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N. Tsafos (Washington, DC)

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Colossus: The Price of America's Empire
Colossus: The Price of America's Empire
by Niall Ferguson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.02
54 used & new from CDN$ 0.82

5.0 out of 5 stars America, the indispensable but reluctant empire, July 17 2004
"Colossus" is a typical Niall Ferguson book. It is provocative and contains fresh insights; it navigates with considerable ease between history, politics, and economics; and it is extremely well written, illuminating succinctly the author's thoughts and engaging the reader's interest.
Mr. Ferguson, formerly of Oxford and now a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, writes to sketch out the reality of America's global position-to argue that, for all intents and purposes, America is an empire. Mr. Ferguson is not fundamentally opposed to empires-not because he likes foreign control but because he recognizes a benign type of liberal empire that can afford both the metropolis and periphery with benefits that independence cannot.
"Colossus" surveys various themes, beginning on whether America constitutes an empire (yes), then surveying America's ascent to its role as a global power, and finally gauging America's relation to multilateralism and its allies (American unilateralism, he argues, has more to do with the United Nations' overall failure to achieve certain objectives than with American instincts.)
But the real question is, what is the impact of this empire? Mr. Ferguson is enthusiastic about the prospect of a liberal empire, a position he bases on the record of decolonization; decolonization, he writes, was "an experiment to test the hypothesis that it was imperialism that caused both poverty and wars and that self-determination would ultimately pave the way to prosperity and peace. That hypothesis has been largely proven false."
For all his eagerness for America to play its role and underwrite the current wave of globalization, Mr. Ferguson is skeptical about America's ability to be an effective liberal empire. Empires, he argues, need to go places, learn their histories, and expend the money, manpower, and attention to get the job done. America's celebrated examples of nation-building-Germany and Japan-took years to complete; and both countries still retain American troop presences. All this is in contrast with America's appetite for an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In other words, America should be a global leader, but is unlikely to be an effective one, unless it undergoes a profound metamorphosis of the way it views its imperial role. America's looming economic liabilities are also going to alter America's budgetary orientation, possibly affecting its position as a superpower. Whether Mr. Ferguson is right in his predictions remains to be seen; but "Colossus" will surely stand out as one of the most authoritative and comprehensive reviews of America's role as an imperial power.

In Defense of Globalization
In Defense of Globalization
by Jagdish Bhagwati
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The new benchmark for books on globalization, June 6 2004
How can one resist a book that begins with the phrase, "does the world need yet another book on globalization?" To this saturated topic, Jagdish Bhagwati does not try to force a radical new outlook; rather, he surveys the evidence against each accusation levied by the critics of globalization and ends up producing one of the most elegant, eloquent, and persuasive books in favor of globalization.
One problem that any such book faces is that the anti-globalization movement is rather amorphous, bringing together all sorts of groups that make all sorts of accusations; to get around this, Mr. Bhagwati divides his book into the major themes (the link of economic growth to poverty, of trade to the environment or labor rights, etc), and looks at what the various NGOs are saying against globalization. To his credit, Mr. Bhagwati has considered most of the subtleties, nuances and variations of the NGO arguments.
Having done this, Mr. Bhagwati explains whether and why the NGOs are wrong. Predictably, the NGO fears usually prove exaggerated or simply untrue. To their polemic rhetoric, Mr. Bhagwati answers with anecdotes, news reports and econometric studies. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, no one can accuse Mr. Bhagwati of brushing aside the critics.
Refreshingly, the book is not an unconditional acceptance of globalization. "In Defense of Globalization" is a defense, but it is not blind to what is wrong about globalization; Mr. Bhagwati is cautious, for example, about uninhibited capital flows; he is also critical about the invasion of intellectual property rights into trade agreements; he is also suspicious of businesses that bribe politicians to alter trade agreements to their favor. And so on.
Yet, his verdict is staunchly pro-globalization. He urges against using trade-curtailing answers to economic problems; he also alerts us that many of the ills identified by NGOs have little to do with globalization ("What has globalization got to do with that?" he writes more than once). More importantly, he offers ideas about how to make globalization better, from managing immigration, to rethinking the trade sanctions, to the role that NGOs ought to play, and many more. Nothing here is new; but he assembles the various ideas that he has pronounced over the years in books, op-ed pieces and academic journals.
There is no doubt that "In defense of globalization" will be the book to beat from now on. No anti-globalization treatise should be published without being able to refute Mr. Bhagwati's arguments. For having elucidated this debate even further, Mr. Bhagwati deserves to be read and to be thanked.

A Problem From Hell: America And The Age Of Genocide
A Problem From Hell: America And The Age Of Genocide
by Samantha Power
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from CDN$ 2.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, June 4 2004
In 1994, during the ongoing genocide in Rwanda, Christine Shelley, the Department of State spokesperson, tried to explain the official American view of what was happening in Rwanda. In doing so, she offered one of the most perverse exchanges ever on the issue of genocide: "we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred in Rwanda." "What's the difference between acts of genocide and genocide?" asked a journalist. "Clearly not all of the killings that have taken place in Rwanda are killings to which you might apply that label"; "how many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?" the journalist pressed; "that's not a question that I'm in a position to answer."
This frustrating exchange, coming more than two months into a genocide that ultimately claimed 800,000 lives, is testament to the pervasive influence that the term genocide has acquired in the public mind. It is also evidence that the long efforts of Raphael Lemkin, who conjured up the concept of genocide in 1933, baptized it a decade later, and converted it into an international crime in 1948, had finally paid off. Lemkin had achieved part of what he dreamed: to create a word that would trigger the imagination and moral outrage necessary to cause good people to prevent such horrific acts of barbarity and inhumanity.
Samantha Power, of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, traces the history of genocide in the twentieth century by focusing on how America reacted to the genocides it had to confront in the past hundred years: that in Turkey against the Armenians, in Hitler's Germany, in Cambodia, in Iraq, in Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, synthesizes an amazing array of information that together combine for the most authoritative review of the subject. Blending together her journalistic instinct for story-telling, her writer's gift for precision and concision, and her historian's eye, she produces a masterful account that navigates between the human tragedy of genocide and the cold political calculus of responding to it.
Her verdict is as indictable as her hope is refreshing. The failure to prevent genocide rests on a complex nexus that leads political reasoning to favor inaction. An inability to imagine how terribly human beings can act when fueled with hatred, a perverse belief that action will do little good, a political calculus that punishes commission more so than omission, and a supposed handicap in obtaining a clear picture of what is happening all conspire to allow American policymakers to rationalize inaction, even when faced with overwhelming evidence that their intervention is essential to save thousands or even millions.
But the story is not all depressing. From the Armenian genocide in 1915, policymakers have been willing to stand up and demand that their country act. Sadly, their appeals have been met with little excitement, and often they have proven professionally suicidal. Yet, there is certainly a learning curve; the fear of reliving "another Rwanda," for example, has a powerful institutional influence that may prompt action in the future. What is certain is that if this wholesale tilt in American foreign policy is ever to become a reality, "A Problem from Hell" will have played a major role in bringing it about.

by Ian Buruma
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars A look into why people have resented the West, May 27 2004
This review is from: Occidentalism (Hardcover)
To the growing literature which tries to decipher the current divide between Islam and the West, "Occidentalism" is a solid addition, which tells the history of the various groups and intellectuals who have, historically, challenged the Western way of life (even as they disagreed or were unclear about what exactly the West was supposed to represent).
Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, professors at Bard College and Hebrew University of Jerusalem respectively, have written an intellectual history centering around the four pillars of Occidentalism (inverting the term Orientalism coined by Edward Said a quarter century ago), which they define as the "dehumanizing picture of the West painted by its enemies." Occidentalism, the authors write, feeds on a chain of hostility-hostility towards the City and cosmopolitanism, towards the West's non-heroic and commercial ethos, towards its mind, and towards its infidelity.
The result is an elegant narrative that looks both at the broad picture as well as the nuances of the four critiques. One of the major themes is how anti-Western criticisms tend to have some elements of the West in them; another, is that many are driven by a distorted, confused or romanticized view of the past (or an alternative present).
Still, the book leaves something to be desired: to know that the death cult celebrated by Osama bin Laden has historical precedents in the Japanese Kamikaze or the Assassins of the eleven and twelfth centuries might not be as relevant as asking the question of how to overcome it. The authors turn to the question of "how to protect the idea of the West" in the conclusion, though the reader could have profited from a more lengthy treatment. All the same, "Occidentalism" sheds plenty light and adds historical context to some of the most important debates of the present.

Surprise, Security, and the American Experience
Surprise, Security, and the American Experience
by John Lewis Gaddis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.72
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of American foreign policy, May 27 2004
For all that has been written about the American reaction to September 11, who could have thought that a mere 128 pages could offer a sweeping and refreshing look into America's historic quest for security-and to do so while demonstrating the relevance of that historical exercise for the present.
John Lewis Gaddis, a historian at Yale University, aims at "an admittedly premature effort to treat, as history, an event that remains inescapably part of our present": the September 11 attacks on America and the Bush Administration's response to them. The product is an intellectual and historical tour de force, which dissects the American desire for security by looking at what its government did the last two times it was faced with a similar predicament: after the British burned the White House and Capitol Hill in 1814, and after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The three dominant themes employed (or conceived) by John Quincy Adams were unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony. Roosevelt's reaction to Pearl Harbor, on the other hand, rested on multilateralism and a rejection of preemption; ironically, he still achieved the third: hegemony. The book then proceeds to carefully craft an analysis (and critique) between those two historical precedents and President Bush's reaction after September 11.
It is hard to imagine another book that can look so clearly and refreshingly at the major security issues confronting American foreign policy at the time; and to do so in so few pages. Nor is it imaginable that anyone could have summarized in a single paragraph his or her suggestion about what America foreign policy should be aimed at (no spoilers here: read the book). Yet, this is precisely what one will encounter reading "Surprise, Security, and the American Experience."

Disarming Iraq
Disarming Iraq
by Hans Blix
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced account of the efforts to disarm Iraq, May 19 2004
This review is from: Disarming Iraq (Hardcover)
Every time that Hans Blix, who was in charge of the UN team to disarm Iraq, made a statement to the United Nations Security Council, both hawks and doves found material to support their positions. This book, which tells of his efforts to disarm Iraq from 1991 to 2003, is likely to do the same.
The initial impression is twofold: that the intelligence presented to support the war was questionable; and that Mr. Blix was unlikely to lead the aggressive inspections that the American administration claimed were necessary to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Soon, however, there is much more of the first and less of the second.
To be sure, Mr. Blix is a civil servant and not a politician. As such he tries to avoid getting into political discussions; when he does turn political, he is clearly at his weakest. His various jabs, usually aimed at the American government, and his interjections often distract from the narrative and even invite readers to wonder how much his views have colored his professional work (not much is my take).
All the same, Mr. Blix gives a very balanced assessment of the pre-war intelligence. He admits that his gut feeling was that Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction. But he argues that there was never any concrete evidence to support that hypothesis; and he goes point-by-point to the various facts claimed by the Americans, British, and his own team to substantiate his position.
In all, "Disarming Iraq" is neither an easy read nor burdensome. Much of the information in the book is in the public domain; yet the way that Mr. Blix has brought everything together, alongside with his commentary and perspective, is undoubtedly going to make "Disarming Iraq" an indispensable read on the war in Iraq.

From Beirut to Jerusalem
From Beirut to Jerusalem
by Thomas L. Friedman
Edition: Paperback
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, May 18 2004
Navigating through the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hard enough; but doing so whilst remaining neutral and objective is almost impossible. Yet this is precisely what "From Beirut to Jerusalem" does: it takes a very thorough and candid look at the recent history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a fair and balanced view.
Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, narrates his almost decade-long adventure of reporting the Middle East, first in Beirut and then in Jerusalem. The product is an elegant and well-written book that combines his journalistic attention to precision, detail, and anecdotes with his historian's drive for proving context, perspective, and analysis.
"From Beirut to Jerusalem" contains a great deal of adventure (who says reporters can't live James Bond-like lives?). But in the end, what makes this a great book is its ability to tell the story of the Middle East in the 1980s, while dissecting the important political and historical forces that define the geopolitical environment of the conflict. Written for the layman and expert alike, this is surely one of the best books on the Middle East.

Plan of Attack
Plan of Attack
by Bob Woodward
Edition: Hardcover
120 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Planning for war, but not for peace, May 18 2004
This review is from: Plan of Attack (Hardcover)
"Plan of Attack" is as great a chronicle of the road to war in Iraq as one can find right now. Tracing the debates in the Bush Administration from day one until the war started, Bob Woodward narrates the well-known and widely reported facts leading up to the war supported by behind the scenes accounts that add another dimension to the story.
In a way, much of the story is familiar-the debates between the hawks and the doves, the diplomatic maneuvers in the United Nations, the intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism. On that level, Mr. Woodward's contribution is to bring all the information together nicely.
But there is another layer-the interviews, the closed-door meetings, and the day-to-day preparations which give a good account of how this war was being planned; one of the major themes here is how the administration was more concerned about winning the war than winning the peace.
In all, "Plan of Attack" is probably the best story that can come out of this war at this point, given that the war is still being fought and everyone involved remains in office. But I suspect that this book will serve as a good narrative for those interested in the pre-war situation; it is also likely that it will be used twenty years' down the line as an authoritative historical record of the war planning.

Ghost Wars
Ghost Wars
by Steve Coll
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from CDN$ 6.42

5.0 out of 5 stars The destruction of a country and the birth of a terrorist, May 4 2004
This review is from: Ghost Wars (Hardcover)
One of the "ironies" cited by critics of American foreign policy is that America's support for the mujahedin during the Afghan war against the Soviet Union ultimately led to the emergence of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network who then turned against the United States. But the truth is more complicated than that; America's foreign policy towards Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s was always distant. In the 1980s, the policy was aimed at the attrition (and then expulsion) of the Soviet forces, by using the resources and cover of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). After that, America's policy slipped into mere indifference, that is, until September 11, 2001.
Tracing the evolution of America's engagement in Afghanistan from 1979 is the subject of Steven Coll's "Ghost Wars." Mr. Coll, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and managing editor of the Washington Post, has written a detailed and compelling narrative that weaves together decades' worth of interest in the region. The book is divided into three parts: first comes the period from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 until its withdrawal in 1989; second, the period after 1989 until January 1998, before the CIA first drafted plans to arrest and kill Osama bin Laden; and third, the period from January 1998 to September 10, 2001, which included al Qaeda attacks against the US in Kenya, Tanzania, and Yemen.
The end product is elegant, well written, and very informative. Written, obviously, for people who care about details, "Ghost Wars" has thorough narratives of the various relationships that defined America's engagement in the region: its bizarre and often hostile relationship with Pakistan's ISI, its connection with Saudi Arabia, and its various agreements with different fighters of the post-Soviet war. From this story, it becomes evident how and when bin Laden started to emerge as a powerful figure, what America tried to do about it, and how its efforts were frustrated by politics at home and abroad.
In all, "Ghost Wars" will fill many gaps by delving into more detail than other books on the topic. Written with a journalist's style, "Ghost Wars" refrains from grand analytical connections and broad themes that try to bring everything together. Still, Mr. Coll does insert some analysis at times, helping alleviate the burden of continuous story-telling. This sporadic analysis, combined with the excellent narrative, should place "Ghost Wars" on everyone's reading list on the war on terror.

An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror
An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror
by David Frum
Edition: Hardcover
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.34

3.0 out of 5 stars Far too ambitious, as a foreign policy vision and a book, April 12 2004
At first look, "An End to Evil" is hardly exceptional; those who follow American foreign policy meticulously can easily assume that its sole merit is to bring together, under one book, some of the predominant themes that have shaped America's foreign policy and war against terrorism since September 11.
But "An End to Evil" is hardly a defense of President Bush's policies-its scope and ambition is more far-reaching than anything the President has adopted thus far. Richard Perle and David Frum, both of the American Enterprise Institute, lay out a foreign policy vision whose cornerstone is aggressiveness, backed by military power. This is not a blueprint of Bush's foreign policy; it is their handbook for victory in the war on terror.
Yet there is something disturbing about the authors' readiness to put force at the forefront of foreign policy. For one, the excessive emphasis placed on force can be self-defeating-a point hardly taken up by the authors. Even more, the authors try to be realistic when dealing with the world (when identifying America's true friends and foes, for example), but toss out that realism when discussion the limits and effects of force. Even the chapter on the "War of Ideas" ends on a note about the merits of force.
But whatever the merits of the ideas, many readers will find the presentation more worrisome. The book, the authors acknowledge, was "written at high speed through the summer." At times, this speed is evident-arguments are rushed through, nuances avoided, and internal cohesion sacrificed. In the end, this hastiness and tendency to simplify animates many of President Bush's critics; it also undermines the potency of the authors' arguments and will likely disappoint many readers.

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