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Asia Times Online : Book Reviews
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  Book Reviews


Kodachrome Korea
Korean War in Color by John Rich
North Korea Caught in Time by Chris Springer

Both these books are unique historical documents. Rich's hobbyist photographs, taken in Kodachrome at a time news photographers used black and white, offer stunning portraits of the struggle of people at war to survive, while North Korea Caught in Time - complete with an official air-brushed out of history - is a valuable contribution to the study of communist propaganda. - Michael Rank (Nov 24, '10)

How high can a Turkey fly?
The Turkey and the Eagle: The Struggle for America's Global Role by Caleb Stewart Rossiter

In the debate over the imperative of changing America's global role, the author's Hard Eagles are unapologetic expansionists, Soft Eagles decry the damage to the US's international standing caused by ill-advised military adventures, while Turkeys categorically reject the logic of exceptionalism. The book explores how Turkeys can outfly Eagles. - Peter Certo (Nov 19, '10)

The warfare state
Washington Rules by Andrew J Bacevich

For such a short book, former United States army colonel Andrew J Bacevich's critique of the assumptions that led the US to become a permanent warfare state offers a surprisingly deep examination of his country's military history since World War II. But it doesn't satisfactorily answer the larger question of why America can't put an end to perpetual semi-war. - Jim Ash (Nov 12, '10)

The ideas that drive Russia
Russia as an Aspiring Great Power in East Asia by Paradorn Rangsimaporn

Russia is guided by an elite that aspires to the country becoming a great power. The book explores the influences that have shaped this view, especially on President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who are not obsessed with the United States and see China as just one of the possible geopolitical options. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Nov 5, '10)

How Washington rules
From Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew Bacevich

This extract is the introduction of the book and stands on its own as a political essay about a personal odyssey into recent history and the realities of our moment; it also offers a powerful sense of the book itself. (Oct 29, '10)

Deep into the roots of war
War Comes to Long An by Jeffrey Race

This seminal, micro-level analysis of how the Vietcong utilized meager resources to build a revolutionary force capable of outmaneuvering a powerful government backed by US military might should be required reading for counter-insurgency planners in Afghanistan. Rather than vicious recruitment programs, it was often progressive policies of decentralization and social reform that drew the peasantry into the Vietcong. - Jason Johnson (Oct 22, '10)

Drug myths debunked
Sergeant Smack: The Legendary Lives and Times of Ike Atkinson, Kingpin and His Band of Brothers by Ron Chepesiuk

Southeast Asian heroin was never smuggled in coffins alongside dead US soldiers - but the leg casts of wounded GIs came in handy. Chepesiuk has forged a gripping account of a US$400 million drug business to which a Bangkok bar's blues and soul were the throbbing backbeat until law and long jail terms stopped the music. - Bertil Lintner (Oct 15, '10)

Birds of a feather
Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America by Simon SC Tay

The Western-led global recession has encouraged many Asians to believe this is now their century and they don't need the United States. A member of Singapore's elite parrots the party line about keeping Uncle Sam in the picture to hold the China dragon at bay. - Muhammad Cohen (Oct 1, '10)

Humanist manifesto
Barack Obama and Twenty-First Century Politics by Horace Campbell

Seeing a revolutionary potential in the societal forces that galvanized to make President Barack Obama's rise possible, this study examines the evolution of Obama's attempt to build a "non-racial democracy" before it eventually succumbed to the pressure of financial barons and "securocrats". Capturing the transformative nature of the movement as well as the man, this book's universal message makes it a rarity among presidential literature. - Sreeram Chaulia (Sep 24, '10)

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The End of the Free Market by Ian Bremmer
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The author makes clear in his account of the struggle between multinationals and state-owned competitors his preference for the likes of ExxonMobil over China's CNOOC. It is sad that he ultimately has to appeal to America's "hard power" for its survival instead to its inventiveness and flexibility. - Mladen Bonev (Sep 17, '10)

British secret state reaches out
Securing the State by David Omand

Written by a senior mandarin of Britainís security apparatus, this book exposes the global pressures that create a need for intelligence activity, as well as key processes and dynamics such as the often difficult relationship between spy bosses and policymakers. However, the authorís speculation on the emergence of new threats in the years ahead seems to have a hidden agenda. - Mahan Abedin (Sep 10, '10)

Al-Qaeda and counter-terrorism
Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979 by Thomas Hegghammer

An engaging study of the rise of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, this book traces the movementís evolution from a Pan-Islamic volunteer force in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to a fermentation period in Saudi Arabia and finally its emergence as a global jihadi network. It also shows how Saudi leaders have successfully used softer techniques to undermine al-Qaeda's mass appeal. - Brian M Downing (Sep 3, '10)

The key to global British power
GCHQ: The uncensored story of Britain's most secret intelligence agency by Richard J Aldrich

The main task of Britain's Government Communication Headquarters is to attack the encryption systems of other countries, entities and individuals. The author does a good job to explain the spy agency's highly technical and complex work to the lay reader, but the book suffers from key flaws. - Mahan Abedin (Aug 27, '10)

Reason to pause
The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis by Robert R Reilly

Objectively speaking, the answer to the question, "Are Muslims less rational than Christians?," is a flat "no". The Jewish idea that the maker of heaven and earth cares with his creatures and suffers along with them seemed idiotic to the Greeks, and still seems idiotic to the vast majority of philosophers today. The trouble is that we cannot speak objectively about human reason. - Spengler (Aug 23, '10)

Reality check for Asian titans
India and China: The Battle between Soft and Hard Power by Prem Shankar Jha

Arguing that behind India and China's rapid modernization lie dark human costs that will inevitably manifest in economic and social instability, this book takes the shine off the Asian giants' supposed rise to global dominance. The author believes that while "cadre capitalism" in China has created corrupt, predatory authorities, in India the government's pandering to the newly empowered bourgeoisie has triggered a rural crisis. - Sreeram Chaulia (Aug 20, '10)

Prisoners are fit to drop in Singapore
Once a Jolly Hangman by Alan Shadrake

This is a chilling record of Singapore's meticulous approach to carrying out the death penalty, which includes weight checks on the length of rope needed for hangings. The author uses interviews with Darshan Singh, chief executioner for nearly 50 years, to break the official silence. This has earned him a date in court in the island state. - Megawati Wijaya (Aug 6, '10)

All the world's a stage
Illusive Utopia, Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea by Suk-young Kim

It's hard not to miss the theatrical aspect to any visit to North Korea, and it's all part of a show in which Western visitors are complicit. This impressively researched book examines performance in the Hermit Kingdom in great detail and in its widest sense, although there are some surprising omissions in source material. - Michael Rank (Jul 16, '10)  

Tracing her majesty's secret service
Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew

Marking 100 years of MI5's existence, this book captures the reality of the British security service's achievements from its struggles against Germany in the world wars to its intense battles with the KGB and lesser-known rivals like Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. However, the author relies on authorized files and was handpicked by MI5 to produce this work, calling his objectivity into question. - Mahan Abedin (Jul 9, '10)

Inquest of a defeat
The Tiger Vanquished by M R Narayan Swamy

The world's most renowned authority on Sri Lankan Tamil militancy has plugged the gaps in understanding of the fall of an organization whose birth and maturity he chronicled in two earlier bestselling books. He now explains the crucial mistakes the Tigers made that allowed the three decades of war finally to be brought to an end with their defeat. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 2, '10)

Life and times of a dictator
Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma's Tyrant by Benedict Rogers

A new generation of pundits predicts that Myanmar is on the cusp of positive change, as elections will at long last give civilian leaders some say over governance. This highly readable book explains why they are wrong. The era of General Than Shwe may be drawing to an end, but his legacy will live on in the power-hungry military. - Bertil Lintner (Jun 25, '10)

New language is not enough
Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan by Deepak Tripathi

This book is not about George W Bush the man, it is about his legacy, which continues to engulf United States foreign policy, especially over Afghanistan and Iraq. The writer provides a glaring reminder of what military power can do when combined with religious fanaticism or misguided political ideology. - Ramzy Baroud (Jun 18, '10)

Inside a secret Chinese classroom
Mandarin Blue by Reginald Hunt et al

In the Cold War days, Britain's Royal Air Force made the decision to teach a select group of servicemen Russian, while an even smaller group was given lessons in Chinese. Little is known about the latter, a tiny theater of the Cold War that would be in danger of being forgotten were it not for this highly fascinating book. - Michael Rank (Jun 11, '10)
 

Infinite war
The American Way of War by Tom Engelhardt

With the Barack Obama administration fully engulfed in the nation's terror obsession, having inherited the wars of George W Bush, this collection of essays is invaluable in showing how the American empire walks the walk and talks the talk. The author exposes America as we know it, defined and explained according to its ethos - war. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 4, '10)

Southeast Asian Muslims for dummies
The Next Front: Southeast Asia and the Road to Global Peace with Islam by Senator Christopher S Bond and Lewis M Simons

A Republican US senator and a veteran foreign correspondent offer a primer for Americans on Islam in a region the authors say the US has ignored since the Vietnam debacle. What's most surprising is that Americans donít already know what the authors explain. - Muhammad Cohen (May 28, '10)

New and old
China's Megatrends by John Naisbitt and Doris Naisbitt

While the China model that stands today can indeed be viewed as a provocative plan to build a national economy, many of its cultural characteristics that this book points to were also in place during the turbulent times of Mao Zedong's leadership. Though the authors do a very good job of elevating the Chinese perspective and context, in their excitement over China's recent growth they overlook many downside risks. - Benjamin A Shobert (May 21, '10)

Mad about Bernie Madoff
No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolos

The man who blew the whistle no one heard on the biggest scam in Wall Street history deserves a medal. This book on the Bernard Madoff scandal highlights why he'll probably never get it. - Muhammad Cohen (May 14, '10)  

Light on dark conflicts width= /I#999999center/TABLE align=
Primed and Purposeful by Soliman M Santos et al

For anyone interested in non-traditional security issues in the Philippines, this valuable volume on the country's long-running conflicts is a must-read. Written jointly by a distinguished group of experts it shines valuable new light on complex and often contradictory socio-political issues, in0/A/TR cellSpacing=left/B/TD/atimes/Middle_East/LF05Ak01.html100%centercluding in-depth profiles of various rebel groups. - Fabio Scarpello (May 7, '10)

Islamic finance - steady amid chaos
The Stability of Islamic Finance by Hossein Askari et al

As the global financial crisis shredded banks' fortunes around the world, Islamic institutions maintained high growth rates. This team of authors has the rare combined expertise to explain why and to present Islamic finance as a realistic alternative to the current conventional system. - Robert E Looney (Apr 30, '10)

A lost morality
Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky

John Maynard Keynes' posthumous reputation has fluctuated as much as his personal fortunes did in his lifetime, as later economists pressed for acceptance of their own concoctions. Now, as the squabbling successors to this towering man of erudition and morality see the waste around them, they can only hope that a claim to be first-offenders will save them from the most severe prison sentences. - Julian Delasantellis (Apr 23, '10)

Lewis comes up short
The Big Short by Michael Lewis

The celebrated author of Liar's Poker returns to his old hunting ground of the financial markets to chase down the characters who saw the financial crisis coming and backed their insights with hard cash. The "who" and the "how" are vintage Lewis. Missing, unfortunately, is the big question(s) - "why?". - Chan Akya (Apr 16, '10)

Lifting the cloak on North Korean secrecy
The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves by B R Myers

This sharply written book by one of the few North Korean analysts who understands the language is a remarkably perceptive study that everyone with an interest in North Korea should read. The author argues that fanatical anti-Americanism is what helps to keep the regime in power. Far from seeking a positive relationship with the US, the North negotiates with Washington not to defuse tension but to manage it. - Michael Rank (Apr 9, '10)

A search for personal, political roots
Wishart's Quest by Peter Corris

This tale of a foundling who searches from Australia to Hong Kong for his origins, eventually discovering he is the son of a disgraced Vietnam War veteran and an aboriginal mother, draws a compelling portrait of the social dynamics at play in Australia's evolution into a multiracial society. - Muhammad Cohen (Apr 1, '10)

Bad bet against China's leaders
The Beijing Consensus by Stefan Halper

Though originally meant to be a book about how China's rising consumer class was challenging the Communist Party and nudging the country toward democracy, the harder the author looked, the more he became convinced that its ruling party would endure. In some ways, the United States has itself to blame. - Paul Wiseman (Mar 26, '10)

Refusal to surrender
My Father was a Freedom Fighter by Ramzy Baroud

The Palestinian-American journalist and editor provides a rare antidote to the United States, European and Israeli media's decontextualization and dehumanization of Palestinians, told via a no-holds-barred account of the life of his father, Mohammed Baroud. - Robin Yassin-Kassab (Mar 19, '10)

Healing invisible wounds
Noor by Sorayya Khan

The scars of the 1971 civil war between East and West Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh, are still fresh in the minds of the thousands who fought or lost loved ones. This book based on a mysteriously artistic child vividly recreates those horrors, while reminding how little Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have learned from the war. - Reviewed by Tahir Rauf (Mar 12, '10)

Counter-insurgency, then and now
A Question of Command by Mark Moyar

Counter-insurgency thinking is once again in the limelight, just as it was 50 years ago, which is why this timely perspective will find audiences in and out of the military. The bulk of the book comprises nine case studies ranging from the American Civil War to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The author has done a great deal of research, though points of disagreement are inevitable. - Brian M Downing (Mar 5, '10)

Overextended banker collapses
The Next Asia by Stephen S Roach

A long-time Wall Street "thought leader" and current Morgan Stanley Asia chairman gives his views on the economic crisis, globalization, United States-China relations and more. Like many bankers' books, this one doesn'vt stand up to close examination. - Muhammad Cohen (Feb 19, '10)

The need to engage 'terrorists'
Talking to Terrorists by Mark Perry

Author Mark Perry recounts how senior United States military officers in Iraq ignored the mantra, "we don't talk with terrorists" and held secret meetings with Sunni insurgents that eventually turned the tide of the war. That wisdom seems lost on today's Washington, which continues to conflate moderates in the Middle East with the real radicals, playing directly into the latter's hands. - Allen Quicke (Feb 12, '10)

Look who's come to dinner
Superfusion by Zachary Karabell

This insightful book examines the alternatives to fearing China's inevitable rise as a super-economy and global political force and asks whether American hostility to making room at the table for an upsetter of the old economic order is more a reflection of its own lost confidence. - Benjamin A Shobert (Feb 5, '10)

The skeleton in the cupboard
China: Fragile Superpower by Susan L Shirk

While avoiding the stereotypes on which Western pundits base their assumption that China's rise to surpass the power of the United States is inevitable, this important book charts a course of democratization. However, it fails to account for the possibility that China may succeed precisely because of its totalitarian nature. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Jan 29, '10)

A flawed picture
Forces of Fortune by Vali Nasr

Though this book should be commended for attempting to dissect the difficult development issues in the Muslim world, it falls well short of succeeding. The authorís analysis has a flavor that makes it a timely travel companion for Western policymakers touring the Middle East to preach economic reform, yet it offers scant social scientific value. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Jan 22, '10)

She had a dream
Surviving against the Odds by S Ann Dunham

Nearly 15 years after US President Barack Obama's mother passed away, her dream to publish her life's work has been realized. Against the backdrop of top-down Asian development programs of the 1970s and academic anthropology, the book is a testament to Dunham's lifelong passion for helping rural populations around the world. It also offers a few pointers to Obama's early development. - Dinesh Sharma (Jan 15, '10)

Diamond reclaimed
Diamond Hill by Feng Chi-shun

Now just another subway stop and home to the glitzy malls and housing estates that define modern Hong Kong, Diamond Hill was once full of gamblers, thugs, movie stars and squatters. A resident during that long-lost period, the author presents a snapshot of Hong Kong's rich history that, at the same time, laments how the city is paving over its past. - Kent Ewing (Jan 8, '10)

Osama bin Laden, my father
Growing Up bin Laden by Jean Sasson, Omar bin Laden and Najwa bin Laden

Omar bin Laden had no choice in being born the fourth son of Osama bin Laden, and a favored sibling at that, but he did have the choice to reject the ways of his father. He spurned the AK-47 with which he had become familiar as a youth growing up in Afghanistan, and elected to define his own destiny. It has not DIV align= hspace=/TRFONT color=BTD width=/I 100% been an easy road as he struggles to achieve acceptance in a world in which the name bin Laden spells only one thing - terror. - Simon Allison (Dec 23, '09)

Too late to learn?
The Cost of Capitalism: Understanding Market Mayhem and Stabilizing our Economic Future, by Robert Barbera

As Keynesians and Friedmanites battled to dominate economic theory, the man who threaded the needle of reality was the relatively unsung Hyman Minsky. Unfortunately, and despite Barbera's valuable and innovative account of our present financial crisis, Minsky's influence may not yet be sufficient to save the world from yet another government-sanctioned, wealth-destroying, catastrophic bubble. - Julian Delasantellis (Dec 22, '09)  

Missing in action
One Nation Under Contract by Allison Stanger

This is a rare insight into the true nature of the outsourcing of government roles, as varied as development aid and security in conflict zones. This practice has created an accountability gap that the US government has the power and responsibility to close if the private sector is to fulfill its true potential to work for the benefit of all, the book argues. - David Isenberg (Dec 18, '09)

'Dialogue of the duff'
US Foreign Policy and Iran by Donette Murray

Talking past each other - "dialogue of the duff" - has been a salient feature of United States-Iran relations over the past 30 years, this intimately detailed account of how the US has handled Tehran argues. The book makes essential reading, even though it lacks an in-depth investigation of the Iranian side. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Dec 4, '09)

Cutting through the talk
Negotiating With Iran by John W Limbert

The author, the Barack Obama administration's newly-appointed point man on Iran, shares a wealth of insights and recommendations in the cognitive map of Iranian negotiators. A major fault of the book is an inadequate exploration of Iran's own strategic outlook. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Nov 25, '09)

Constructing the Oriental image
The Sum of All Heresies by Frederick Quinn

This book provides a broad exploration of the evolution of the Middle East image through European eyes from near antiquity to the present. Viewed as the embodiment of barbarity during Roman times, "Orientals" came to be seen as permanently inferior to Europeans, needing to be controlled and exploited. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Nov 20, '09)

An extraordinary life, an ordinary man
Don't Call Me a Crook by Bob Moore

Dissident Books, in rediscovering and editing this overlooked classic first published in 1935, has resurrected a one-time author whose ignorance, rakishness and lack of conscience are indicative of his time. What's extraordinary, however, are his Chinese misadventures, which include tales of murder and kidnappings. - Kent Ewing (Nov 13, '09)

China according to the Chinese
The Origin, Process, and Outcome of China's Reforms
in the Past One Hundred Years
by Enbao Wang

Much of the English-language discourse on China's unpredicted rise is divided between those who are fascinated and those who are frightened. The author makes a useful attempt to bridge a growing gap between what has happened in China in the past 30 years on the one hand, and persistent Western cultural-political solipsism on the other. - Yu Bin
(Nov 6, '09)
 

On Indonesia's Islamic road
My Friend the Fanatic by Sadanand Dhume

The writer of this timely travelogue crisscrosses Indonesia's archipelago, searching out the movers and shakers of a movement that aims to impose its intolerant version of Utopia on a fledgling democracy. It's a vivid, graceful and astute work, offering an inside look at the high toll politicized Islam exacts on Indonesia. - Ioannis Gatsiounis (Oct 16, '09)

Short-changing China's century
The Empire of Lies by Guy Sorman

This book penetrates the interior of China, touching on areas too-often overlooked like poverty, human rights, and backwards governance. But it fails to note how far the nation has come this century, its pulse of progress in developing regions and subtle changes in leadership, and the analysis suffers as a result. - Benjamin Shobert (Oct 9, '09)

Named and shamed
Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz with Aaron Task

The United States government has thrown billions of dollars at rescuing companies and their officers who should have been bankrupted, exposed as charlatans, in some cases jailed, argues Ritholtz in a compelling and devastatingly accurate indictment of the financial and political establishment. - Muhammad Cohen (Oct 2, '09)

US hegemony slips into history
The Future of Global Relations by Terrence Edward Paupp.

The Barack Obama administration, dealing with the fallout of ongoing efforts to preserve Washington's unipolarity since the end of the Cold War, is facing unprecedented challenges. The author of this book traces the downward trajectory of US power and forecasts a very different future for the international community. - John Feffer (Sep 11, '09)

Himalayan heights of disingenuousness
The Anti-Globalization Breakfast Club by Laurence J Brahm

Very little in this corporate lawyer turned Tibetan Buddhistís book is served up as promised, undermining its Himalayan Consensus manifesto for international development. The authorís penchant to play loose with facts also scars a potentially stimulating read. - Muhammad Cohen (Sep 4, '09)

India renews its tryst with destiny
Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani

Weaned off of a half-century of dependency on quasi-socialist ideologies, India may now be poised for a major role on the global stage if it can overcome its internal divides, the author argues. With demographic and other advantages over economic rival China, he writes, India's resurgence could even fulfill the heady promise of its founding. - Dinesh Sharma (Aug 21, '09)

Crisis hindsight
As the storm recedes, at least for a while, from the worst financial crisis since World War II, bookshelves are littered with accounts claiming insight into how and why it happened, if not why so few saw it coming. Whether you opt for the views of PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian, famed investor George Soros or the insightful but relatively obscure Thomas E Woods - choose with care. Not all are what they seem, as with ex-bond salesman Michael Lewis. (Aug 14, '09)

Australia's plucky blonde jihadi
The Mother of Mohammed by Sally Neighbour

Referred to as the "Elizabeth Taylor of the jihad", Rabiah - born Robyn - Hutchinson was an Australian doctor who ended up marrying a leading al-Qaeda ideologue and member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle. This book investigates her past and present with flair, candor and wit. - David Wilson (Aug 7, '09)

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A true espionage page-turner
The Spy Who Loved Us by Thomas A Bass

Colleagues of Phan Xuan An, a talented US-trained reporter during the Vietnam War, were shocked to later learn that the man they had grown to trust and respect was a communist spy. As details of An's real role in the war slowly emerged, the writer of this book set out - with some success - to map the long road of ViTD class= DIV align=etnam's master of deception. - Alexander Casella (Jul 31, '09)

Courage versus power
Dreams and Shadows by Robin Wright
 
Offering a realistic appraisal of the promise and limitations of moderate agents of change in a politically pent-up region, this book pries open a window to the MiddA href=le East's lesser-known strain of citizen activism against both dictatorship and Islamist terrorism. The US attack on Iraq, for instance, stranded new democracy activists throughout the Middle East and handed the initiative to violent actors. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 24, '09)

Outplaying your partner
Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler

Lead paint in toys and melamine in baby milk formula are not surprises to the author but predictable outcomes from a manufacturing culture in China that takes customers for granted and assumes no responsibility for its outputs. This expose is a cautionary tale that strikes at the very heart of United States diplomacy with China. It is a fascinating, funny and important book. - Muhammad Cohen (Jul 17,'09)

India's quest for autonomy
Challenge and Strategy. Rethinking India's Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri

India will get nowhere in its quest for global recognition if it continues piggybacking on other nations while bowing before the United States and China, says the author. Instead, New Delhi has to construct its own center of gravity around which it can gather like-minded states and pursue economic growth and security. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 10,'09)

Strength and dishonor
Building the Tatmadaw by Maung Aung Myoe

The incredible staying power of Myanmar's regime is thoughtfully explored in this revealing, if somewhat flawed, study of the Tatmadaw, or armed forces. With insights into the military's doctrine, strategy and organization, this is a must-read for anyone seeking to unravel the mysteries of the junta's mindset. - David Scott Mathieson (Jul 3,'09)


Political violence vs terror
South Asia: The Spectre of Terrorism by P R Kumaraswamy and Ian Copland (eds)

A collection of essays by analysts within and outside the region, the book throws light on the complex relationship between Islam and political violence in South Asia. Individually, the essays are insightful, what the book lacks is cohesion. - Sudha Ramachandran (Jun 26,'09)


Poignant tales of the Cultural Revolution
Apologies Forthcoming by Xujun Eberlein

Perfectly capturing the turbulence of China's Cultural Revolution and its bleak aftermath through haunting, human tales of patriotism, love, hope and loss, the short stories in this collection are honest, poetic and moving. Through her engaging, well-drawn characters, the author shines a revealing light on a era that China's leaders would prefer the world forgot. - Kent Ewing (Jun 19,'09)  

The coming robot wars
Wired for War by P W Singer

An intriguing and ominous glimpse into the future of robotic warfare, this book may have references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator movies and Isaac Asimov - but it is no lightweight read. War will be waged remotely by laser-toting air, sea, land and outer-space drones, with humans increasingly taken out of the equation. Think HAL, think SkyNet, and be afraid. - David Isenberg (Jun 12,'09)  

A flawed study of 'rogue' Iran
The Secret War with Iran by Ronen Bergman

Though readers are often cautioned not to judge a book by its cover, in this case the politically charged sub-title (Control of a 'Rogue' State) defines the contents perfectly. Instead of providing a serious look at the covert intelligence wars between Iran and the West, the author attempts to frame it as a "terrorist" state bent on undermining the international system. - Mahan Abedin (May 28,'09)

The dragon's shadow
China's Rise and the Two Koreas by Scott Snyder

China's economic influence may not have fully transformed the Korean Peninsula's security policies, but it has challenged the primacy of the United States. Though this book is pro-American for endorsing Washington's military footprint in the region, it offers an intelligent appraisal of how Beijing's reach is lengthening over East Asia - and why it needs to keep North Korea in its orbit. - Sreeram Chaulia (May 22,'09)

Tiananmen tales from the dark side
Tiananmen Moon by Philip J Cunningham

This rich, well-drawn narrative of the 1989 Tiananmen student movement poignantly links the days of the protest to the lunar cycle, from the full, luminescent moon that shone over its sanguine beginnings to the dark, moonless sky that masked the government's lethal crackdown. It avoids the stark tale of good versus evil often portrayed in the West, painting the protest leaders in shades of idealism and narcissism. - Kathryn Minnick (May 21,'09)

Bruce who?
Wing Chun Warrior by Ken Ing

Offering jarring insights into a Hong Kong that no longer exists, this book tells the story of Duncan Leung, a martial arts master and childhood friend of Bruce Lee. In an age when Kung Fu practitioners wielded eight-chop knives in the streets and battled their way through martial arts studios to prove their prowess, Leung was almost always the last man standing. - Kent Ewing (May 15,'09)

Riding a tiger through a brothel
Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China by Tiantian Zheng

Featuring overwrought born-yesterday explanations of why men go to brothels, the author's recap of her two years researching a north China karaoke bar is marred by acres of egghead gobbledygook. Otherwise, the book might find a wide audience beyond academia, with its horrid tales of rape, abuse and even vomiting hostesses. David Wilson (May 8,'09)

 

Predicting the death of Islam
The Crisis of Islamic Civilization
by Ali A Allawi

The differences between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West run far deeper than the political surface, the author argues, and they begin with a radically different view of the individual, or more precisely, the view that the individual human being really does not exist to begin with. - Spengler (May 4,'09)  


 
Behind the Afghan propaganda
Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

Providing an honest overview of the US's involvement in Afghanistan dating from the Cold War, this book raises useful questions for anti-imperialists, "liberal imperialists" and neo-cons alike. As independence continues to elude the Afghan people, the full extent of Washington's meddling is revealed. - Anthony Fenton (May 1,'09)  

 
Ungainly friendship
Axis of Convenience by Bobo Lo

China and Russia's strategic partnership is at its apex, but they are unlikely to forge a new anti-Western axis any time soon, as historical distrust and their divergent rela I2%493tionships with the United States and Europe are a constant limiter. Geopolitical games for control of Central Asia and the energy trade also loom as areas of conflict, argues the author of this concise analysis. - Sreeram Chaulia (Apr 24,'09)

 
Spoiling for a fight width= src=BR
The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen

The "accidental guerrillas", those wretched and unwanted "societal antibodies emerging in response to Western intervention", love a fight, and they certainly have one on their hands in Afghanistan, and increasingly in Nuristan province, which the book clearly explains. As for the Taliban's and al-Qaeda's plan for "victory" - there is no answer. - Philip Smucker (Apr 21,'09)  

 
Capitalism with Chinese characteristics
Made in China by Winter Nie and Katherine Xin with Lily Zhang

Such is the transformation of China's economy over the past three decades that privately owned enterprises are now without doubt the country's economic driving force, attracting more than double the fixed-asset investment of state-owned outfits. A native breed of capitalist is thriving with virtually none of the tin cans of China's socialist, centrally planned legacy tied to its tails. - Muhammad Cohen (Apr 17,'09)

 
Boiling over in bubble Beijing
China High: My Fast Times in the 010 by ZZ

A buzzing, psychedelic narrative of the author's misadventures in sex and drugs as a brash Shanghai-born, American-schooled entrepreneur haunting the tragically hip, neon-drenched world of Beijing's club scene, this hallucogenic tale has more than a hint of the bizarre. It's also a tale of hubris, as the perpertrator's subsequent descent into the rigors of the Middle Kingdom's "vile" prison system hints at a modern morality tale. - David Wilson (Apr 9,'09)

 
Dialogue and debate in the Islamic Republic
Iran's Intellectual Revolution by Mehran Kamrava

Despite its shortcomings, such as failing to fully display the complex, self-reforming, intellectual dynamism of the Islamic Republic, this is a highly informative book that sheds much light on the hot furnace of intellectual discursive debates in today's Iran. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Apr 3,'09)

 
Light on a dark conflict
Tearing Apart the Land by Duncan McCargo

Whether driven by a liberal sympathy for the Malay Muslims or by a security focused concern for the spread of radical Islam, research on Thailand's violent Malay Muslim separatist movement remains enmeshed in an ideological divide. While this book clearly falls on the more sympathetic side, it shines new light on one of the region's darkest conflicts. - Jason Johnson (Mar 27,'09)

 
Twelve steps to a new grand strategy
Great Powers: America and the World after Bush by Thomas P M Barnett

Since George W Bush left office, many Americans have begun soul-searching, questioning the nature of US power and how it should be used. This book is a well-reasoned argument for the US to re-engage with the world's problems, though it should be remembered that the rest of the international community has some reservations about its intentions. - Benjamin A Shobert (Mar 20,'09)  

 
This almost-chosen, almost-pregnant land
American Babylon by Richard John Neuhaus

America is "a country with the soul of a church", as author G K Chesterton wrote, and by no accident, it is the only industrial nation (apart from Israel) in which religion plays a decisive role in public life. The central role of religion continues to polarize Americans and confuse foreign observers. - Spengler (Mar 16,'09)

 
Buying what they're selling
India's Store Wars by Geoff Hiscock

India's underdeveloped retail sector is expected to explode in the next four years. This book introduces the key players behind the coming revolution, fueled by the half a billion people eager to sample the temptations of the 21st century. The author, though, accepts too many stock answers straight from the shelf. - Muhammad Cohen (Mar 13,'09)  

 
Anime and Japan's postmodern monsters
Otaku: Japan's Database Animals by Hiroki Azuma

About two decades ago, a geeky breed of techno-loners known as otaku emerged in Japan, spawning an industry that churned out anime, manga and video games. But a string of murders and the subculture's offbeat erotica have earned otaku a reputation as "perverts and threats to society", writes Azuma. As he points out, we may all be more in touch with our inner otaku than we care to admit. - David Wilson (Mar 6,'09)  

 
ASEAN in search of relevance
Hard Choices edited by Donald K Emmerson

As the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations kicks off its annual summit this weekend, many contentious issues surrounding the regional body's future are again under the microscope. This book attempts, and reasonably succeeds, at addressing many of them in a refreshing way, highlighting the hard choices ahead for Southeast Asian governments of all stripes. - Michael Vatikiotis (Feb 27,'09)  

 
Show me the exit!
When Markets Collide - Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change by Mohammed El-Erian

Ideally, an investment book should answer the eternal conundrum - when to sell. The respected El-Erian may put recent events in "their proper context" and give readers "the tools" to interpret the markets. But this reviewer is still waiting for the answer to the key investment riddle. Tell me when to get out! - Julian Delasantellis (Feb 20,'09)

 
Airport to nowhere
Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

This is a stunning, unnerving graphic novel and film describing the traumatic memories of the director, Ari Folman, from his days serving as a 19-year-old Israeli "grunt" in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. From these exclusive excepts of the novel, we get a taste of the "bad acid trip" of Folman's war trauma and his shocking recollections of the notorious massacres in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. (Feb 6,'09)

 
No speed limit
Merchants of Madness by Bertil Lintner and Michael Black

Featuring excellent detail and documentation, this book provides a shocking overview of the amphetamine trade in Myanmar. For countries and organizations pouring financial assistance into the country, it is certainly worth a close read, raising hard questions about whether the current international push for change in Myanmar can succeed as long as the ruling regime benefits from the drug trade. - David Scott Mathieson (Jan 30,'09)

 
The strongmen's benefactors
The Temptations of Tyranny in Central Asia by David Lewis

After the demise of the Soviet Union, the tyrants who took charge in much of Central Asia have had virtually a free hand to brutally quash all oppositTD class=/FONTotaku cellPadding=/DIV ion and repress their impoverished peoples. This book expertly recounts how a hypocritical West has nurtured these despots by lavishing aid and praise on them to secure strategic military gains and a slice of their vast energy reserves. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jan 23,'09) src=center

Whether driven by a liberal sympathy for the Malay Muslims or by a security focused concern for the spread of radical Islam, research on Thailand's violent Malay Muslim separatist movement remains enmeshed in an ideological divide. While this book clearly falls on the more sympathetic side, it shines new light on one of the region's darkest conflicts. - cellPadding=0/TABLEbody
 
Japan's simple soldier of misfortune
Private Yokoi's War and Life on Guam by Omi Hatashin

Driven into hiding for 28 years by US forces on Guam, Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi was forced to kill cockroaches by hand and weave clothing out of foliage to survive. This book is a remarkable portrait of the tragic Yokoi, one of 20th-century Japan's most remarkable figures who went on to pioneer today's minimalist living trend. - David Wilson (Jan 16,'09)

 
Balanced diplomacy or Iranophobia redux?
Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President.

On the surface, this collection of articles by various experts on Middle Eastern affairs, including policy advisors to president-elect Barack Obama, makes a fine case for introducing major changes in US foreign policy. Yet the centrality attached to Iran's perceived threat reflects an old diplomatic mindset that will merely extend the stalemated relations between Washington and Tehran. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Jan 9,'09)

 
Comrades in contradiction
Persian Dreams by John W Parker

This is an exhaustive untangling of Russia's and Iran's imploding, fluctuating and expanding ties since the latter's revolution in 1979. It triangulates the nations' relationships with the United States, illuminates the contradictions of their dealings during the civil wars in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and brings to light the pivotal role a newly resurgent and perhaps nuclear Iran will play in Moscow's chessboard across Central Asia and the Caucasus. - Ian Chesley (Dec 19,'08)

 
The fruit of a poisonous tree
Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq
by Jonathan Steele

This convincing, if moralistic, indictment of Iraq's treatment by the United States and Britain argues that only misery and atrocities emanated from the "original sin" of a misguided occupation. The Iraq depicted in this book is a shattered land victimized by broken promises, gross mismanagement, and above all, strategic blunders, one after another. - Mohammed A Salih (Dec 12,'08)  

 
The rise of the Ďbooboisie'
Notes on Democracy by H L Mencken

In what would surely delight the great satirist H L Mencken, his politically incorrect attack on the democratic process in this fresh, annotated edition will be even more offensive than it was when first published in 1926. Though arrestingly relevant, such views expressed by today's pundits would certainly provoke the anger of the American "mob", with its government by "orgy and orgasm". - Kent Ewing (Dec 5,'08)

 
Military reform 30 years on
Americaís Defense Meltdown edited by Winslow T Wheeler

After reading this book one can only conclude that with the US military's budget at some trillion dollars annually, and mismanagement and bureaucracy at their highest levels since the Vietnam war, the time is ripe for major reform in the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. But the authors don't just criticize, they also offer sober, detailed solutions. - David Isenberg (Nov 26,'08)
 

 
Political whores go biblical
Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl by Tracy Quan

This saucy diary rises like a French bedroom souffle, baked at a high heat, Provence style. But it is often more perspicacious than sexy, using a galaxy of well-drawn characters to passionately tease out the real human emotions and politics of sex work. It also juxtaposes these realities with biblical introspection on Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of all call girls, even ones with $2,500 handbags and Manhattan banker husbands. - Muhammad Cohen (Nov 21,'08)

 
Pseudo-intellectualism on Iran
Iran: A People Interrupted by Hamid Dabashi

Full of factual errors and self-contradictions, this flawed history of Iran's past 200 years often offers little more than a soap box for the author's outdated anti-colonial arguments. The book's credibility is further damaged by distasteful attacks on other scholars and his lazy approach to analysis of post-revolutionary Iran's complex political arena. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Nov 14,'08)

 
Subprime - an (im)morality tale
Confessions of a Subprime Lender by Richard Bitner

At one end, Wall Street's highest high-flyers; at the other end, low-income, or no-income, Americans with a contract to sign for a house beyond their financial dreams. Between them the salesperson with the smile, with the talk, with the pen that will seal the deal. And now with a morality tale fit for our bankrupt times. - Julian Delasantellis (Nov 7,'08)

 
Universally rejected
The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East by Oliver Roy

The George W Bush administration, led by "universalists", believed the "American experience" was the perfect model to stamp on the peoples of the Middle East. But this has instead created instability and, in some countries, chaos. The conclusions to be drawn from the book are that the US should be more accommodating to the traditions of the Muslim world and that it should reach out to pragmatic Muslim nationalists, for example those in Iran. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Oct 31,'08)

 
Graveyard of Indian idealism
Tibet: The Lost Frontier by Claude Arpi

India threw up its hands and presented Tibet to China in 1950, its leaders naively believing that the future of Asia depended on a chimerical "eternal friendship" with China. This book expertly relates how Beijing seized the opportunity, gaining a capitulation which humiliated India as a "paper tiger", and opening a gateway for the Chinese army to the Indian sub-continent - Sreeram Chaulia (Oct 24,'08)

 
Sharansky's mistaken identity

We must belong to cultures and nations, author Natan Sharansky asserts, rather than to the insipid soup of global citizenship. The trouble is that some identities are hostile to other identities by nature. From Ireland to Afghanistan, for example, the identities of all tribes and nations have become a response to Israel. - Spengler (Oct 20,'08)

 
Delinking options on Iran
Iran: Assessing US Strategic Options edited by James J Miller, Christine Parthemore and Kurt N Campbell

Architects of a new US foreign policy on Iran should shun this toxic compendium, which recommends a dangerous military-diplomatic cocktail in dealing with Tehran. The authors call for "turbocharged sticks" and "periodic refresher" strikes, rather than the real solution - nuclear ambitions which are verified, fully monitored and peaceful. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 17, '08)

 
Gambling, growth and imagination
Paul Krugman this week won the Nobel Prize in economics for his "analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity". Reuven Brenner would have been a more deserving winner. Rather than put bells and whistles on the conventional economic model - now in cataclysmic breakdown - Brenner yanks economics inside-out by placing risky behavior at its center. (Oct 14, '08)  

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Asians one and all
Pan-Asianism in modern Japanese history, edited by Sven Saaler and J Victor Koschmann

The essays in this book reconstruct the development of Pan-Asianism - the assumption that Asians should be united - as one of the most important trends in modern Japanese history. One of the crucial points in the study of /TD100% border= Pan-Asianism is its application and relation to real life, yet this is entirely ignored by the authors. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Oct 3, '08)  

 
A peek into a Persian paradox
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Hooman Majd

Raised and educated in the West before working closely with two Iranian presidents, Majd is the perfect raconteur to give a deeper perspective on Iran and its relationship with America. Part autobiography, part political reporting, the book juxtaposes a disarming view of the contradictions in Iranian society with sweeping insights into the nation's political affairs, international relations and culture. - Ian Chesley (Sep 26, '08)

 
'We blew her to pieces'
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan by Aaron Glantz

This gut-wrenching chronicle gives vivid and searing accounts of the devastation the United States occupation has brought to Iraq, as well as to its own soldiers. Compiled from emotionally charged testimonies and under the guidance of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, this is an important and disturbing account of "the true face of war". - Dahr Jamail (Sep 19, '08)

 
The ashes of American morality
The Dark Side by Jane Mayer

The core of the book is a dissection of the United States' reaction to the September 11 attacks and how it led to the "war on terror" - a war the author describes in all its sordid details. The deduction drawn is that the US has seen many of its core values eroded to the point of endangering the very principals on which American society is allegedly based. - Alexander Casella (Sep 5, '08)  

 
Rebranding 9/11
The Second Plane by Martin Amis

This incendiary collection of short stories and articles smolders like the rubble of the twin towers. Taking on fundamentalism, Islamism in particular, as well as the West, in absorbing, dialectic prose he scores a direct hit against victim and victors alike. - Julian Delasantellis (Aug 29, '08)

 
Chronicle of errors
Descent Into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid

Hopes that the US's direct involvement in Afghanistan would lead to a terrorism-free region have gone. Rashid, an insightful and revealing chronicler, rightly identifies the need for a reshaped Pakistan if peace in the region is to be found. - Sreeram Chaulia (Aug 8, '08)
 

 
Tarnished 'truth'
The New Paradigm for Financial Markets by George Soros

Economists teaching us that we are creatures of the market claim a universal "truth" that limits questions about what life is for. As the US financial crisis deepens and, Soros argues, heralds the end of an economic era, his message should get a hearing in the debate over what system of exchange replaces it. - Nicholas Kiersey (Aug 1, '08)

 
Middle Kingdom deciphered
Smoke and Mirrors by Pallavi Aiyar

This nuanced analysis from the first and only Chinese-speaking Indian foreign correspondent to reside in China deciphers the Middle Kingdom in a witty and illuminative account that has flashes of a classic. Aiyar soaks into Chinese culture, society, economics and politics and reaps rich rewards by capturing what every author dreams of - the essence of the subject matter. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 11, '08) 

 
Over-the-counter cloak and dagger
Spies For Hire by Tim Shorrock

Intelligence contracting has become a US$45 billion industry for the United States government, and about 75% of the employees at the National Security Agency are actually "private-sector spooks". After reading this groundbreaking investigation of the intelligence-industrial complex, one realizes that if James Bond were operating today he would have a contract, not a license, to kill. - David Isenberg (Jul 3, '08)

 
How history shaped the Pearl of Asia
Phnom Penh - A Cultural and Literary History
by Milton Osborne

Wearing a white sharkskin suit, a 22-year-old Milton Osborne first visited Phnom Penh in 1959 where he met British writer Somerset Maugham and began a long and affectionate affair with the beautiful but troubled Cambodian capital. Osborne has now compiled a half-century of observations into a tender portrait of Phnom Penh and an analysis of how the course of Cambodian history has shaped it. - Andrew Symon (Jun 27, '08)

 
No longer just goodies for the top 1%
The Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles R Morris

The time for Milton Friedman's theories, like those of Keynes, previously a generation's benchmark for economic decision-making, is up. At this turning point, Morris pins down an unusual suspect for the present epochal economic crisis and foresees the dawn of a period more concerned with the whole of society rather than just its blessed 1%. - Julian Delasantellis (Jun 20, '08)

 
Asia's awesome threesome
Rivals by Bill Emmott

Any friendship between China, India, and Japan is a facade, argues Bill Emmott in his new book on the inter-state rivalry and its consequences for the world. Asia's "Big Three" are prone to suspicions and jealousies due to their highly competitive and strategic environment and this has led to a complex "new Asian drama". Emmott's yen for futurology yields interesting speculations but his premise of a is illogical and bypasses the impact of Russo-American tensions. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jun 13, '08)

 
The people's new opium
China's New Confucianism by Daniel A Bell

Confucianism is resurgent in China, with its proponents aiming to re-enshrine moral standards for a nation undergoing dizzying change. Surprisingly, a Westerner is at the forefront and in this book he tackles issues ranging from why Confucianism is important today to the reason senior communist leaders always dye their hair black. - Sunny Lee (Jun 6, '08)

 
Life and death in the Bible
The power of God for Christians and Jews by Kevin J Madigan and Jon D Levenson

Theology should reclaim its lost throne as queen of the sciences because it is a guide to the issues that decide the life and death of nations. In this splendid book, the authors have done an enormous service to their own and to many other disciplines by clarifying the Biblical understanding of life and death. - Spengler(May 27, '08)

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Tell-tale travelers' tales 
Russia and Iran in the Great Game by Elena Andreeva

Opinion in Russia today on Iran is divided over whether or not to engage the country. This same division existed in the late 19th century, the era on which 24%topB/TABLE the author focuses, using the writings of Russian travelers to Iran. What the lively book lacks is a comparison of what European travelers to Russia felt. -Dmitry Shlapentokh  (May 16, '08)

 
A new voice to Paine's cry of rebellion
Bad Money by Kevin Phillips

B
Four decades ago, author Phillips showed how a coalition of the new Sunbelt and the old white South would come to create a long-term Republican majority. Two decades is long-term enough for him, and he now declares rebellion against the entire American establishment controlling a near bankrupt country devoid of serious financial debate and civic engagement. - Joe Costello (May 9, '08)

 
America's university of imperialism
Soldiers of Reason by Alex Abella

The RAND Corporation was the Cold War granddaddy think-tank of them all, one of the most unusual private organizations in the field of international relations, and it's still with us. It helped administrations plan and fight the Vietnam War, turning theory into an all-too-grim reality. Yet its record of advice on cardinal policies involving war and peace, arms races and decisions to resort to armed force has been abysmal. -
Chalmers Johnson (May 2, '08)

 
The Fed's king of bubbles
Greenspan's Bubbles - The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve by William Fleckenstein

Alan Greenspan did not have to wait long before his reputation for guiding the US economy to a new age of economic prosperity was stripped of plausibility. The financial crisis now of global reach was underway well before his long tenure as US Federal Reserve chairman came to an end. The man's folly, and that of his obsequious inquisitors in Congress, is now fully exposed. - Julian Delasantellis   (Apr 25, '08)

 
Asia pushes, West resists
The New Asian Hemisphere by Kishore Mahbubani

A turbulent era of de-Westernization has begun in Asia, and Western societies, apprehensive about Asia's galloping modernization, fear the world order built to sustain their domination will be overthrown. This could be a good thing, the enlightening book suggests, if the West could learn to work with, rather than against, Asia's renaissance. - Sreeram Chaulia (Apr 18, '08)

 
Beyond the statue's cold frown
Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The early years of Joseph Stalin make for an exotic tale. Widowed at 22, Stalin's heart turned to socialism and he soon grew into a gangster chief, a four-time political exile and a talented poet. In evocative prose, Montefiore casts new light on a man whose name is a byword for ruthless and dictatorial government and at the same time adds depth and context to a dominant 20th century leader. - Fraser Newham (Apr 11, '08)


 
A neo-con in the works
Surrender Is Not an Option by John Bolton

The Yale-educated son of a Boston firefighter, Bolton makes no secret of his contempt for liberal thinking and his urge for confrontation. The controversial former US ambassador to the United Nations explains his decision to go it alone at the UN with a mission to "improve America's position" rather than to improve the organization. Bolton eventually failed on both counts because his hardline approach kept him from realizing that the two are inextricably linked. - Alexander Casella (Apr 4, '08)

 
The flawed golden goose
Blind Men and the Elephant by Was Rahman and Priya Kurien

The IT industry helped revolutionize the global economy, yet its practitioners frequently fail to grasp business basics, deliver projects late - if it all and with questionable benefits - while also communicating dismally with customers, the authors argue. India' success in getting these things right, notwithstanding lingering complacent habits elsewhere and a lack of forward vision, leave many in the industry ill-prepared to face a downturn. - Sreeram Chaulia (Mar 28, '08)

 
Larger than life
Tell Me a Story by Kevin Sinclair

Sinclair epitomized the swashbuckling, hard-drinking journalists of yesteryear, and his memoir is sure to stir nostalgia for the days of inebriated gatherings of close-knit China scribes in Hong Kong. Sinclair was the leader of the pack, and his descriptions of crazy stories and eccentric personalities are an important backdrop to the history of Hong Kong and China. - Kent Ewing (Mar 20, '08)

 
Ancient tactics for modern battles
The 36 Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts
by Hiroshi Moriya

The ancient Chinese maxims featured in the book encapsulate some of the Far East's most cunning tactics for battle and deception. In the end, it's useful, and surprisingly applicable, advice for how to counter the actions of any tough opponent - be it in contemporary business, politics, diplomacy or sport. - Michael Jen-Siu (Mar 14, '08)

 
Bare bones of Suharto's secrets
Sukarno and the Indonesian Coup by Helen-Louise Hunter

The tumultuous events of 1965 that led to the end of Sukarno's rule and the rise of Suharto's New Order regime have been described as some of the most significant of the 20th century, not just for Indonesia but internationally. Yet questions linger as to Suharto's role in making things happen and the dark hand of the United States. - Andrew Symon (Mar 7, '08)

 
From local fight to global struggle
Russia's Islamic Threat by Gordon M Hahn

Although the Chechen war started as a nationalistic exploit, with the desire to liberate Chechens from Russia and build an independent state, it has transformed itself into a jihadi movement with global appeal. -
Dmitry Shlapentokh (Feb 29, '08)

 
Hong Kong and the oral tradition
The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong by Jonathan Chamberlain

Hong Kong's Peter Hui was, at various times, a gambler, a tailor and CIA agent. At one point he also controlled an awful lot of opium. Huiís remembrance of his riotous life give a rare peek at the Hong Kong of yesteryear - the opium dens, the pool halls, the nightclubs, the casinos and the girls, girls, girls. The protagonistís triumphs and tragedies underscore the dynamism of the city and the times that shaped him. - Kent Ewing (Feb 22, '08)

 
Unglobalized at the edges
Bound Together by Nayan Chanda

A noted former journalist joins the ranks of commentators on the modern globalization phenomenon with an account that avoids hectoring tones while taking note of the large numbers of people still desperate to join the globalized network - a population that represents, he says, a moral and practical challenge to the developed world. - Scott B MacDonald
(Feb 15, '08)

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Regrettable apology for Myanmar
Promoting Human Rights in Burma by Morten B Pedersen

A Danish academic and author who favors "constructive engagement" with the Myanmar junta does himself and his cause no favors with his book. Riddled with flawed arguments, factual errors and dismissive of the monk protests, the work is not going to enhance his reputation among Myanmar citizens who favor a return to democracy. - Bertil Lintner (Feb 8, '08) 

 
One mainland, two systems
Rural Democracy in China by Baogang He

An in-depth study of China's rural election system finds that the grassroots semi-competitive polls have given birth to a "mixed regime" that, despite contradictions, fortifies the Communist Party's supremacy. - Sreeram Chaulia (Feb 1, '08)  /DIV/STRONG24%

 
Black turbans rebound
Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop by Antonio Giustozzi

In this revealing book, the reasons for the resurgence of the "new" Taliban in Afghanistan are made clear. The internal weaknesses of the Afghan state - particularly the limp-wristed administration of President Hamid Karzai - opened the window for the insurgents to re-establish themselves. They also have less rigid attitudes than their 1994-2001 predecessors towards technologies like the Internet and video production. -
Sreeram Chaulia (Jan 25, '08)

 
A fresh look at terrorism's roots
Leaderless Jihad by Marc Sageman

Everything the George W Bush administration purports to know about the roots of terrorism is wrong, and a book that boldly goes where none has gone before explains why. Case studies show what various members of al-Qaeda have in common - and it's not what White House experts would have us believe. - David Isenberg
(Jan 18, '08)

 
Smugglers' blues
Reefer Men by Tony Thompson

Their dreams of one last big score ended with prison terms in the United States, but before the iron doors shut behind them a diverse group of Bangkok-based expat drifters, military veterans, a Thai politician and a bar owner smuggled tons of Thai stick successfully for more than 10 years. Their lives and high (and low) times are ably recorded in entertaining fashion. - Bertil Lintner (Jan 11, '08)

 
Beyond the bombast
The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran by Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar

Much fury and folderol has been spent over Iran's nuclear program and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, most driven by fear or near-paranoia. This is an in-depth, level-headed and enlightening analysis - at one time Tehran's nuclear ambitions were assisted by the US government - and also covers the circumstances that brought Ahmadinejad to power. - David Isenberg (Jan 4, '08)

 
The secret library of hope
12 books to stiffen your resolve

There's no need to curl up in despair when faced with a grim world. There are a handful of books that offer a "secret library of hope". None of them deny the awful things going on, but they approach them as if the future is still open to intervention rather than an inevitability. In describing how the world actually gets changed, they give us the tools to change it again. These range from Aung San Suu Kyi's The Voice of Hope to William Morris' 19th-century utopian novel News from Nowhere. - Rebecca Solnit (Dec 21, '07)

 
The great survivor
India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha

Historian Guha presents a critical yet tender portrait of six decades of Indian independence. Referring to what he calls a "unique patriotism", Guha theorizes that India's oneness, and its at times surprising indivisibility, are indebted to an array of liberal freedoms and efficient institutions, among them the professional civil service, the English language and the cricket team. - Sreeram Chaulia  (Dec 14, '07)

 
A sad moon rising
Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter by Shoko Tendo

This is a vivid and shocking tale of the tumultuous and tragic life of a daughter of a yakuza crime boss. While her book does not serve up a detailed guide to the ins and outs of Japan's fabled underworld, it's a candid, deeply personal and often graphic account of life in the country's underbelly. - Bertil Lintner
(Dec 7, '07)

 
An over-traveled road
China Road by Rob Gifford

While the book offers some engaging and colorful reportage for Sino-neophytes, it's largely familiar territory for old China hands. The author knows his territory, but lets his Christian moralizing hold sway a little more than he should when passing judgement on the future of a godless, but not necessarily immoral, nation of 1.3 billion. -
Dinah Gardner (Nov 30, '07)

 
Non compos POTUS
Shadow Warriors by Kenneth R Timmerman

Intelligence is an adjunct of war-fighting; it cannot compensate for a failed plan. Former US president Ronald Reagan won the intelligence war against the Soviet Union, while George W Bush is losing in the Middle East, because Reagan's overall war strategy was successful, while the Bush strategy is flawed. Instead of finding demons in the US intelligence world to blame for Bush's failure, author Timmerman would do better to study some basic precepts of logic. - Spengler
(Nov 26, '07)

 
Muslim democracy: An oxymoron?
Democracy in Muslim Societies by Zoya Hasan (ed)

Six case studies ranging from Bangladesh to Indonesia examine the variables and differing paths taken by Muslim politics in the search for democracy. A common theme is that Islam has been manipulated, but the book falls short by ignoring non-Muslim countries to see if religion has similarly been manipulated. - Sreeram Chaulia (Nov 21, '07)

 
Power, passion and neo-liberalism
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

"Masterful journalist" Klein traces neo-liberalism's rise to dominance through to the "disaster capitalism" practiced in Iraq. It's a towering work, one that brilliantly follows neo-liberalism's march from marginal theology to universal policy. -
Walden Bello (Nov 16, '07)

 
'A necessary evil'
Merchant of Death by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun

Though Russian Viktor Bout is wanted in Belgium and has been called the "Bill Gates or Donald Trump of arms trafficking", he is secure in Moscow, overseeing an enormous shadowy airfleet. The authors' investigative book exposes the mysterious world in which he operates, aiding Islamic militants in Afghanistan as as well as ferrying weapons and supplies for the US military. - Bertil Lintner (Nov 9, '07)

 
Inside story of the Western mind
Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians by Fergus Kerr

America's "war on terror" proceeds from a political philosophy that treats radical Islam as if it were a political movement - "Islamo-fascism" - rather than a truly religious response to the West. Few Western leaders comprehend this, and by default, the only effective leader of the West, the man who has drawn the line in the sand, is Pope Benedict XVI. For those who are concerned about the West's future, this book is a godsend. - Spengler (Nov 5, '07)
nbsp; 2% Their dreams of one last big score ended with prison terms in the United States, but before the iron doors shut behind them a diverse group of Bangkok-based expat drifters, military veterans, a Thai politician and a bar owner smuggled tons of Thai stick successfully for more than 10 years. Their lives and high (and low) times are ably recorded in entertaining fashion. -
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Decoding the enigmatic Republic of Iran
Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies by Barbara Slavin

This is a masterful job of putting a human face on the largely demonized people and country of Iran. With clear-eyed insight and interviews that range from the inner sanctums of the White House to the slums of Tehran, the book strips away the stereotypes to reveal a complex Iran that belies the popular US view.
(Nov 2, '07)
Table159
 
Deconstructing Cambodia's modernist heritage
Building Cambodia by Helen Grant Ross
and Darryl Leon Collins

The little-known period of Cambodia's post-colonial/pre-Killing Fields Khmer architectural renaissance is lovingly documented. At the urging of quixotic Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian architects, engineers and town planners between 1953 and 1970 combined Western modernist forms, materials and functions with traditional Cambodian designs for a unique low-rise form that now finds itself threatened by cookie-cutter glass towers. -
Andrew Symon (Oct 26, '07)

 
A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
Intellectual fallacies of the 'war on terror'
The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes

Chalmers Johnson
finds this book to be a "powerful and philosophically erudite survey of what we think we understand about the 9/11 attacks - and how and why the United States has magnified many times over the initial damage caused by the terrorists". Holmes has cleared away the underbrush and prepared the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject. (Oct 23, '07)


 
Embattled frontier
Lost Opportunities. 50 Years of Insurgency in the North-East and India's Response by SP Sinha

In detailing the myriad conflicts and insurrections that have long plagued India's "Seven Sister" northeast states, author, scholar and soldier S P Sinha lays most of the blame on unsavory outside influences and linkages in Bangladesh, Myanmar and China rather than ethnic conflict or Delhi's own mismanagement of the situation. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Oct 12, '07)


 
Reaping what is sown
The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan

Greenspan became the public face of, and far and away the most important single personage representing, the triumphal capitalist revolution that would come to rule the planet. Yet at times his book reads more like a sales manager reporting the quarter's results to the home office. And the former Fed chief takes no blame for all the rescues that acted to reward those who engaged in moral hazard. -
Julian Delasantellis (Oct 5, '07)


 
'Television is my lie'
Hong Kong on Air by Muhammad Cohen

This is a comic romp through the frenetic world of television news at the time of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. For aficionados of the handover story this is a worthy though over-long read. And, of course, peace between the Muhammads and the Cohens can't help but be a good thing. - Kent Ewing
(Sep 28, '07)


 
A comparative failure
Infrastructure Growth in India and China: A Comparative Study edited by Dhandapani Alagiri

It has always been tempting to make comparisons about Asia's two giants, but because their systems of governance are so different, it is not always helpful to do so. Hence even if this book had done a better job at accomplishing the promise of its title, it probably still would not have ended up being particularly useful. - David Simmons
(Sep 21, '07)


 
That '800-pound gorilla' ...
Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

Nothing is as it seems in the Middle East, and author Trita Parsi sheds light on the dark, back-door wheeling and dealing among supposed enemies - Israel, Iran and the US - going back decades. The book is a timely and important read for anybody who wants push back the essentialist arguments that suggest an impending clash of ideologies. - Khody Akhavi
(Sep 14, '07)


 
No, it's the dog that wags the tail
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt

This controversial book argues that client state Israel and its allies in the US are leading the US government to engage in policies that are manifestly against its interests - a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. Nothing could be further from the truth. The US has been using Israel to fulfill its policy objectives for decades, and will continue to do so. - Mark LeVine
(Sep 7, '07)


 
Lodestar of liberty
Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Justin Wintle

The world's "best-known prisoner of conscience", Aung San Suu Kyi, certainly deserves a full biography, and British historian Wintle has provided a comprehensive one. Detained for years under house arrest, she may never come to power, but the meaning of her exemplary life lies in the more eternal motto, "Never give up." - Sreeram Chaulia (Aug 31, '07)


 
The ultimate global battle
Boeing Versus Airbus by John Newhouse

The jumbo jet is the icon of globalization; the competition between Boeing and Airbus is the iconic rivalry. A major theme of this excellent business book is how the US company has had to rethink and reshape its business practices to match more closely those of Airbus. On a larger scale, it is not unlike what the US will have to do to compete with another upstart, China. - Benjamin A Shobert (Aug 24, '07)


 
India's silent warriors
The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane by B Raman

This new book by a former insider lays bare the successes and failures of India's external intelligence agency. A treasure trove of unknown information and incidents, the book is a frank account of cloak-and-dagger agents who defended Indian interests through the years. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Aug 17, '07)
 


 
Asian drama
The New Asian Power Dynamic, edited by M K Rasgotra

China, Japan, India, Russia and the US are the five nations whose actions will determine war and peace, prosperity or poverty in the 21st century. How they interact with one another is of prime concern to everyone. This edited volume of essays by eminent Indian scholars and diplomats illuminates this complex interplay. - Sreeram Chaulia (Aug 10, '07)


 
The child of social Darwinism
The Geopolitics Reader, edited by Gearoid O Tuathail, Simon Dalby and Paul Routlege

For the Anglo-American West, geopolitics has long been suspect. Its promotion of the Eurasian "heartland" as the key to world domination did not jibe with the Anglo-American world view. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, geopolitics, embraced by neo-conservatives, is making a comeback, as exemplified by this collection of essays. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Aug 3, '07) /TD cellPadding=DIV align=
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India on the mind
Planet India by Mira Kamdar

The future of the 21st century could well lie with India, writes Kamdar, who believes that the developing nation's combination of democracy and innovation has the ability to transform the world as other nations, including China and the United States, cannot. -
Scott B MacDonald (Jul 27, '07)
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North Korea's no Mozambique
North of the DMZ by Andrei Lankov

Why is so much ink spilled about a country that is about as big and consequential as Mozambique? That is the question raised and answered in Andrei Lankov's new compilation of essays about North Korea. The obvious answer is nukes, but once that issue is laid to rest, North Korea will fall off the global radar screen and become just another, well, Mozambique. - Sunny Lee (Jul 20, '07)


 
India's holy grail
Back from Dead by Anuj Dhar

The uncertain fate of revered Indian nationalist "Netaji" Subhas Chandra Bose has long been a cause celebre that has gripped the subcontinent since his sudden disappearance in 1945. Did he die in an aircraft crash in Taipei? Or flee to the Soviet Union, only to vanish in the gulag? Or reappear as an enigmatic holy man in northern India? In this exhaustively researched book, investigative journalist Anuj Dhar uncovers riveting evidence that goes a long way in unraveling the riddles, myths and cover-ups surrounding Bose's fate. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 13, '07)


 
Faith: Part of the problem
God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

The reviewer, Ioannis Gatsiounis, places Hitchens' screed against religion in the context of deeply Muslim Malaysia, where Hitchens' arguments for the supremacy of reason may not resonate.
(Jul 6, '07)


 
The day Britannia sailed away
Farewell, My Colony by Todd Crowell

The commemoration this Sunday of Hong Kong's first decade under Chinese rule since its mostly peaceful handover may not seem important to those who have not been directly touched by this unique city. This book, written as the events transpired, may change their mind as it offers a glimpse of the colony's last days, and the formative days of the new special administrative region. David Simmons takes a look back, and talks to the author about the future. (Jun 29, '07)


 
How to project 'soft power'
The First Resort of Kings by Richard T Arndt

The timing of this book's publication is superb, coming at the nadir of a US administration that gives many people the impression that war is a first resort rather than a last resort. Arndt looks back at US history to provide many examples of cultural diplomacy, which is a force for mutual understanding that emphasizes long-term relations between countries. - Martin A Schell (Jun 22, '07)


 
The adaptive power
Japan Rising by Kenneth Pyle

The author argues that for all the restlessness and rebelliousness of the present Heisei generation, Japan's national purpose is still being defined as a reflex reaction to the international environment rather than as an innovative home-bred will that can mold the world order. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Jun 15, '07)


 
More pro-Bush than Bush
In Defense of the Bush Doctrine by Robert G Kaufman

Not many people defend the Bush Doctrine these days. This new book gives Bushism a spirited, if not very convincing, defense. Considering that many neo-conservatives have abandoned any attempt to argue that the Iraq war was well managed, it is surprising to come across a reasonably thoughtful author still willing to defend US President George W Bush to the hilt. - Colin Dueck
(Jun 8, '07)


 
Greek tragedy
At the Center of the Storm by George Tenet

This is a "defensive memoir", a book written to plead the author's case against the legion of accusations leveled against him. And yet it is far more than one man's plea for understanding: it goes to the heart of the failures and, yes, many successes in the "war against terror" before and after September 11, 2001 - and who really was responsible for the war in Iraq. - Elbridge Colby
(May 25, '07)


 
An appeal for empire
Theology of Discontent by Hamid Dabashi 

This book traces the trajectory of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 from its roots in anti-nationalism and back. The revolution followed a familiar path: after starting with an appeal for social justice, in the end it returned to justifying the might of the state. - Dmitry Shlapentokh
(May 18, '07)


 
The uses and limits of 'soft power'
Charm Offensive by Joshua Kurlantzick

The author takes the concept of "soft power", first enunciated by Harvard's Joseph Nye, and develops it in the context of China's international "charm offensive". This book is in essence about two things: China's utilization of its growing soft power, but also the vacuum of soft power and influence an emasculated US is leaving behind. - Benjamin A Shobert
(May 11, '07)


 
Arm thy neighbor
Militia Redux by Desmond Ball and David Scott Mathieson
Paramilitaries flourished in Thailand in the 1960s, when the government felt under threat by communist forces. The old threats are history, but the paramilitaries remain, with new mandates - to help maintain security along the still-volatile Thailand-Myanmar border and, more controversially, to suppress insurgency in the Muslim-dominated southern provinces. This book is an impressively detailed account of these forces. - Bertil Lintner
(May 10, '07)


 
The longest jihad
India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad by Praveen Swami

When people think of jihad, their minds go back as far as, say, the anti-Soviet resistance movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Yet journalist Praveen Swami traces the jihad against India's control over Kashmir and Jammu back to partition in 1949. Anyone wanting to know the parameters of the "long war" against militant Islam need look no further. - Sreeram Chaulia (May 4, '07)


 
Compromising ideologies
Inside Hamas by Zaki Chehab

The election of Hamas last year was a turning point in Palestinian history with ramifications that will be felt for years. London-based Arab journalist Zaki Chehab provides in this book a colorful first-hand account of the movement, 0BR /DIV both loved and hated, that must play a central role in any resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. - Simon Martelli (AprBR (Jun 29, '07) border=TD class= 27, '07)


 
SPENGLER
Tolkien's Christianity and the pagan tragedy
The Children of Hurin, by J R R Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

J R R Tolkien was the most Christian of 20th-century writers, because he uniquely portrayed the tragic nature of the paganism that Christianity width=/B/TDDIV align= replaced. This book, begun in Tolkien's youth and diligently reconstructed by his son, is set 6,000 years before The Lord of the Rings and sheds light on that famous work's greater purpose. (Apr 23, '07)


 
Close, but not too close
China and Iran by John Garver

Should war break out between Iran and the US, would China stay on the sidelines? Probably, argues John Garver in this valuable modern history of China-Iran relations. Though the two countries have many common interests and a similar world view, Beijing would not likely jeopardize its cooperative economic ties to Washington to come to Tehran's aid. - Sreeram Chaulia (Apr 5, '07)


 
China and the 'enlightened' West
The Writing on the Wall by Will Hutton

This book's main thesis - that China's continued economic advance cannot be sustained within its present political structure - is not original. But it goes on to examine not only why China needs to acquire "Enlightenment values" - ie, democracy, checks and balances, the rule of law - but why the West needs to reclaim them. - Tony Norfield (Mar 30, '07)


 

The intellect behind Islamic radicalism
The Power of Sovereignty by Sayed Khatab

Karl Marx and the Prophet Mohammed had at least one thing in common. Their outlook transcended mere nationalism. That is the main point of Sayyid Qutb's philosophy, which turned Islam into a sort of replacement for Marxism that plays an important role in world affairs today. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Mar 23, '07)



 

The man who would be king
Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy by Andrew Cockburn

A fitting way to "celebrate" shock and awe, the bombastic opening of the most astonishing blunder in recent military/geopolitical history, would be to read this book about the life of Donald Rumsfeld, a life spent pursuing personal grandeur at enormous cost to entire nations, including his own. - Pepe Escobar
(Mar 20, '07)



 

The third way for China
The China Fantasy by James Mann

Many people believe that as China grows wealthier and its middle class expands, it will move inevitably toward democracy. For author James Mann, this is one of three possible scenarios but is unlikely. China will more likely follow the third path, growing richer while maintaining authoritarian rule. The middle class, the vanguard of democracy in other Asian countries, will be an obstacle to change. - Benjamin A Shobert (Mar 16, '07)

An interview with author James Mann



 

How to talk business in China
The Chinese Negotiator by Robert M March and Wu Su-hua

This business guide provides useful advice on how to negotiate deals with China's calculating "chain-smoking stoics", whose subtlety, sophisticated tactics and slow pace make them extremely challenging adversaries for straightforward, get-right-down-to-business Westerners. - Michael Jen-Siu
(Mar 9, '07)



 

Why brand obsession is the new status quo
The Cult of the Luxury Brand by Radha Chadha and Paul Husband

Written by a marketing expert and retail development consultant, this interesting book examines the social and psychological factors contributing to Asia's growing affinity for Western luxury goods from the point of view of those who are in the business of convincing consumers that good is never good enough. - Kelly Nuxoll
(Feb 23, '07)



 

In the season of SARS
China Syndrome by Karl Taro Greenfeld

This is a compelling account of the deadly 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus that brought China to the verge of mass panic. The century's first great epidemic was a bullet dodged. But it will not be the last. - Todd Crowell
(Feb 16, '07)



 

The Roving Eye's grim world view
Globalistan by Pepe Escobar

If the invasion of Iraq wasn't "about oil", what was it about? Well - it was about oil, obviously, and so is just about everything else that's going on in global geopolitics, according to this encyclopedic work by Asia Times Online's Pepe Escobar. And gas, of course. And nukes. And the ticking time bomb of angry, teeming billions in globalization-expanded slums. And ... - David Simmons (Feb 9, '07)

 Read an excerpt



 

The challenge of China's rise
In China's Shadow by Reed Hundt

This is a "China book" that really isn't about China. The author uses China mainly as a mirror to elucidate the changes that the United States needs to make to be competitive over the long term. - Benjamin A Shobert (Feb 2, '07)



 

A law unto itself
The Corporation That Changed the World by Nick Robins

The British East India Company was more than a commercial enterprise. With its own army, navy and civil service, it was a law unto itself. Nick Robins' new history paints a hard-nosed picture, devoid of even a scintilla of nostalgia for the Raj. It is the story of a robber-baron organization that set the model for today's rapacious multinationals. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jan 26, '07) 


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SPENGLER
Faith and risk in the Cold War

The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister by John O'Sullivan

This account of the Western victory over communism should have a place in the medicine cabinet of every literate family, as an antidote to stultifying academic drivel and self-serving bureaucratic memoirs. Who could have predicted that a broken-down movie star, a grocer's daughter, and a Polish priest would become the protagonists of the great conflict of the 20th century's second half? (Jan 22, '07)


 

An animator's novel experience
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China by Guy Delisle

Jet-set animator Guy Delisle's graphic novels atmospherically depict his life as a manager of outsourced cartoon production on the frontiers of globalization, first in China's cultural desert of Shenzhen and later in Orwellian North Korea. Outsourcing, both of these enjoyable books make clear, is no picnic. - Fraser Newham (Jan 19, '07)

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After the battle is won
The Art of Victory by Gregory R Copley

The destruction of one's enemy does not, by itself, constitute "victory", according to Gregory R Copley's treatise on the subject. What is more important is what happens after the battle is won. The West may have "won" the Cold War, but how can one claim "victory" if one's population declines to almost nothing? - Yoel Sano (Jan 12, '07)



 

Operation bungle Iraq
Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

This examination of the US occupation goes a long way in shattering the belief that the US is a competent hegemon capable of resurrecting broken countries with finesse. That Americans can be blunderbusses is borne out by this illuminating portrait of the unspeakable human tragedy of Iraq. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jan 5, '07)



 

Civilization is at stake
The Age of Fallibility by George Soros

This is a pessimistic book, as one would expect coming from Soros, a trenchant critic of modern US society. His discussion of such issues as nuclear proliferation and global warming is grounded in the philosophy of his mentor, Karl Popper. Nothing is at stake - except maybe the future of civilization itself. - John Dowd (Dec 15, '06)



 

A new Jerusalem in sub-Saharan Africa
The New Faces of Christianity by Philip Jenkins

Westerners have spent the past 400 years in a grand effort to make the world seem orderly and reasonable without, however, quite suppressing the strangeness and wonder of life. Now come the new Christians of the Southern Hemisphere, choosing Christianity over Islam, who confound enlightened Western prejudice . - Spengler (Dec 11, '06)



 

Salesman of doom
Shopping for Bombs by Gordon Corera

To investigate the story of how Abdul Qadeer Khan became the world's greatest nuclear proliferator, BBC journalist Gordon Corera scoured news reports and conducted numerous interviews to create a worrisome tale of greed and failure of international political will to rein in Pakistan and its evil genius. - Sreeram Chaulia (Dec 1, '06)



 

A primer for a transforming West
A Brief Guide to Islam by Paul Grieve

The West has found Islam problematic because recent inflows of Muslim immigrants have failed to assimilate Western culture. But Muslims watch the economic deterioration of the West and see no reason to assimilate; on the contrary, they believe they should be the guides, not the guided. That is why this book, as the West slowly recognizes the inevitable, is valuable. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Nov 22, '06)



 

Mirror of Western inadequacies
The Coming China Wars by Peter Navarro

Author Peter Navarro poses a conundrum: If China pursues the Western model of capitalist development, it might overwhelm the world. But why should it be required to make sacrifices that the West won't ask of its own people? Many readers will clearly see the problems but have a much vaguer sense about how to solve them. - Benjamin A Shobert (Nov 17, '06)



 

When the US made the right moves
Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao by Margaret MacMillan

One of the most seminal meetings of the 20th century was US president Richard Nixon's 1972 trip to China. The event is worthy of a history and Margaret MacMillan has provided an admirable one. The irony is that none of the architects envisaged the close but complex economic partnership that eventually evolved. - Fraser Newham (Nov 10,'06)



 

Mercenaries or 'contractors'?
Licensed to Kill by Robert Young Pelton

A writer who has spent much of his adult life in war zones and other places most of us would prefer to avoid guides the reader deep into the murky world of private military and security companies. With precision not seen before, he examines a world of private operatives who have filled a void since the end of the Cold War. - David Isenberg
(Nov 3, '06)



 

Worm in the Sunni apple
The Shi'a Revival by Vali Nasr

Iranian scholar Vali Nasr's book provides a masterly analysis of Shi'ite-Sunni rivalries that go back to the founding days of Islam and examines the Shi'ite challenge to Sunni dominance that he believes will reorder the future of the Middle East and South Asia. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Oct 27, '06)



 

China's unique rat race
Chinese Lessons by John Pomfret

Journalist Pomfret was present at the beginning. He roomed with seven Chinese students at Nanjing University in the early 1980s. He expertly weaves the storylines of these classmates to provide a tremendously readable account of what China has experienced since it opened to the world. - Jeremy Hurewitz (Oct 20, '06)



 

Epitaph to unipolarity
Russian Rubicon: Impending Checkmate of the West by Joseph Stroupe

This book could easily give readers the impression that the Anglo-American world hegemony is already a thing of the past, with a Russian-led, energy-defined confederation ready to take its place. To be sure, Russia is on a comeback, but it still has many problems to overcome. - Sreeram Chaulia (Oct 13, '06)



 

Bulls in the China shop
China CEO by Juan Antonio Fernandez and Laurie Underwood

These old China hands' insights into doing business in China are as refreshingly straightforward as they are useful. Amid their optimism, remember you're hearing the success stories. - Gary LaMoshi
(Oct 6, '06) 74%/A


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The relevance of Sun Tzu
The Art of War translated by John Minford

Sun Tzu's classic would seem to provide many lessons that are relevant to the US and other world powers today. Too bad President George W Bush probably never read it. Nor is US society as a whole capable of adapting its precepts without wrenching changes. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Sep 29, '06)



 

The state versus society in Iran
Democracy in Iran by Ali Gheissari and Vali Nasr

This new book by two respected Iranian academics explains how the country has struggled to balance state-building with democracy-building. Yet with sovereignty vested in God and the supreme leader remaining unelected, Iran is not quite a democratic state. - Sreeram Chaulia (Sep 22, '06)



 
CHAN AKYA
In-Sen!
Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen

This book is not only tedious, it misses golden opportunities presented by the everyday experiences of youth in Britain and Saudi Arabia to find more cogent arguments than the "can't we all just get along" rhetoric. Sen refuses to evaluate the impact of underlying economic imperatives on social behavior, instead looking at prejudices as a "given".
(Sep 15, '06)


 
Moving beyond relationships
Guanxi (The Art of Relationships) 
by Robert Buderi and Gregory T Huang

The Mandarin word guanxi basically means "relationships", though there is more to it than that. The authors examine this concept using the US software giant Microsoft's experiences in Asia. They show how the company moved beyond the low-cost paradigm to unlock the creative potential of the Chinese - Benjamin A Shobert (Sep 1, '06)


 
Deadly double game
The True Face of Jehadis: Inside Pakistan's Network of Terror by Amir Mir

On the surface, Pakistan seems to be an ally in the "war on terrorism", but journalist Amir Mir says that in reality jihadis call the shots. Spreading their tentacles everywhere, they are not just tolerated by the government but nurtured. He takes Washington to task for its reluctance to act against Islamabad. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Aug 25, '06)


 
Back to the future in Tibet
The High Road to China by Kate Teltscher

Coinciding with the great engineering feat of the Golmud-to-Lhasa railroad is the publication of this lively account of the adventures of George Bogle, an 18th-century Scottish envoy charged with opening Tibet to British goods and, just maybe, forging a new route into the still-elusive Chinese market. Though set in a bygone era, the book raises issues that powerfully inform our understanding of one of the prickly issues of our time. - Fraser Newham (Aug 18, '06)


 
'Long war' a tragic misstep
Winning the Un-War by Charles Pena

To paraphrase Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion, for every US foreign-policy action in the Arab and Islamic world there is an unpredictable, but almost inevitable, reaction. The author believes Muslims see US foreign policy for exactly what it is. A better foreign policy - not better spin - is what is needed. - David Isenberg (Aug 11, '06)


 
Lenovo data do not compute
The Lenovo Affair by Ling Zhijun (translated by Martha Avery)

This story of Chinese giant Lianxiang, the world's No 3 computer maker, has all the components to enlighten readers, but it's wired wrong. Too bad no one applied the company's linked-thinking technology to this telling of its story. - Gary LaMoshi
(Aug 4, '06)


 
What it means to be Lao
Post-war Laos: The Politics of Culture, History and Identity by Vatthana Pholsena

Laos is composed of 49 distinct ethnic groups, and melding them into a unified people is no easy task. This new study argues that Laos has succeeded by mixing the old - such as traditional festivals - with the new, including the cult of the communist leadership. - Bertil Lintner
(Jul 28, '06)


 
On the ground in Iraq
In the Belly of the Green Bird by Nir Rosen

First-hand accounts of the reality of the Iraq war are rare. The author believes through his on-the-ground analysis that Iraq is headed for civil war, though he has difficulty generating a coherent argument for his view. Still, on another theme he shows how detested the Americans are after years of war. - Michael Schwartz
(Jul 21, '06)


 
Supply and demand: Doing it the Wal-Mart way
The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman

Opinions differ on whether Wal-Mart is good or bad, but few would dispute that the retail giant has made a huge impact. The author believes its evangelical zeal to cut prices has affected its relationships such as in customer loyalty. Wal-Mart is trying to change its image, the question is whether it can redesign its smiley face. -
Benjamin A Shobert (Jul 14, '06)


 
Calling Americans back to greatness
The Good Fight: Why Liberals - and Only Liberals - Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again by Peter Beinart
Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer

The fundamental divide over US foreign policy is not between left and right, but between those who subscribe to the myth of the "American Century" and those who don't. Author Peter Beinart misinterprets the US's intentions for saving the world. In comparison, Stephen Kinzer's book rightly states that regime change to serve its own self-interests has long been a mainstay of American statecraft. - Andrew J Bacevich (Jun 30, '06)


 
The Talibanization of Bangladesh
Bangladesh: The Next Afghanistan? by Hiranmay Karlekar

Conditions in Bangladesh are ripe for a descent into Islamic fundamentalism, through the ballot box, violence or even a coup. But this author doubts that it will fall as deep as Afghanistan under the Taliban. Bangladesh is more modern, and has secular and democratic traditions and a larger civil society. - Sudha Ramachandran
(Jun 23, '06)


 
SPENGLER
You don't need to be apocalyptic, but it helps

Standing with Israel by David Brog

/DIV/DIVleft100%The importance of evangelical End Time beliefs in shaping US attitudes toward Israel disturbs enlightened world opinion, and this book will inflame these concerns. Still, this work is of great use both to critics and to supporters of US policy. Jews and evangelical Christians are on paralle/STRONG20l and complementary - although utterly different - paths. (Jun 19, '06)


 
The quiet revolution
China and Globalization: The Social, Economic and Political Transformation of Chinese Society by Doug Guthrie

Guthrie argues that China's rapid economic growth and reduced poverty levels qualify as a quiet revolution. His main thrust is that transitions from socialism are better if engineered by a visionary state. What he does not/PB/DIVcenter STRONG2 adequately address is whether the state in this case succeeded because it was authoritarian. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jun 16, '06)


 
Legend of Arabia
The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader by Peter Bergen Buy this book

Peter Bergen, one of the world's leading experts on terrorism, has written a thorough oral history of the most famous Arab since Gamal Abdel Nasser. Bergen sees him as a living legend, but still a man whose aim of setting off a clash of civilizations has not materialized. "Violent tactics became his only strategy." - Sreeram Chaulia (Jun 9, '06)


 
Some heroes, many villains
Restless Souls: Rebels, Refugees, Medics and Misfits on the Thai-Burma Border by Phil Thornton

Australian journalist Thornton has spent the past six years living in the Thai border town of Mae Sot. It proved a good perch from which to examine life along the border with Myanmar. He records everything from Karen rebels to drug dealers to UN fat cats. It is an excellent account of human suffering in a forgotten conflict. - Bertil Lintner (Jun 2, '06)


 
From River City to Overnight City
Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present by Peter Hessler Buy this book

Peter Hessler chronicled China's hinterland in his award-winning 2001 book River Town. Now he, and some of his former students, have moved on to the bright lights of Beijing and Shenzhen (aka "Overnight City"). This is an engaging portrait of a society in motion. - Fraser Newham (May 26, '06)


 
SPENGLER
This time the crocodile won't wait
Londonistan by Melanie Phillips Buy this book

Britain, the author warns, is reaping what it has sown. A large minority of British Muslims are disaffected at best and seditious at worst. The West inevitably faces a religious war with Islam, and this book provides indispensable background to why this is so, and why the warnings are unheeded, as were warnings in the leadup to World War II. (May 22, '06)


 
The accumulation of the wretched
Planet of Slums by Mike Davis Buy this book

Urbanologist Mike Davis has painted a portrait of the future, and it isn't pretty: "a grim world largely cut off from the subsistence and solidarity of the countryside ... disconnected from the cultural and political life of the traditional city". What Davis describes is today's reality in Baghdad and Sao Paulo; tomorrow, it is likely, Dhaka, Jakarta and Mumbai. - Pepe Escobar (May 19, '06)


 
Fear and reporting in Indonesia
In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos by Richard Lloyd Parry Buy this book

Indonesia has been more progressive since the late 1990s, but this book recalls Suharto's authoritarian regime when fear was a part of life. This modern-day Heart of Darkness depicts a dark time in the country's history, and though things have changed for the better, some old evils linger. - Scott B MacDonald (May 12, '06)


 
The loose supercannon
The Age of War: The United States Confronts the World , by Gabriel Kolko Buy this book

This is no anti-Bush rant. In fact it goes surprisingly easy on the US president. Military adventurism, foreign policy debacles, even the doctrine of preemption are not Bush inventions, but have been features of 55 years of US bungling around the world. Now Bush is facing the consequences, while demonstrating that he too has learned nothing from history and can bungle with the best of them. - Allen Quicke


 
China as a US enemy
China: The Gathering Threat by Constantine C Menges
Buy this book

The author regarded China as the only real threat to US existence - even the events of September 11, 2001, didn't change his mind. But his thinking is flawed for various political and economic reasons. Still, the book provides insight into the world of the neo-con Washington elite and Iraq and Afghanistan war planning. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Apr 21, '06)


 
A preordained catastrophe
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and General Bernard Trainor Buy this book

None of the authors of the invasion of Iraq, who envisaged US troops being welcomed with open arms, sought a diversity of opinions - they were ideologues who were not ready to let facts interfere with their beliefs. - Alexander Casella (Apr 12, '06)


 

A systems solution to the Middle East
Israel and the Persian Gulf: Retrospect and Prospect by Gawdat Bahgat
Buy this book 

The Middle East has commanded the attention of analysts for decades, but few have studied its volatility in terms of its two subsystems - the Levant (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) and the Persian Gulf. The author argues that developments in one subsystem echo in the other and that regionwide peace has to address sources of instability in both. - Sreeram Chaulia  (Apr 7, '06)

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The fanatic's mindset
Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror by Mary Habeck Buy this book

The author insists it would be wrong to conclude terror groups have nothing to do with Islam. In fact, jihadis live and enact a literal clash of civilizations in which good, virtuous and true Islam is expected to triumph. But her ideas for eliminating jihadis through democratization - a leaf taken straight out of the neo-con blueprint of the Bush administration - are naive. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Mar 31, '06)

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No risk management, no reward
Risk Management and Innovation in Japan, Britain and the United States, edited by Ruth Taplin Buy this book

You may have thought risk management was a dull subject, but this thought-provoking collection of essays will probably make you reconsider. Planet Earth is awash with domestic and international risks that can seriously affect business. -
Sean Curtin (Mar 24, '06)



 

SPENGLER
Memo to China: Careful what you wish for
Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher Buy this book

A generation from now, hundreds of millions of Chinese will have lived with prosperity long enough to ask whether there is more to life than shopping. This book will leave them wondering whether the US is a role model, a horrible example, or a bit of both. (Mar 20, '06)



 

Bremer: 'Marching as to war'
My Year in Iraq by L Paul Bremer Buy this book

There were gasps of disbelief in Washington when L Paul Bremer was chosen to head Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority. His analysis of his 14 months in Baghdad doesn't lend any more credence to the appointment - nothing is more terrifying than ignorance in action. - Alexander Casella (Mar 17, '06)



 

His kingdom for a book
Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis by John R Bradley Buy this book

John R Bradley got lucky when he got a job as editor of the Arab News - it gave him access to many restricted parts of Saudi Arabia and allowed him to live where he wished. However, his book on the kingdom falls short, leaving the reader with a confusing mix of personal musings and critical analysis. -
Carl Senna (Mar 10, '06)



 

Another casualty of the 'war on terror'
For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism under Fire by James Yee and Aimee Molloy Buy this book

Former army captain and Guantanamo chaplain James Yee's autobiography details his arrest on later-dismissed espionage charges. Instead of putting this American Muslim on a pedestal to help alleviate misunderstandings about Islam, the authorities tried to destroy him. -
Imran Andrew Price (Mar 3, '06)



 

Guantanamo, banzai and all that
The Anguish of Surrender by Ulrich Straus Buy this book

Disturbing similarities exist between Japan's Bushido Empire of 1941-45 and America's Bush Empire since 2001. They're evident when reading this book together with a UN report that concludes the sole purpose of the US Guantanamo Bay prison is to evade the Geneva Conventions' safeguards. -
Ian Williams (Feb 24, '06)



 

East Asia's black sheep
North Korea. The Politics of Regime Survival by Young Whan Kihl and Hong Nack Kim (eds) Buy this book

North Korea's domestic politics and foreign relations are in a devastated condition, yet Kim Jong-il's longevity has proved many soothsayers wrong. How he can juggle the contradictions brought out in this book and yet remain in power is the big question. East Asia will rest easier when the answer is found. -
Sreeram Chaulia (Feb 17, '06)



 

Ideology? Don't you believe it
US-China Cold War Collaboration, 1971-1989, by S Mahmud Ali Buy this book

The focal point of the US-China Cold War collaboration was a fear of the rising power of the USSR - the US frightened China with the possibility of Soviet attacks. The most important theme of the book is that ideology and sociopolitical differences are in most cases meaningless in understanding global affairs. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Feb 10, '06)

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Rebuilding pangs
Come Back to Afghanistan. A California Teenager's Story by Said Hyder Akbar Buy this book

California undergrad Akbar took a hands-on, sometimes disturbing look at post-Taliban Afghanistan. Visits to his father's homeland produced a book that questions whether carnivorous neighboring states and home-bred war profiteers will allow the country to rebuild its institutions and stability. - Sreeram Chaulia (Feb 3, '06)



 

Whose English is it?
Asian Englishes: Beyond the Canon by Braj B Kachru Buy this book

Kachru claims that most people who speak English nowadays live in Asia, and so anglophones in this region have the right to establish their own canons of correctness and creativity. He celebrates the use of English as a medium for writers in India, Singapore and elsewhere to express their own culture. But some Asian Englishes seem to be more equal than others. - Martin A Schell (Jan 27, '06)

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Crown prince's 'happiest time'
The Thames and I by Crown Prince Naruhito
Buy this book

Little is known about the private lives of Japan's imperial family. But a book by the crown prince on his time as a student at Oxford offers a glimpse - a sensitive man who could hold his liquor. Though no masterpiece, it offers a rare look at the man who will one day occupy the Chrysanthemum Throne. -
J Sean Curtin (Jan 20, '06)


 
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The globalization of terror
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie Buy this book

Rushdie plunges into the viscera of terrorism's interconnectedness - how dots of violence, justice and revenge link across time and space in blood-soaked lines. And he postulates that the germ of hate is inherent in individuals. -
Sreeram Chaulia (Jan 13, '06)



 

Epidemic of bird flu books
Everything You Need to Know about Bird Flu ... by Jo Revill Buy this book

The latest bird flu book is comprehensive, though sometimes overly dramatic.The problem with books such as this is the short shelf life - death tolls rise, more discoveries are made about the disease and drugs to treat it, and outbreaks spread and recede. -
Dinah Gardner (Jan 6, '06)



 

Controlling the beast
Exit the Dragon?
, edited by Stephen Green and Guy S Lin Buy this book

 This collection of essays traces China's movement from the highly centralized and inefficient economy of Mao Zedong's era to a market economy, albeit slowly. But the authors ignore the importance of a centralized and repressive government in this process. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Dec 22, '05)



 

The decline of the US economy
Three Billion New Capitalists by Clyde Prestowitz Buy this book

While much of the world community wishes to diminish the US role in global affairs, few wish it to collapse economically, due to the shock waves it would create. But the decline has already set in. -
Dmitry Shlapentokh (Dec 16, '05)



 

Indian vs American secularism
The Wheel of Law by Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn Buy this book

In a comparison of Indian secularism with that of the US and Israel, the author argues that in India there has been no attempt to artificially water down the impact of religion on social and political life, unlike in the US. -
Aruni Mukherjee (Dec 9, '05)



 

Indian culture and heterodoxy under scrutiny
The Argumentative Indian
by Amartya Sen Buy this book

Nearly 60 years after Indian independence, economist Amartya Sen offers a treatise on modern Indian society, as well as an alternative look at ancient India. He manages to convey the complexity, diversity and heterodoxy of Indian thought throughout the country's history - though the reader is left wishing he went a bit further. - Kedar Deshpande (Dec 2, '05)



 

Indispensable handbook for global theopolitics
The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig Buy this book

With the return of religion to world politics, today's intellectual elite feels something like Marx's mad Englishman in a lunatic asylum. To such perplexed people, this book, in a new English translation, is recommended, but with a caveat: it might cure them of secularism. - Spengler (Nov 21, '05)



 

The evolution of Hinduism
Was Hinduism Invented? by Brian K Pennington Buy this book

It is difficult to pin down how Hinduism evolved into a modern religion. The author argues that the modern avatar of the somewhat homogenized ancient religion that can be loosely termed Hinduism is a direct reaction to seething and degrading criticism from colonial academics. - Aruni Mukherjee (Nov 11, '05)



 

For reasons of state
Deadly Connections. States That Sponsor Terrorism by Daniel Byman Buy this book

States create, nurture and to a strong degree control terrorist groups to suit their own objectives. The book shatters the myth that non-state terrorist groups have taken over the sordid business of deliberate violence against civilians. - Sreeram Chaulia 
(Nov 4, '05)



 

A glimpse into North Korean thinking
North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula - A Modern History by Paul French Buy this book

North Korea is now effectively an "aid economy" where foreign assistance is used by the government to ensure its own survival, quite often at the expense of its people, argues the author, who makes some good points, but misses the mark in other areas. -
Michael Mackey (Oct 28, '05) 


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Keeping China out of focus
Regional Powerhouse: The Greater Pearl River Delta and the Rise of China by Michael J Enright, Edith E Scott and Ka-mun Chang Buy this book

A study of economic linkages between Hong Kong and its mainland neighbors highlights a disturbing trend: the more that's written about China, the less we seem to know. That's not because the issues are so complex. -
Gary LaMoshi (Oct 21, '05)



 

Might versus right
Tibet and China in the Twenty-First Century. Non-Violence Versus State Power by John Heath Buy this book

China has military superiority and global power status. Tibet only has international law, world opinion, spirituality and right on its side. That means Tibetans need a better hand if they want to win autonomy. This author believes Tibetans can draw on already-established precedents employed by China. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Oct 14, '05)



 

Driving American foreign policy
The Endgame of Globalization by Neil Smith
Buy this book

Is the US akin to Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union or even Caesar's Rome? The book argues that the US as the embodiment of capitalism is the most aggressive nation, with its imperial drive defining its foreign policy. The Iraq war is a continuation of this trend. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Oct 7, '05)
 



 

Do you call that an empire?
Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan Buy this book

The tattooed, tobacco-chewing, iron-pumping soldiers who make up much of the US Army simply cannot be compared to the soldier-scholars who made the British Empire. Therein lies the great difference between America's global police exercise and a true empire. And as Americans have no empire, there is nowhere to extract wealth. - Spengler (Oct 3, '05) 



 

In the heart of a volcano
Inheriting Syria. Bashar's Trial By Fire, by Flynt Leverett
Buy this book

The US and Syria have never been buddies, but the book argues that a carrot-and-stick policy of conditional US engagement with Syria would work better than the "deranged" neo-conservative penchant for forcible regime change. - Sreeram Chaulia (Sep 30, '05)



 
Follow the money
Capitalism's Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System by
Raymond Baker Buy this book

The vaunted US crackdown on money-laundering after September 11, 2001 has left wide loopholes, with Western banks happy to get their hands dirty. After reading this book, when someone mentions dirty money, you won't just think of the Cali drug cartel or corrupt dictators. - Gary LaMoshi (Sep 23, '05)


 
The whitewash thickens
The WMD Mirage: Iraq's Decade of Deception and America's False Premise for War, edited and with an introduction by Craig R Whitney Buy this book

President George W Bush used faulty intelligence information to justify invading Iraq. Journalist Whitney edits a volume that puts together a variety of sources that examine the issue, yet all he manages to do is add layers to the incestuous fabrication surrounding weapons of mass destruction. - Piyush Mathur (Sep 16, '05)


 
Timeless wisdom, heedless world
Peace is the Way. Bringing War and Violence to an End by Deepak Chopra Buy this book

War has worn a groove on American minds - a secret pleasure that brings excitement and pumps up the adrenalin. Chopra's substitute is the way of peace, conscious evolution to "love in action", one person at a time. In other words, all you need is love. - Sreeram Chaulia (Sep 9, '05)


 
SPENGLER
Deep in denial (or in de Mississippi)
The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins Buy this book and
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History by
Peter Heather Buy this book

Hurricane Katrina should put us in the right frame of mind to consider two new studies on the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman society was as vulnerable as the Louisiana levees and needed only a smart blow to crumble. What's next? (Sep 6, '05)


 
Nothing ventured ...
Investing in China: the Emerging Venture Capital Industry in China by Jonsson Yinya Li

The venture capital industry is becoming more important in China as further economic progress requires more domestic technological innovation. Author Li discusses case studies like Alibaba.com in this comprehensive look at the rapidly evolving industry. - James Borton   (Sep 2, '05)

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Addressing Muslim rage
Myth of Islamic Tolerance, edited by Robert Spencer

Starting from the premise that contemporary Muslim rage and intolerance is not historically isolated, but rooted in the religion itself, the authors set about their task with gusto, complete with flagrant distortions and glaring omissions. All the same, the book has merit. - Ioannis Gatsiounis (Aug 26, '05) Buy this book

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Conflict kaleidoscope
Sri Lanka: Voices From a War Zone by Nirupama Subramanian

Indian journalist Subramanian puts a very human face to the civil war in Sri Lanka, objectively speaking to people on both sides of the bloody divide, and those caught in the middle. Their tales make chilling reading. - Sreeram Chaulia (Aug 19, '05)


 
Literary crimes of the Daewoo chief
Every Street Is Paved with Gold: The Real Road to Success by Kim Woo-choong

Daewoo Group founder Kim Woo-choong is anything but humble in his portrayal of himself as a business mover and shaker. But it would seem his life is a series of contradictions, not least of which have to do with his ethics. -
James Card (Aug 12, '05)  Buy this book


 
China as imperialist; China as colonist
China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia
by Peter Perdue
Taiwan's Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683-1895 by
Emma Jinhua Teng

China would have one believe that all territory captured by the Qing dynasty in the 17th and 18th centuries had always been a part of China. But new research suggests areas such as Taiwan are not an integral part of China, which could further fuel separatist fires. -
Macabe Keliher (Aug 5, '05) 
Buy China Marches West  Buy Taiwan's Imagined Geography


 
Diehard legionnaires
Hizbullah. The Story From Within by Naim Qassem

Hezbollah is entrenched in Lebanon, still insistent that true believers can resist forever. An (official) inside look at the organization only tells part of the story, but enough to look at the mindset of an organization that continues to prove a thorn in the side of Israel, as well as other non-believers. -
Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 29, '05)     Buy this book
 


 
Passage to Stephania
Interesting Times in India: A Short Decade at St Stephen's College by Daniel O'Connor

Delhi's St Stephen's College was more than just a school in post-colonial India. It was a mill that produced some of the next generation's important thinkers and writers - among other talents. Stephen's is seen through the eyes of an Anglican priest who served there, in the context of events in the new India. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 22, '05)    Buy this book
 


 
God's madmen
Suicide Bombers. Allah's New Martyrs by Farhad Khosrokhavar

Why would any normal person want to blow himself and others up? Iranian intellectual Farhad Khosrokhavar's book argues that Muslim human bombs, far removed from traditional atavism, are in fact products of modernity and Westernization. - Sreeram Chaulia (Jul 15, '05)    Buy this book


 
The specter of two 'isms'
America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, by Anatol Lieven, and The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, by Andrew Bacevich

These books intelligently outline the danger of two "isms" gaining ground in the US. The first "ism" sees US polity turning its back on civic patriotism and political egalitarianism in favor of an "American antithesis", a radical and vengeful nationalism. The second is "creeping militarism", for which the neo-conservatives bear heavy responsibility. - Jim Lobe (Jul 8, '05)
Buy The New American Militarism Buy America Right or Wrong


 
Changing perceptions
Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit.

The general climate of society has changed since September 11, and to blame everything on the West has become less fashionable. In that regard this book is important, as it indicates the new intellectual trend in American culture. - Dmitry Shlapentokh
(Jul 1, '05)    Buy this book


 
Spymaster's Pandora's box
Open Secrets. India's Intelligence Unveiled, by M K Dhar

Released at a time when major powers' intelligence agencies face flak for incompetence and fabrication, this book removes the veil from the Indian intelligence fraternity, and calls for urgent repairs. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Jun 17, '05)    Buy this book


 
Playing the markets before they play you
Market Panic: Wild Gyrations, Risks, and Opportunities in Stock Markets, by Stephen Vines

Vines offers an intelligent analysis of what really drives the stock markets today and how smart investors can profit from bucking the trends. This book, instead of all the legal mumbo-jumbo in brokerage account disclaimers, should be required reading for anyone who dares invest in equities. - Gary LaMoshi (Jun 10, '05) 


 
The Kims' North Korea
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, by Bradley K Martin

By successfully combining history, society, travel writing and political analysis, this book is as much a biography of North Korea as it is of the two Kims. The topic often makes for disconcerting reading; yet it is essential to understanding where North Korea and the Kims have come from, and where they may be going. A must read. -
Yoel Sano (Jun 3, '05)

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Dauntless Table57 center#999999 journalism
Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, by Hugh Miles

Despite being demonized by the West as a "mouthpiece for terrorists", al-Jazeera has spearheaded an information metamorphosis in the Arab world, while also counterbalancing the US's propaganda empire. Miles eloquently explains how. - Sreeram Chaulia (May 27, '05)


 
Bowled over in Pakistan
Pundits From Pakistan. On Tour With India, 2003-04, by Rahul Bhattacharya

Despite being#000000nbsp;/I a book about cricket, it's much more than a sports book. From scenes out of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to idiots dyeing chickens bright colors and selling them as exotic pets to even bigger idiots, Pundits is a charming insight into India's estranged brother nation. - Raja M (May 21, '05)  


 
The executioner's tale
The Lost Executioner, by Nic Dunlop

As the trial of a few surviving top cadre of the Khmer Rouge moves closer, the author, having found Cambodia's most brutal executioner of the Pol Pot era, sets about answering the question of why genocide took place, and does a pretty good job. - Julian Gearing (May 13, '05)


 
Academia abducted by flying sources
Terrorism and Violence in Southeast Asia, Transnational Challenges to States and Regional Stability, edited by Paul J Smith

We're subjected to continual warnings that al-Qaeda-franchised terrorist groups are rampant in Southeast Asia, so we turn to books like this - by the experts and academics who have made careers out of studying the subject - to find out how afraid we should really be. All we find is an academic edifice built on unquestioned assumptions. The PhDs should don dunce's caps and go and join the mainstream journalists in the corner. - Allen Quicke
(May 9, '05)


 
Globalization ideologues have no clothes
The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli

This charming, intelligent narrative debunks myths on both sides of the globalization debate. Mixing historical perspective with current events, the book highlights that it's not market forces but avoiding them that creates winners in world trade. - Gary LaMoshi
(May 6, '05)


 
Himalayan dilemma
Towards a Democratic Nepal: Inclusive Institutions for a Multicultural Society by Mahendra Lawoti

When King Gyanendra of Nepal seized the reins of power from politicians in February, it was the last nail in the coffin of the 1990 constitution, which had failed to deal with the country's pervasive ethnic, caste and gender discrimination, among other problems. This book offers a liberal-democratic alternative to extreme rightist monarchism and leftist Maoism. - Sreeram Chaulia (Apr 29, '05)


 
Delicious details from Mughal history
The Mughals of India by Harbans Mukhia

Though delivered "more than a decade" later than its author planned, it arrives at a time that could not be more appropriate, against the backdrop of heightened Hindu nationalism within India, on one hand, and the enhanced global curiosity about the history of Islamic cultures on the other. - Piyush Mathur (Apr 22, '05)


 
The world through Democratic eyes
The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Given the writer's credentials, it is not surprising that this book contains many sound observations about the role of the US in the world today. Yet his explanation of the problems faced by the US and the broader world seem naive, and the remedies he proposes hardly workable. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Apr 13, '05)


 
The road to amity
Indian Muslims: Where Have They Gone Wrong? by Rafiq Zakaria

This 17th book by one of India's most ardent liberal thinkers focuses on the nefarious role played by Muslim political leaders in impeding communal harmony before and after Indian independence. Here is an antidote to the politics of hate eating into the vitals of India - Sreeram Chaulia
(Apr 8, '05)


 
Unilateralism fails global tests
The Superpower Myth: The Use and Abuse of American Might by Nancy Soderberg

Contrasting George W Bush's overseas mishaps with the policy she helped craft, Clinton administration foreign affairs wonk Nancy Soderberg demonstrates that America's military superiority doesn't mean the US will always get its way. - Gary LaMoshi (Apr 1, '05)


 
Coming to terms with China
China Inc: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World by Ted C Fishman

The overworked phrase "economic miracle" seems finally to have found true meaning in China. This highly readable book deftly combines anecdotes and analysis to help us understand what the challenges are; how to meet them is another story. - Todd Crowell
(Mar 25, '05)


 
Deconstructing the 'Land of Smiles'
Bangkok Inside Out by Daniel Ziv and Guy Sharett

Chaotic, crowded, frustrating, romantic, endearing - what other Asian capital accumulates so many adjectives? And what better way to get to know the Thai capital than with a book that is as humorous, honest and engaging as most Bangkokians themselves? This book has it covered, from A to ... well, Y. - Sara Schonhardt
(Mar 23, '05)


 
Jinnah's unfulfilled vision
The Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Cohen

With Pakistan Day on March 23, it's a good time to examine what the country stands for - and what it was meant to stand for when it was founded in 1947. For those looking for inspiration to set things right in Pakistan, this book has much to offer - and is a must read for Pakistan's military oligarchs. - Ahmad Faruqui
(Mar 18, '05)


 
The Bomb in My Garden: The Secrets of Saddam's Nuclear Mastermind, by Mahdi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer

Mahdi Obeidi, the engineer in charge of Iraq's uranium enrichment program, reveals just how close Saddam Hussein came to acquiring a nuclear bomb. But fascinating as that story is, the book goes further - and offers the world an ominous warning about the specter of nuclear weapons proliferation. Gary LaMoshi reviews the book and interviews Obeidi.
(Mar 11, '05)

Hunting deadly treasure in Iraq

Pride, science, fear yield WMD


 
More than just a game
Twenty-Two Yards to Freedom: A Social History of Indian Cricket by Boria Majumdar

The megalithic proportions cricket has assumed in India is astounding in terms of its value in national consciousness. This compelling account captures the euphoria and the politics that have been part of the game ever since the British carried it to Indian shores in the 18th century. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Mar 4, '05)


 
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The lowdown on Singapore
Does Class Matter? Social Stratification and Orientations in Singapore by Tan Ern Ser

This slim academic report should prove useful to professional Singapore watchers. It should also interest those fishing for an inside and contemporary sociological scoop on this enigmatic little country - especially if they wish to assess it as a possible migratory destination. - Piyush Mathur
(Feb 25, '05) 


 
The soul of a city
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

Capturing the essence of a metropolis of the mythic proportions of Bombay (now Mumbai)is no easy task. Journalist Suketu Mehta's debut offering stalks the soul of India's soulless mahanagar (great city) through the medium of the lives of its heterogeneous residents. The Bombay that emerges is greater than the sum of its components, a celebration. - Sreeram Chaulia
(Feb 18, '05)


 
A romp through a troubled world
One Hand, Two Fingers by Gavin Coates

The expression a picture is worth a thousand words works both ways in journalism. In the cartoon format, these works of art often stand alone, illustrating a news event and commenting upon it simultaneously. Of course, if you're seeking "objectivity", you might be disappointed by Coates' lampooning, but then these drawings aren't meant to be balanced. - David Simmons  (Feb 11, '05)


 
Abraham's promise and American power
Abraham's Promise by Michael Wyschogrod, edited by R Kendall Soulen

Not since Abraham Lincoln has the United States felt itself to be a "nearly chosen" people, with a religious mission like that of ancient Israel. This astonishing book reminds that the spirit of American Puritanism might once again become flesh: US evangelicals might awaken one morning as a New Chosen People. - Spengler
(Feb 7, '05)


 
Not one but many Islams
The Future of Political Islam by Graham E Fuller

In its political manifestation, Islam has been merged, integrated, with various political doctrines that often have nothing in common with one another - the violence associated with al-Qaeda and the like is only one aspect of this phenomenon. Here is a useful primer on Islam's role in the modern world. - Dmitry Shlapentokh (Feb 4, '05)


 
The horrors of Unit 731 revisited
A Plague Upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program by Daniel Barenblatt

The world this week is commemorating the Nazi Holocaust, but Auschwitz was not the only wickedness of World War II. Germany's Axis partner, Japan, conducted biowar experiments on human guinea pigs in occupied China for years. Much has been written on the Japanese Empire's Unit 731, but this work could become a leader in its field. - Victor Fic
(Jan 28, '05)


 
Whatsa martyr with you?
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

The ingenue of Tom Wolfe's new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, by rights should have been a martyr to debauched university life. By sparing his protagonist from martyrdom, Wolfe ultimately, rather than holding up the mirror of tragedy to his public, ultimately gives us a smiley-face - and thereby comes close to the literary ideal of US neo-conservatives. - Spengler (Jan 24, '05)


 
Dialogue for development
Remaking India. One Country, One Destiny by Arun Maira

Maira strongly recommends another class of WMD - Ways of Mass Dialogue - to synchronize the multifarious - and unique - interests that characterize India, and its economic shortfalls. - Chanakya Sen
(Jan 21, '05)


 
Brave nightmare world
The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World by Paul Roberts

With reporting that is both wide-ranging and insightful, Paul Roberts writes that the day of reckoning for the oil industry is in sight and the costs when the oil runs out and the world is forced to confront its energy needs are going to be staggeringly high. Yet all is not gloom and doom. - David Isenberg
(Jan 14, '05)


 
The evolutionary museum as government
Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonialism by Tony Bennet

While exposing the evolutionary museum as a device for socio-cultural governance and epistemological discipline - an intriguing objective, though impossibly broad - this book is marred by verbiage, repetition and editorial negligence, overburdened by factual details, and unaided by the author's convoluted syntax. - Piyush Mathur (Jan 7, '05)


 
The crusade for monoculture
Who Are We? America's Great Debate by Samuel Huntington

The prophet-provocateur of international relations is back to rattle some bones with a combative teaser on American identity. Americans are exhorted by the "clash of civilizations" guru to recommit themselves to Anglo-Protestant culture, the source of their identity and moral leadership of the world. - Chanakya Sen (Dec 24, '04)


 
The ghosts of empire: Past, present and future
Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past by Kimberly Zisk Marten

"Peacekeeping" has evolved from the optimistic altruism of its origins in the fledgling UN to the 1990s operations in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, to what we see today in Afghanistan and Iraq. In other words, today's "peacekeeping" bears a startling resemblance to the imperialism of a century ago. Which is why this book ought to find its way into Christmas stockings in the West Wing. - David Isenberg
(Dec 22, '04)


 
Myanmar's gritty democratic diaspora
Burma File: A Question of Democracy compiled by Soe Myint

The hold of the Myanmar military junta may be as tight as ever, but Soe Myint Table35 provides powerful evidence of the gritty survival of democracy outside Myanmar, especially India, which has been both an exploiter and a benefactor of the situation in that country. - Piyush Mathur
(Dec 17, '04)
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Two villages and an elephant
Engaging India. Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb by Strobe Talbott

As someone who was on the inside track, former US deputy secretary of state Talbott emerges as a fascinating primary source on the ever-tightening "strategic partnership" between the US and India. - Chanakya Sen
(Dec 15, '04)


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A mainstream embrace for extremism
Indonesia's Struggle: Jemaah Islamiyah and the Soul of Islam by Greg Barton

While it's reassuring to believe extremists enjoy minuscule support in Indonesia, religious scholar Greg Barton's eyewitness account of spiritual and political trends there indicates that jihad may remain a growth industry in the world's largest predominantly Muslim country. - Gary LaMoshi
(Dec 10, '04)



 

Rocky 'way' to success in China
The Chinese Tao of Business by George T Haley, Usha C V Haley and Chin Tiong Tan

It's a Chinese philosophy updated for the 21st century. It's a guide to succeeding in business in mainland China. It's a fusion recipe mixing the best of Western and Chinese management. Business professors from the US and Singapore construct a new strategic Silk Road, on very shaky ground. - Gary LaMoshi (Dec 3, '04)



 

A march of mediocrity
Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millennium, edited by Marcelo M Suarez-Orozco and Desiree Baolian Qin-Hilliard

In the already vast sea of academic writing on globalization, this collection of 10 essays fails to stand out - indeed, seven of its 10 essays are laughably shallow. Yet stranded within the volume's visceral maze are essays by three authors who have done their homework and actually have something to say. - Piyush Mathur
(Nov 24, '04)



 

American missionary 'conquers' eastern Tibet
Pioneer in Tibet by Douglas A Wissing

American missionary Albert Shelton tried but failed to win over the Tibetans to Christianity during the early 20th century, yet he left a legacy of sterling medical work and useful insights into the troubled Tibet-China borderlands. - Julian Gearing (Nov 19, '04)



 

America undressed
The Empire Has No Clothes: US Foreign Policy Exposed by Ivan Eland

Eland skillfully and with wit lays out in detail the follies of America's current course of action in its foreign policies, which are taking it steadily further away from its historical roots as a republic. - David Isenberg (Nov 12, '04)



 
The real American fizz
The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company by Constance Hays

A biography of the world's best-known brand romanticizes the brown refreshment's vigor and sparkle while highlighting the murky underworld of American big business. The tortuous path of Coca-Cola's success also points to its invincibility, just like the American way of life it mirrors. - Chanakya Sen (Nov 10, '04)


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