261 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of National Security about their New Books

New Books in National Security Marshall Poe

    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Scholars of National Security about their New Books

    Vincent Bevins, "The Jakarta Method" (Public Affairs, 2020)

    Vincent Bevins, "The Jakarta Method" (Public Affairs, 2020)

    Why did the word “Jakarta” appear as graffiti on the streets of Santiago in 1973? Why did left-wing Chilean activists receive postcards in the mail with the ominous message “Jakarta is coming”? Why did a Brazilian general lose his temper in an interview with university students, threaten their safety, and yell the name of Indonesia’s capital city?
    In The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World (Public Affairs, 2020) journalist Vincent Bevins links the history of the overthrow of Sukarno – a leader of 1960s Third Worldism –, the rise of the Suharto – one of the most brutal and corrupt dictators – , and the slaughter of 500,000 to one million Indonesians allegedly linked to the Indonesian Community Party (the PKI) to the Latin American “dirty wars”, including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Central America. This is a major achievement and something that very few scholars have been able to do.
    Bevins persuasively argues that the long-ignored and even silenced history of Indonesia 1965 was of truly world historical significance.
    The Jakarta Method joins a growing body of scholarly work on what some call a “political genocide” and what a 1968 CIA report deemed “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”. By showing how the overthrow of the radical Sukarno, the rise of the pro-American Suharto, and the brutal destruction of the largest Communist party outside of the USSR and the PRC impacted both right-wing generals and left-wing revolutionaries from the streets of Rio de Janeiro to the jungles of Cambodia, The Jakarta Method is a much needed and very welcome globalization of this history.
    Vincent Bevins is a native Californian who attended UC Berkeley before he began his career as an international correspondent in Venezuela. He worked for the Financial Times in London, covered Brazil and the southern cone for the Los Angeles Times, and then moved to Jakarta where he reported on Southeast Asia for the Washington Post. He spoke to us from Sao Paulo, Brazil about The Jakarta Method. An excerpt of the book appeared in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books.
    Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford, 2018). When he’s not quietly reading or happily talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.
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    • 1 hr 25 min
    Michael Schuman, "Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World" (PublicAffairs, 2020)

    Michael Schuman, "Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World" (PublicAffairs, 2020)

    We stand on the eve of a different kind of world, but comprehending it is difficult: we are so accustomed to dealing with the paradigms of the contemporary world that we inevitably take them for granted, believing that they are set in concrete rather than themselves being the subject of longer-run cycles of historical change.
    – Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World
    The biggest question of the twenty-first century is: What does China want? China is without question the rising power of the age. What that means for the current global order, crafted and led by the United States since the end of World War II, is the topic of think tank studies, Congressional hearings, vats of newsprint, and dinner conversations from Washington to Tokyo. What exactly will China do with its new power? Will China become a partner to the West and its allies, or will it wish to change the world, to promote new values, institutions, and patterns of trade and finance? Will it play by our rules, or write new ones? … The answer to these questions is, at its heart, quite simple: China wants what it always had. China was a superpower for almost all of its history, and it wants to be a superpower again.
    This comes from the first chapter of Schuman’s Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World (Public Affairs Press, 2020). A perceptive and interesting selective historical narrative that identifies China’s exceptionalism and points out key moments in its long-standing existence as a superpower – militarily, economically, and culturally. A key and recurring theme is how China’s own perception of itself has changed over the centuries and should prove helpful to anyone trying to better understand our current historical moment. Schuman’s purpose is to help readers better develop a more nuanced background concerning China’s role in the world today and the future, as well as the West’s relationship with this Confucian-based civilization. Nicely written with a critical and cohesive theme linking back to his opening notion that ‘there is so such thing as world history – at least not one that holds the same meaning for everyone.’ Available in Audible, Kindle, and hardcover versions.
    Michael Schuman has been a journalist based in East Asia since 1996 and writes extensively about the region’s history and current affairs. Formerly a correspondent with The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine he now writes for The Atlantic and Bloomberg Opinion – this is his third book.
    Keith Krueger lectures at the SHU-UTS Business School in Shanghai.
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    • 53 min
    E. Bruce Geelhoed, "Diplomacy Shot Down: The U-2 Crisis and Eisenhower's Aborted Mission to Moscow, 1959–1960" (U Oklahoma Press, 2020)

    E. Bruce Geelhoed, "Diplomacy Shot Down: The U-2 Crisis and Eisenhower's Aborted Mission to Moscow, 1959–1960" (U Oklahoma Press, 2020)

    The history of the Cold War is littered with what-ifs, and in Diplomacy Shot Down: The U-2 Crisis and Eisenhower's Aborted Mission to Moscow, 1959–1960 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020), Professor of History, E. Bruce Geelhoed of Ball State University explores one of the most intriguing: What if the Soviets had not shot down the American U-2 spy plane and President Dwight D. Eisenhower had visited the Soviet Union in 1960 as planned?
    In August 1959, with his second term nearing its end, Eisenhower made the surprise announcement that he and Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev would visit each other’s countries as a means of “thawing some of the ice” of the Cold War. Khrushchev’s trip to the United States in September 1959 resulted in plans for a four-power summit involving Great Britain and France, and for Eisenhower’s visit to Russia in early summer 1960. Then, in May 1960, the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 surveillance plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers.
    The downing of Powers’s plane was, in Professor Geelhoed’s unorthodox recounting of this episode in Cold War history, not just a diplomatic crisis. The ensuing collapse of the summit and the subsequent cancelation of Eisenhower’s trip to the Soviet Union amounted to a critical missed opportunity for improved US-Soviet relations at a crucial juncture in the Cold War.
    In a blow-by-blow description of the diplomatic overtures, the U-2 incident, and the aftermath, Diplomacy Shot Down draws upon Eisenhower’s projected itinerary and unmade speeches and statements, as well as the American and international press corps’ preparations for covering the aborted visit, to give readers a sense of what might have been. Eisenhower’s prestige within the Soviet Union was so great, Geelhoed imaginatively observes, that the trip, if it had happened, could well have led to a détente in the increasingly dangerous US-Soviet relationship.
    Instead, the cancellation of Ike’s visit led to a heightening of tensions that played out around the globe and nearly guaranteed that the “missile gap” would reemerge as an issue in the 1960 presidential campaign. A detailed account, based almost entirely on American sources of an episode that some would say helped to define the Cold War for a generation, Diplomacy Shot Down is, in its narrative, something rarer still—a behind-the-scenes look at history in the unmaking.
    Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, and the University of Rouen’s online periodical Cercles.
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    • 54 min
    Catherine Belton, "Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West" (FSG, 2020)

    Catherine Belton, "Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West" (FSG, 2020)

    The Russian state is back. That may not be a big surprise to Russia watchers. The degree to which it is a KGB state, however, is documented in great detail in Catherine Belton's new book Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2020). Certain elements of the KGB were playing a "long game" as early as the 1980s and saw the need for an alternative to the sclerotic late Soviet system. And they were going to be part of that post-Soviet regime. Fast forward 20 years later, these security and intelligence officials are still playing a long game financially, moving billions of dollars around off-shore to forward the interests of the Russian state, and their own.
    Daniel Peris is Senior Vice President at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh. Trained as a historian of modern Russia, he is the author most recently of Getting Back to Business: Why Modern Portfolio Theory Fails Investors. You can follow him on Twitter @HistoryInvestor or at http://www.strategicdividendinvestor.com
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    • 37 min
    George Lawson, "Anatomies of Revolution" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    George Lawson, "Anatomies of Revolution" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    The success of populist politicians and the emergence of social justice movements around the world, and the recent demonstrations against police violence in the United States, demonstrate a widespread desire for fundamental political, economic, and social change, albeit not always in a leftwards direction. What can movements and parties that hope to bring about fundamental social change learn from the past?
    In Anatomies of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2019), George Lawson analyzes revolutionary episodes from the modern era (beginning with the Glorious Revolution of 1688) to discern how geopolitics, transnational circulation of ideas and people, organizational capabilities, and contingent choices come together to shape the emergence of revolutionary situations and the trajectories and outcomes of revolutions. He also explains why more moderate negotiated revolutions have been more common than far-reaching social revolutions since the 1980s.
    Finally, he suggests that the key for social movements to take advantage of systemic crises that could provide openings for revolutionary situations to emerge is the ability of opposition groups to form cohesive political organizations without succumbing to the authoritarianism and the “ends justify the means” logic that turned revolutionary forces into violent, authoritarian regimes in the past.
    George Lawson is Associate Professor, Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics.
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    • 1 hr 24 min
    Paul D’Anieri, "Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    Paul D’Anieri, "Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

    Paul D’Anieri’s Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War (Cambridge University Press, 2019) documents in a nuanced way the development of the current military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
    The book includes a meticulous account of numerous developments which, according to D’Anieri, led to the war that still remains officially undeclared.
    The roots of the conflict can be found in the beginning of the end of the USSR: different visions that Russian and Ukrainian politicians and officials had regarding the development of their countries gradually contributed to the growing gap—political and ideological—between Russia and Ukraine.
    D’Anieri’s study comprises a number of insightful and interesting comments on the political developments: interviews and conversations, which reveal the views of Russian and Ukrainian political players, help reconstruct the dynamic that eventually led to the Ukrainian revolutions and to the Russo-Ukrainian war of 2014.
    One of the strongest aspects of the book is the inclusion of the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia into the international political context: D’Anieri illustrates how the conflict, on the one hand, appeared to emerge as a consequence of international processes; on the other hand, it appears to be shaping to a larger extent the current international dynamic.
    Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War completes a number of goals: documenting the current conflict and outlining the main reasons is one of them. Additionally, the book provides insights into understanding Ukraine as an independent state which in the West has long been confused with the Russian territory. This understanding is inseparable from the histories and developments of the neighboring countries, including Russia in the first place.
    However, it should also be noted that the history and understanding of Russia will always be abridged without a closer look at the countries that at some point happened to be under Russia’s influence. On a larger scale, Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War is an attempt to break a traditional approach of viewing Ukraine as a country that has long been understood indirectly through the Russian lens.
    D’Anieri brings Ukraine as a geopolitical unit to the forefront to reveal the complex and entangled history of its north-eastern neighbor.
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    • 49 min

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