Tuesday, December 14, 2010
But with the rise of a unipolar world led by the United States, the neoconservatives in the George W. Bush administration overreached, with the result that the U.S. got bogged down in Iraq at a huge military, human and political cost. Furthermore, in a case of political irony, the invasion of Iraq -- with its visions of nation building and spreading democracy across the Middle East -- was championed by a group of people who historically had been very critical of massive social engineering projects. Overall, this is a very smart book that provides insight into what went wrong in Iraq, and provides lessons on how the errors of the neocons can be avoided in the future.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Of the three former Presidents, Brzezinski rates the elder George H. W. Bush as the best. Between 1989-92, Bush I had to deal with an incredible number of international events: e.g. the collapse of the U.S.S.R.; emerging democracies in Eastern Europe; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to name just a few. With great skill, however, he was able to usher in a peaceful end of the Cold War, while keeping together the U.N.-sanctioned coalition that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Unfortunately, this great tactical skill was not exploited with an ensuing strategic vision.
Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is portrayed as a brilliant man who failed to live up to his promise, and whose haphazard decision making style resulted in a self-indulgent foreign policy. Clinton may have been loved around the world, but he did not use this goodwill to make an important mark in geopolitical affairs.
George W. Bush, on the other hand, is portrayed as a terrible president who sullied the reputation of the U.S. around the world. The invasion of Iraq is particularly criticized as a geo-political failure. His president is described as a complete disaster.
With this in mind, Brzezinski argues that the next U.S. President -- this book was published in 2007, a year before President Obama was elected -- will have to repair the image of the United States around the world, while pursuing a coherent strategic vision that escaped his three predecessors. In an ominous passage at the end of the book, however, is this sentence, which was written well before the current financial meltdown: "Given America's growing global indebtedness (it now borrows some 80 percent of the world's savings) and huge trade deficits, a major financial crisis, especially in an atmosphere of emotionally charged and globally pervasive Anti-American feeling, could have dire consequences for America's well-being and security."
As the Chinese curse says, may you live in interesting times.
3 out of 5 stars
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Unlike his other books, however, “The Rocksburg Railroad Murders” is a typical detective story that could have been written by numerous other writers. To make matters worse, the ending seemed rushed, as if the book were an hour-long television show that was nearing the end.
To be fair, this is the first book in the long Mario Balzic series and it’s possible that Constantine was still finding his voice. As well, the book is filled with excellent dialogue that is a hallmark of Constantine’s great work. But for those who have not read this brilliant author before, I would not recommend starting with this novel.
2 out of 5 stars
The premise behind "Time's Child" is an interesting one. It's 2308 and the earth has descended into a collection of city states, following a plague that has devastated the world. In this post-apocalyptic setting, the surviving humans use a time machine to bring back people from the past. The main protagonists in the book -- a woman who is a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci; a Norse viking; and a computer hacker form the 21st century -- struggle to adjust to their new reality.
Unfortunately, this promising beginning descends into a pointless plot. Equally frustrating, a series of intriguing ideas -- e.g. men who can become pregnant; mysterious people in alternate futures beyond the 24th century that seem to control the characters in the book -- are never fully developed and are allowed to languish. The result is a chaotic mess that, if written better, could have been an excellent science fiction work.
1 out of 5 stars