Here is a selection of recently published books that relate to foreign policy, diplomatic history and other topics of interest to Foreign Service readers.
Zach Vertin, Pegasus Books, 2019, $29.95/hardcover, $11.23/Kindle, 490 pages.
A Rope from the Sky chronicles the complexities of South Sudan’s struggle for independence, intertwining local and global narratives.
“The still-unfolding tragedy of South Sudan is too little understood and too little known, even among foreign policy experts. Zach Vertin is a rare exception,” John Kerry, the 68th Secretary of State, said of this book. “He has spent his life not just explaining how the promise of this young nation, for which so many sacrificed, was broken so badly, but helping end the bloodshed for a people who have seen far too much of it.”
Zach Vertin is a lecturer at Princeton University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. He served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser to the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.
Tim Bouverie, Tim Duggan Books, 2019, $30/hardcover, 512 pages.
Appeasement offers a new perspective on Britain’s policy in the 1930s and the lead-up to World War II by using diaries, letters, speeches, news commentaries and a plethora of other resources. The author focuses on British Cabinet politics, indecisiveness and failed diplomacy, which he claims enabled Hitler’s domination of Europe and determined Europe’s fate. While Bouverie’s book is historical, it is an evergreen cautionary tale. Failure to stand up to dictators and aggression can have catastrophic consequences.
Tim Bouverie reviews historical and political books for major news outlets and is a former political journalist for Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom. During his time at Channel 4 from 2013 to 2017, he covered major political events and interviewed high-profile politicians.
Bruno Maçães, Hurst & Company, 2018, $28/hardcover, 288 pages.
“This is a remarkably insightful and comprehensive review of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with all its implications for economic development, as well as for the reshaping of the global order,” says Stephen Green, former chairman of HSBC Bank and chair of London’s Asia House, of this book. “America and Europe: take note! This is essential reading for us all.”
Author Bruno Maçães analyzes the most ambitious geopolitical initiative of the age, focusing on the physical and political details of the Belt and Road and its impact on the world’s economy and politics, as well as speculating on what the world will look like after its completion. Is the Belt and Road about more than power projection and profit? he asks.
Bruno Maçães is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and senior adviser at Flint Global. He is Portugal’s former minister for Europe.
Heather Selma Gregg, Potomac Books, 2018, $29.95/hardcover, 296 pages.
Building her argument from foreign policy reports and U.S. military officers’ interviews, Heather Selma Gregg argues the United States should pay more attention to true nation-building, like creating a shared sense of identity and purpose within a state’s border, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In a time when the United States increasingly recognizes how inadequate simple theories of state stabilization and state-building are, Heather Gregg offers a powerful new model for what to do after the shooting has stopped,” says Scott Guggenheim, senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “We who live and work in the center of the storm can only hope that her book gets studied carefully by the next generation of policymakers.”
Heather Selma Gregg is an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis.
Kerry Brown, Polity Press, 2018, $69.95/hardcover, $24.95/paperback, $13/Kindle, 240 pages.
Despite the collapse of similar systems elsewhere, the Chinese Communist Party continues to endure as one of the great political forces of modern times. Kerry Brown investigates the source of the party’s power as a cultural, ethical and ideological entity. Brown also explains the history of the party and how General Secretary Xi Jinping is leading a new “cultural revolution” to achieve China’s dream: to become the superpower of the world.
Brown, who previously served in Britain’s diplomatic service, is the current director of the Lau Chinese Institute at King’s College in London. He holds a Ph.D. in Chinese politics and language and is a renowned Chinese history specialist.
Oriana Skylar Mastro, Cornell University Press, 2019, $39.95/ hardcover, 216 pages.
In this work, Oriana Skylar Mastro explores several questions: What factors influence the warring parties’ decisions about whether to talk to their enemy, and when may their position on wartime diplomacy change? How do we get from fighting to talking?
According to Mastro, states are focused on two strategic costs of conversation: the enemy interpreting diplomacy as a sign of weakness, and the enemy’s strategic mindset change to this so-called weakness. Therefore, the strategic cost of talking must be lowered before peace talks with the enemy can begin. By examining case studies, Mastro concludes that communication will only happen when a state believes it has demonstrated strength and its enemy is unable to escalate the war.
Oriana Skylar Mastro is an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and an assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University.
Charles Piot with Kodjo Nicolas Batema, Duke University Press, 2019, $24.95/paperback, 224 pages.
The Fixer is an engaging and humanizing look at the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, a program much disparaged by President Donald Trump and his supporters. In the past decade, the small West African nation of Togo has seen more Diversity Visa Lottery applicants per capita than any other country (hundreds of thousands of Togolese enter each year).
Author Charles Piot collaborates with Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker and “fixer.” Batema helps his clients navigate the process of applying for the lottery—and if they win, the even more challenging process of actually qualifying for the visa. Jumping through burdensome bureaucratic hoops requires sleight-of-hand and insider knowledge that only an expert like Batema can offer. Piot also looks at the disappointments and successes of lottery winners who have made it to the United States.
Charles Piot is professor of cultural anthropology and African and African American studies at Duke University.
William J. vanden Heuvel, Cornell University Press, 2019, $28.95/ hardcover, 296 pages.
William J. vanden Heuvel, who served as President Jimmy Carter’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations’ European offices and deputy U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 1977 to 1981, recounts his experiences as a second-generation American, a soldier, a lawyer, a political activist and a diplomat.
Compiling his work from more than eight decades and his adventures with some of the most prominent Americans of his time—men like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter—vanden Heuvel addresses issues from desegregation in America to the Holocaust. He also gives a behind-the-scenes view on how individuals like himself have tackled and continue to address some of America’s most challenging issues with ingenuity and goodwill, concluding there is still room for optimism in public life despite the hatred and bigotry present in America.
John M. Friend and Bradley A. Thayer, Potomac Books, 2018, $27.95/hardcover, 192 pages.
In this book, authors John M. Friend and Bradley A. Thayer dive into Han-centrism and the threat China poses to the balance of power in international politics. A form of Chinese nationalism, Han-centrism proclaims that Han Chinese are superior to others and are entitled to advance Chinese interests, no matter the cost to other countries or groups.
The idea of Han-centrism continues to become more popular throughout China, leading to a nation that believes it has a right to dominate international politics. Han nationalists’ main goal is to reclaim China’s prosperity, which they believe was stolen by foreign powers.
John M. Friend is an assistant professor of political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Bradley A. Thayer is the author of several books and currently a visiting fellow at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.
Zalman Shoval, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, $38/hardcover, 368 pages.
In this memoir, Ambassador Zalman Shoval takes readers inside closed doors in Jerusalem and Washington, where world leaders have made major decisions about the Gulf War, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel’s foreign relations.
Ambassador Shoval’s account is “essential reading for scholars, diplomats and all who seek to understand America’s critical role, past and future, in the Middle East,” says former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
An early ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shoval successfully navigated complicated relationships among Israel’s ministries and political parties. Far more turbulent and challenging was his posting in Washington, where Israel’s financial dependence almost caused his expulsion.
Zalman Shoval is an Israeli politician who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the George H.W. Bush presidency and during the Clinton administration. He resides in Tel Aviv and often visits the United States.
Michael J. Mazarr, PublicAffairs, 2019, $30/hardcover, 528 pages.
Leap of Faith is a deeply researched insider account of how the United States came to invade Iraq in 2003. The author interviewed dozens of people involved in deliberations to invade Iraq, and reviewed all documents so far declassified. He concludes that what he calls “America’s greatest foreign policy tragedy” was the result of blunders, intellectual and moral arrogance, and toxic personality traits among political and military leaders.
Faulty assumptions by U.S. officials included assuming the United States could intervene in Iraq with a light footprint and failing to plan effectively for the aftermath of the war. To avoid another such calamity, he argues that we need prudent, careful government leaders and a well-informed populace.
Michael J. Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He has been a faculty member and associate dean at the U.S. National War College.
Hal Brands and Charles Edel, Yale University Press, 2019, $25/hardcover, 216 pages.
U.S. leaders’ memories of the tragic events that led to World War II helped build the postwar order and an era of long-term prosperity. But today, as Americans lose sight of the fact that the descent into war and violence has been a recurring theme in world history, the global order is under sharper threat than at any time in decades.
“Brands and Edel argue persuasively for a return to the ‘tragic sensibility’ that spurred the creation of all previous international orders,” says former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work.
Hal Brands is the Henry A. Kissinger distinguished professor of global affairs in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Charles Edel is a senior fellow and visiting scholar at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
Joseph A. Fry, University Press of Kentucky, 2019, $60/hardcover, 256 pages.
The American Civil War was not only a tumultuous time for the country domestically, but also for its conduct of foreign relations. In this illuminating account, Joseph A. Fry describes how President Abraham Lincoln worked with his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, to manage the uniquely difficult challenge of conducting the foreign affairs of a divided nation.
Deftly navigating rapacious European powers, Seward went so far as to threaten war against any nation that intervened in the Civil War, helping secure a conclusive Union victory.
Joseph A. Fry is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the author of Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789–1973 (2002); Debating Vietnam: Fulbright, Stennis, and Their Senate Hearings (2006); and The American South and the Vietnam War: Belligerence, Protest, and Agony in Dixie (2015).
Dennis C. Grube, Princeton University Press, 2019, $29.95/hardcover, 232 pages.
Our bureaucratic leaders are increasingly having to govern under the scrutiny of a 24-hour news cycle, hyperpartisan political oversight and a restless populace that is increasingly distrustful of the people who govern them.
In this timely and incisive book, Dennis C. Grube draws on in-depth interviews and compelling case studies to argue that a new style of bureaucratic leadership is emerging: one that marries the robust independence of Washington agency heads with the prudent political neutrality of Westminster civil servants. These “Washminster” leaders do not avoid the public gaze, nor do they overtly court political controversy. Rather, they use their increasingly public pulpits to exert their own brand of persuasive power.
Dennis C. Grube is a lecturer in public policy at the University of Cambridge. A former political speechwriter, he is the author of Prime Ministers and Rhetorical Governance (2013) and At the Margins of Victorian Britain: Politics, Immorality and Britishness in the Nineteenth Century (1961).
Lawrence J. Nelson and Matthew G. Schoenbachler, University Press of Kansas, 2019, $25/hardcover, 216 pages.
When Nikita Khrushchev became the first Russian leader to tour America in 1959, he witnessed a country in the midst of unrivaled prosperity just as the possibility of Cold War–era nuclear annihilation was permeating the public consciousness. Nikita Khrushchev’s Journey into America looks to fully explore the Russian leader’s visit as a critical moment in U.S. history, arguing that it can be understood as one of the most democratic events in an era swept up in great power competition between ideological foes.
Matthew G. Schoenbachler is a professor of history at the University of North Alabama and is the author of Murder and Madness: The Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy (2011). His co-author, the late Lawrence J. Nelson, was a professor at the University of North Alabama and the author of King Cotton’s Advocate: Oscar G. Johnston and the New Deal (1999).
Wendy R. Sherman, PublicAffairs, 2018, $28/hardcover, 256 pages.
On the forefront of some of the most consequential negotiations in recent diplomatic history, Wendy R. Sherman has amassed a wealth of unique foreign policy experience as a high-level State Department political appointee during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Her straightforward delivery makes this memoir a heady and entertaining read.
From humble beginnings as a social worker, she rose to top positions in the private and public sector, once quipping: “I joke that I remain a community organizer. … My caseload just changed.” Sherman served as lead negotiator for the historic Iran nuclear deal, as North Korea policy coordinator and as under secretary of State for political affairs, among other positions.
Wendy R. Sherman is currently a professor of public leadership and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and senior counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group.
George Packer, Knopf, 2019, $30/hardcover, 608 pages.
Drawn from his diaries and papers, Our Man provides an intimate portrait of a legendary diplomat possessed by dogged determination and unshakable faith in American ideals who brokered the Dayton Accords that ended the wars in the Balkans in the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s breakup, and served as the Obama administration’s
special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Holbrooke’s swaggering personality and headstrong approach often rubbed some the wrong way. As FSO Matthew Asada wrote in his review of Our Man in the July-August FSJ, “Without the drama there was no Holbrooke, and without Holbrooke there would have been no action.”
George Packer is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2014) and The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.
Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko, Yale University Press, 2019, $40/hardcover, $27.95/Kindle, 352 pages.
To explain current Russian and Chinese foreign policy, Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko adopt social identity theory to show how both countries “used various modes of emulation, competition and creativity to gain recognition from other countries and thus validate their respective identities.” Larson and Shevchenko argue that Chinese and Russian foreign policies are formulated based on the countries’ individual desires to become key players throughout the world, whether it is policy to participate in multinational organizations or to grow military strength, among other things.
Deborah Welch Lawson is a political science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Alexei Shevchenko is a professor of political science at California State University, Fullerton.
James Loeffler, Yale University Press, 2018, $32.50/hardcover, 384 pages.
2018 marked the anniversaries of two historic worldwide events: the birth of the state of Israel and the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By examining several Jewish founders of international human rights groups throughout history, James Loeffler explores the relationship between Zionism and the origins of international human rights. Loeffler’s book challenges the assumptions about the history of human rights and introduces a new angle on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
James Loeffler is a professor of Jewish history at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Law of Strangers: Jewish Lawyers and International Law in the Twentieth Century (2019) and The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (2013).
Dmitri Trenin, Polity Press, 2019, $14.95/paperback, 200 pages.
Focusing on 1900 to the present, Dmitri Trenin takes readers through Russia’s revolutionary upheaval, the rise of the Soviet Union, World War II and its devastating aftermath, mature socialism and its stagnation, democratic upheaval of the perestroika era and Putin’s stabilization of post-communist Russia.
Today, Trenin cautions, Russia stands at a critical juncture. Following all the turbulent events of the past century, it will take decades for the country to “rehabilitate itself, develop organically, build trust and stimulate cooperation among its own people.”
Jack Matlock, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, calls Russia “a brilliant, concise interpretation of 120 years of Russian history, plus an insightful look at the future. Essential reading for all who are concerned about the dangerous—and unnecessary—revival of Cold War tensions.”
Dmitri Trenin has been director of the Carnegie Moscow Center since 2008.
Rodger McDaniel, Potomac Books, 2018, $36.95/hardcover, 416 pages.
Gale McGee was elected as a senator from Wyoming in 1958 and would go on to have an influential career in both foreign policy and domestic politics. This biography, a volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Book Series, recalls an era of bipartisanship in policymaking that helped transform the nation.
Senator McGee played a major role in the 1960s liberal consensus that gave the country Medicare, the minimum wage, the right to collective bargaining and significant civil rights reforms. He was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States during the successful approval of the 1978 Panama Canal Treaty.
Rodger McDaniel is a pastor, a former lawyer and served as a Wyoming state senator from 1977 to 1981. He also served in the Wyoming state house from 1971 to 1977.
David Scheffer, Oxford University Press, 2018, $29.95/hardcover, 360 pages.
In this insider account of the White House Situation Room, David Scheffer reveals the intense debates that decided America’s response to the Balkans War. The Sit Room features an impressive ensemble of characters, from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Tony Lake to lead negotiator Richard Holbrooke.
The book depicts authentic policymaking at the highest levels of government, and recounts how differing views among diplomats, generals and the White House were ironed out within the policy process.
David Scheffer served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council during the early 1990s. Afterward he became the first U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, serving from 1997 to 2001. A graduate of Oxford, Harvard and Georgetown universities, he is currently the Mayer Brown/ Robert A. Helman Professor of Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
John Gans, Liveright, 2019, $28.95/hardcover, 272 pages.
Drawing from policymakers and more than 10,000 documents from presidential libraries and archives, John Gans clarifies the purpose of the National Security Council, reveals how diversely the NSC has been used by presidents from John F. Kennedy through Donald Trump, and offers a look behind the curtain concerning foreign policy and security decisions in Washington.
As former U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo H. Daalder explains: “When it comes to U.S. national security policy, some of the most powerful and consequential people in Washington are also the least well known. John Gans shines a bright light on these National Security Council staffers and shows how they have influenced presidential decisions on war for decades.”
Gans, who previously served as the chief speechwriter at the Pentagon, works as the director of communications and research at the University of Pennsylvania’s global policy institute, Perry World House.
Ann Saxton Reh, Prospect Street Press, 2019, $12.99/paperback, 320 pages.
Meditating Murder is a good, old-fashioned mystery, the first in a series featuring diplomat sleuth David Markham, a Foreign Service officer. Kassandra Fitzwilliam is on the Northern California coast in the late 1980s, indulging her passion for collecting South Asian antiquities and other people’s secrets. Her husband, Gerald, a retired ambassador, is worried when a group of houseguests come to prepare an exhibit of Kassandra’s collection because he is sure it contains stolen items that will discredit his career. He calls the only person he can count on, fellow diplomat David Markham, who soon finds himself looking for a murderer.
Ann Saxton Reh is a retired educator and military spouse with a penchant for adventure who has lived in six foreign countries while raising a family. She is working on a prequel and sequel to the book, set in Saudi Arabia and India, respectively.