books about the current state of the globe?

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Your_Mums_Pal, Sep 17, 2012.

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  1. I've just finished reading Descent Into Chaos (The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia) by Ahmed Rashid and found it fairly eye-opening. The book details the recent history of the Pakistan/Afghanistan/USA relationship and offers a critique regarding plans as they have unfolded in Afghanistan and around the Middle East, particularly since 9/11, which was the turning point. It's very critical of the neo-conservative republicans from the Bush administration but isn't afraid to point the finger at where Pakistan and it's neighbours have went wrong in recent years.

    Rashid is a Pakistani journalist turned UN advisor who has apparently won lots awards. (I haven't bothered to look them up) I felt like the book, even though it was written by a Muslim and a Pakistani man, was unbiased and straight to the point in describing where the issues lay. It gave a really vivid overall picture of events - not necessarily in order - in the region that have been unfolding due to the influence of the USA and it's allies but also detailed the reasons behind political decisions made in Pakistan, such as fear of the military and ISI or the overall Islamification of the nation. It covered the anger Afghans have felt over recent years and the failure to actually rebuild infrastructure for the nation due to a lack of foresight in the planning stage. It also covers the return of Karzai to the country as he had apparently always sought to see the Taliban removed from power and grasped that opportunity

    I am not necessarily a worldy person but global politics have begun to interest me lately so this type of book was just a great introduction to it all. This idea of a 'post 9/11 world' really intrigues me. So I was wondering if ARRSERs could maybe point me towards similar books like this? Amazon is a bit up and down with reviews and recommendations.

    If you know of any good books covering global politics in recent years or discussing events in the middle east or far east then I'd love to give them a shot.
  2. Funny, I never thought of the post-9/11 world. I had post-cold war rammed down my throat at Uni.

    "Dancing on the Heads of Snakes" is good about Yemen.

    The Threat Matrix is a good read about the FBI dealing with global terrorism (and the inter-agency fighting with CIA).

    Anything by Jason Burke (Observer's man abroad), written some good AQ stuff. Not read the most recent one on the past ten years of the war on terror.

    Manhunt by Peter Bergen. He wrote some good stuff about international terrorism, and is one of a handful of western journalists to have met Bin Laden.

    I have to plug it, people who read my postings probably hate the regular advert - to understand Syria now? Read "A Line in the Sand" about how we carved up the middle east after World War 1

    I will scour my reading lists for useful stuff mate. Don't mean to sound like setting a reading list for an essay! Sorry if it comes over like that.
  3. Last one I read properly was The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West (by the Economist's Ed Lucas 2008 and his first book). As much of an indictment of the West as it is on modern Russia.

    I'm hopeless at reviews, so here's his site with a review

    (Boumer I believe I still owe you a comment on Otto Skorzeny, another time perhaps ;-)
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  4. An Unexpected Light (hope I'm remembering the title correctly) was good.

    Definitely worth reading.
  5. CanteenCowboy

    CanteenCowboy LE Book Reviewer

    Is there an updated version, I read that some time ago, and I have to agree with you there, it is a very well crafted book, and indeed he does seem to be unbiased, apart from his views on Pres Karzia. Instead of seeing the truth (Karzia family feathering nest as much as possible, in the best Pashtun tradition) he sees some distorted version where Karzia is a 'good guy', maybe a little 'blindness' creeping in there. And he goes some way in explaining why the PAKMIL/ISI/Govt will support any bunch of idiots/extremists due to their paraniod attitude to India.

    I'm trying to remember where I read all about the area north of Afghanistan, in particular the valley where a large portion of the locals live, damn memory like a goldfish tonight. All about the IMU and others of that ilk, was very interesting and informative.
  6. Books about the USA's influence on the world are also welcome since that in itself is a fascinating subject. Recently was recommended an interesting looking read called America Right or Wrong or something like that.
  7. I am loathe to read anything about international events that has been written by an American. They are good at analysing their own country and politics but when it comes to anything beyond their borders they seem to be affected by a national myopia. Further, any book written about international events these days is, by definition, going to be history. Events are moving too rapidly to be encapsulated in a book.

    That said there is some excellent commentary by some journalists; print, definitely not television; that is enlightening. I know he is not to everyones taste but I find Robert Fisk excellent on Middle East politics. In addition, there are some excellent books written by local journalists (such as the one mentioned in the OP) whose local contacts and knowledge far outway any overseas commentators.
  8. dockers

    dockers Old-Salt Book Reviewer

  9. Oh God. Was I pissed and wittering on about him or something.

    Always possible.
  10. OP, you are right Rashid does provide an almost unique insight into Afghanistan, Pakistan and the five independent Central Asian states. His first book 'Taliban' is mandatory reading as far as I am concerned - get hold of it. As you may have realised he does have an axe to grind; at times admonishing the West for meddling in the Islamic worlds affairs and imploring them to engage in nation building in the same breath. With this taken into account he has a lifetime of largely unbiased work to his credit - just don't look to him as an outcome or future policy guy.

    Now for the book you must read; Fisk has already been mentioned in this thread and his 'The Great War for Civilisation' changed the way I looked at the world. Spanning from the Great War to present it touches on often glossed over episodes of history such as the Armenian holocaust and relates them to a broader context of the current global paradigm seamlessly.
  11. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Reviewer

    The Old Testament covers most issues. Just add a modern map.
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  12. udipur

    udipur LE Book Reviewer

    Whilst that is arguable, one could also posit that history repeating itself will lend background and depth.

    Since we appear to be gripped in some maniacally religious conflict, I would recommend "From Beirut to Jerusalem" by Thomas Friedman and "The Arabs" by Mark Allen for background.

    "Fiasco" was a good take on Iraq (afraid I don't recall the author) and "Blood & Oil" by Michael Klare may give some reasoning as to the why.

    "Utility of Force" by Rupert Smith should help with the how

    As to the future, it's anyone's guess and some of the works on China are worth referencing but, in particular, "Cyber War" by Richard Clarke for where the attacks are likely to occur.

    To round it off, Durand diced the Pashtun to split their power. It didn't work and left us with a mucky situation come 9/11 when Musharraf had to play both sides off each other to stay in power, hence the subsequent mess we are in now.

    But don't get me started on economics....
  13. Just finished Bergen's The Longest War, also definitely worth reading.
  14. @ Boumer, nope, civilised and sober probably. We were discussing German WW2 personalities, Canaris and Gehlen. You said "well, at least Gehlen wasn't Otto Skorzeny". As it's not for this thread I'll message the reply ;) Sorry for the sidetrack.
  15. Pretty much anything by Robert Kaplan is worth a read.Even his older works,such as Balkan ghosts,are great reference points for political and historical context.