Our new format designed to replace our book reviews places more of the choice on you, the Reader. My colleagues and I at American Diplomacy will identify a variety of new books that we believe may interest you. We’ll provide basic information on the books and links to reviews. You will have the choice of whether, or how far, to pursue your interests in the books that follow. From time to time we will also feature an original book review or book essay of note.Â Good reading! And please let us know how you like the new format.
William P. Kiehl, Ed.D.
Contributing Editor, Books
The Rhetoric of Soft Power: Public Diplomacy in Global Contexts provides a comparative assessment of public diplomacy and strategic communication initiatives, in order to portray how Joseph Nye’s notion of “soft power” has translated into context-specific strategies of international influence. The book examines four cases – Japan, Venezuela, China, and the United States – to illuminate the particular significance of culture, foreign publics, and communication technologies for the foreign policy ambitions of each country.
The book explores the notion of soft power as set of theoretical arguments about power, and as a reflection of how each country perceives what is an increasingly necessary perspective on international relations in an age of ubiquitous global communication flows and encroaching networks of non-state actors. Soft power is discussed a means by which public diplomacy is justified and in the process, reflects arguments for how each state sees what is possible through soft power. Through an interpretive analysis of policy discourse, public diplomacy initiatives and related programs of strategic influence – soft power in each case represents a localized formation of assumptions about the requirements of persuasion, the relevance of foreign audiences to state goals, and the perception of what counts as a soft power resource.
As the book demonstrates, each country articulates perspectives that challenge the universality of the soft power concept. Soft power has grown to be truly global concept that foregrounds the significance of international communication; soft power is a hybrid concept that retains the basic idea that international objectives can be achieved through non-coercive means, yet is inevitably refracted through the prism of local strategic concerns and history. The book contributes to the growing interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in soft power, public diplomacy, and international strategic communication. It provides an unprecedented comparative investigation of the relationship between soft power and public diplomacy.
Craig Hayden is a member of the faculty of the School of International Service, American University.
In the late sixteenth century, a prominent Albanian named Antonio Bruni composed a revealing document about his home country. Historian Sir Noel Malcolm takes this document as a point of departure to explore the lives of the entire Bruni family, whose members included an archbishop of the Balkans, the captain of the papal flagship at the Battle of Lepanto—at which the Ottomans were turned back in the Eastern Mediterranean—in 1571, and a highly placed interpreter in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire that fell to the Turks in 1453. The taking of Constantinople had profoundly altered the map of the Mediterranean. By the time of Bruni’s document, Albania, largely a Venetian province from 1405 onward, had been absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Even under the Ottomans, however, this was a world marked by the ferment of the Italian Renaissance.
In Agents of Empire, Malcolm uses the collective biography of the Brunis to paint a fascinating and intimate picture of Albania at a moment when it represented the frontier between empires, cultures, and religions. The lives of the polylingual, cosmopolitan Brunis shed new light on the interrelations between the Ottoman and Christian worlds, characterized by both conflict and complex interdependence. The result of years of archival detective work, Agents of Empire brings to life a vibrant moment in European and Ottoman history, challenging our assumptions about their supposed differences. Malcolm’s book guides us through the exchanges between East and West, Venetians and the Ottomans, and tells a story of worlds colliding with and transforming one another.
Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.
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When guns began firing again in Europe, why was it Ukraine that became the battlefield? Conventional wisdom dictates that Ukraine’s current crisis can be traced to the linguistic differences and divided political loyalties that have long fractured the country. However this theory only obscures the true significance of Ukraine’s recent civic revolution and the conflict’s crucial international dimension. The 2013-14 Ukrainian revolution presented authoritarian powers in Russia with both a democratic and a geopolitical challenge. President Vladimir Putin reacted aggressively by annexing the Crimea and sponsoring the war in eastern Ukraine; and Russia’s actions subsequently prompted Western sanctions and growing international tensions reminiscent of the Cold War. Though the media portrays the situation as an ethnic conflict, an internal Ukrainian affair, it is in reality reflective of a global discord, stemming from differing views on state power, civil society, and democracy.
The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know explores Ukraine’s contemporary conflict and complicated history of ethnic identity, and it does do so by weaving questions of the country’s fraught relations with its former imperial master, Russia, throughout the narrative. In denying Ukraine’s existence as a separate nation, Putin has adopted a stance similar to that of the last Russian tsars, who banned the Ukrainian language in print and on stage. Ukraine emerged as a nation-state as a result of the imperial collapse in 1917, but it was subsequently absorbed into the USSR. When the former Soviet republics became independent states in 1991, the Ukrainian authorities sought to assert their country’s national distinctiveness, but they failed to reform the economy or eradicate corruption. As Serhy Yekelchyk explains, for the last 150 years recognition of Ukraine as a separate nation has been a litmus test of Russian democracy, and the Russian threat to Ukraine will remain in place for as long as the Putinist regime is in power. In this concise and penetrating book, The Conflict in Ukraine is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the forces that have shaped contemporary politics in this increasingly important part of Europe.
Born and educated in Ukraine, Serhy Yekelchyk has published widely on modern Ukrainian history and Russian-Ukrainian relations. His Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation was the first historical survey to include the 2004 Orange Revolution and has since been translated into five languages.
A professor at the University of Victoria, Dr. Yekelchyk currently serves as president of the Canadian Association of Ukrainian Studies.
Is the earth’s oil supply starting to run out, or is there far more oil than some experts believe? This book points out flaws in the research used to warn of an oil shortfall and predicts that large new reserves of oil are soon to be tapped.
In the last decade, oil experts, geologists, and policy makers alike have warned that a peak in oil production around the world was about to be reached and that global economic distress would result when this occurred. But it didn’t happen. The “Peak Oil” Scare and the Coming Oil Flood refutes the recent claims that world oil production is nearing a peak and threatening economic disaster by analyzing the methods used by the theory’s proponents. Author Michael C. Lynch, former researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), debunks the “Peak Oil” crisis prediction and describes how the next few years will instead see large amounts of new supply that will bring oil prices down and boost the global economy.
This book will be invaluable to those involved in the energy industry, including among those fields that are competing with oil, as well as financial institutions for which the price of oil is of critical importance. Lynch uncovers the facts behind the misleading news stories and media coverage on oil production as well as the analytic process that reveals the truth about the global oil supply. General readers will be dismayed to learn how governments have frequently been led astray by seeming logical theories that prove to have no sound basis and will come away with a healthy sense of skepticism about popular economics.
Michael C. Lynch is president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc. He serves as a lecturer in the MBA program at Vienna University, Austria, and blogs on energy for Forbes.com. Lynch has published numerous articles and reports on petroleum economics, such as “The Fog of Commerce: The Failure of Long-term Oil Market Forecasting” and “The Next Oil Crisis.” He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted research there for nearly two decades.
This book presents a holistic view of the geopolitics of cyberspace that have arisen over the past decade, utilizing recent events to explain the international security dimension of cyber threat and vulnerability, and to document the challenges of controlling information resources and protecting computer systems.
How are the evolving cases of cyber attack and breach as well as the actions of government and corporations shaping how cyberspace is governed? What object lessons are there in security cases such as those involving Wikileaks and the Snowden affair? An essential read for practitioners, scholars, and students of international affairs and security, this book examines the widely pervasive and enormously effective nature of cyber threats today, explaining why cyber attacks happen, how they matter, and how they may be managed.
The book addresses a chronology of events starting in 2005 to comprehensively explain the international security dimension of cyber threat and vulnerability. It begins with an explanation of contemporary information technology, including the economics of contemporary cloud, mobile, and control systems software as well as how computing and networkingâ€”principally the Internetâ€”are interwoven in the concept of cyberspace. Author Chris Bronk, PhD, then documents the national struggles with controlling information resources and protecting computer systems. The book considers major security cases such as Wikileaks, Stuxnet, the cyber attack on Estonia, Shamoon, and the recent exploits of the Syrian Electronic Army. Readers will understand how cyber security in the 21st century is far more than a military or defense issue, but is a critical matter of international law, diplomacy, commerce, and civil society as well.
Chris Bronk, PhD, is assistant professor of computer and information systems and associate director of the Center for Information Security Research and Education at the University of Houston’s College of Technology. He holds additional appointments in Rice University’s Department of Computer Science and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
The untold story of the global poor today: A distinguished expert and advisor to developing nations reveals how we’ve reduced poverty, increased incomes, improved health, curbed violence, and spread democracy and how to ensure the improvements continue.
We live today at a time of great progress for the global poor. Never before have so many people, in so many developing countries, made so much progress. Most people believe the opposite: that with a few exceptions like China and India, the majority of developing countries are hopelessly mired in deep poverty, led by inept dictators, and living with pervasive famine, widespread disease, constant violence, and little hope for change. But a major transformation is underway and has been for two decades now. Since the early 1990s more than 700 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, six million fewer children die every year from disease, tens of millions more girls are in school, millions more people have access to clean water, and democracy often fragile and imperfect has become the norm in developing countries around the world.
“The Great Surge” tells the remarkable story of this unprecedented economic, social, and political transformation. It shows how the end of the Cold War, the development of new technologies, globalization, courageous local leadership, and in some cases, good fortune, have combined to dramatically improve the fate of hundreds of millions of people in poor countries around the world. Most importantly, “The Great Surge” reveals how we can fight the changing tides of climate change, resource demand, economic and political mismanagement, and demographic pressures to accelerate the political, economic, and social development that has been helping the poorest of the poor around the world.”
Steven Radelet holds the Donald F. McHenry Chair in Global Human Development at Georgetown University and is a Nonresident Senior Fellow” at the Brookings Institution.” His work focuses on economic growth, poverty reduction, foreign aid, and debt, primarily in Africa and Asia.
European intellectuals of the 1950s dismissed American culture as nothing more than cowboy movies and the A-bomb. In response, American cultural diplomats tried to show that the United States had something to offer beyond military might and commercial exploitation. Through literary magazines, traveling art exhibits, touring musical shows, radio programs, book translations, and conferences, they deployed the revolutionary aesthetics of modernism to proveâ€”particularly to the leftists whose Cold War loyalties they hoped to secureâ€”that American art and literature were aesthetically rich and culturally significant.
Yet by repurposing modernism, American diplomats and cultural authorities turned the avant-garde into the establishment. They remade the once revolutionary movement into a content-free collection of artistic techniques and styles suitable for middlebrow consumption. Cold War Modernists documents how the CIA, the State Department, and private cultural diplomats transformed modernist art and literature into pro-Western propaganda during the first decade of the Cold War. Drawing on interviews, previously unknown archival materials, and the stories of such figures and institutions as William Faulkner, Stephen Spender, Irving Kristol, James Laughlin, and Voice of America, Barnhisel reveals how the U.S. government reconfigured modernism as a trans-Atlantic movement, a joint endeavor between American and European artists, with profound implications for the art that followed and for the character of American identity.
Greg Barnhisel teaches in the English department at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. His previous books include James Laughlin, New Directions, and the Remaking of Ezra Pound and, with Catherine Turner, Pressing the Fight: Print, Propaganda, and the Cold War.