The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the twentieth century. Fought over a period of three decades, the conflict drew in all the world’s powers and saw two of them—first France, then the United States—attempt to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. For France, the defeat marked the effective end of her colonial empire, while for America the war left a gaping wound in the body politic that remains open to this day. In the below essay, Logevall distills key points from his book. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Random House
Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart offers a thought-provoking commentary on class in contemporary America. Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, the book demonstrates that a new upper class, who live in hyper-wealthy zip codes called SuperZIPS, and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad. In the below essay, Murray discusses trends that have occurred since 2010. Continue reading →
I served as an advisor to the Madrid and Washington Palestinian-Israeli negotiations from 1991-1993, and long wanted to use documents that I collected then, but I never found an opportunity to do so. Then the research of one my graduate students on American Middle East policy revealed a trove of newly declassified American and Israeli materials that cast a fascinating light on what I had experienced in the early 1990’s. Together with my observations on the Obama administration’s failures in dealing with the Palestine issue, it inspired me to write this short book. This is not a comprehensive history of US Middle East policy, or of US policy on Palestine. Instead, it focuses on three “moments:” one is the period 1978-82, another is the 1991-93 negotiations, and the third is the last two years of Obama’s first term. I saw that the specific patterns of US bias in favor of inflexible Israeli positions that we had seen in our negotiations with the Israelis were precisely mirrored in earlier administrations, and that little or nothing has changed under this president.
The book addresses some of the common distortions of language that are so prevalent where the Palestine issue is concerned in Israeli-American official and media discourse. I deal with corrupted terms like “peace process,” “Palestinian autonomy,” “Israeli security,” and “terrorism,” all of which in this parlance have a heavily loaded meaning. I thus am challenging both those who use these terms in policy-making, political discourse and the media, and the vast literature that reproduces them without critical analysis of what they actually mean. As I suggest in the book, this is truly Orwellian, and this corrupt language has a profound impact on reality. Continue reading →
In Why Nations Fail professors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson assert that strong, inclusive political and economic institutions—not geography, culture, or market-based tendencies—determine a nation’s success or failure. Their findings, based on fifteen years of original research, have garnered excellent to favorable reviews from academia as well as from leading voices in the international aid and development community. However, in February, Microsoft founder Bill Gates criticized the book in a much-publicized review on his website (link to his review).
In response to Gates’ assessment, the authors responded with a pointed and detailed retort:
“Why Nations Fail received the harshest reviews from those who see geography and culture as the root causes of poverty, and enlightened leaders — or even more enlightened outside donors and organizations — as the keys to economic development. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his dedication to international aid, billionaire foundation chief Bill Gates falls into this category: His Feb. 26 review of our book was particularly uncharitable. Unfortunately, however, it was also dead wrong on many counts.” To read the rest of their essay, click here.
What do you think of Bill Gates’ assessment of Why Nations Fail? What of the counterpoints made by the authors?
For years, hundreds of colleges, university, and high school courses have used my books, The Russians and The Power Game: How Washington Works, in their courses. Professors and teachers have trusted the quality of my reporting, research, and writing. Students have found my work readable and intellectually engaging.
My new book, Who Stole the American Dream?, is especially well suited for university courses and seminars and high school classrooms. It combines on-the-spot reporting and storytelling with academic-level research (more than 1,000 footnotes), making it both authoritative and highly readable. My thematic treatment of American political and economic history from the 1970s to the present would work well in interdisciplinary seminars as well as courses in government, economics, political science, public policy, journalism, and modern American history. Continue reading →
by Marci Shore, author of The Taste of Ashes (Crown, January 2013).
The first five commenters will receive a free copy of The Taste of Ashes. Email us at email@example.com with your mailing address.
I was at an impressionable age when the revolutions came. This is the short answer I often give when asked by Poles or Czechs or Russians why I became interested in their part of the world. In 1989, I was seventeen years old and knew nothing about Eastern Europe. Yet growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, it was impossible not to absorb that we were locked in a struggle with the Evil Empire that might well bring about the end of the world. Continue reading →
by Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie (Random House, January 2013).
The first five commenters will receive a free copy of The Fall of the House of Dixie. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address.
In a recent national survey, nearly half of all those queried denied that slavery was the main cause of the U.S. Civil War. And that view is gaining, not losing, ground. Among younger people polled (those under 30 years of age), fully 60% responded that way. Many university students share that view. Like so many other modern Americans, they have come to regard the Civil War as a dramatic conflict in military terms, one filled with derring-do and pathos, but one without much larger meaning or import. They are therefore surprised to learn not only that slavery brought on the Civil War but also why and how the defense of the national Union led to slavery’s destruction. As we now observe the 150th anniversaries of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, these questions are in the public view more than at any time in the recent past. I wrote The Fall of the House of Dixie in part to clarify those subjects and to place them where they belong—at the center of the Civil War narrative.
In 1860–61, leaders of both the Union and the Confederacy knew and said that it was precisely the sharpening dispute over slavery’s future that was leading most slave states to try to break from (and so break up) the U.S., initiating the bloodiest war in the nation’s history to accomplish that goal. In his inaugural address, “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended,” Abraham Lincoln noted, “while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.” The Confederacy’s secretary of state agreed. Southern whites had decided, he wrote, that the swift growth of the anti-slavery Republican Party threatened “to destroy their social system.” “With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled,” Jefferson Davis explained, “the people of the Southern States were driven . . . to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger.” If the preservation of “those interests” and that “social system” required war, Confederates added, so be it.
by Wendy Pabich, author of Taking on Water (Sasquatch Books, September 2012)
Water is getting scarce. This year has brought extreme drought, low snow packs, and record low stream flows in a number of river systems. We see Las Vegas waging water war with the open ranch lands to the north, Atlanta in protracted battles with downstream states over its primary water supply at Lake Lanier, and water tables beneath the San Joaquin Valley—the source of 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables—dropping. A recent study by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that by mid-century, half the counties in the U.S. will be facing water scarcity.
For any one of us, these problems can feel overwhelming. We may sense that our own role is negligible, our power to make change inconsequential. And, it’s easy to find fault with government policies, corporate behavior, and farming practices. Yet, taken together, our aggregate behavior is the source of these problems. An individual home can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year to leaking fixtures; as a nation, we lose one trillion gallons of water to leaks. We buy 450 million pair of blue jeans every year, each of which requires about 2,200 gallons of water to produce, mostly to grow cotton for denim. That’s a total of 990 billion gallons of water, or enough to provide copious domestic water supplies to almost 10 billion people. And the list goes on. Continue reading →
I’ve always loved exploring history. It’s like an uncharted hemisphere, and when you look at it closely, it has a tendency to change everything about your own time. I’m also drawn to outsiders, people who have swum against the tide. I often feel like a kind of detective hired to go find people who have been lost to history, and discover why they were lost. Whodunnit?
In this case, I found solid evidence that, of all people, Napoleon did it: he buried the memory of this great man – Gen. Alexandre Dumas, the son of a black slave who led more than 50,000 men at the height of the French Revolution and then stood up to the megalomaniacal Corsican in the deserts of Egypt. (The “famous” Alexandre Dumas is the general’s son – the author of The Three Musketeers.) Letters and eyewitness accounts show that Napoleon came to hate Dumas not only for his stubborn defense of principle but for his swagger and stature – over 6 feet tall and handsome as a matinee idol – and for the fact that he was a black man idolized by the white French army. (I found that Napoleon’s destruction of Dumas coincided with his destruction of one of the greatest accomplishments of the French Revolution – racial equality – a legacy he also did his best to bury.)
The New York Times is hosting an interesting conversation in its “Room for Debate” section entitled “What Is It About Mormons?” At the center of the debate is the notion that while Mormons typically embody traditional American ideals, such as: cherishing family, demonstrating a dedication to hard work and thrift, and showing devotion to a higher power, many Americans remain uncomfortable with Mormonism and, by extension, the possibility of a Mormon president.
A timely new book published just last week, Matthew Bowman’s The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, tells the history considered in the debate. Richard Lyman Bushman, author of the definitive biography Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, praised the book as “…[A] quick, lively, and informative trip into the heart of Mormonism. All who are concerned or just curious will learn a lot about the making of modern Mormons from this book.”
With his new book, Bowman offers us a singular, concise and accessible history of a people and a faith that will help provide much-needed background as voters and students alike consider this American faith.
Consider adding your voice to the discussion by posting a comment below. The first five posters will receive a free copy of the new book The Mormon People.