"A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide

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From former UN Ambassador and author of the New York Times bestseller The Education of an Idealist Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on America's repeated failure to stop genocides around the world
In her prizewinning examination of the last century of American history, Samantha Power asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide?
Power, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policymakers, thousands of declassified documents, and her own reporting from modern killing fields to provide the answer. "A Problem from Hell" shows how decent Americans inside and outside government refused to get involved despite chilling warnings, and tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.
A modern classic and "an angry, brilliant, fiercely useful, absolutely essential book" (New Republic), "A Problem from Hell" has forever reshaped debates about American foreign policy.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
Winner of the Raphael Lemkin Award
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About the author

Samantha Power, the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the William D. Zabel Professor of Practice in Human Rights at Harvard Law School, served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017 and was previously Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council. She was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and is also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir The Education of an Idealist and Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World and the co-editor of The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World. Power is a former Balkan war correspondent and a recipient of the National Magazine Award and the Pulitzer Prize, among numerous other honors. She has been named by Time as one of the world's 100 Most Influential People and by Forbes as one of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Basic Books
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Published on
May 14, 2013
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9780465050895
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
History / Modern / 20th Century
Political Science / Human Rights
Political Science / Security (National & International)
Social Science / Violence in Society
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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"A valuable primer on foreign policy: a primer that concerned citizens of all political persuasions—not to mention the president and his advisers—could benefit from reading." —The New York Times

An examination of a world increasingly defined by disorder and a United States unable to shape the world in its image, from the president of the Council on Foreign Relations

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. The rules, policies, and institutions that have guided the world since World War II have largely run their course. Respect for sovereignty alone cannot uphold order in an age defined by global challenges from terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons to climate change and cyberspace. Meanwhile, great power rivalry is returning. Weak states pose problems just as confounding as strong ones. The United States remains the world’s strongest country, but American foreign policy has at times made matters worse, both by what the U.S. has done and by what it has failed to do. The Middle East is in chaos, Asia is threatened by China’s rise and a reckless North Korea, and Europe, for decades the world’s most stable region, is now anything but. As Richard Haass explains, the election of Donald Trump and the unexpected vote for “Brexit” signals that many in modern democracies reject important aspects of globalization, including borders open to trade and immigrants.

In A World in Disarray, Haass argues for an updated global operating system—call it world order 2.0—that reflects the reality that power is widely distributed and that borders count for less. One critical element of this adjustment will be adopting a new approach to sovereignty, one that embraces its obligations and responsibilities as well as its rights and protections. Haass also details how the U.S. should act towards China and Russia, as well as in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. He suggests, too, what the country should do to address its dysfunctional politics, mounting debt, and the lack of agreement on the nature of its relationship with the world.

A World in Disarray is a wise examination, one rich in history, of the current world, along with how we got here and what needs doing. Haass shows that the world cannot have stability or prosperity without the United States, but that the United States cannot be a force for global stability and prosperity without its politicians and citizens reaching a new understanding.
Benjamin A. Valentino finds that ethnic hatreds or discrimination, undemocratic systems of government, and dysfunctions in society play a much smaller role in mass killing and genocide than is commonly assumed. He shows that the impetus for mass killing usually originates from a relatively small group of powerful leaders and is often carried out without the active support of broader society. Mass killing, in his view, is a brutal political or military strategy designed to accomplish leaders' most important objectives, counter threats to their power, and solve their most difficult problems.

In order to capture the full scope of mass killing during the twentieth century, Valentino does not limit his analysis to violence directed against ethnic groups, or to the attempt to destroy victim groups as such, as do most previous studies of genocide. Rather, he defines mass killing broadly as the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants, using the criteria of 50,000 or more deaths within five years as a quantitative standard.

Final Solutions focuses on three types of mass killing: communist mass killings like the ones carried out in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia; ethnic genocides as in Armenia, Nazi Germany, and Rwanda; and "counter-guerrilla" campaigns including the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Valentino closes the book by arguing that attempts to prevent mass killing should focus on disarming and removing from power the leaders and small groups responsible for instigating and organizing the killing.

From a writer with long and high-level experience in the U.S. government, a startling and provocative assessment of America’s global dominance. Maximalist puts the history of our foreign policy in an unexpected new light, while drawing fresh, compelling lessons for the present and future.

When the United States has succeeded in the world, Stephen Sestanovich argues, it has done so not by staying the course but by having to change it—usually amid deep controversy and uncertainty. For decades, the United States has been a power like no other. Yet presidents and policy makers worry that they—and, even more, their predecessors—haven’t gotten things right. Other nations, they say to themselves, contribute little to meeting common challenges. International institutions work badly. An effective foreign policy costs too much. Public support is shaky. Even the greatest successes often didn’t feel that way at the time.      
    
Sestanovich explores the dramatic results of American global primacy built on these anxious foundations, recounting cycles of overcommitment and underperformance, highs of achievement and confidence followed by lows of doubt. We may think there was a time when America’s international role reflected bipartisan unity, policy continuity, and a unique ability to work with others, but Maximalist tells a different story—one of divided administrations and divisive decision making, of clashes with friends and allies, of regular attempts to set a new direction. Doing too much has always been followed by doing too little, and vice versa.

Maximalist unearths the backroom stories and personalities that bring American foreign policy to life. Who knew how hard Lyndon Johnson fought to stay out of the war in Vietnam—or how often Henry Kissinger ridiculed the idea of visiting China? Who remembers that George Bush Sr. found Ronald Reagan’s diplomacy too passive—or that Bush Jr. considered Bill Clinton’s too active? Leaders and scoundrels alike emerge from this retelling in sharper focus than ever before. Sestanovich finds lessons in the past that anticipate and clarify our chaotic present. 
An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely by machete--it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda's "genocidal logic" in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges of survival and on how the new leaders of postcolonial Africa went to war in the Congo when resurgent genocidal forces threatened to overrun central Africa.

Can a country composed largely of perpetrators and victims create a cohesive national society? This moving contribution to the literature of witness tells us much about the struggle everywhere to forge sane, habitable political orders, and about the stubbornness of the human spirit in a world of extremity.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

“A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior. . .This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust."—Newsweek 

Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews—now with a new afterword and additional photographs.

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.

While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.  

Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.  

A NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 • AN NPR BEST BOOK OF 2019 • ONE OF TIME’S MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2019 • AN ECONOMIST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 • A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST BOOK OF 2019

“Her highly personal and reflective memoir . . . is a must-read for anyone who cares about our role in a changing world.”—President Barack Obama

An intimate, powerful, and galvanizing memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner, human rights advocate, and former UN Ambassador Samantha Power.

In her memoir, Power offers an urgent response to the question "What can one person do?" and a call for a clearer eye, a kinder heart, and a more open and civil hand in our politics and daily lives. The Education of an Idealist traces Power’s distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official. In 2005, her critiques of US foreign policy caught the eye of newly elected senator Barack Obama, who invited her to work with him on Capitol Hill and then on his presidential campaign. After Obama was elected president, Power went from being an activist outsider to a government insider, navigating the halls of power while trying to put her ideals into practice. She served for four years as Obama’s human rights adviser, and in 2013, he named her US Ambassador to the United Nations, the youngest American to assume the role.

Power transports us from her childhood in Dublin to the streets of war-torn Bosnia to the White House Situation Room and the world of high-stakes diplomacy. Humorous and deeply honest, The Education of an Idealist lays bare the searing battles and defining moments of her life and shows how she juggled the demands of a 24/7 national security job with the challenge of raising two young children. Along the way, she illuminates the intricacies of politics and geopolitics, reminding us how the United States can lead in the world, and why we each have the opportunity to advance the cause of human dignity. Power’s memoir is an unforgettable account of the power of idealism and of one person’s fierce determination to make a difference.

“This is a wonderful book. […] The interweaving of Power’s personal story, family story, diplomatic history and moral arguments is executed seamlessly and with unblinking honesty.”—THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times Book Review 

“Honest, personal, revealing… about the development of a young woman’s inner strength and self-knowledge.”—COLM TÓIBÍN, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster

“Truly engrossing.”—RACHEL MADDOW

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