Book Reviews

  • Robert M. Gates
    Knopf, 2014
    ISBN: 978-0307959478

    Robert M. Gates has vast national security experience as lieutenant in the US Air Force, analyst and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council staffer, university president as well as secretary of defense who served two presidents from different parties while wars as wars were waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. So military analysts around the globe anticipated Gates’ book – Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War – published 30 months after he left his post as secretary of defense. In his review, Marc A. Sorel expresses some skepticism about Gates’ rhetorical comparisons of actual war with the bitter partisanship that divides Washington, though in the end, looks forward to more analysis from Gates in the years to come. 

  • Howard W. French
    Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014
    ISBN: 0307956989

    From 1990 to 2008, Howard French reported for The New York Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. French builds on those experiences to describe how Chinese migrants contribute to Africa’s development in his book China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. The influence can run both ways, notes veteran journalist and editor of YaleGlobal Online Nayan Chanda in his review, which was first published by Global Asia: “A common theme that emerges from French’s inter­views with these Chinese migrants is that most lacked opportunity at home and resented omni­present corruption, pollution and lack of freedom….”  

  • David Shambaugh
    Published by Oxford University Press, 2013
    ISBN: 0199860149

    David Shambaugh, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, is a highly respected analyst of Chinese politics who has written for YaleGlobal. His most recent book focuses on China’s ambivalent involvement in global affairs and quest for global power. Alistair Burnett, editor of the BBC News Program The World Tonight, describes the book as a “treasure trove” on Chinese global participation and the debates within China’s power circles on how to proceed, albeit through an American lens. Both review and book reinforce the opinion that China is involved in global politics but would prefer to boost economic development at home.

  • Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, Editors
    The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2013
    ISBN: 978-0-262-02683-3

    The civil war in Syria should be tough for global citizens to ignore with more than 100,000 dead, brutal fighting, and a stream of images of devastated cities and overcrowded refugee camps. The war destabilizes the region, yet the global community seems paralyzed to act. The Syria Dilemma, a collection of 21 essays, explores the war’s complexities and analyzes options for the international community, including intervention and diplomacy. In her review, Susan Froetschel points out that endless fragmentation is an enemy for good governance – and that an opposition uniting around an agenda emphasizing respect for human rights and intolerance for violence could sound the death knell for the Assad regime.

  • Karen Eggleston and Shripad Tuljapurkar, Editors
    The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2012
    ISBN: 1931368201

    Demographers, economists and policy analysts pore over population statistics to predict the future. Medical advances throughout the 20th century lowered infant mortality, extended average lifespans and contributed to population growth. As women increasingly choose to have fewer children, more governments can anticipate population decline and a greater proportion of elderly citizens. Asian nations respond to these shifting demographics, combining modern elements of health care with traditional perspectives, explains Aging Asia: The Economic and Social Implications of Rapid Demographic Change in China, Japan and South Korea.  With early policy planning, older populations need not pose financial or social crisis.

  • Mark Harrison
    Yale Press, 2012
    ISBN: 0300123574

    Over the centuries, new diseases emerged and followed the trails of commerce, triggering panic and a rash of policymaking. As traders moved goods across longer distances, policymakers and investigators struggled to identify rats and mosquitoes as vectors for bubonic plague and yellow fever, respectively, or contaminated drinking water as a source for cholera. Contagion: How Commerce Has Spread Disease by Mark Harrison, professor of the history of medicine with University of Oxford, focuses on centuries of public response to contagious diseases and development of international boards, standards and regulations. In her review, Susan Froetschel suggests the broad lessons on policymaking could be useful for public managers of other cross-border challenges such as climate change.

  • Sharmila Joshi, Editor
    Gateway House, Indian Council on Global Relations, 2012
    ISBN:

    South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a regional organization that aims to achieve political and economic cooperation of eight nations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India, as the largest of these both in terms of land area and population, can overwhelm other SAARC members. Neighbourhood Views is a collection of essays marking SAARC’s 27th anniversary, crafted to examine India’s relations with the other seven member states and offer recommendations. The publication represents a mature and sincere gesture, intended to improve and reinforce relations after a century of bitter divisions throughout the region.

  • Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström
    Routledge, 2012
    ISBN: 0415539692

    Reckless speculation with natural resources could be more dangerous than speculation in the financial markets, warn Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström in their book, Bankrupting Nature: Denying Our Planetary Boundaries. Ultimately, the financial world and every human being depend on a stable environment. Wijkman is advisor at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden, and co-president of the Club of Rome. Rockström is a professor in Natural Resource Management, Stockholm University, and executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center. The book addresses climate change along with the larger issue of an economic system and global population that are no longer sustainable. The globe is confronting multiple interconnected crises that require systematic change rather than minimal adjustments. 

  • Edward Luce
    Little Brown and Company, 2012
    ISBN: 1408702754

    Unless bolstered by evidence and reasoning, cheery optimism is not reassuring. Edward Luce, with the Financial Times, scolds the United States for squandering its influence in Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline. Politicians and citizens, increasingly polarized over ridiculous issues, studiously ignore the many global-scale problems at hand. The nation could emerge strong once again by bolstering the middle class, investing in education and infrastructure, and emphasizing innovation. Reviewer Alistair Burnett, editor of BBC’s The World, compares the criticism to a stern wake-up call from a friend.   

  • Edward N. Luttwak
    Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2012
    ISBN:

    Media in the West frequently suggest that China is on a trajectory to become the world’s leading economy and superpower. Edward Luttwak argues that China, because of its history and geostrategic position in the world, confronts a choice. It can become an economic power or military power, but cannot achieve both. In his review, BBC editor Alistair Burnett outlines the argument and evidence. History suggests that a country bordering many states – and China has 14 neighbors – will struggle to overcome wariness and their inclination for balance by forming ties with rivals like the United States. Burnett finds Luttwak’s evidence intriguing, yet warns that China has overcome many challenges and could buck the historical trend.