidents facilitate change by recognizing opportunities and fashioning strategies and tactics to exploit them.

Edwards considers three extraordinary presidents--Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan--and shows that despite their considerable rhetorical skills, the public was unresponsive to their appeals for support. To achieve change, these leaders capitalized on existing public opinion. Edwards then explores the prospects for other presidents to do the same to advance their policies. Turning to Congress, he focuses first on the productive legislative periods of FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Reagan, and finds that these presidents recognized especially favorable conditions for passing their agendas and effectively exploited these circumstances while they lasted. Edwards looks at presidents governing in less auspicious circumstances, and reveals that whatever successes these presidents enjoyed also resulted from the interplay of conditions and the presidents' skills at understanding and exploiting them.

The Strategic President revises the common assumptions of presidential scholarship and presents significant lessons for presidents' basic strategies of governance.
The Page 99 Test: The Strategic President.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"States Against Migrants"

New from Cambridge University Press: States Against Migrants: Deportation in Germany and the United States by Antje Ellermann.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this comparative study of the contemporary politics of deportation in Germany and the United States, Antje Ellermann analyzes the capacity of the liberal democratic state to control individuals within its borders. The book grapples with the question of why, in the 1990s, Germany responded to vociferous public demands for stricter immigration control by passing and implementing far-reaching policy reforms, while the United States failed to effectively respond to a comparable public mandate. Drawing on extensive field interviews, Ellermann finds that these crossnational differences reflect institutionally determined variations in socially coercive state capacity. By tracing the politics of deportation across the evolution of the policy cycle, beginning with anti-immigrant populist backlash and ending in the expulsion of migrants by deportation bureaucrats, Ellermann is also able to show that the conditions underlying state capacity systematically vary across policy stages. Whereas the ability to make socially coercive law is contingent on strong institutional linkages between the public and legislators, the capacity for implementation depends on the political insulation of bureaucrats.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"The Politics of Exclusion"

New from Stanford University Press: The Politics of Exclusion: The Failure of Race-Neutral Policies in Urban America by Leland T. Saito.

About the book, from the publisher:
Contrasting views of race and society make for heated debate in the United States. From the perspective of assimilation, society operates in a fair, open, and meritocratic fashion. Racial discrimination, while not completely eliminated, arguably has little impact on people's life chances. In contrast, research examining the social construction of race has emphasized continued discrimination. Race remains embedded in social, political, and economic institutions, contributing to systemic racism. The Politics of Exclusion examines how these debates about race—and the proper role of government in addressing issues of race—shape public policy.

Investigating three case studies, that involve economic redevelopment, historic preservation, and redistricting in San Diego, New York, and Los Angeles, Saito illustrates the enduring presence of racial considerations and inequality in public policy. Individuals and groups who may sincerely characterize themselves as free of racial prejudice still participate, though perhaps unwittingly, in practices that have racialized outcomes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"The Selma of the North"

New from Harvard University Press: The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee by Patrick D. Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between 1958 and 1970, a distinctive movement for racial justice emerged from unique circumstances in Milwaukee. A series of local leaders inspired growing numbers of people to participate in campaigns against employment and housing discrimination, segregated public schools, the membership of public officials in discriminatory organizations, welfare cuts, and police brutality.

The Milwaukee movement culminated in the dramatic—and sometimes violent—1967 open housing campaign. A white Catholic priest, James Groppi, led the NAACP Youth Council and Commandos in a militant struggle that lasted for 200 consecutive nights and provoked the ire of thousands of white residents. After working-class mobs attacked demonstrators, some called Milwaukee “the Selma of the North.” Others believed the housing campaign represented the last stand for a nonviolent, interracial, church-based movement.

Patrick Jones tells a powerful and dramatic story that is important for its insights into civil rights history: the debate over nonviolence and armed self-defense, the meaning of Black Power, the relationship between local and national movements, and the dynamic between southern and northern activism. Jones offers a valuable contribution to movement history in the urban North that also adds a vital piece to the national story.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Iraq"

New from Princeton University Press: Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation by Adeed Dawisha.

About the book, from the publisher:
With each day that passed after the 2003 invasion, the United States seemed to sink deeper in the treacherous quicksand of Iraq's social discord, floundering in the face of deep ethno-sectarian divisions that have impeded the creation of a viable state and the molding of a unified Iraqi identity. Yet as Adeed Dawisha shows in this superb political history, the story of a fragile and socially fractured Iraq did not begin with the invasion--it is as old as Iraq itself.

Dawisha traces the history of the Iraqi state from its inception in 1921 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and up to the present day. He demonstrates how from the very beginning Iraq's ruling elites sought to unify this ethnically diverse and politically explosive society by developing state governance, fostering democratic institutions, and forging a national identity. Dawisha, who was born and raised in Iraq, gives rare insight into this culturally rich but chronically divided nation, drawing on a wealth of Arabic and Western sources to describe the fortunes and calamities of a state that was assembled by the British in the wake of World War I and which today faces what may be the most serious threat to survival that it has ever known.

Iraq is required reading for anyone seeking to make sense of what's going on in Iraq today, and why it has been so difficult to create a viable government there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"The Accidental Guerrilla"

New from Oxford University Press: The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One by David Kilcullen.

About the book, from the publisher:
David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge."

Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh perspective on the War on Terror. Kilcullen takes us "on the ground" to uncover the face of modern warfare, illuminating both the big global war (the "War on Terrorism") and its relation to the associated "small wars" across the globe: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Chechnya, Pakistan and North Africa. Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America's actions in the war on terrorism have tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges. Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls "accidental guerrillas") as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary.

Colored with gripping battlefield experiences that range from the jungles and highlands of Southeast Asia to the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to the dusty towns of the Middle East, The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war. This much anticipated book will be a must read for everyone concerned about the war on terror.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Arab Economies in the Twenty-First Century"

New from Cambridge University Press: Arab Economies in the Twenty-First Century by Paul Rivlin.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book examines the relationship between demographic growth and economic development in eight Arab countries. Despite a slowdown in demographic growth, as a result of the change in the age structure of the population, the labor force is increasing rapidly. In other parts of the world, similar developments have enhanced economic growth. In the Arab world, however, many of the opportunities presented by demographic transition are being lost, resulting in serious threats to the political stability of the region. The main reason for this is that the region has missed out on industrialization. The book goes beyond conventional analysis to ask two closely related questions. The first is, why were governments so slow in tackling stability? The second is, why has the response been similar in apparently different economies? Answers are provided using new literature in economics and economic history.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Aladdin's Lamp"

New from Knopf: Aladdin's Lamp: How Greek Science Came to Europe Through the Islamic World by John Freely.

About the book, from the publisher:
Aladdin’s Lamp is the fascinating story of how ancient Greek philosophy and science began in the sixth century B.C. and, during the next millennium, spread across the Greco-Roman world, producing the remarkable discoveries and theories of Thales, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, Galen, Ptolemy, and many others. John Freely explains how, as the Dark Ages shrouded Europe, scholars in medieval Baghdad translated the works of these Greek thinkers into Arabic, spreading their ideas throughout the Islamic world from Central Asia to Spain, with many Muslim scientists, most notably Avicenna, Alhazen, and Averro√ęs, adding their own interpretations to the philosophy and science they had inherited. Freely goes on to show how, beginning in the twelfth century, these texts by Islamic scholars were then translated from Arabic into Latin, sparking the emergence of modern science at the dawn of the Renaissance, which climaxed in the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.

Here is early science in all its glory, from Pythagorean “celestial harmony” to the sun-centered planetary theory of Copernicus, who, in 1543, aided by the mathematical methods of medieval Arabic astronomers, revived a concept proposed by the Greek astronomer Aristarchus some eighteen centuries before. When Newton laid the foundations of modern science, building on the work of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and others, he said that he was “standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants,” referring to his predecessors in ancient Greece and in the Arabic and Latin worlds from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance.

Caliph Harun al-Rashid was one of the Muslim rulers who first promoted translating Greek texts into Arabic. His Baghdad is the setting for The Thousand and One Nights, in which Scheherazades’s “Tale of Aladdin and His Magic Lamp” reflects the marvels of the new science and the amazing inventions it was said to produce. John Freely’s Aladdin’s Lamp returns us to that time and brings to light an essential and long-overlooked chapter in the history of science.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Human Rights Matters"

New from Stanford University Press: Human Rights Matters: Local Politics and National Human Rights Institutions by Julie A. Mertus.

About the book, from the publisher:
Among human rights advocates, dominant wisdom holds that the promotion and protection of human rights relies not on international efforts, but on domestic action. International institutions may capture news headlines, but it is national groups that effectively shape local expectations and ultimately make human rights matter.

Through a series of case studies and an extensive range of interviews with the administrators and constituencies of national human rights institutions, Julie Mertus offers a close look at the day-to-day workings of these groups. She presents an unusual and lively set of European cases—examining Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and Northern Ireland—to illustrate how local culture matters in promoting human rights.

But even with the obvious successes of these institutions, Mertus offers a cautionary tale. National institutions are incredibly difficult to design and operate, and they are only as good as the domestic political and economic factors will allow. It is too frequently seen that the countries most supportive of human rights on the world stage may prove to be highly disappointing back home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"The Philosophers' Quarrel"

New from Yale University Press: The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding by Robert Zaretsky and John T. Scott.

About the book, from the publisher:
The rise and spectacular fall of the friendship between the two great philosophers of the eighteenth century, barely six months after they first met, reverberated on both sides of the Channel. As the relationship between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and David Hume unraveled, a volley of rancorous letters was fired off, then quickly published and devoured by aristocrats, intellectuals, and common readers alike. Everyone took sides in this momentous dispute between the greatest of Enlightenment thinkers.

In this lively and revealing book, Robert Zaretsky and John T. Scott explore the unfolding rift between Rousseau and Hume. The authors are particularly fascinated by the connection between the thinkers’ lives and thought, especially the way that the failure of each to understand the other—and himself—illuminates the limits of human understanding. In addition, they situate the philosophers’ quarrel in the social, political, and intellectual milieu that informed their actions, as well as the actions of the other participants in the dispute, such as James Boswell, Adam Smith, and Voltaire. By examining the conflict through the prism of each philosopher’s contribution to Western thought, Zaretsky and Scott reveal the implications for the two men as individuals and philosophers as well as for the contemporary world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Trivial Complaints"

New from Columbia University Press: "Trivial Complaints": The Role of Privacy in Domestic Violence Law and Activism in the U.S. by Kirsten S. Rambo.

About the book, from the publisher:
"Trivial Complaints" explores the historical relationship between privacy and domestic violence through an analysis of litigation and activism. The state has traditionally hesitated in responding to domestic violence, characterizing it as a "private" family matter. The discourse of privacy incorporates presumptions about race, class, and sexuality, and this volume examines the ramifications of such assumptions for victims and activists.

Kirsten S. Rambo begins with an analysis of courts' and activists' responses to domestic violence during the late nineteenth century and continues through to the late twentieth century, when the modern battered women's movement emerged on the heels of the battle to secure abortion rights. Rambo explores the seemingly contradictory yet often complementary ways in which the discourse of privacy has been shaped by both movements seeking justice for women. She further examines concepts of privacy as applied to same-sex relationships and domestic violence, and ultimately considers alternative models of privacy that are egalitarian and rooted in empowerment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Constructing the Monolith"

New from Harvard University Press: Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950 by Marc J. Selverstone.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the cold war took shape during the late 1940s, policymakers in the United States and Great Britain displayed a marked tendency to regard international communism as a “monolithic” conspiratorial movement. The image of a “communist monolith” distilled the messy realities of international relations into a neat, comprehensible formula. Its lesson was that all communists, regardless of their native land or political program, were essentially tools of the Kremlin.

Marc Selverstone recreates the manner in which the “monolith” emerged as a perpetual framework on both sides of the Atlantic. Though more pervasive and millennial in its American guise, this understanding also informed conceptions of international communism in its close ally Great Britain, casting the Kremlin’s challenge as but one more in a long line of threats to freedom.

This illuminating and important book not only explains the cold war mindset that determined global policy for much of the twentieth century, but reveals how the search to define a foreign threat can shape the ways in which that threat is actually met.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Law's Allure"

New from Cambridge University Press: Law's Allure: How Law Shapes, Constrains, Saves, and Kills Politics by Gordon Silverstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
Judicial and political power are inextricably linked in America, but by the time John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the Supreme Court, that link seemed more important, more significant, and more pervasive than ever before. From war powers to abortion, from tobacco to integration, from the environment to campaign finance, Americans increasingly turn away from the political tools of negotiation, bargaining, and persuasion to embrace what they have come to believe is a more effective, more efficient, and even more just world of formal rules, automated procedures, litigation, and judicial decision-making. Using more than ten controversial policy case studies, Law’s Allure: How Law Shapes, Constrains, Saves, and Kills Politics draws a roadmap to help politicians, litigators, judges, policy advocates, and those who study them understand the motives and incentives that encourage efforts to legalize, formalize, and judicialize the political process and American public policy, as well as the risks and rewards these choices can generate.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Killing Neighbors"

New from Cornell University Press: Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda by Lee Ann Fujii.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the horrific events of the mid-1990s in Rwanda, tens of thousands of Hutu killed their Tutsi friends, neighbors, even family members. That ghastly violence has overshadowed a fact almost as noteworthy: that hundreds of thousands of Hutu killed no one. In a transformative revisiting of the motives behind and specific contexts surrounding the Rwandan genocide, Lee Ann Fujii focuses on individual actions rather than sweeping categories. Fujii argues that ethnic hatred and fear do not satisfactorily explain the mobilization of Rwandans one against another.

Fujii's extensive interviews in Rwandan prisons and two rural communities form the basis for her claim that mass participation in the genocide was not the result of ethnic antagonisms. Rather, the social context of action was critical. Strong group dynamics and established local ties shaped patterns of recruitment for and participation in the genocide. This web of social interactions bound people to power holders and killing groups. People joined and continued to participate in the genocide over time, Fujii shows, because killing in large groups conferred identity on those who acted destructively. The perpetrators of the genocide produced new groups centered on destroying prior bonds by killing kith and kin.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"The Godfather Doctrine"

New from Princeton University Press: The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable by John C. Hulsman & A. Wess Mitchell.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Godfather Doctrine draws clear and essential lessons from perhaps the greatest Hollywood movie ever made to illustrate America's changing geopolitical place in the world and how our country can best meet the momentous strategic challenges it faces.

In the movie The Godfather, Don Corleone, head of New York's most powerful organized-crime family, is shockingly gunned down in broad daylight, leaving his sons Sonny and Michael, along with his adopted son, consigliere Tom Hagen, to chart a new course for the family. In The Godfather Doctrine, John Hulsman and Wess Mitchell show how the aging and wounded don is emblematic of cold-war American power on the decline in a new world where our enemies play by unfamiliar rules, and how the don's heirs uncannily exemplify the three leading schools of American foreign policy today. Tom, the left-of-center liberal institutionalist, thinks the old rules still apply and that negotiation is the answer. Sonny is the Bush-era neocon who shoots first and asks questions later, proving an easy target for his enemies. Only Michael, the realist, has a sure feel for the changing scene, recognizing the need for flexible combinations of soft and hard power to keep the family strong and maintain its influence and security in a dangerous and rapidly changing world.

Based on Hulsman and Mitchell's groundbreaking and widely debated article, "Pax Corleone," The Godfather Doctrine explains for everyone why Francis Ford Coppola's epic story about a Mafia dynasty holds key insights for ensuring America's survival in the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Better Safe Than Sorry"

New from Stanford University Press: Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb by Michael Krepon.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2008, the iconic doomsday clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was set at five minutes to midnight—two minutes closer to Armageddon than in 1962, when John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev went eyeball to eyeball over missiles in Cuba! We still live in an echo chamber of fear, after eight years in which the Bush administration and its harshest critics reinforced each other's worst fears about the Bomb. And yet, there have been no mushroom clouds or acts of nuclear terrorism since the Soviet Union dissolved, let alone since 9/11.

Our worst fears still could be realized at any time, but Michael Krepon argues that the United States has never possessed more tools and capacity to reduce nuclear dangers than it does today - from containment and deterrence to diplomacy, military strength, and arms control. The bloated nuclear arsenals of the Cold War years have been greatly reduced, nuclear weapon testing has almost ended, and all but eight countries have pledged not to acquire the Bomb. Major powers have less use for the Bomb than at any time in the past. Thus, despite wars, crises, and Murphy's Law, the dark shadows cast by nuclear weapons can continue to recede.

Krepon believes that positive trends can continue, even in the face of the twin threats of nuclear terrorism and proliferation that have been exacerbated by the Bush administration's pursuit of a war of choice in Iraq based on false assumptions. Krepon advocates a "back to basics" approach to reducing nuclear dangers, reversing the Bush administration's denigration of diplomacy, deterrence, containment, and arms control. As he sees it, "The United States has stumbled before, but America has also made it through hard times and rebounded. With wisdom, persistence, and luck, another dark passage can be successfully navigated."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Killing in War"

New from Oxford University Press: Killing in War by Jeff McMahan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Killing a person is in general among the most seriously wrongful forms of action, yet most of us accept that it can be permissible to kill people on a large scale in war. Does morality become more permissive in a state of war? Jeff McMahan argues that conditions in war make no difference to what morality permits and that the justifications for killing people are the same in war as they are in other contexts, such as individual self-defence. This view is radically at odds with the traditional theory of the just war and has implications that challenge common sense views. McMahan argues, for example, that in most cases it is morally wrong to fight in a war that is unjust.
The Page 99 Test: Killing in War.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Exiles at Home"

New from Harvard University Press: Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans by Shirley Elizabeth Thompson.

About the book, from the publisher:
New Orleans has always captured our imagination as an exotic city in its racial ambiguity and pursuit of les bons temps. Despite its image as a place apart, the city played a key role in nineteenth-century America as a site for immigration and pluralism, the quest for equality, and the centrality of self-making.

In both the literary imagination and the law, creoles of color navigated life on a shifting color line. As they passed among various racial categories and through different social spaces, they filtered for a national audience the meaning of the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution of 1804, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and de jure segregation.

Shirley Thompson offers a moving study of a world defined by racial and cultural double consciousness. In tracing the experiences of creoles of color, she illuminates the role ordinary Americans played in shaping an understanding of identity and belonging.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Contagion and Chaos"

New from The MIT Press: Contagion and Chaos: Disease, Ecology, and National Security in the Era of Globalization by Andrew T. Price-Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
Historians from Thucydides to William McNeill have pointed to the connections between disease and civil society. Political scientists have investigated the relationship of public health to governance, introducing the concept of health security. In Contagion and Chaos, Andrew Price-Smith offers the most comprehensive examination yet of disease through the lens of national security. Extending the analysis presented in his earlier book The Health of Nations, Price-Smith argues that epidemic disease represents a direct threat to the power of a state, eroding prosperity and destabilizing both its internal politics and its relationships with other states. He contends that the danger of an infectious pathogen to national security depends on lethality, transmissability, fear, and economic damage. Moreover, warfare and ecological change contribute to the spread of disease and act as "disease amplifiers."

Price-Smith presents a series of case studies to illustrate his argument: the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (about which he advances the controversial claim that the epidemic contributed to the defeat of Germany and Austria); HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (he contrasts the worst-case scenario of Zimbabwe with the more stable Botswana); bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as Mad Cow Disease); and the SARS contagion of 2002-03. Emerging infectious disease continues to present a threat to national and international security, Price-Smith argues, and globalization and ecological change only accelerate the danger.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"The Last Great War"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War by Adrian Gregory.

About the book, from the publisher:
What was it that the British people believed they were fighting for in 1914–18? This compelling history of the British home front during the First World War offers an entirely new account of how British society understood and endured the war. Drawing on official archives, memoirs, diaries and letters, Adrian Gregory sheds new light on the public reaction to the war, examining the role of propaganda and rumour in fostering patriotism and hatred of the enemy. He shows the importance of the ethic of volunteerism and the rhetoric of sacrifice in debates over where the burdens of war should fall as well as the influence of religious ideas on wartime culture. As the war drew to a climax and tensions about the distribution of sacrifices threatened to tear society apart, he shows how victory and the processes of commemoration helped create a fiction of a society united in grief.
Read an excerpt from The Last Great War.

Friday, February 6, 2009

"Strait Talk"

New from Harvard University Press: Strait Talk: United States-Taiwan Relations and the Crisis with China by Nancy Bernkopf Tucker.

About the book, from the publisher:
Relations among the United States, Taiwan, and China challenge policymakers, international relations specialists, and a concerned public to examine their assumptions about security, sovereignty, and peace. Only a Taiwan Straits conflict could plunge Americans into war with a nuclear-armed great power. In a timely and deeply informed book, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker traces the thorny relationship between the United States and Taiwan as both watch China’s power grow.

Although Taiwan–U.S. security has been intertwined since the 1950s, neither Taipei nor Washington ever fully embraced the other. Differences in priorities and perspectives repeatedly raised questions about the wisdom of the alignment. Tucker discusses the nature of U.S. commitments to Taiwan; the intricacies of policy decisions; the intentions of critical actors; the impact of Taiwan’s democratization; the role of lobbying; and the accelerating difficulty of balancing Taiwan against China. In particular, she examines the destructive mistrust that undermines U.S. cooperation with Taiwan, stymieing efforts to resolve cross-Strait tensions.

Strait Talk offers valuable historical context for understanding U.S.–Taiwan ties and is essential reading for anyone interested in international relations and security issues today.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Legacy and Legitimacy"

New from Temple University Press: Legacy and Legitimacy: Black Americans and the Supreme Court by Rosalee A. Clawson and Eric N. Waltenburg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thoroughly grounded in the latest scholarly literature, theoretical sources, and experimental results, Legacy and Legitimacy substantially advances understanding of Black Americans’ attitudes toward the Supreme Court, the Court’s ability to influence Blacks’ opinions about the legitimacy of public institutions and policies, and the role of media in shaping Blacks’ judgments.

Drawing on legitimacy theory—which explains the acceptance of or tolerance for controversial policies—the authors begin by reexamining the significance of “diffuse support” in establishing legitimacy. They provide a useful overview of the literature on legitimacy and a concise history of the special relationship between Blacks and the Court. They investigate the influences of group attitudes and media “framing.” And they employ data from large-scale surveys to show that Blacks with greater levels of diffuse support for the Court are more likely to adopt positions consistent with Court rulings.

With its broad scope and inclusion of new experimental findings, Legacy and Legitimacy will interest students and scholars of judicial politics, racial politics, media and politics, black studies and public opinion.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"The Canal Builders"

New from The Penguin Press: The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal by Julie Greene.

About the book, from the publisher:
A groundbreaking history of the Panama Canal offers a revelatory workers-eye view of the momentous undertaking and shows how it launched the American century

The Panama Canal has long been celebrated as a triumph of American engineering and technology. In The Canal Builders, Julie Greene reveals that this emphasis obscures a far more remarkable element of the canal’s construction—the tens of thousands of workingmen and -women who traveled from around the world to build it. Drawing on research from around the globe, Greene explores the human dimensions of the Panama Canal story, revealing how it transformed perceptions of American empire at the dawn of the twentieth century.

For a project that would secure America’s position as a leading player on the world stage, the Panama Canal had controversial beginnings. When President Theodore Roosevelt seized rights to a stretch of Panama soon after the country gained its independence, many Americans saw it as an act of scandalous land-grabbing. Yet Roosevelt believed the canal could profoundly strengthen American military and commercial power while appearing to be a benevolent project for the benefit of the world.

But first it had to be built. From 1904 to 1914, in one of the greatest labor mobilizations ever, working people traveled to Panama from all over the globe—from farms and industrial towns in the United States, sugarcane plantations in the West Indies, and rocky fields in Spain and Italy. When they arrived, they faced harsh and inequitable conditions: labor unions were forbidden, workers were paid differently based on their race and nationality—with the most dangerous jobs falling to West Indians—and anyone not contributing to the project could be deported. Yet Greene reveals how canal workers and their families managed to resist government demands for efficiency at all costs, forcing many officials to revise their policies.

The Canal Builders recounts how the Panama Canal emerged as a positive symbol of American power and became a critical early step towards twentieth-century globalization. Yet by chronicling the contributions of canal workers from all over the world, Julie Greene also reminds us of the human dimensions of a project more commonly remembered for its engineering triumphs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"The Least Worst Place"

New from Oxford University Press: The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days by Karen Greenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
In January 2002, the first flight of detainees captured in the "Global War on Terror" disembarked in Guantanamo Bay, dazed, bewildered, and--more often than not--alarmingly thin. Given very little advance notice, the military's preparations for this group of predominantly unimportant ne'er-do-wells were hastily thrown together, but as Karen Greenberg shows, a number of capable and honorable Marine officers tried to create a humane and just detention center--only to be thwarted by the Bush Administration.

The Least Worst Place is a gripping narrative account of the first one hundred days of Guantanamo. Greenberg, one of America's leading experts on the Bush Administration's policies on terrorism, tells the story through a group of career officers who tried--and ultimately failed--to stymie the Pentagon's desire to implement harsh new policies in Guantanamo and bypass the Geneva Conventions. She sets her story in Camp X-Ray, which underwent a remarkably quick transformation from a sleepy naval outpost in the tropics into a globally infamous holding pen. Peopled with genuine heroes and villains, this narrative of the earliest days of the post-9/11 era centers on the conflicts between Gitmo-based Marine officers intent on upholding the Geneva Accords and an intelligence unit set up under the Pentagon's aegis. The latter ultimately won out, replacing transparency with secrecy, military protocol with violations of basic operation procedures, and humane and legal detainee treatment with harsh interrogation methods and torture.

Guantanamo's first 100 days set up patterns of power that would come to dominate the Bush administration's overall strategy in the war on terror. Karen Greenberg's riveting account puts a human face on this little-known story, revealing how America first lost its moral bearings in the wake of 9/11.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Graffiti Lives"

New from NYU Press: Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground by Gregory J. Snyder.

About the book, from the publisher:
On the sides of buildings, on bridges, billboards, mailboxes, and street signs, and especially in the subway and train tunnels, graffiti covers much of New York City. Love it or hate it, graffiti, from the humble tag to the intricate piece (short for masterpiece), is an undeniable part of the cityscape.

In Graffiti Lives, Gregory J. Snyder offers a fascinating and rare look into this world of contemporary graffiti culture. A world in which kids, often, shoplift for spray paint, scale impossibly high places to find a great spot to get up, run from the police, journey into underground train tunnels, fight over turf, and spend countless hours perfecting their style. Over the ten years Snyder studied this culture he even created a few works himself (under the moniker GWIZ), found himself serving as a lookout for other artists engaged in this illegal activity, spent time in the train tunnels in search of new work, created a blackbook for writers to tag, and took countless photographs to document this world — over sixty included in the book.

A combination of amazing flicks and exhilarating prose, Graffiti Lives is ultimately an exploration into how graffiti writers define themselves. Snyder details that writers are not bound together by appearance or language or birthplace or class but by what they do. And what they do is reach for fame, painting their names as prominently as they can. Whats more, he discovers that, though many public officials think graffiti writing will only lead to other criminal activity, many graffiti writers have turned their youthful exploits into adult careers — from professional aerosol muralists and fine artists to designers of all kinds, employed in such fields as tattooing, studio art, magazine production, fashion, and guerilla marketing. In fact, some of the artists featured have gone on to international acclaim and to their own gallery shows. Snyders illuminating work shows that getting up tags, throw-ups, and pieces on New York Citys walls and subway tunnels can lead to getting out into the citys competitive professional world. Graffiti Lives details the exciting, risky, and surprisingly rewarding pursuits of contemporary graffiti writers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"In the Shadow of the Oval Office"

New from Simon & Schuster: In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served--From JFK to George W. Bush by Ivo H. Daalder and I. M. Destler.

About the book, from the publisher:
The most solemn obligation of any president is to safeguard the nation's security. But the president cannot do this alone. He needs help. In the past half century, presidents have relied on their national security advisers to provide that help.

Who are these people, the powerful officials who operate in the shadow of the Oval Office, often out of public view and accountable only to the presidents who put them there? Some remain obscure even to this day. But quite a number have names that resonate far beyond the foreign policy elite: McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.

Ivo Daalder and Mac Destler provide the first inside look at how presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush have used their national security advisers to manage America's engagements with the outside world. They paint vivid portraits of the fourteen men and one woman who have occupied the coveted office in the West Wing, detailing their very different personalities, their relations with their presidents, and their policy successes and failures.

It all started with Kennedy and Bundy, the brilliant young Harvard dean who became the nation's first modern national security adviser. While Bundy served Kennedy well, he had difficulty with his successor. Lyndon Johnson needed reassurance more than advice, and Bundy wasn't always willing to give him that. Thus the basic lesson -- the president sets the tone and his aides must respond to that reality.

The man who learned the lesson best was someone who operated mainly in the shadows. Brent Scowcroft was the only adviser to serve two presidents, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Learning from others' failures, he found the winning formula: gain the trust of colleagues, build a collaborative policy process, and stay close to the president. This formula became the gold standard -- all four national security advisers who came after him aspired to be "like Brent."

The next president and national security adviser can learn not only from success, but also from failure. Rice stayed close to George W. Bush -- closer perhaps than any adviser before or since. But her closeness did not translate into running an effective policy process, as the disastrous decision to invade Iraq without a plan underscored. It would take years, and another national security aide, to persuade Bush that his Iraq policy was failing and to engineer a policy review that produced the "surge."

The national security adviser has one tough job. There are ways to do it well and ways to do it badly. Daalder and Destler provide plenty of examples of both. This book is a fascinating look at the personalities and processes that shape policy and an indispensable guide to those who want to understand how to operate successfully in the shadow of the Oval Office.