Counter-terrorism and Intelligence
Al-Qaeda’s Revenge: The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings
Fernando Reinares. New York and Washington DC: Columbia University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2016. $50.00. 231 pp.
Intended to help both experts and non-experts understand the ways in which terrorist organisations operate, this analysis of the 11 March 2004 train bombings in Madrid seeks to make connections between the attack and the senior leadership of al-Qaedea, as well as to identify links between this atrocity and 9/11.
American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What To Do About It
Jennifer Stisa Granick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. £23.99. 339 pp.
Describing the American intelligence agencies as ‘exceedingly aggressive’, Granick details what she sees as the ways in which US surveillance practices have tested, and in some cases flouted, technological, legal and political boundaries. She argues that mass surveillance is a threat to democracy and proposes ways that it might be reined in.
Black Flag Down: Counter-extremism, Defeating ISIS and Winning the Battle of Ideas
Liam Byrne. London: Biteback Publishing, 2016. £12.99. 258 pp.
A British MP and former cabinet minister asks how the West might defeat Islamist terrorism without sacrificing its own values. He criticises approaches which he believes threaten to leave Western societies divided while achieving little on the digital and Middle Eastern battlefronts.
Black Hawks Rising: The Story of AMISOM’s Successful War Against Somali Insurgents, 2007–2014
Opiyo Oloya. Solihull: Helion & Co., 2016. £25.00. 262 pp.
Despite the expectation that the mission would fail, the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007 proved effective at combating insurgents, returning most of the country’s territory to the Somali government. Oloya presents an account of the mission and of what he sees as the uneven, and often ruinous, US approach to Somalia.
Blinking Red: Crisis and Compromise in American Intelligence after 9/11
Michael Allen. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2016. $19.95. 249 pp.
After the 9/11 terror attacks, the US Congress and president George W. Bush restructured the country’s national-security infrastructure. Allen documents this response to the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, raising doubts along that way that the reforms improved the effectiveness of America’s intelligence community.
Caravan of Martyrs: Sacrifice and Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan
David B. Edwards. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. £24.95/$29.95. 272 pp.
According to Edwards, suicide attacks are often said to be the result of brainwashing or the ‘pathology of the “terrorist mind”’. In this study of such attacks in Afghanistan, the author presents an alternative explanation, arguing that cultural beliefs and ritual practices associated with sacrifice play a key role.
Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union
Stephen Budiansky. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. $30.00. 389 pp.
An expert cryptographer traces the development and activities of the US National Security Agency from its origins in the code-breaking programmes of the Second World War through to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Appendices supply the technical details of Soviet codes and the methods used to break them.
Company Confessions: Secrets, Memoirs, and the CIA
Christopher Moran. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. $27.99. 346 pp.
This volume examines what happens when spies – particularly former agents of the CIA – decide to reveal their secrets in public. It details the circumstances surrounding the publication of the memoirs of numerous CIA officers, as well as the attempts by their former employer to suppress the books’ contents.
Martha Crenshaw and Gary Lafree. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017. $32.00. 272 pp.
The dismaying fact that the counter-terrorist must succeed all of the time, while the terrorist need only succeed once, lies at the core of this study, which outlines the many challenges involved in overcoming terrorist threats. The authors conclude that there is no perfect solution to the problem of terrorism.
The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government
David Talbot. New York: Harper Perennial, 2016. $19.99. 686 pp.
This biography of Allen Dulles, the longest-serving director of the CIA, paints a portrait of a man who ruthlessly pursued his own agenda both at home and abroad, transforming the agency he led into ‘the most powerful – and secretive – colossus in Washington’.
Does Terrorism Work? A History
Richard English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. £25.00. 350 pp.
An expert on terrorism presents a detailed history of the phenomenon during the past 50 years. He argues that there are a variety of ways in which terrorism can be an effective tactic, an insight which he believes is crucial to finding ways to prevent it.
The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law
Jameel Jaffer, ed. New York: The New Press, 2016. $27.95. 328 pp.
The controversial US practice of ‘targeted killing’ lies at the core of this volume, in which the contributors evaluate the legal and policy documents associated with the practice. The editor argues that the adoption of targeted killing as a counter-terrorism measure has caused the United States to sacrifice the principles of democracy and human rights for the illusion of security.
The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden
Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. £25.00. 619 pp.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden became the most wanted man in the world following 9/11. This volume explains how he evaded capture for almost a decade. Drawing on testimonies from his inner circle, the authors also tackle questions about how the terrorist organisation might try to regenerate in the coming years.
The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11
Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman, eds. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. $29.95. 364 pp.
This volume examines the often fraught relationship between the FBI and religious groups in the United States, from the earliest days of the bureau through the civil-rights movement, the Cold War and the ‘war on terror’, noting that federal agents have long sought to infiltrate groups deemed to be fomenting ‘anti-American’ views.
The Forgotten Spy: The Untold Story of Stalin’s First Double Agent
Nick Barratt. London: Blink Publishing, 2016. £8.99. 288 pp.
Barratt tells the story of his great uncle Ernest Holloway Oldham, a double agent during the Cold War who was tasked with delivering messages to various countries and embassies for the British.
How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, The Man and the Theft
Edward Jay Epstein. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. $27.95. 350 pp.
In this analysis of the biggest data breach in US history, Epstein investigates the man behind the leaks: Edward Snowden. The author argues that Snowden deeply damaged an intelligence system that American presidents have relied on for over six decades, and is therefore not the hero that he claims to be.
How the Gloves Came Off: Lawyers, Policy Makers, and Norms in the Debate on Torture
Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. $35.00. 267 pp.
Arsenault looks at how the legal and normative barriers that could once be relied on to prevent the torture of detainees were set aside following 9/11, resulting in the scandals of Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay. She describes a process in which legal, military and government professionals promulgated a logic that allowed for acts once deemed unthinkable.
Jihad and the West: Black Flag Over Babylon
Mark Silinsky. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017. $22.00. 258 pp.
An analyst with the US Department of Defense details the relationship between the Islamic State and the West, detailing the ways in which the terror group seeks to appeal to ‘blue-eyed’ (Western) jihadists and the work such recruits are put to once they join the so-called caliphate. He also gives voice to the group’s many victims.
Jihadism Transformed: Al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Global Battle of Ideas
Simon Staffell and Akil Awan, eds. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2016. £30.00. 273 pp.
Noting that the rise of the Islamic State captured global attention and allowed the group to seize control over the jihadist narrative, in the process generating fresh support for the Salafi–Jihadi movement globally, this volume examines how jihadists have adapted their strategies and message to evolving and chaotic circumstances, successfully managing their appeal in both local and global contexts.
The Man With the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story
Serhii Plokhy. London: Oneworld Publications, 2016. £18.99. 365 pp.
Bogdan Stashinsky was a KGB assassin who defected to West Germany and shared his secrets with the CIA. This volume recounts the story of his life and the consequences of his defection, including the downfall of Soviet leader Aleksandr Shelepin. The episode drew international attention to the role of the Kremlin in carrying out political assassinations in other countries.
Merchants of Men: How Jihadists and ISIS Turned Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking into a Multibillion-Dollar Business
Loretta Napoleoni. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2016. $24.95. 288 pp.
Noting that the kidnapping industry is now bigger than the illegal drug trade, Napoleoni examines how the destabilisation of Syria and Iraq, along with the rise of ISIS, has offered new business opportunities that exploit refugees. She explores how the protocols of prevention and rescue change according to the type of abduction, and presents first-hand victim accounts.
The Mind of a Terrorist: David Headley, the Mumbai Massacre, and His European Revenge
Kaare Sørensen. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2016. $24.99. 271 pp.
Born to an American mother and a Pakistani father, David Headley – also known as Daood Gilani – lived a double life between New York and Lahore, once worked as a US informant, and later planned the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Sørensen details his movements and thinking using extensive media reports, eyewitness interviews, court transcripts and chat-room messages.
Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence
Jonathan Haslam. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. $16.00. 366 pp.
Haslam aims to present a comprehensive account of Soviet intelligence from the October Revolution to the end of the Cold War. Bringing to light previously overlooked military-intelligence and special-service institutions, Haslam argues that these were critical to the Soviet state’s survival.
Obama’s Guantánamo: Stories from an Enduring Prison
Jonathan Hafetz, ed. New York: NYU Press, 2016. $30.00. 229 pp.
The American detention centre at Guantanamo Bay has long been the focus of criticism and debate. This volume presents an account of daily life within the prison with a view to highlighting key features of America’s broader security debate, including what the authors believe is fear-mongering and a failure to uphold basic human rights.
The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money
Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier. London: Oneworld, 2016. £12.99. 366 pp.
In the wake of the world’s greatest data leak to date, investigative journalists Obermayer and Obermaier called upon an international network of fellow journalists to track down the story’s loose ends. This is a first-hand account of their investigation into a leak which revealed the ways in which a global elite appears to sidestep the rule of law.
The Secret State: A History of Intelligence and Espionage
Colonel John Hughes-Wilson. New York: Pegasus Books, 2017. $29.95. 510 pp.
In this history of spycraft and espionage, the author highlights the potential pitfalls of intelligence-gathering, looking at how key episodes might have turned out differently if vital pieces of intelligence had not been ignored, misunderstood or otherwise mishandled.
Shattered Illusions: KGB Cold War Espionage in Canada
Donald G. Mahar. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. £23.95/$35.00. 221 pp.
Mahar tells the story of KGB operative Yevgeni Vladimirovich Brik, who turned double agent for Canada, and James Douglas Finley Morrison, an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who betrayed Brik to Moscow in a bid to clear some personal debts.
Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb
Susan Williams. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2016. £25.00. 369 pp.
Williams recounts one of the United States’ least-known top-secret missions during the Second World War: the frantic effort to obtain uranium for atomic bombs. Washington sent a covert group of intelligence agents to the most important source of uranium yet discovered, in the Congo, to prevent it from falling into German hands.
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. New York: Berkley, 2016. $27.00. 292 pp.
Recounting one of the largest data leaks in US history prior to Edward Snowden’s recent breach, the author tells the story of dyslexic spy Brian Regan, a brilliant cryptologist who almost defeated America’s military security – and who was caught only because he couldn’t spell.
Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies, and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War
James Kitfield. New York: Basic Books, 2016. $27.99. 405 pp.
Examining the relationship between military agencies, law enforcement and secret intelligence, Kitfield seeks to demonstrate how these institutions have united to prevent future large-scale terrorist attacks since 9/11. He argues that this new style of operations represents our best hope for preventing terrorism and achieving national security.
Violent Extremism Online: New Perspectives on Terrorism and the Internet
Anne Aly et al., eds. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. £110.00. 194 pp.
This volume analyses the relationship between terrorism and radicalisation online. Expert contributors examine the role of the internet in spreading propaganda, attracting recruits and inspiring violence, and discuss what might be done to limit the online influence of terrorist actors.
The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State
Graeme Wood. London: Allen Lane, 2017. £20.00. 317 pp.
Building on his article that appeared in the Atlantic (‘What ISIS Really Wants’), Wood compiles ten years of research and presents interviews with supporters, recruiters and sympathisers of the Islamic State in a bid to understand the group’s intentions and predict its future.
Western Foreign Fighters: The Threat to Homeland and International Security
Phil Gurski. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. $32.00. 172 pp.
A Canadian intelligence analyst with more than 30 years’ experience seeks to explain why people, particularly Westerners, leave their homelands to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. He also looks at the threat they pose if they return to their countries of origin, and how this threat might be countered.
Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantanamo
Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir. Stanford, CA: Redwood Press, 2017. $24.00. 266 pp.
This memoir by two men who were wrongly accused of participating in a terrorist plot recounts the story of life inside the US military prison and detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, in which they were imprisoned for seven years. The authors recall the injustice, fear and cruelty they experienced, and how they coped when finally set free.
All Out War: The Full Story of Brexit
Tim Shipman. London: William Collins, 2017. £9.99. 662 pp.
Intended as an exclusive, behind-the-scenes account of one of the most fast-paced episodes of British politics, this volume details the EU referendum campaign and its aftermath. The author seeks to explain why key players made the decisions they did, and why the Leave side won.
Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation
Brendan Simms. London: Penguin, 2017. £9.99. 302 pp.
In this history of Britain’s complicated relationship with Europe, Simms details centuries of shifting relationships and bloody conflicts. He suggests that an understanding of this history can shed light on the contemporary rift between the UK and the continent.
British Multiculturalism and the Politics of Representation
Lasse Thomassen. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017. £19.99. 247 pp.
Drawing on case studies from the last four decades of British multiculturalism, Thomassen argues that the politics of inclusion and exclusion are intrinsically linked to identity, and therefore the ways in which identities are represented lies at the heart of multicultural issues.
The Euro and the Battle of Ideas
Markus K. Brunnermeier, Harold James and Jean-Pierre Landau. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016. £27.95/$35.00. 440 pp.
The euro has come under increasing scrutiny following a series of economic crises in Greece, Spain and Italy. The authors analyse the problems facing the currency, arguing that discrepancies between its founding countries, particularly leading states France and Germany, have led to national – as opposed to collective – solutions.
Europe as a Stronger Global Actor: Challenges and Strategic Responses
Simon Duke. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. £86.00. 262 pp.
According to Duke, the European Union currently suffers from the absence of a ‘metanarrative’ that would allow it to better signal its priorities and coordinate its responses to the range of problems it now faces. He contends that the union will not be able to answer fundamental questions about its role, purpose and identity without improving its strategic awareness and confidence.
European Social Models from Crisis to Crisis: Employment and Inequality in the Era of Monetary Integration
Jon Erik Dølvik and Andrew Martin, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. £25.00. 442 pp.
This volume argues that the economic crisis in the European Union undermines the view that the continent’s ‘social models’ (the ways in which countries structure their welfare states, industrial relations and educational institutions) had created inefficiencies in labour markets and caused unemployment. Rather, the authors believe Europe’s macroeconomic environment can be blamed for the crisis’s social costs.
Europe’s Growth Challenge
Anders Åslund and Simeon Djankov. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. $34.95. 207 pp.
According to the authors, the best way for the European Union to surmount the crises it is currently experiencing would be to carry out economic reforms. Their proposals include a reduction in the ‘regulatory and tax burdens on labor’, measures to encourage start-ups and innovation, and the development of Europe’s energy union.
The Formation of Turkish Republicanism
Banu Turnaoğlu. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £32.95/$39.95. 312 pp.
Seeking to counter what she sees as a widespread tendency to equate Turkish republicanism with Kemalism, the author presents evidence that republican thinking in Turkey has a long history with roots in centuries-old debates. She contends that Turkey’s contemporary political problems are the products of unresolved tensions within Kemalist ideology.
The Greek Civil War: Strategy, Counterinsurgency and the Monarchy
Spyridon Plakoudas. London: I.B. Tauris, 2017. £62.00. 245 pp.
Noting that the Greek Civil War (1946–49) constituted a rare, permanent victory of a right-wing government over a communist insurgency, Plakoudas asks how the communists were ultimately defeated, exploring the strategies employed by the royalist regime and analysing the role of external actors.
The Holocaust: A New History
Laurence Rees. London: Viking, 2017. £25.00. 509 pp.
Having spent 25 years meeting survivors and perpetrators of the Holocaust, Rees presents a new account of this infamous crime. Featuring previously unpublished testimony, the author attempts to determine exactly how this mass murder could take place, which he argues cannot be fully understood without considering other Nazi policies of persecution.
How NATO Adapts: Strategy and Organization in the Atlantic Alliance Since 1950
Seth A. Johnston. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. $29.95. 252 pp.
Contrasting NATO with other post-war institutions, Johnston highlights the many ways in which the Alliance has evolved since its founding in 1949. In particular, he explores the role of the Alliance’s bureaucratic actors in facilitating its many transformations at ‘critical junctures’ through the years, contending that NATO once again finds itself at such a juncture.
The New Politics of Class: The Political Exclusion of the British Working Class
Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. £30.00. 237 pp.
Arguing that members of the British working class have been largely excluded from contemporary politics, Evans and Tilley seek to pinpoint the causes of this exclusion. They conclude that mainstream parties and political elites have increasingly converged on similar programmes that fail to take class differences into account, to the detriment of the working class.
Nordic Nationalism and Right-Wing Populist Politics: Imperial Relationships and National Sentiments
Eirikur Bergmann. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. £86.00. 213 pp.
This volume explores the causes of the emergence of nationalist–populist politics in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, tracing the roots of contemporary movements to the nineteenth century, when these Nordic countries were established as independent entities.
Politics: Between the Extremes
Nick Clegg. London: Vintage, 2017. £9.99. 292 pp.
Having witnessed Britain’s changing politics from the inside, Nick Clegg provides an account of his experience in government, drawing on his time as deputy prime minister during the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010–15. Clegg argues that the rise of nationalism has created stark new divisions in the country.
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam
Douglas Murray. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. £18.99. 343 pp.
Drawing on evidence gathered during his travels across the continent, Murray presents his case that Europe is committing cultural suicide. He judges multiculturalism as a failure that has negatively impacted all aspects of society, and asks why the European people have mired themselves in what he sees as self-hatred, rather than standing up for their way of life.
Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West
Gilles Kepel with Antoine Jardin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £24.95/$29.95. 240 pp.
First published in France after ISIS terrorists carried out coordinated attacks in Paris in 2015, this volume suggests that radical Islam first took root in France in 2005, when riots erupted following the deaths of two boys who had been fleeing the police. Kepel suggests that both Islamic terrorists and the European far right are seeking to divide the continent’s Muslim minority from the rest of society.
Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy
Ece Temelkuran. Zeynep Beler, trans. London: Zed Books, 2016. £12.99. 296 pp.
Temelkuran presents an insider’s account of Turkey, profiling its difficulties and tragedies, diverse peoples and controlling government. She criticises an increasingly authoritarian leadership and laments the rise of commercialisation and Western influence, but ultimately points to signs of hope in the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and other examples of the people’s determination.
What Next? Britain’s Future in Europe
Peter Wilding. London: I.B. Tauris, 2017. £8.99. 121 pp.
Following the UK vote to leave the EU, Wilding reassesses Britain’s role in global affairs in terms of pride, prejudice and power. He argues that Brexit should be the catalyst for reform – not just in the UK, but also in Europe – in order to conserve and improve existing global relationships.
A Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama
Michael D’Antonio. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2017. $27.99. 310 pp.
The author details what he sees as Barack Obama’s many achievements as president, including his policies intended to revive the US economy following the financial crisis, the extension of health coverage to millions of Americans, the conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran and more.
A Time of Scandal: Charles R. Forbes, Warren G. Harding, and the Making of the Veterans Bureau
Rosemary Stevens. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. $34.95. 376 pp.
Stevens revisits the rise and fall of Colonel Charles R. Forbes, appointed by his friend, president Warren Harding, to head the newly created US Veterans Bureau in 1921, only to step down 18 months later in disgrace. Stevens asks whether he deserved to be convicted of conspiring to defraud the US government, as he was in 1926, or whether he was in fact a scapegoat.
Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy
Lewis H. Lapham. London: Verso Books, 2016. £20.00. 400 pp.
Lapham argues that American ‘imperialism’ since the Cold War has destroyed its democratic principles. He examines what he sees as America’s false sense of total hegemony, its growing social and class divisions, and its failed execution of the ‘war on terror’, all of which contributed to the election in 2016 of the ‘prosperous fool’, Donald Trump.
Alignment, Alliance, and American Grand Strategy
Zachary Selden. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016. $75.00. 249 pp.
Despite its apparent unpopularity in the early 2000s, the US benefited from increasing security cooperation from other states during that time, particularly among states bordering Russia and China. Selden contends that by maintaining military pre-eminence and encouraging the cooperation of second-tier states through a demonstrated willingness to use force, America can sustain its dominance at less cost.
America at War with Itself
Henry A. Giroux. San Francisco, CA: City Lights, 2016. $16.95. 319 pp.
Giroux contends that America’s move towards increasingly abusive expressions of power, from police violence to hateful rhetoric during the presidential campaign, is hurting the country. He advocates for social investment in civil rights, democracy and education in order to allow the common good to prevail over extreme right-wing leaders and those with self-serving economic interests.
American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present
Philip Gorski. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £27.95/$35.00. 320 pp.
In this analysis of what Gorski sees as a struggle between religious nationalism and radical secularism in the United States, the author looks how the country’s political leaders have conceived of the role of religion in national life from the Puritan era through to the present. In order to end the culture war, he argues that the civil religious tradition on which the republic was founded must be recovered.
America Observed: On an International Anthropology of the United States
Virginia R. Dominguez and Jasmin Habib, eds. New York: Berghahn Books, 2017. $90.00. 180 pp.
Asking why so few anthropologists from outside the United States seem to specialise in the country, the contributors critique this state of affairs while highlighting the advantages of consulting fieldwork-based studies conducted by professionals from other countries.
Benevolent Empire: U.S. Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed
Stephen R. Porter. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. $65.00. 290 pp.
Analysing the role of the US in political-refugee aid initiatives, Porter chronicles the international and domestic efforts to help dispossessed people from around the globe between the First World War and the Cold War. The author argues that this humanitarian aid helped to construct the image of the US as a benevolent empire.
Brookings Big Ideas for America
Michael E. O’Hanlon, ed. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017. $19.99. 400 pp.
As the Trump administration begins to define itself, this study seeks to determine the biggest issues facing the United States, and to predict what the future may hold. Covering a range of topics from national security to the aspirations of the middle class, the volume presents what its authors believe are the solutions to the potential problems that the new administration might encounter.
Calling the Shots: The President, Executive Orders, and Public Policy
Daniel P. Gitterman. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017. $30.00. 293 pp.
In this analysis of the US constitution, Gitterman examines the role and reach of the president, whom he compares to a CEO of a giant federal bureaucracy. Noting that the US government is the single biggest purchaser of goods and services in the economy, the author argues that the president’s executive power is a weapon of coercion in policymaking.
Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy
Sheldon Whitehouse with Melanie Wachtell Stinnett. New York: The New Press, 2017. $27.95. 257 pp.
Contending that corporations have infiltrated and undermined the American government, a US senator calls on Americans to take their government ‘back into their own hands’. Drawing upon his personal experience in government, he attempts to explain what went wrong and why.
Cheap Threats: Why the United States Struggles to Coerce Weak States
Dianne Pfundstein Chamberlain. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016. $32.95. 270 pp.
The author asks why smaller states sometimes resist American ultimatums despite the tremendous risks inherent in doing so. She concludes that the lower-cost model of warfare that the US has adopted since the end of the Cold War has caused some states to gamble that the United States will not be prepared to accept the costs of an actual conflict and will therefore decline to follow through on any threats.
Deadly Contradictions: The New American Empire and Global Warring
Stephen P. Reyna. New York: Berghahn Books, 2016. $200.00. 586 pp.
The author analyses 24 US global wars that took place during and after the Cold War, concluding that imperialism is a driving force behind US foreign policy, and that this policy is enforced by violence in those areas targeted for colonial domination.
The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills
David A. Ansell. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017. $26.00. 235 pp.
Having worked for nearly four decades at a hospital in Chicago, Ansell draws attention to what he sees as an understudied aspect of inequality in America: poor people have poor health. He dismisses traditional explanations for this inequality as mere excuses, arguing that the ‘death gap’ between rich and poor can and must be closed.
Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other
Mugambi Jouet. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. $29.95. 360 pp.
Compared to other Westerners, Americans are far more divided on a range of social issues, according to Jouet. He blames the polarisation of US politics for this phenomenon, warning that it threatens to undermine everything that Americans believe to be special about their country.
Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Neverland of the 2016 Presidential Race
Richard North Patterson. New York: Quercus, 2017. $26.99. 445 pp.
Drawing on his own real-time essays prepared during course of the 2016 presidential election, Patterson reflects on the wider significance of the election, highlighting where he was right (and wrong) in his judgements.
Foreign Policy at the Periphery: The Shifting Margins of US International Relations Since World War II
Bevan Sewell and Maria Ryan, eds. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2017. $55.00. 384 pp.
In this study of the relationships between the United States and emerging countries from the end of the Second World War through to the ‘war on terror’, the authors focus on what they see as important but neglected episodes such as the 1958 stabilisation agreement with Argentina and petrodollar-financed terrorism in Libya.
Four Crises of American Democracy: Representation, Mastery, Discipline, Anticipation
Alasdair Roberts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. $27.95. 268 pp.
According to the author, the United States has suffered from four democratic crises throughout its history, with the fourth one still in progress today. This contemporary crisis, which is related to doubts that democratic systems can cope with challenges such as the rise of China, will, he believes, respond to democratic solutions, just as the previous crises did.
Governing in a Polarized Age: Elections, Parties, and Political Representation in America
Alan S. Gerber and Eric Schickler, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. £24.99. 398 pp.
This collection of essays explores today’s polarised US Congress and the connection between elections and party organisation. The editors argue that intense party competition for majority status, combined with greater party polarisation, have undermined the government’s policymaking capacity.
Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law
James Q. Whitman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £19.95/$24.95. 208 pp.
Whitman makes a connection between the Jim Crow laws that imposed racial segregation in the United States and the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany, arguing that the German regime took a strong interest in American practices. US citizenship and anti-miscegenation laws are said to have been particularly influential.
The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism
Brad Synder. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. £22.99. 811 pp.
Seeking to pinpoint the origins of American liberalism, Synder examines the individuals that passed through, and the discussions that took place, in a Washington salon between 1912 and 1933. The author argues that these debates about the future of America played a key role in the formation of the liberal movement.
How I Lost
Hillary Clinton. Joe Lauria, ed. London and New York: OR Books, 2017. £14.00/$18.00. 261 pp.
This volume compiles excerpts from speeches given by Hillary Clinton, as well as from emails written both by her and her campaign officials, intended to shed light on why she failed to win the presidency. According to the editor, the Democratic Party erred in fielding an unpopular candidate with an uninspiring platform.
How the Hell Did This Happen? The US Election of 2016
P.J. O’Rourke. London: Grove Press UK, 2017. £14.99. 216 pp.
This account of the 2016 US presidential race traces the election campaign from June 2015 to what the author sees as ‘the beginning of end times’ in November 2016. A recognised political satirist and journalist, the author argues that the spread of populism is not promoting individual dignity, freedom or responsibility.
Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History
Russel L. Riley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. £19.99. 441 pp.
Drawing on conversations with more than 60 former officials and presenting behind-the-scenes details that the author claims were previously hidden from public view, Riley seeks to provide insights into how the Clinton administration tackled various issues, from conflicts around the world to scandal and impeachment.
The Islamic Challenge and the United States: Global Security in an Age of Uncertainty
Ehsan M. Ahrari. Montreal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 2017. $34.95. 373 pp.
In this analysis of the so-called ‘war on terrorism’, Ahrari contends that a belief among Westerners that violence in the name of religion (specifically Islam in this case) is particularly reprehensible serves to blind those that hold it to the violence that is committed by Westerners in the service of secular values.
Loving and Leaving Washington: Reflections on Public Service
John Yochelson. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2016. $34.95. 282 pp.
Yochelson chronicles his personal experience as a career public servant and, more uniquely, a moderate in Washington DC. He reflects on the growing doubts about the state of the American political system, laments the increasing polarisation of US politics and assesses the current generation’s ability to create real and meaningful social and economic change.
Moderates: The Vital Center of American Politics, from the Founding to Today
David S. Brown. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. $34.95. 335 pp.
Brown explores the historical significance of ‘moderates’ in US politics, arguing that the fierce polarisation of contemporary politics has caused many, on both sides of the political spectrum, to neglect and even deny their important contributions to the country’s development.
The 9/11 Generation: Youth, Rights, and Solidarity in the War on Terror
Sunaina Marr Maira. New York: NYU Press, 2016. $28.00. 316 pp.
In this ethnographic examination of the political mobilisation of Arab, South Asian and Afghan American youth in the US in response to the increased monitoring of their communities post-9/11, Maira explores the ways in which these young people have shown cross-cultural and interfaith solidarity through civil and human-rights activism at a time when ‘national security’ has taken precedence.
Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Détente
Richard A. Moss. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2017. $45.00. 396 pp.
In this account of American foreign policy under former president Richard Nixon, Moss assesses the role of US–Soviet confidential diplomacy, which the author believes was of central importance during a precarious period. He argues that Nixon failed to provide a strong foundation for lasting policy, drawing upon recently declassified documents to support his view.
The Obama Doctrine: A Legacy of Continuity in US Foreign Policy?
Michelle Bentley and Jack Holland, eds. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. £110.00. 239 pp.
This volume examines president Barack Obama’s second term in office with a particular focus on the question of whether his foreign policy was as similar to predecessor George W. Bush’s as many critics claimed. Contributing authors explore signs of continuity as they assess Obama’s success in establishing a distinct foreign-policy doctrine of his own.
One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues that Divide Us
Peter H. Schuck. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £24.95/$29.95. 425 pp.
Seeking not to persuade but to educate and encourage readers to draw their own conclusions, Schuck discusses five issues about which the American people appear to disagree: poverty, immigration, campaign finance, affirmative action and religion.
The Open Door Era: United States Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century
Michael Patrick Cullinane and Alex Goodall. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017. £19.99. 215 pp.
Describing the Open Door policy – first devised in 1899 to encourage cooperation among world powers in Asia – as the most influential US foreign policy of the twentieth century, Cullinane and Goodall analyse the policy’s influence on subsequent administrations, seeing its echoes in the country’s Cold War containment policy, among others.
The Progressives’ Century: Political Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Modern American State
Stephen Skowronek, Stephen M. Engel and Bruce Ackerman, eds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017. $100.00. 529 pp.
Progressivism first emerged as a political movement in the US during the 1912 presidential campaign. The contributors to this volume explore the ways in which the movement’s interpretation of the constitution and efforts to shift power to individual citizens might be said to have influenced American politics through to the Obama administration.
Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes
Vanessa S. Williamson. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £24.95/$29.95. 281 pp.
Intending to shed light on what Americans really think about taxes, Williamson draws on national survey data and interviews to show that citizens take pride in being taxpayers. She adds that the belief that many Americans, including immigrants and working-class families, are not paying their share is deeply corrosive to society.
Red Line: American Foreign Policy in a Time of Fractured Politics and Failing States
P.J. Crowley. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. $28.00. 339 pp.
Crowley identifies Iraq as the leading foreign-policy preoccupation of four presidential administrations, arguing that US policy toward that country has long displayed a disconnect between politics, policy, strategy and narrative. He argues that the time has come to overcome the legacy of what he calls the ‘Iraq syndrome’ in the country’s foreign policies.
Strategic Party Government: Why Winning Trumps Ideology
Gregory Koger and Matthew J. Lebo. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017. $30.00. 222 pp.
This volume seeks to explain why the US Congress has become so polarised along partisan lines, arguing that this has been caused by individual legislators seeking to win elections by aligning themselves with strong party leaders, even if they personally disagree with elements of their parties’ platforms.
Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission
Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney. New York: William Morrow, 2017. $28.99. 346 pp.
In this detailed account of US president Dwight Eisenhower’s last days in office, the author focuses on his farewell address to the nation and the preparations he made for his successor, John F. Kennedy, to take the reins of government. The authors argue that although often overlooked, ‘Ike’ still offers vital lessons for our own time through his effective and honourable leadership.
Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS
David J. Barron. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016. $30.00. 560 pp.
Barron examines the historical power struggle between US presidents and Congress over the right to declare war. He analyses the various ways in which presidents, from George Washington to the Bushes and Obama, have had to navigate through and around Congress, the constitution and a fragile system of checks and balances.
Why Wilson Matters: The Origin of American Liberal Internationalism and its Crisis Today
Tony Smith. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. £27.95/$35.00. 332 pp.
Smith examines the complicated legacy of the liberal internationalist tradition in the United States, arguing that a tradition inaugurated by Woodrow Wilson in the 1940s has been used – and misused – in a variety of ways, and for a variety of purposes, since then. He seeks a return to the prudence of the Wilsonian era.