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Foreign Policy/World Affairs

    On-Line Publications
         If you only had time for three, which would they be? Here are my picks.

    The Economist On-Line Edition
Well-written, thoughtful, and international in perspective; about half the articles are free online. Particularly good at multi-part, in-depth articles on issues rarely covered elsewhere, such as the E.U.'s troubling demographics.

    Wall Street Journal Online
An solid resource for global business and political issues. The coverage of Asia is particularly good; you also have full access to the other Dow Jones publications such as Barrons and Far East Economic Review for the $79 annual fee.

    Scientific American
Substantive and accessible. Although not directly political, each issue explores at least one politically charged topic (for example, global warming, or the Religious Right's attempts to subvert science via "creationism"). Many feature articles are free online. Alternative: Nature (registration required) or The New Scientist.

Additional research / resource links


My qualifications for making this list? Absolutely none. It's just for fun--mine, and hopefully yours.

I've set this up following my First Rule of Capitalism: Always Lose Money. (At least that's been my experience.) Some of these titles are out of print or difficult to find, so on the off chance that a visitor might actually want a copy, I've put in some links to Should a hapless visitor be gripped by a momentary madness and actually buy something from Amazon, then as an official Amazon Associate I get 5% of sales, which works out to about 1.25 minutes of my annual web hosting expenses; a very solid loss on both time and expenses, as per my typical business acumen.

Of the vast number of geopolitical/economics titles published (both popular and academic), only a few are of enduring importance. Here are my picks.

cover The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
By Hernando De Soto
    The failure of either socialism and capitalism to alleviate poverty, inequality, corruption and oppression in the developing world has created one of the greatest and most vexing problems of the post-war era. Although "paradigm shifts" are bandied about rather freely nowadays, this book has truly fundamental insights into the role of property rights and the intellectual, legal and poltical infrastructure needed to establish them in developing societies.

cover The Future of Life
by E.O. Wilson
    It's all too easy to become desensitized to the ecological crises our planet faces; this eminent scientist/writer encapsulates the dire global situation in clear, persuasive prose.

cover Great Wall and the Empty Fortress: China's Search for Security
by Andrew J. Nathan and Robert S. Ross
    Amidst all the chaff and hysteria written about China, this little book is a breath of fresh air. By explicating the Chinese worldview, much sense is made of heretofore inexplicable blunders and threats made by the Chinese leadership.

cover The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
by Iris Chang
It's virtually impossible to understand the East-Asian geopolitical situation without reading this book (or an equivalent source about the brutality of the Japanese occupation). China, Korea, et. al. have not forgotten, and a re-armed Japan will not go unanswered. This book helps explain why a strong and enduring U.S. presence in Asia is essential.

cover Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey
by V.S. Naipaul
Although it was published 20 years ago, this remains a powerful and accessible exploration of the Islamic world and Islamic worldview. Naipaul has been criticized as unsympathetic; I would hazard that he is simply unsentimental about failed cultures (see India: A Wounded Civilization for another example); he raises hackles because he refuses to be an apologist to the "multicultural" view that all cultures, belief systems and power structures are equally worthy. This is of course pure balderhash.


    Books: Vietnam War
        There's a vast literature on the War, but these three encapsulate key issues.

Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington
by Peter Braestrup
A thorough critique of the press coverage of the Tet Offensive. Amazingly, the press almost universally got it wrong. The U.S. and the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) actually won the battle; the Viet Cong were decimated and never recovered as a fighting force (The regular North Vietnamese Army shouldered the major fighting from then on). It took the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) four years to build up enough strength for another major offensive (1972), which led to the Christmas bombings of Hanoi and the "peace accords."

Written by a journalist, this book is critical but not ideological; the press is not "the bad guy" here. There is plenty of blame to go around. The military misrepresented the strength of the Viet Cong, for its own reasons, and the press went on to misrepresent the battle for its own reasons. The real heresy of this book is revealing how the ARVN and U.S. forces aquitted themselves exceeding well on the battlefield. Was the war "win-able" on the ground? It certainly wasn't "win-able" politically, but perhaps credit should be given to the "grunts" who did in fact win the battle tactically and strategically.

The original edition was published by Westview Press in 1977; Yale University Press issued an abidged version in 1983 and 1986; another edition was published by Presidio Press in 1994.

cover About Face/the Odyssey of an American Warrior
by David H. Hackworth
Hackworth describes in detail how not to fight a war--combine a dysfunctional, bureaucratic military with incompetent, politically directed policies. This is also a primer on leadership and how to fight and win a guerrilla war (take the tactics of the enemy and do them one better). The stupidity of the U.S. policies and military, and the resultant costs in blood and lives, are truly anguishing in this account.

I have read numerous histories of the War--The Best and the Brightest, etc., but this book covers the incompetencies and costs on the ground like no other.

cover Dispatches
by Michael Herr
The best general account of the Vietnam War, and certainly one of the best on war, period. What Herr gets especially right is the powerful attractions of war. Although it's not "politically correct" to bring this up, the experience of war holds a deep fascination to the human mind. This is rarely noted as a "cause" of war.