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Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

By Henry Kissinger

Penguin Press, July 2022

525 pages

“Leaders,” writes Henry Kissinger in this compelling book, “think and act at the intersection of two axes: the first, between the past and the future; the second, between the abiding values and aspirations of those they lead. They must balance what they know, which is necessarily drawn from the past, with what they intuit about the future, which is inherently conjectural and uncertain. It is this intuitive grasp of direction that enables leaders to set objectives and lay down a strategy.”
Kissinger analyses the lives of six extraordinary leaders through the distinctive strategies of statecraft, which he believes they embodied. After the Second World War, Konrad Adenauer brought defeated and morally bankrupt Germany back into the community of nations by what Kissinger calls “the strategy of humility.” Charles de Gaulle set France beside the victorious Allies and renewed its historic grandeur by “the strategy of will.” During the Cold War, Richard Nixon gave geostrategic advantage to the United States by “the strategy of equilibrium.” After twenty-five years of conflict, Anwar Sadat brought a vision of peace to the Middle East by a “strategy of transcendence.” Against the odds, Lee Kuan Yew created a powerhouse city-state, Singapore, by “the strategy of excellence.” And, though Britain was known as “the sick man of Europe” when Margaret Thatcher came to power, she renewed her country’s morale and international position by “the strategy of conviction.” Kissinger brings historical perception, public experience and—because he knew each of the subjects and participated in many of the events he describes—personal knowledge.
An extraordinary book, one that braids together two through lines in the long and distinguished career of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The first is grand strategy: No practical geopolitical thinker has more assuredly mastered the way the modern global system works or how nations use the tools of statecraft to bend an often-resistant world to their will. But Mr. Kissinger is also an astute observer of the personal element in strategy—the art and science of leadership, or how, on the executive level, ‘decisions [are] made, trust earned, promises kept, a way forward proposed. . . . James Stavridis, The Wall Street Journal
[Kissinger] writes that his six subjects were ‘architects of the post-war . . . international order.’  That may be true, but that order is over. Today’s disorder is profoundly different. These short biographies tell us little about the strategies that could work to tame it . . . Electorates all over the world are drastically changed from those of the Cold War and before, making the twentieth-century models Kissinger portrays of dubious relevance to today’s struggling leaders. For all that, if Kissinger could just allow the past to be the past and put what he knows to work on the conditions of today and tomorrow, he could surely offer so much more. — Jessica T. Mathews, Distinguished Fellow and former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a Review Essay, Foreign Affairs, January-February 2023
. . . Kissinger infuses his lucid policy analyses with colorful firsthand observations. . . . Kissinger’s portraits of politicians spinning weakness and defeat into renewed strength are captivating. . . Publishers Weekly
Henry Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and has advised many other American presidents on foreign policy. He received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Medal of Liberty, among other awards. He is the author of numerous books and articles on foreign policy and diplomacy.

State of Disaster: The Failure of U.S. Migration Policy in the Age of Climate Change

By Maria Cristina Garcia

University of North Carolina Press, September 2022
256 pages
Natural disasters and the dire effects of climate change cause massive population displacements and lead to some of the most intractable political and humanitarian challenges seen today. Yet, as Maria Cristina Garcia observes in this critical history of U.S. policy on migration in the Global South, there is actually no such thing as a “climate refugee” under current U.S. law. Most initiatives intended to assist those who must migrate are flawed and ineffective from inception because they are derived from outmoded policies. In a world of climate change, U.S. refugee policy simply does not work.
Garcia focuses on Central America and the Caribbean, where natural disasters have repeatedly worsened poverty, inequality, and domestic and international political tensions. She explains that the creation of better U.S. policy for those escaping disasters is severely limited by the 1980 Refugee Act, which continues to be applied almost exclusively for reasons of persecution directly related to politics, race, religion, and identity. Garcia contends that the United States must transform its outdated migration policies to address today’s realities. Climate change and natural disasters are here to stay, and much of the human devastation left in their wake is essentially a policy choice.
A forthright work of research and witness . . . State of Disaster is a learned and fervent expose that holds out hope that impacts can ‘be minimized with strategic planning, sustainable practices, and responsible, accountable and transparent governance.'”–Foreword Reviews
Maria Cristina Garcia is Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies and professor of history at Cornell University. Her most recent book is The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America.

Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World

By Gaia Vince

Flatiron Press, August 2022
274 pages
Drought-hit regions bleeding those for whom a rural life has become untenable. Coastlines diminishing year on year. Wildfires and hurricanes leaving widening swaths of destruction. The culprit, most of us accept, is climate change, but not enough of us are confronting one of its biggest, and most present, consequences: a total reshaping of the earth’s human geography. As Gaia Vince points out early in Nomad Century, global migration has doubled in the past decade, on track to see literal billions displaced in the coming decades. 

In this deeply-reported clarion call, Vince draws on a career of environmental reporting and over two years of travel to the front lines of climate migration across the globe, to tell us how the changes already in play will transform our food, our cities, our politics, and much more. Her findings are answers we all need, now more than ever.

Gaia Vince calmly―without drum-banging or hand-wringing―sets forth likely consequences and end-of-century projections for our rapidly changing planet. It’ll knock you flat. But before you hit the ground, she hands over an impressively detailed survival plan: supporting radical migration from newly uninhabitable regions, rethinking urban structures and food practices, and restoring climate.” Mary Roach, author of Fuzz

The climate crisis already has millions of people on the move, and that number will steadily grow higher till it breaks the political structures of the planet―unless, as Vince suggests, we start now to remake those structures so they can cope, and indeed benefit, from the flow of humans that is now inevitable. An important and provocative start to a crucial conversation. ― Bill McKibben,

“This book is a rather astounding addition to a growing body of thought that suggests the twenty-first century is going to include, and even require, lots of human migration―and that handled correctly, this could be part of a good adaptation to the climate and biosphere crisis we are now entering. What Vince gives us here is some cognitive mapping to understand the situation and see a way forward.” Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Ministry for the Future

Once again, Gaia Vince demonstrates that she is one of the finest science writers at work today. Bill Bryson, author of The Body

Gaia Vince is an award-winning science journalist, author, broadcaster and speaker who is interested in the interplay between humans and the planetary environment. She has written for The Guardian, The Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, and Nature. . . . In 2015, she was the first woman to win the Royal Society Science Book of the Year Prize for her debut, Adventures In The  Anthropocene: A Journey To The Heart Of The Planet We Made.

Republics of Myth: National Narratives and the US-Iran Conflict

By Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman

Johns Hopkins University Press, April 2022
432 pages

Iran and the United States have been at odds for forty years, locked in a cold war that has run the gamut from harsh rhetoric to hostage-taking, from crippling sanctions to targeted killings. In Republics of Myth, Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman argue that a major contributing factor to this tenacious enmity is how each nation views itself. The two nations have differing interests and grievances about each other, but their often-deadly confrontation derives from the very different national narratives that shape their politics, actions, and vision of their own destiny in the world.

The dominant American narrative is the myth of the frontier―that the U.S. can tame it, tame its inhabitants, and nurture democracy as well. Iran, conversely, can claim two dominant myths: the first, an unbroken (but not for lack of trying) lineage back to Cyrus the Great, and the second, the betrayal of Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson. Both Iranian myths feature a detestable outsider as an enemy of the Iranian state and source of the nation’s ills and misfortune. The two countries have clashed so severely in part, the authors argue, because their national narratives constantly drive them to do so. Drawing on newly declassified documents and discussions with policymakers, the authors analyze an array of missed opportunities over several decades to improve the U.S.-Iran relationship.

By drawing on a broad range of primary and secondary material and utilizing diverse methodological and analytic perspectives this book offers an in-depth survey of different aspects of US-Iran relations. A timely publication and welcome addition to scholarship.
―Ali Gheissari, University of San Diego, editor of Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics
Republics of Myth is an outstanding and balanced review of the difficult relationship between Americans and Iranians. Based on unique research, this timely book addresses the grievances of both sides and pays special attention to the Iran-Iraq War.―Bruce O. Riedel, Brookings Institution, author of Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR
Hussein Banai is an Associate Professor of International Studies in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington and is a research affiliate at the Center for International Studies at MIT.
Malcolm Byrnes is a research director at the nongovernmental National Security Archive where since 1997 he has also run a multinational and multi archival project exploring U.S.-Iran relations. He is the author or editor of ten books. He is on the editorial board of H-DIPLO and the scholarly advisory board of the Gilder Lehrman Institute.
John Tirman (1949 – 2022) was an American political theorist. From 2004, Tirman was executive director and principal research scientist at the MIT Center for International Studies.[1] There he led the Persian Gulf Initiative, which conducted work on Iraq war mortality and U.S. and Iran relations, as well as other projects. He was the author or coauthor of 13 books on international affairs, many of them exploring and advocating the “human security” paradigm in global affairs.

The Story of Russia

By Orlando Figes

Metropolitan Books, September 2022
368 pages
The Story of Russia is a fresh approach to the thousand years of Russia’s history, concerned as much with the ideas that have shaped how Russians think about their past as it is with the events and personalities comprising it. No other country has reimagined its own story so often, in a perpetual effort to stay in step with the shifts of ruling ideologies.

From the founding of Kievan Rus in the first millennium to Putin’s war against Ukraine, Orlando Figes explores the ideas that have guided Russia’s actions throughout its long and troubled existence. Whether he’s describing the crowning of Ivan the Terrible in a candlelit cathedral or the dramatic upheaval of the peasant revolution, he reveals the impulses, often unappreciated or misunderstood by foreigners, that have driven Russian history: the medieval myth of Mother Russia’s holy mission to the world; the imperial tendency toward autocratic rule; the popular belief in a paternal tsar dispensing truth and justice; the cult of sacrifice rooted in the idea of the “Russian soul”; and always, the nationalist myth of Russia’s unjust treatment by the West.

How the Russians came to tell their story and to revise it so often as they went along is not only a vital aspect of their history; it is also our best means of understanding how the country thinks and acts today. Based on a lifetime of scholarship and enthrallingly written, The Story of Russia is quintessential Figes: sweeping, revelatory, and masterful.
This is the essential backstory, the history book that you need if you want to understand modern Russia and its wars with Ukraine, with its neighbors, with America, and with the West.— Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy and Red Famine

From “the great storyteller of Russian history” a brilliant account of the national mythologies and imperial ideologies that have shaped Russia’s past and politics—essential reading for understanding the country today. — Financial Times

Rich and immersive . . . Figes’s fluid prose keeps the jam-packed narrative from getting bogged down in intricate historical matters. Russophiles will savor this illuminating survey.—Publishers Weekly

Nowhere is politics defined more by history than in Russia. Nowhere is the line between myth and history so blurred and nowhere is distinguishing the two more consequential. The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes is both a brilliant work of historical scholarship and an essential contribution to deciphering our current crisis.
—Adam Tooze, author of Crashed

A brilliantly concentrated meditation on the power of myth and history, and the ability of both to form and deform, guide and misguide, the present. Thoughtful, nuanced, beautifully written and above all persuasive, it shows how we are all trapped in the loops and coils of myth, memory and forgetting, and demonstrates the urgent need for historians to remember, and insist on the truth. . . .— William Dalrymple, author of The Anarchy
Orlando Figes is the author of several books, including The Crimean War, The Whisperers, Natasha’s Dance, and A People’s Tragedy, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. The recipient of the Wolfson History Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among others, Orlando is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao’s Stratagem to the Rise of Xi

By Victor C Shih

Cambridge University Press, June 2022
232 pages
For the first time since Mao, a Chinese leader may serve a life-time tenure. Xi Jinping may well replicate Mao’s successful strategy to maintain power. If so, what are the institutional and policy implications for China? Victor C. Shih investigates how leaders of one-party autocracies seek to dominate the elite and achieve true dictatorship, governing without fear of internal challenge or resistance to major policy changes. Through an in-depth look of late-Mao politics informed by thousands of historical documents and data analysis, Coalitions of the Weak uncovers Mao’s strategy of replacing seasoned, densely networked senior officials with either politically tainted or inexperienced officials. The book further documents how a decentralized version of this strategy led to two generations of weak leadership in the Chinese Communist Party, creating the conditions for Xi’s rapid consolidation of power after 2012.
At a time when scholarship and public opinion alike stress the seamless strength of the Chinese Communist state, Victor Shih paints a more complex picture in which insecure leaders from Mao to Xi assemble Coalitions of the Weak to perpetuate their personal rule. Based on a wealth of primary sources, Shih’s fascinating analysis reveals an inherent tradeoff between autocratic power and policy success that points to a fundamental vulnerability at the heart of China’s political system. — Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University
Shih’s focus on Coalitions of the Weak offers a novel explanation for Mao’s continued dominance during the last decade of his life. As important, it illuminates Xi Jinping’s rise to power, the steps he has taken to strengthen his position, and the tension this creates between prolonging his personal leadership and fostering institutions that might ensure the future stability of the regime he heads. — Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
Why did Mao as he aged surround himself with mediocrities and novices, while sidelining his old revolutionary colleagues? How did he survive at the top of a brutal power structure even as his health and cognition failed? Victor Shih suggests these questions are related. In a penetrating account of Chinese politics based on decades of careful research, he shows how in the looking-glass world of dictatorship weakness becomes strength and past disgrace serves to guarantee current obedience. — Daniel Treisman, Professor of Political Science, UCLA.
Victor Shih is an associate professor of political economy and the Ho Miu Lam Chair in China and Pacific Relations. He is currently engaged in a study of the activities of the Chinese elite and of Chinese defense firms around the world. He is also maintaining a large database on biographical information of elites in China. Prior to joining UC San Diego, Shih was a professor of political science at Northwestern University and former principal for The Carlyle Group.

Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against U.S. Interests

By Agathe Demarais

Columbia University Press, November 2022
415 pages
Sanctions have become the go-to foreign policy tool for the United States. Coercive economic measures such as trade tariffs, financial penalties, and export controls affect large numbers of companies and states across the globe. Some of these penalties target nonstate actors, such as Colombian drug cartels and Islamist terror groups; others apply to entire countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Russia. U.S. policy makers see sanctions as a low-cost tactic, but in reality these measures often fail to achieve their intended goals—and their potent side effects can even harm American interests.

Backfire explores the surprising ways sanctions affect multinational companies, governments, and ultimately millions of people around the world. Drawing on interviews with experts, policy makers, and people in sanctioned countries, Agathe Demarais examines the unintended consequences of the use of sanctions as a diplomatic weapon. The proliferation of sanctions spurs efforts to evade them, as states and firms seek ways to circumvent U.S. penalties. This is only part of the story. Sanctions also reshape relations between countries, pushing governments that are at odds with the U.S. closer to each other—or, increasingly, to Russia and China.

Full of counterintuitive insights spanning a wide range of topics, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Iran’s COVID response and China’s cryptocurrency ambitions, Backfire reveals how sanctions are transforming geopolitics and the global economy—as well as diminishing U.S. influence. This insider’s account is an eye-opening, accessible, and timely book that sheds light on the future of sanctions in an increasingly multipolar world.
Sanctions are in fashion. Trump used them with relish. Biden has deployed formidable ones against Russia. But do they work? And what are their side effects and long-term impact? These are critical questions, and Agathe Demarais’s excellent, clear-headed book has uncomfortable answers. — Daniel Franklin, executive editor, The Economist
Backfire is a balanced, fast-paced, and often surprising account of the growing influence that sanctions have had on businesses, economies, and people around the world over recent decades, highlighting their often unintended and self-defeating consequences as well as their rare successes. — Paul Hannon, The Wall Street Journal
Linking her knowledge of international sanctions to a fascinating, lively account of their far-reaching effects (including humanitarian), Demarais provides a powerful and compelling narrative of the overuse of sanctions by the United States for the past decade. An indispensable read to dive into international relations through an original and timely prism. — Julien Nocetti, Saint-Cyr Military Academy
Agathe Demarais is the global forecasting director of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). She was previously a senior policy adviser for the French Treasury in Russia and Lebanon, working directly on sanctions and other economic and financial issues.

Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence

By Amy Zegart

Princeton University Press, February 2022
413 pages

In Spies, Lies, and Algorithms, Amy Zegart separates fact from fiction as she offers an engaging and enlightening account of the past, present, and future of American espionage as it faces a revolution driven by digital technology.

Drawing on decades of research and hundreds of interviews with intelligence officials, Zegart provides a history of U.S. espionage. . . and describes how technology is empowering new enemies and opportunities, and creating powerful new players, such as private citizens who are successfully tracking nuclear threats using little more than Google Earth. And she shows why cyberspace is, in many ways, the ultimate cloak-and-dagger battleground, where nefarious actors employ deception, subterfuge, and advanced technology for theft, espionage, and information warfare.
In the wireless 21st-century world, espionage, sabotage, and brainwashing are no longer the province of government agencies; nearly anyone with an internet connection can do it. Disturbing but superbly insightful. ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review
A lucid and sobering account of how digital and other technological breakthroughs are ‘generating new uncertainties and empowering new adversaries’ for the United States at a time when its intelligence agencies are uniquely stressed. … Ms. Zegart offers no easy solutions but warns that the world of cyberwarfare requires both a ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘mobilization in milliseconds.’ In the new world, national security must take precedence over intelligence gathering, enabling decision makers to respond forcefully and quickly to cyberattacks. The divide between Washington and tech giants must be bridged or a day of reckoning will surely come.Harvey Klehr, Wall Street Journal
Amy Zegart is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. Her books include Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton) and (with Condoleezza Rice) Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity.

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