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From Sulekha

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->From RISA:
South Asia Books had a review journal (short reviews by specialists) named South Asia in Review for over a decade. We ceased publication about 10 years ago because of the cost and technical difficulties. Now that we are expanding our website, www.southasiabooks.com , to incorporate uptodate news on Indian books and publishing, we have decided to begin SAIR again in an internet mode. We are looking for review volunteers. All we need are names and areas of interest. We try to fit new books to interests, and request 1-2 paragraph assessments of the titles. We then will post the journal on our site. If you are interested, or want to be on the mailing list for the new venture, please contact us. I hope to begin the process this summer and have the first number out in the fall. RISA often discusses issues and posts queries relevant to such a venture, and I hope this new enterprise will prove to be useful. Cordially, Jerry Barrier (NG Barrier)

Please contact me at barriern@sabooks.com or sabooks@sabooks.com. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide
by Bat Yeor, Miriam Kochan, David Littman

V. S. Naipaul, the Nobel laureate writer, depicts in both "Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey", and "Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples" how Islam attempts to erase the pre-Islamic history of conquered, indigenous peoples. Indeed, in awarding its 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature to Mr. Naipaul, the Nobel Committee , credited the author "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories".

Bat Ye'or's thirty years of scholarship on "dhimmitude", the religious, cultural, and political fate of non-Muslims, in particular Christians and Jews, living under Islamic rule, is a seminal effort to recapture this specific suppressed history. In her current work, "Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide", the author bravely elucidates how doctrinal patterns of subjugation of the dhimmi peoples (i.e., Christians and Jews) initiated during the Arab and Turkish waves of Islamic conquest, the jihad-dhimmitude continuum, are of immediate relevance to contemporary historical trends and specific events.

Ye'or's unique prism reveals striking, poignant hypocrises. For example, she compares the paucity of Western press coverage of the brutal ongoing, 20-year jihad waged by the Islamist Khartoum government against thousands of black African Christian and Animist inhabitants of the southern Sudan, to the ceaseless, exaggerated reporting of the so-called al Aqsa intifada:

"None of the Christian or animist children deliberately enslaved, converted to Islam by force, mutilated, obliged to flee, or killed had his photograph blown up in the Western press. And none of them was mentioned, nor their fate pitied. But Muhammad al-Dura, a Muslim Palestinian child- accidentally killed in a crossfire exchange between Palestinians who initiated it, and Israelis- became the most well known child victim on the globe. He was an effective banner for antisemitic and revengeful frustration against Israel- for the million and a half Jewish children deliberately rounded up, deported, and killed in Europe sixty years earlier. The serious Geneva daily, Le Temps, chose this tragedy as the 'photograph of the year' (December 30, 2000)."

This disturbing, graphic juxtaposition captures the books two key thematic elements: the violent, living legacy of jihad and dhimmi suppression in the Sudanese example, impossible to distinguish in its theological and juridicial underpinnings from the jihad of the Arab (634 to 750 C.E.) and Turkish (1021 to 1683 C.E.) waves of Islamization; and the notion of a "dhimmitude of the West", particularly evident in Europe, as manifested by official Church and/or European press silence regarding the blatant Islamist persecution of a Christian minority in the Sudan, or the rising tide of antisemitic violence in France, in particular, in contrast to the over wrought European reaction to perceived "persecution" of the Palestinians, strongly influenced (in a striking example of the self-loathing "dhimmi syndrome") by the distorted propaganda of dhimmi Christian Arab clerics,

A painstakingly documented book, its message requires urgent exposure in light of the cataclysmic events of September 11, 2001. Indeed, the media, academia, and the lay public ignore Bat Ye'or's scholarly insights at our collective peril. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition
<b>America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power
(Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)</b>
by G. John Ikenberry

This collection of essays seeks to explain why, despite its overwhelming power, the world has not balanced against the United States. Several well-noted authors give varying answers. The first essay, appropriately enough, is written by the founder of Structural Realism, Kenneth Waltz. Waltz answer is simply that the world will eventually balance against American power, and in fact has started to do so already. Waltz explains that in an anarchic system,"overwhelming power repels, and leads others to balance against it." Furthermore, Waltz sees Unipolarity as unstable, as the hegemon may be tempted to overexpand. Waltz concludes that the unipolar moment is exactly that, a brief time in history that will be over the blink of an eye. But Waltz made much the same case in 1993. The world has not yet balanced against the US, and history has yet to prove him right. Taking the opposite approach, William C. Wohlforth argues that the current unipolar system is actually very stable. This is so due to several factors. First, Wohlforth notes that balancing is very difficult to successfully execute. Also, unlike previous hegemons, America's power is so great that it crosses the threshold where balancing against it becomes impossible. Also unlike previous hegemons, the US is not located geographically nearby the other powers. Therefore, it does not directly threaten most states as much as their neighbors do. It is therefore better for states to rely on the US for protection from its own neighbors, than to balance against America. Wohlforth thus sees a continuation of the peaceful relations that have existed since the end of the Cold War. These two essays are most likely the ones that will receive the most attention since they predict future events based on structure. But somewhat dissapointingly, neither addresses the argument made by John Mearsheimer in his book that other states will not necessarily balance against the United States itself, but against the United States in their respective regions. Mearsheimer, unlike Wohlforth, does not see the system as global but regional. Therefore China will balance against US power in the Far East, not against global US power and interests. Mearsheimers's argument fall somewhere between Waltz and Wohlforth. Its a shame neither one addresses it.

The other articles in this book are more policy-oriented. Charles Kupchan claims that it will be very hard to sustain domestic support in America for the resources necessary to maintain unipolarity. He also believes the EU to be much farther along the road to unity than most realize, and he sees a balance of power between the US and EU in the future. Stephen Walt, advancing his balance of threat hypothesis, urges American policymakers to act and speak in a restrained manner, which will convince the world that the US does not have aggressive designs. Josef Joffe praises the US policy of overlapping alliances as a copy of Bismark's hub and spoke system, which he believes will serve to create a peaceful world, due to America's overwhelming capabilities. There are also some non-realist authors who make the case for other variables. John Ikenberry advances the importance of international institutions in creating a peaceful world, arguing that the "Western order has a structure of institutions and open polities that bind states together, thereby mitigating the implications of power assymetries and reducing the possibilities of the United States to abandon or dominate other states." Ikenberry argues that insitutions have a life of their own and make it difficult for states to do other than what the institutions specify. Its not a new theory, and realist critiques will most likely be the same: Instiutions do what states want them to do, not vice-versa. Although there are no realist critiques of the Ikenberry piece in this volume, it is hard to imagine any realist worth his weight in salt arguing otherwise.
Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
by Margaret Macmillan, Richard Holbrooke

joke circulating in Paris early in 1919 held that the peacemaking Council of Four, representing Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy, was busy preparing a "just and lasting war." Six months of parleying concluded on June 28 with Germany's coerced agreement to a treaty no Allied statesman had fully read, according to MacMillan, a history professor at the University of Toronto, in this vivid account. Although President Wilson had insisted on a League of Nations, even his own Senate would vote the league down and refuse the treaty. As a rush to make expedient settlements replaced initial negotiating inertia, appeals by many nationalities for Wilsonian self-determination would be overwhelmed by rhetoric justifying national avarice.<b> The Italians, who hadn't won a battle, and the French, who'd been saved from catastrophe, were the greediest, says MacMillan; the Japanese plucked Pacific islands that had been German and a colony in China known for German beer.</b> The austere and unlikable Wilson got nothing; returning home, he suffered a debilitating stroke. The council's other members horse-traded for spoils, as did Greece, Poland and the new Yugoslavia. There was, Wilson declared, "disgust with the old order of things," but in most decisions the old order in fact prevailed, and corrosive problems, like Bolshevism, were shelved. Hitler would blame Versailles for more ills than it created, but the signatories often could not enforce their writ. MacMillan's lucid prose brings her participants to colorful and quotable life, and the grand sweep of her narrative encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up. 16 pages of photos, maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal
In an ambitious narrative, MacMillan (history, University of Toronto) seeks to recover the original intent, constraints, and goals of the diplomats who sat down to hammer out a peace treaty in the aftermath of the Great War. In particular, she focuses on the "Big Three" Wilson (United States), Lloyd George (Great Britain), and Clemenceau (France) who dominated the critical first six months of the Paris Peace Conference. Viewing events through such a narrow lens can reduce diplomacy to the... read more --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets, 1798-1848
by Niall Ferguson

Founded in the late 18th century by expatriate German Jews, the London-based House of Rothschild was within decades the largest banking enterprise in the world. Its principals controlled a vast portion of the industrial world's wealth--more so, Oxford historian Niall Ferguson writes, than any family has since--and as a result enjoyed tremendous political influence in the major capitals of Europe, counting as allies such important figures as Metternich and Wellington. That influence would provoke countless anti-Semitic tracts fulminating against Jewish usury and against the power of "Eastern potentates" in the empires of England and France. Although the Rothschilds were well aware of their power and not reluctant to use it, they operated fairly, Ferguson notes. For example, whereas lending rates in the textile industry, in which the Rothschilds got their start, were often 20 percent, the fledgling house charged 5 to 9 percent. Through shrewd, complex negotiations they helped promote peace and the beginnings of economic union throughout Europe.
Ferguson's sprawling history covers much ground and involves a cast of hundreds of players. At the outset he notes that his book was commissioned by the modern descendants of the House of Rothschild; even so, he approaches his task with careful balance and a critical eye, pointing out the Rothschilds' failings as well as successes. The result is a fine, solid contribution to economic history, one that, unlike so many books in the field, is eminently readable. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly
Anyone interested in finance, European history or the rise of one spectacularly successful Jewish family will find the first volume of this history of the Rothschilds spellbinding. Equipped with unprecedented access to pre-1915 Rothschild archives, Oxford historian Ferguson begins the family history with Frankfurt merchant Mayer Amschel, but the real story starts with the arrival of the most capable of his sons, Nathan Mayer, in England 200 years ago. Each of Mayer's five sons was located in... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description
The first authoritative and compulsively readable history of the rise of this legendary banking dynasty

In his rich and nuanced portrait of the remark- able, elusive Rothschild family, Oxford scholar and bestselling author Niall Ferguson uncovers the secrets behind the family's phenomenal economic success. He reveals for the first time the details of the family's vast political network, which gave it access to and influence over many of the greatest statesmen of the age. And he tells a family saga, tracing the importance of family unity and the profound role of Judaism in the lives of a dynasty that rose from the confines of the Frankfurt ghetto and later used its influence to assist oppressed Jews throughout Europe. A definitive work of impeccable scholarship with a thoroughly engaging narrative, The House of Rothschild is a biography of the rarest kind, in which mysterious and fascinating historical figures finally spring to life.

"A great biography." --Time magazine

"Absorbing. . . .Their enthralling story has been told before, but never in such authoritative detail." --The New York Times Book Review

"Niall Ferguson's rich and compelling new book . . . is a feast." --The Wall Street Journal

* Chosen by Business Week as one of the Best Business Books of 1998

* A finalist for the National Jewish Book Award

The House of Rothschild 1798-1848 covers a pivotal time in history. The Napoleonic Wars, rise of capitalism, the rise of multinational businesses, development of the railroad and the French Revolution. The Rothschild's had a front row seat to all of this and were the focus of some of it. From humble beginnings in the Frankfurt Jewish Ghetto, the rise of this family is chronicled through three generations. Many myths about the Rothschilds are laid to rest by Ferguson's groundbreaking research, much of it original scholarship. One of the main threads running through the book is that finance had a profound role in the ability of the rulers of Europe to do what they wanted. By 1825 the Rothschild had a significant role in sovereign finance. Many things were wished for by the various despots that ruled Europe at that time, but if the Rothschilds did not perceive that those wishes would lead to stabilization and peace it typically was not supported thereby making it difficult to realize. They did not support the despots with out reserve, but they knew that peace protected their interests. That perspective makes this book unique.
The Rothschild family business was a partnership that was constructed as the 2nd generation left Frankfurt for London, Paris, Vienna, and Naples. That the partnership should survive was the 1st generation's greatest desire and was respected (most of the time) by his descendants. The exchanges between the 5 houses make for fascinating reading and are reference extensively in the book.
The book details how the Rothschilds pushed for Jewish emancipation and equality and were resisted at every turn. That did not prevent them from receiving commendations from the various governments that the worked with. It did not prevent them from gaining entry to the most prestigious universities for their children. It did not prevent Lionel from gaining entry into the British Parliament without having to swear a Christian Oath. The Rothschilds achieved a great deal for themselves and for Judaism.
Intrigue, betrayal, revolution, and vignettes of famous people make this a very entertaining book, not merely a historic rendering of dates and places. From the beginning of the Rothschild climb to prominence with the Elector of Hesse-Kassel to the French Revolution in 1848, this book will engage the reader. --
The House of Rothschild: The World's Banker 1849-1998
by Niall Ferguson

Continuing the sweeping narrative that he began with The House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets, 1798-1848, Oxford University historian Niall Ferguson conjures up a world in which widespread change and utter uncertainty held sway in the place of carefully ordered dynasties and universally observed mores. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic revolution, European Jews had been able to move within dominant societies somewhat more freely. Of no family was this more true than the Rothschilds, whose branches lived in Germany, France, Austria, and England, and whose vast financial empire enabled them to act as diplomats and power brokers throughout the world. Their influence was enormous. When Spain wanted to build a railroad, its ministers approached the House of Rothschild. When the Confederate States of America sought to be recognized by the states of Europe, it sought--unsuccessfully--the Rothschilds' support. When Ferdinand de Lesseps broke ground for the Panama Canal and Cecil Rhodes broke ground for his vast diamond and gold mines in South Africa, Rothschild funds backed them.
Until the 1920s, Ferguson demonstrates, there was almost no economic, technological, or political development in Europe in which the House of Rothschild did not play some role. The rise of nationalist and national socialist movements and of official anti-Semitism, coupled with the rise in the Jazz Age of a new generation of Rothschilds that cared more for the good life than for the hard work of maintaining their holdings, led to a substantial decline in the family's authority and wealth. But even today, as Ferguson writes in this richly detailed but eminently readable history, the Rothschilds figure in European finance, continuing a legacy that Ferguson's two volumes trace from the Middle Ages to the new millennium. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
Ferguson is not only publishing massive works of history at an astonishing rate; he is publishing well-written and controversial books. The Pity of War (Forecasts, Mar. 8) caused a stir by arguing that Britain bore the brunt of the blame for WWI. The completion of his two-volume history of the Rothschild banking empire begins at a high point of wealth, power and civic involvement, with Benjamin Disraeli a close family friend and Lionel Rothschild playing a leading role in gaining Jews the right... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description
Niall Ferguson's House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets 1798-1848 was hailed as "definitive" by the New York Times, a "great biography" by Time magazine, and was named one of the Ten Best Books of 1998 by Business Week. Now, Ferguson concludes his myth--breaking portrait of one of the most powerful families of modern times at the zenith of its power. From Crimea to World War II, wars repeatedly threatened the stability of the Rothschild's worldwide empire. Despite these upheavals, theirs remained the biggest bank in the world up until the First World War. Yet the Rothschild's failure to establish themselves successfully in the United States proved fateful, and as financial power shifted from London to New York after 1914, their power waned. At once a classic family saga and major work of economic, social and political history, The House of Rothschild is the riveting story of an unparalleled dynasty.
What If? 2: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
by Robert Cowley

Many armchair historians have spent hours daydreaming of what might have been if some turning point in history had gone another way. The appeal of the What If? books is that editor Robert Cowley gets professional historians to concentrate on these imaginative questions. The first volume focused entirely on military matters; What If? 2 leans heavily but not exclusively in that direction. Victor Davis Hanson wonders about the consequences for Western philosophy if Socrates had died in battle, Thomas Fleming ponders a Napoleonic invasion of North America, and Caleb Carr argues the Second World War lasted longer than it should have because George Patton's superiors restrained their energetic general. More than two dozen contributors offer bold speculation: If the Chinese had committed themselves to ocean exploration, asks Theodore F. Cook Jr., might they have discovered the New World and even prevented "the worst horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade [by halting] Portuguese expansion along the African coast at this early date?" Other times they are pleasantly modest: In one of the book's best sections, John Lukacs describes the fantasy of Teddy Roosevelt defeating Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election--and decides the long- term effects would not have been great. Like its predecessor, What If? 2 is delicious mind candy for readers willing to believe there's nothing inevitable about what has come before us. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
Like its predecessor (also edited by Cowley), this is an engrossing collection of essays on counterfactual history. Each contributor examines a pivotal event, then considers the ramifications had the event come out differently. In some cases the ramifications are so monumental that their effects are more obvious than intriguing. For example, if Socrates had died in battle during the Peloponnesian War, Victor Davis Hanson suggests, democracy, Christianity and Western thought as a whole would be... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description
What if Lincoln didn't abolish slavery? What if an assassin succeeded in killing FDR in 1933? This volume presents 25 intriguing "what if..." scenarios by some of today's greatest historical minds-including James Bradley, Caleb Carr, James Chace, Theodore F. Cook, Jr., Carlos M.N. Eire, George Feifer, Thomas Fleming, Richard B. Frank, Victor Davis Hanson, Cecelia Holland, Alistair Horne, David Kahn, Robert Katz, John Lukacs, William H. McNeill, Lance Morrow, Williamson Murray, Josiah Ober, Robert L. O'Connell, Geoffrey Parker, Theodore K. Rabb, Andrew Roberts, Roger Spiller, Geoffrey C. Ward, and Tom Wicker.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Another good collection of historical challenges., April 21, 2002
Reviewer: Brian D. Rubendall (see more about me) from Oakton, VA
"What If 2," though not quite as strong as the first "What If," collection (and featuring historians, on average, who are not nearly as well known as such first volume luminaries as Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough) is still an enjoyable and stimulating collection for those who like history. While most of the scenarios of the first collection concentrated on military battles, the second features a lot of political twists and turns as well.

The alternate scnerios this time out include, "What if Socrates had been killed at the Battle of Delium before he made his mark on Greek philosophy?" "What if William the Conqueror had not won the Battle of Hastings?" "What if Martin Luther had been executed in 1521?" "What if the Germans hadn't transported Lenin to Russia in 1917?" "What if the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 had been avoided?" "What if FDR hadn't allowed the progressive Henry Wallace to be dumped as VP in 1944 in favor of Harry Truman?" Indeed, "What if any of seven plausible scenerios had kept FDR from the Presidency?" All of these are great questions, presented in the highly readable narrative style that has come to define this series.

My only quibble is that a number of the essays present the questions without really giving an answer. One is left to ponder the "What Ifs" without the essayist presenting the likely alternate reality. Nevertheless, this is still a very enjoyable read for those with a passion for history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

More What Was Than What Might Have Been, February 11, 2002
Reviewer: jrmspnc (see more about me) from Maryland, USA
Any collection of essays by various writers is going to have its share of hits and misses, and What If 2 is no exception. Some of the contributors dive head-first into the premise and wallow in it. Others stick their toes in, decide it's too cold, and jump right back out.

Every essay is useful as a quick overview of historical events, many of which will be unfamiliar to the general reader except in broad outline. For that alone, the book is worthwhile. The counterfactual histories themselves, however, vary in quality from writer to writer. The best is, perhaps, John Lukacs' tale of Teddy Roosevelt's third term; Lukacs writes as if, in fact, TR won in 1912, and chides his fellow historians for not asking what would have happened if Woodrow Wilson had won. One of the weakest is Victor Davis Hanson's opening essay about Socrates: what if Socrates had been killed in battle before he met Plato? Well, turns out we would never have heard of him - imagine that!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of What If 1 was its focus on events that truly could have turned out differently but for a single moment or decision. The same cannot be said of most of the sequel's essays. For example, Josiah Ober's counterfactual involving the triumph of Antony over Octavian; rather than mark Actium itself as the turning point, Ober goes back to Antony's Parthian campaign. If Antony had defeated the Parthians, Ober posits, Octavian would have ultimately lost. But how likely was an Antony victory over Parthia? Not very. By contrast, Charles I escaping the plague because he happened to leave London a week before it broke out is more intriguing; unfortunately, Theodore Rabb's counterfactual speculation is limited to a few paragraphs at the end.

Overall, as other reviewers have concluded, What If 2 is a mixed bag. It does not entirely live up to its promise and premise, but it does not completely disappoint either. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

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Counterfactuals, if they are credible, blow me away., January 21, 2004
Reviewer: John Godfrey (see more about me) from Milwaukee, WI USA
If you love history, you probably have one. These two volumes are worth your time. It helps to know about what really happen & the various historian/authors usually supply background. Of course, unless you enjoy history, you're probably not reading this.
It's simple. Take a historical event & create a plausible alternate outcome. Three examples stood out for me. What if the Allies had lost on D-Day? The Germans throw the invasion back into the sea? It could have happened. Does the U.S. give up & turn it's attention to Japan? Does FDR get reelected? Mushroom clouds over Europe in 1945?
Pontius Pilate pardons Jesus instead of condeming him to death. Chtistainity is changed. No salvation through Christ's death on the cross. No cross, the ultimate symbol of the faith. Jesus dies of old age, confused, a great prophet maybe, but not the savior.
The French win the Franco-Prussian War or even if that stupid little war nevers occurs, history could have been profoundly changed. The unification of Germany could have been slowed down. The German Empire might not ever existed. Without that, a little skirmish in 1914 Europe would never have become World WarI. Without World War I, no World WarII, no Communism, no cold war.
Create your own scenario. Some of the histrians realy get into the aftermaths of their stories. Others not so much so, leaving you clamoring for more. But the reader or listener, can fill in the blanks. There are no right or wrong answers because it never happened. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Be careful what you wish for, September 12, 2003
Reviewer: Avid Reader (see more about me) from Franklin, TN
After reading WHAT IF, Volume 1, I stated that I eagerly awaited another collection of a non-military nature. Well, that's what I got and the result is a huge disappointment. As another reviewer noted, the bad ones were too long and the good ones were too short.

My number one objection was the lack of an alternative story. IN many of these, 80% of the writing was a review of what actually happened. So, in the one about Socrates, we get a lot of Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Perfect Forms, battles, but almost no philosophical suppositions of a world without Socrates. In the one in which Jesus is not executed, the author could not help but keep referring to "actual" history and apologizing for even discussing the subject.

The list goes on - the Chinese exploration tale centered on what happened with the Ming dynasty rather than an alternate tale. The Cleopatra tale involves a lengthy review of past history. The people who read these stories already KNOW the history - they want a brief forward followed by the story, not another rehash of World Events 101. Where is the imagination, where is the spark? Very poor execution.

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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful:

Here's a 'what if' for you..., September 8, 2003
Reviewer: Jesse Ogden (see more about me) from Michigan
What if in 1963, Rudolf Hochhuth, hadn't written the libelous play The Deputy? We may have been spared having Pope Pius XII becoming the official whipping boy of the anti-Catholics. I give this a book a 1 for a couple reasons, and not just because of the Pius XII essay. First of all, the "good" essays are mediocre at best, especially if you compare them to the works of the original What If? Second of all, some of the essays are really asking you to stretch your imagination past believability. The whole point of the 'what if' scenario in these books was to give a depiction of a crucial event in history and explain what probably would've happened if it had gone different, with as much plausibility as possible. That's what made the original What If? so great.

However, the final nail in the coffin was the Pius XII essay. It ignores the fact that before the war Pius XII (or Eugenio Pacelli as he was known when he was the Vatican Secretary of State) was a well-known opponent of Nazism. In 1935, he gave a speech that denounced Nazism at a time when people like FDR and Churchill (both big government guys themselves) didn't think Hitler was such a bad guy. Pacelli said in his speech that the Nazis "are in reality only miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel. It does not make any difference whether they flock to the banners of social revolution, whether they are guided by a false concept of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by the superstition of a race and blood cult."

Dr. Joseph Licthen, a Polish Jew and official for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League wrote: "Pacelli had obviously established his position clearly, for the Fascist governments of both Italy and Germany spoke out vigorously against the possibility of his election to succeed Pius XI in March of 1939, though the cardinal secretary of state had served as papal nuncio in Germany from 1917 to 1929. . . . The day after his election, the Berlin Morgenpost said: 'The election of cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism and practically determined the policies of the Vatican under his predecessor.'"

The appeared "silence" of Pacelli, now known as Pope Pius XII, is a misconstruction of facts based upon a play. Pius was hardly ever Hitler's Pope, as some "historians" are leading people to believe. Pius knew that he'd have to be careful with everything he did or Hitler would tyrannize the Jews even more and go after the Catholics as well. His statements were carefully distributed, but still urged Catholics to do what they could. The appeared silence occurred after the Nazis arrested Catholic priests in Denmark for opposing the Nazis. Catholic and Jewish friends of the Pope urged him to be careful or Hitler might start targeting him.

The essay also ignores much of the Pope's humanitarian work and his efforts to help the Jews. Pius hid a lot of Jews in the Vatican and on his summer estate and would even pay the ridiculous fines that Jews had to pay to keep the Nazis from taking them from their homes.

There's so much scholarly evidence that shows that the image of Pius XII has been misconstrued, and misunderstood. Unfortunately though, anti-Catholicism is an attitude that is still widely tolerated. I end this review with a quote by Albert Einstein, a quote he said about the Catholic Church's efforts to help the Jews.

"Only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up till then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral liberty."

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

History as the actions of individuals, August 19, 2003
Reviewer: Charles Miller (see more about me) from San Jose, CA USA
As someone who has been an avid amateur student of history for 50 years, I have been dismayed by the current trend toward the "de-individualization" of history. When I read biographies of Davy Crockett, Crazy Horse, Cyrus, Galileo, Peter the Great, and others as a child, I developed the distinct impression that history was shaped by the actions of individuals in the context of their times. Only later, as an adult perusing my children's history books, did I learn that I was out of step with modern historiography. Their textbooks devoted as much, or more, print to those who were simply present as to those who drove events. What If 2 provides a much-needed refutation of this "modern" trend. Counterfactual history offers potent arguments against those who explain everything in terms of broad historical forces. Any thinking person must admit that history would have been very different if Antony and Cleopatra had won at Actium, if Jesus had not been crucified, if the Franco-Prussian War had not been fought, or if Lenin had not made it to the Finland Station. Most of the essays in this collection are well-expostulated explorations of alternative timelines such as these. Unfortunately, the quality is uneven. My advice: if a selection starts to drag, skip to the next one. It will be better.
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RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
by Richard Nixon

references to pakistan in this book:

1. on Page 132:
"... my speeches as an expression of my own foreign policy goals. Nehru spoke obsessively and interminably about India's relationship with Pakistan. He spent more time railing against India's neighbor than discussing either U.S.-Indian relations or other Asian problems. He strongly opposed ..."
2. on Page 133:
"... younger men must be found to conduct the fight. Younger men like you," he said as he smiled again. In Pakistan I met Ayub Khan, who was then commander of Pakistan's armed forces and had not yet assumed political power. I ..."
3. on Page 256:
"... gained as an official visitor. I took the first of these trips immediately after the New Hampshire primary, visiting Lebanon, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Everywhere I went I heard about America's declining prestige, and ..."
4. on Page 394:
"... be the first leg of an around-the-world trip that included stops in Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Romania, and Britain. In honor of Apollo's accomplish- ment, we gave the trip the codename Moonglow. The trip provided the ..."
5. on Page 525:
"... preparation of linkage had paid off handsomely. We would have a Chinese trip and a Soviet Sum- mit as well. INDO-PAKISTAN WAR On the morning of November 4 I met in the Oval Office with the Prime Minister of India, Indira ..."
6. on Page 525:
"... same, but she would not make a similar commitment. I said, "Absolutely nothing could be served by the disintegration of Pakistan. For India to initiate hostilities would be almost impossible to understand." I said that in some respects the situation was ..."
7. on Page 525:
"... with improved relations between us. Kissinger said that we wanted a cease-fire and the withdrawal of all Indian troops from Pakistan. Once the fighting had stopped, the parties could begin to negotiate a political settlement of the problem. We recog- nized ..."
8. on Page 525:
"... Mrs. Gandhi had led a discussion of plans to expand the war on the western front and to invade West Pakistan. Kissinger called in the In- dian Ambassador, virtually told him that we knew his government's plans, and demanded that the ..."
9. on Page 525:
"... THE PRESIDENCY 1971 Pakistan increased with each passing hour. On December 12, shortly be- fore I was to fly to the Azores for a ..."
10. on Page 525:
"... move." Vorontsov said that the Soviets were prepared unconditionally to guarantee that there would be no Indian attack on West Pakistan or on Kashmir. But to do this publicly would mean that they were, in effect, speaking for a friendly country. ..."
Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 offers revealing details of the CIA's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks. From the beginning, Coll shows how the CIA's on-again, off-again engagement with Afghanistan after the end of the Soviet war left officials at Langley with inadequate resources and intelligence to appreciate the emerging power of the Taliban. He also demonstrates how Afghanistan became a deadly playing field for international politics where Soviet, Pakistani, and U.S. agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, is not solely a critique of the agency. Coll balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, like the capture of Mir Amal Kasi. Coll, managing editor for the Washington Post, covered Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992. He demonstrates unprecedented access to records of White House meetings and to formerly classified material, and his command of Saudi, Pakistani, and Afghani politics is impressive. He also provides a seeming insider's perspective on personalities like George Tenet, William Casey, and anti-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke ("who seemed to wield enormous power precisely because hardly anyone knew who he was or what exactly he did for a living"). Coll manages to weave his research into a narrative that sometimes has the feel of a Tom Clancy novel yet never crosses into excess. While comprehensive, Coll's book may be hard going for those looking for a direct account of the events leading to the 9-11 attacks. The CIA's 1998 engagement with bin Laden as a target for capture begins a full two-thirds of the way into Ghost Wars, only after a lengthy march through developments during the Carter, Reagan, and early Clinton Presidencies. But this is not a critique of Coll's efforts; just a warning that some stamina is required to keep up. Ghost Wars is a complex study of intelligence operations and an invaluable resource for those seeking a nuanced understanding of how a small band of extremists rose to inflict incalculable damage on American soil. --Patrick O'Kelley

New York Times Book Review
Ghost Wars...is a welcome antidote to the fevered partisan bickering that accompanied the release of Clarke's book.

Book Description
From the managing editor of the Washington Post, a news-breaking account of the CIA's involvement in the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and gave rise to bin Laden's al Qaeda.

For nearly the past quarter century, while most Americans were unaware, Afghanistan has been the playing field for intense covert operations by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies-invisible wars which sowed the seeds of the September 11 attacks and which provide its context. From the Soviet invasion in 1979 through the summer of 2001, the CIA, KGB, Pakistan's ISI, and Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Department all operated directly and secretly in Afghanistan. They primed Afghan factions with cash and weapons, secretly trained guerrilla forces, funded propaganda, and manipulated politics. In the midst of these struggles bin Laden conceived and then built his global organization.

Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA's role in Afghanistan, from its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, to the rise of the Taliban and the emergence of bin Laden, to the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998. Based on extensive firsthand accounts, Ghost Warsok is the inside story that goes well beyond anything previously published on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It chronicles the roles of midlevel CIA officers, their Afghan allies, and top spy masters such as Bill Casey, Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al Faisal, and George Tenet. And it describes heated debates within the American government and the often poisonous, mistrustful relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies.

Ghost Wars answers the questions so many have asked since the horrors of September 11: To what extent did America's best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail?

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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful:

An Immensely Detailed and Fascinating Book, April 3, 2004
Reviewer: Bookreporter.com (see more about me) from New York, New York
"Afghanistanism" used to be a derisive term in the newspaper world. It meant playing up news from obscure far-off places while neglecting what was going wrong on your own home turf.

No longer. Very few countries worldwide have been more important to the U.S. over the past quarter century than this remote, primitive, landlocked and little-understood area tucked in between Iran, Pakistan and the former U.S.S.R. In this weighty and immensely detailed book, Steve Coll, who reported from Afghanistan for the Washington Post (where he is now managing editor) between 1989 and 1992, sorts out for the patient reader one of the most complex diplomatic and military involvements the U.S. has experienced in this century.

The cast of characters is immense, rivaling for sheer size (and personal quirkiness) any novel by Dickens or Dostoyevsky. It ranges from four U.S. Presidents through a platoon of bemedaled generals from five or six countries and a regiment of scheming diplomats down to hard-pressed pilots, miserably ill-equipped guerilla fighters, steely-eyed assassins and suicide bombers. There are more political factions here than most readers will be able to keep track of --- not to mention the factions that spring up within factions. It is all quite dizzying, but also fascinating and important.

Coll is a conscientious reporter. He does his best to keep the reader informed and to make his more important players come alive as human beings. His book is not easy reading, but it rewards well anyone who buckles down and stays with it to the end.

A couple of general impressions: First, Coll demonstrates time and again how much of the really important things that government --- any government --- does in foreign relations is done in deep secrecy, far from the eyes and ears of the average consumer of "news." Secondly, he leaves the impression that disdain and hatred of non-Muslims is pretty much pervasive throughout the Muslim world, coloring the actions and judgments even of those Muslims whom westerners might not consider "extremists."

Another leitmotiv in this almost Wagnerian epic drama is a pervasive lack of interest on the part of American policymakers in the developing crisis in Afghanistan, followed by paralyzing intra-agency squabbles and turf battles once the threat of terrorism became unavoidable. One is reminded of Dickens's satirical governmental invention, the "Circumlocution Office" in Little Dorrit with its famous motto: How Not To Do It.

Coll covers in exhaustive detail the defeat and withdrawal of the Soviet Union; the factional warfare that ensued; the rise of the Taliban from a small cadre of student zealots to a force that ruled most of the country; the emergence of Osama bin Laden; the clumsy and ineffective efforts of the U.S. government to get meaningful cooperation from Saudi Arabia and/or Pakistan in stabilizing and democratizing the region; and the ominous events that led up to --- but did not precisely signal -- the attacks of Sept. 11th. He is especially good on the lack of interest and decisive action by the U.S. after the Russian withdrawal and on the paralyzing rivalries between competing governmental spook shops that caused this breakdown. Action plans would be developed, only to be derailed by fruitless internal debates and objections. "How Not To Do It" indeed!

An additional strength of the book is Coll's knack for thumbnail portraits of the participants. Most memorable are his word pictures of two CIA directors: the religiously driven cold warrior William Casey and the consummate organization man George Tenet. Also well done are his portraits of Afghan warriors like the unlucky Ahmed Shah Massoud (whose assassination closes the book) and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Osama bin Laden himself, though dutifully described, remains necessarily an offstage influence rather than a full-bodied presence. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia come off in Coll's pages as unreliable allies, to the point of being deceitful in their dealings with the U.S.

GHOST WARS is not beach reading by any means, but those who have the patience to get through it will emerge well informed indeed. Of course, everything changed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Can a second volume be far behind?

--- Reviewed by Robert Finn

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67 of 114 people found the following review helpful:

Complexity is the word, March 1, 2004
Reviewer: Adron Edward Gardner (see more about me) from USA
Ghost wars is an excellent reporting job by Steve Coll. More direct quotes would have been welcomed, but overall, the research and the reporting is enough to project an elightening view on the massively complex Afghan situation America got into after the Russian invasion up to this very day.

A number of things come to light not easily communicated to the American public by our media.

1. A policy to trail and kill bin Laden and his associates was undertaken by the Clinton administration. The "wag the dog" BS of the republican zealots after the missile strike of 1998 did not encourage the administration to push using troops of any kind.

2. Pakistan's position today is extrememly delicate. They did a massive amount to aid the Taliban over the Russian invasion and up to 9/11. There should be no surprise in the difficulty that remains in getting to get "full" support on destroying the jihadis crossing the Afghan/Pakistan border. Their intelligence service is about as troubled as our own.

3. Reagan policy of arming Afgans to the teeth then abandoning them completely is one of the biggest mistakes in American foreign policy in history.

4. Clinton policy on bin Laden was scattered and non productive. The C.I.A. did little to earn the full trust of the administration with spotty intel.

5. "Does America Need the C.I.A. ?" Good question, if anybody has a good answer, tell Bush - he is still looking for Iraq's weapons.

By the very nature of our country, the intelligence services are bureaucracies. Yet the trouble with trusing the C.I.A. goes way back. Kennedy doubted them, Nixon doubted them, Ford chaired the committee to question their existence.
Real reform of the C.I.A. doesn't look rosy. If we spent $87 billion on trying to build friends in the arab world instead of bombing their back yard, maybe we'd get somewhere and wouldn't have to ask the impossible from the C.I.A. and blame them when it all goes wrong.

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Another narrative of shame, June 21, 2004
Reviewer: caesar-novus (see more about me) from Peshawar, N.W.F.P, Pakistan
This is yet another revealing book on a subject that has assumed foremost global importance since 11 September 2001: The outcome of the shameful methods employed by the USA to win the Cold War struggle with the late USSR. Books such as this present crucial, unpleasant evidence that can no longer be avoided, dismissed or compromised on whatsoever.
The content of Steve Coll's book is built upon useful minutiae and his narrative is qualitatively better and more reasonable than that of other key books appearing on the subject so far.
It is again evident from this book - as also from its other predecessors - that America's criminal marriage of convenience with fanatical barbarous murderous thugs and bigots, plus abetting them - to achieve her "righteous" 1991 victory is more vile than any silly old "gray" Communist dogma (that was decaying anyway) could ever be. From the material Coll has compiled in this book, it is apparent to any reasonable scholar of the subject that the kind of vile trickery and hypocritical facades, together with this vast undercover war that America employed to achieve world domination (not just the victory of "free enterprise" over communism) merits that America doesn't deserve a civilised enemy as Communism was, but that the sort of intangible nightmarish horror presented by militant/revivalist Islam is the right kind of nemesis for this greedy, arrogant world bully that supports (and revives) the Third World's feudal and tribal social status quo and enables massive elitist corruption in those countries, and treats the world as its playground like a spoilt child.
As a dweller of the key Pakistani North Western border city of Peshawar (mentioned throughout this book), who suffered the effects of and witnessed first-hand more or less all the shameful goings on which Steve Coll has documented - happening in my close proximity, all I will say is this: Congratulations, America, you've won your Cold War but you've really earned yourself a nice fix, too, in the process ... You sure won't get out of this one fast, if ever at all ...

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

A good reason to read non fiction, June 19, 2004
Reviewer: Dan Savage from New York City
Since it appears that the U.S. is inexorably involved in this part of the world - a CNN commentator and former general predicted recently that the current war on terror was unlikely to end in our lifetime - I have departed from my usual reading habit of serious fiction and forced myself into a brave new world of non fiction, consuming Ghost Wars (Coll), Against All Enemies (Clarke) and Plan of Attack (Woodward) over the past few weeks. Of the three, I found Coll's the most interesting, immersing myself in the detailed account of mid level CIA operatives, Washington bureaucrats and policy makers focused on the South Asia region, bracketed in time from the take over of the American embassy in Pakistan and the narrow avoidance of massive American casualties at the hands of Muslim extremists in 1979, up to but short of 9/11.

Having no expertise in the region, it's difficult to evaluate the accuracy of Coll's account. However, his narrative appears remarkably free of partisan finger pointing as Coll faults Robin Raphel, Clinton's assistant secretary of state for South Asia, for her relative inexperience and naiveté as she serves as apologist for the Taliban while working to keep the U.S. neutral in the Afghan civil war, while highlighting Hillary Clinton's important role in defending women's rights and increasing awareness among the American people of the dangers posed by that regime. Bill Clinton, himself, is shown in both positive and negative aspects as he recognizes relatively early on the dangers that Muslim terrorism poses for the homeland, while at other times, notably in an early meeting in 1993 with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar and Saudi spy chief Prince Turki, he conducts a "typical Clinton session, more seminar than formal meeting," asking his guests' opinions of where US foreign policy should go, leaving the Saudi's confused, "He's asking us?"

Overall, I came away from the book more convinced than ever that America's historic desire to disengage from the world will not be a successful strategy in a post 9/11 world. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, we walked away from Afghanistan, redirecting American aid to Africa, and for long stretches had no CIA personnel located in that country. Our counter terrorism efforts were largely administered through untrustworthy clients like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who diverted American resources to their own ends. When faced with overwhelming evidence that Osama bin Laden had planned and executed major terrorist attacks against Americans and our embassies late in Clinton's term of office, we had few military options because we had little ability to project American power into this remote area of the globe. In 1999, we had 60,000 American soldiers stationed in Germany facing a non existent Soviet threat,. but lacked the strength to take out a few terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the most important contribution of this book is remind America citizens that the world is indeed a much smaller place than it once was, and ocean barriers provide significantly less security than they have in the past.

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

Select CIA-Saudi Sources, Thus Slanted, but Essential, June 10, 2004
Reviewer: Robert D. Steele (see more about me) from Oakton, VA United States

On balance this is a well researched book (albeit with a Langley-Saudi partiality that must be noted), and I give it high marks for substance, story, and notes. It should be read in tandem with several other books, including George Crile's "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History" and the Milt Bearden/James Risen tome on "The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB."

The most important point in the book is not one the author intended to make. He inadvertently but most helpfully points to the fact that at no time did the U.S. government, in lacking a policy on Afghanistan across several Administrations, think about the strategic implications of "big money movements." I refer to Saudi Oil, Afghan Drugs, and CIA Cash.

Early on the book shows that Afghanistan was not important to the incumbent Administration, and that the Directorate of Operations, which treats third-world countries as hunting grounds for Soviets rather than targets in their own right, had eliminated Afghanistan as a "collection objective" in the late 1980's through the early 1990's. It should be no surprise that the CIA consequently failed to predict the fall of Kabul (or in later years, the rise of the Taliban).

Iran plays heavily in the book, and that is one of the book's strong points. From the 1979 riots against the U.S. Embassies in Iran and in Pakistan, to the end of the book, the hand of Iran is clearly perceived. As we reflect on Iran's enormous success in 2002-2004 in using Chalabi to deceive the Bush Administration into wiping out Saddam Hussein and opening Iraq for Iranian capture, at a cost to the US taxpayer of over $400 billion dollars, we can only compare Iran to the leadership of North Viet-Nam. Iran has a strategic culture, the US does not. The North Vietnamese beat the US for that reason. Absent the development of a strategic culture within the US, one that is not corrupted by ideological fantasy, Iran will ultimately beat the US and Israel in the Middle East.

The greatest failure of the CIA comes across throughout early in the book: the CIA missed the radicalization of Islam and its implications for global destabilization. It did so for three reasons: 1) CIA obsession with hard targets to the detriment of global coverage; 2) CIA obsession with technical secrets rather than human overt and covert information; and 3) CIA laziness and political naiveté in relying on foreign liaison, and especially on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Both Admiral Stansfield Turner and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski come in for criticism here. Turner for gutting the CIA, Brzezinski for telling Pakistan it could go nuclear (page 51) in return for help against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Although the book does not focus on Bin Laden until he becomes a player in Afghanistan, it does provide much better discussion of Bin Laden's very close relations with Saudi intelligence, including the Chief of Staff of Saudi intelligence at the time, Bin Laden's former teacher and mentor. There appears to be no question, from this and other sources, including Yossef Bodansky's book on Bin Laden and David Kaplan's US News & World Report on Saudi sponsorship of global terrorism, that Bin Laden has been the primary Saudi intelligence agent of influence for exporting terrorism and Islamic radicalism to South Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, Europe, Russia, and the US. CIA and the FBI failed to detect this global threat, and the USG failed to understand that World War III started in 1989. As with other evils, the US obsession about communism led it to sponsor new emerging threats that might not otherwise have become real. However, the book also provides the first documentation I have seen that Bin Laden was "noticed" by the CIA in 1985 (page 146), and that Bin Laden opened his US office in 1986. It was also about this time that the Russian "got it" on the radical Islamic threat, told the US, and got blown off. Bob Gates and George Shultz were wrong to doubt the Soviets when they laid out Soviet plans to leave Afghanistan and Soviet concern about both the future of Afghanistan and the emerging threat from Islamic terrorism.

<b>The middle of the book can be considered a case study in how Pakistani deception combined with American ignorance led us to make many errors of judgment. Some US experts did see the situation clearly--Ed McWilliams from State ("Evil Little Person" per Milt Bearden) comes out of this book looking very very smart.</b>
The final portions of the book are detailed and balanced. What comes across is both a failure of the US to think strategically, and the incredibly intelligent manner in which Bin Laden does think globally, strategically, and unconventionally. Bin Laden understands the new equation: low-cost terrorism equals very high cost economic dislocation.

Side note: CIA provided the Islamic warriors in Afghanistan with enough explosives to blow up half of New York (page 135), and with over 2000 Stinger missiles, 600 of which appear to remain in the hands of anti-US forces today, possibly including a number shipped to Iran for re-purposing (ie London, Dallas, Houston)

One final note: morality matters. I am greatly impressed with the author's judgment in focusing on the importance that Bin Laden places on the corruption of US and Saudi Arabian governments and corporations as the justification for his jihad. Will and Ariel Durant, in "The Lessons of History," make a special point of discussing the long-term strategic value of morality as a "force" that impacts on the destiny of nations and peoples. The US has lost that part of the battle, for now, and before we can beat Bin Laden, we must first clean our own house and demand that the Saudi's clean theirs or be abandoned as a US ally. Morality matters. Strategic culture matters. On these two counts, Bin Laden is winning for now.
<!--QuoteBegin-rajesh_g+Sep 17 2003, 05:40 AM-->QUOTE(rajesh_g @ Sep 17 2003, 05:40 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--> Prof.S.N.Balagangadhara's book has to be mentioned in this. It is extremely expensive so I would try and get it through inter-library loan system. He has also written a paper available for private distribution - I will have to ask for his permission to redistribute it.

Amazon link for the book

The 'Heathen in His Blindness...': Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion

He has written a couple of articles on Sulekha also .

On Colonial Experience and the Indian Renaissance: A Prolegomenon to a Project

Other must-reads..

Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India by Nicholas Dirks.

Imagining India by Ronald Inden <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Jakob mentioned on yahoo groups that Balu's book will be published by Manohar by the end of this year.

Apart from reading Ronald Inden's book, one should read "Understanding and Imagination: A Critical Note of Halbfass and Inden, by SN Balagangadhara, appeared in Cultural dynamics, Nov 1991" In that article, Balu shows how the said scholars did repeat christian themes in disguiseSmile
<b>vnr1995- change your user name to meet forum directives. It should be some real name with no numbers.</b>
Folks, there were a couple of good books on India's Intelligence Agency R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing.) I can't seem to find the titles / authors right now.

If anyone has some info on them........please.......ASAP!

TIA! <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge
by Bernard S. Cohn

From the Publisher
Bernard Cohn's interest in the construction of Empire as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon has set the agenda for the academic study of modern Indian culture for over two decades. His earlier publications have shown how dramatic British innovations in India, including revenue and legal systems, led to fundamental structural changes in Indian social relations. This collection of his writings in the last fifteen years discusses areas in which the colonial impact has generally been overlooked. The essays form a multifaceted exploration of the ways in which the British discovery, collection, and codification of information about Indian society contributed to colonial cultural hegemony and political control.
Cohn argues that the British Orientalists' study of Indian languages was important to the colonial project of control and command. He also asserts that an arena of colonial power that seemed most benign and most susceptible to indigenous influencesmostly lawin fact became responsible for the institutional reactivation of peculiarly British notions about how to regulate a colonial society made up of "others." He shows how the very Orientalist imagination that led to brilliant antiquarian collections, archaeological finds, and photographic forays were in fact forms of constructing an India that could be better packaged, inferiorized, and ruled. A final essay on cloth suggests how clothes have been part of the history of both colonialism and anticolonialism.

Book Description
Bernard Cohn's interest in the construction of Empire as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon has set the agenda for the academic study of modern Indian culture for over two decades. His earlier publications have shown how dramatic British innovations in India, including revenue and legal systems, led to fundamental structural changes in Indian social relations. This collection of his writings in the last fifteen years discusses areas in which the colonial impact has generally been overlooked. The essays form a multifaceted exploration of the ways in which the British discovery, collection, and codification of information about Indian society contributed to colonial cultural hegemony and political control.

Cohn argues that the British Orientalists' study of Indian languages was important to the colonial project of control and command. He also asserts that an arena of colonial power that seemed most benign and most susceptible to indigenous influences--mostly law--in fact became responsible for the institutional reactivation of peculiarly British notions about how to regulate a colonial society made up of "others." He shows how the very Orientalist imagination that led to brilliant antiquarian collections, archaeological finds, and photographic forays were in fact forms of constructing an India that could be better packaged, inferiorized, and ruled. A final essay on cloth suggests how clothes have been part of the history of both colonialism and anticolonialism.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

The Rag and India..., December 3, 2000
Reviewer: Isabel Mascarenhas from Torres Vedras, A-dos-cunhados Portugal
A very interesting and important book. After reading it, we begin thinking about the Colonial Theater in a different way.This book analyses the interconnections between the Empire and India and the Indian's influences to the Rag. People who studies about these subjects MUST read this book.
Folks, I just finished reading the book "Impressing the whites" by Richard Crasta. Must tell you, it is quite hilarious and a must primer in understanding RxBW [Re-incarnated ex-brown Whites] (his term not mine). <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->

Post a review when you get a chance. Am reading Civilization and Its Enemies - The next stage in History. Good book - review in the link.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->"The subject of this book," says Harris on the opening page, "is forgetfulness." Modern civilization has forgotten how it became civilized in the first place; it isn't knowledgeable of the long period of cultural evolution involved; and it doesn't remember the tremendous amount of labor, cultural and intellectual, that went into the development of civil society. Moreover, modern civilization has forgotten about a category called "the enemy." This concept of the enemy -- someone who is willing to die to kill another -- had been discarded from our moral and political discourse. And that fact, according to Harris, has left modern civilization vulnerable to attack by those who are the enemy of civilized society.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

It's primiarly a US-centric book. What he says applies to India too as the challeges faced are same.
Hi all,

Did anyone read "Being Indian" (by Pavan K Varma) ? How is the book? Any opinions on the author?


The Baburnama:
Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor
Zahiruddin Babur
[translated from the Chaghatay Turkish by Wheeler M. Thackston]
Oxford University Press 1996
A book review by Danny Yee - © 2001 http://dannyreviews.com/
In 1494, at age 12, Babur acceded to an uncertain position as a minor ruler in Fergana, in Central Asia; at his death in 1530 he controlled much of northern India, having founded what would become the "Mughal" empire. As well as covering key historical events, his life story, the Baburnama, offers a fascinating picture of ordinary (aristocratic) life in Islamic Central and South Asia around 1500. It may not be a good starting point for the newcomer to the period, but it shouldn't be restricted to academia, either.
Babur begins by describing the geography of Fergana and some background history. He then recounts his part in the internecine conflicts between the Timurids (descendants of Temür/Tamerlane) over Khurasan, Transoxiana, and Fergana and their loss to the Uzbeks under Shaybani. Initially a puppet of others, used for Timurid legitimacy, Babur gradually became a real leader. His fluctuating fortunes saw him take and lose Samarkand twice; eventually he was forced into a kind of "guerilla" existence in the mountains. In 1504 he left Transoxiana with a few hundred companions, acquired the discontented followers of a regional leader in Badakhshan, and took Kabul. From there he began carving out a domain for himself, in a process combining pillage and state-building.

The story breaks in 1508, with a large lacuna in our manuscripts; it resumes in 1519, when we find Babur solidly established in Kabul and campaigning in and around what is now Pakistan. Matchlocks (not mentioned at all previously) are now in regular use, though restricted to the elite. A more personal change is Babur's fondness for riotous parties and use of both alcohol and the narcotic ma'jun, contrasting with a teetotal youth. After another lacuna the work finishes with the years 1525 to 1529, covering the battle of Panipat, the conquest of Delhi, and the defeat of a Rajput coalition at the battle of Khanua (in which battles artillery played a key role). India was only a consolation prize for Babur, however -- he always compares it unfavourably with Kabul and his beloved Samarkand.

Though Thackston claims it is "the first real autobiography in Islamic literature", the Baburnama contains little personal reflection. Babur is frank and open, but tends to describe actions rather than motivations. The Baburnama does, however, extend far beyond the military and political history summarised above. Babur includes descriptions of many of the places he visits and is interested in flora and fauna and techniques of hunting, fishing, and agriculture; there are also set-piece geographical overviews of Fergana, Transoxiana, and the area around Kabul, as well as a twenty page description of Hindustan. And on a few occasions he describes events at a distance, outside his own direct experience (for example battles between the Persians and the Uzbeks).

A notable feature of the Baburnama is the sheer number of names that appear in it: Babur writes extensively about people, including personal followers he wants to honour as well as more prominent figures. The death of each Timurid sultan, for example, is followed by an obituary covering not just their battles and the events of their reign but their wives, concubines, and children, their leading followers, and the scholars and artists whom they patronised (or just ruled over). Poets and poetry are particularly highly respected: Babur quotes his own and others' verses, and among his youthful exploits he is as proud of a poetic exchange with Mulla Banna'i as of a successful surprise attack that took Samarkand.

This edition of the Baburnama has an attractive selection of colour plates and black and white halftones, mostly from paintings of Babur's time. Thackston's introduction provides some useful background history and context, as well as describing the history of the manuscripts and Western interest in the Baburnama. And his translation is readable and accessible, with notes on linguistic and textual issues and explanations of background information conveniently located in the margins.
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur was the first Mughal, or Mongol, emperor of India. A devoted warrior who fought by the bloodthirsty standards of his time, Babur was also a gifted scholar and ethnographer, and his memoir, The Baburnama--which translator and editor Wheeler Thackston heralds as the first autobiography in Islamic literature--paints a fascinating portrait of the lands he conquered, such as Hindustan: "A strange country. Compared to ours, it is another world. Its mountains, rivers, forests, and wildernesses, its villages and provinces, animals and plants, peoples and languages, even its rain and winds are altogether different." They were different indeed, and we're fortunate to have this beautifully illustrated record of Babur's wonderment at the new places he saw. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
Thackston's work is the first English translation in 70 years of Babur's candid 16th-century autobiography?the earliest known autobiography in Islamic literature. Babur, one of the most significant figures in Indo-Islamic history, was descended from Timur (known in the West as Tamerlane). During the 15th century, Timurid influence on eastern Islamic art and architecture was incalculable. Driven from Timurid lands in eastern Iran and central Asia, Babur established a new domain in northern India.... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description
Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), The Baburnama presents a vivid and extraordinarily detailed picture of life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India during the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. Babur’s honest and intimate chronicle is the first autobiography in Islamic literature, written at a time when there was no historical precedent for a personal narrative—now in a sparkling new translation by Islamic scholar Wheeler Thackston.

This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition includes notes, indices, maps, and illustrations.

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A World Classic, November 28, 2002
Reviewer: "wchseal" ((at present) in Nevada City, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I would compare this extraordinary memoir by an extraordinary man to The Tale of Genji - both of them are "firsts" in their culture. The descendants of Tamerlane were both ruthlessly crafty Central Asian kings and warriors, and ultra refined conoisseurs of art and architecture, poetry, food, gardens, and (alas for them) wine. The Baburnama has it all. To encounter the private thoughts of a great conquerer is a unique experience. The Baburnama is well-written and well translated. It is one of the great treasures of literature, and will give the reader a much better idea why Afghanistan and Central Asia are the way they are.

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Masterpiece, October 27, 2002
Reviewer: Nicola Clarke (Lancashire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, was a truly remarkable man: a soldier and a poet, an inspirational leader with a deep appreciation for the beauties of nature - and a sensitivity that seems striking to us in a warrior of his undoubted stature.

His memoirs are a detailed, entertaining, and highly personal view of a changing world. In leading his followers into northern India, he laid the groundwork for the Mughal Empire, one of the great Islamic powers of the early modern period - and it is this achievement that history primarily remembers him for. Yet the _Baburnama_ shows that there is considerably more to the story than its conclusion.

With unstinting and engaging honesty, Babur talks of his early struggles, his constant setbacks, and his lifelong desire to hold Samarkand, glorious seat of his ancestor Timur (Tamerlane). For Babur, India is only the consolation prize after his failure to reconquer the lands of his birthright; India is rich, yes, astoundingly so, but it is far removed from his fond reminiscences of home. Along the way, reports of skirmishes with his enemies, and the constant betrayals of his allies, share the page with descriptions of local flora and fauna, and fascinating observations on everyday life in the cities and towns that he spends time at - and it is here that the work's true enjoyment lies.

Bear with the initially confusing internecine squabbles of the Central Asian nomads, and you'll be richly rewarded. A comprehensive and compelling insight into both Central Asia at the turn of the sixteenth century, and the day-to-day pressures inherent in the leadership of an empire based on conquest.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

A True King, September 6, 2000
Reviewer: "vivzs" - See all my reviews
Babur was a king in the true sense of the word. His autobiography outlines his feirceness as a warrior as well as his compassion toward the people in his court. Although he lived in a time where one would think there would be little time for introspection, this is exactely what his narrative is: and introspective look at his own life, his shortcomings, his downfalls, his triumphs and tragedies. One is touched by Babur's humbleness, his sensitivity towards some of the most simple of things, and at his sense of awe and appreciation of beauty in the world around him. Although in some ways I prefered the AS Beveridge translation, this is also a wonderful translation with beautiful pictures and notes in the margins to help explain things. Even if you are not normally interested in this type of book, Babur leads you into his world and you are compelled to read on! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

a unique inside view of kingship., May 4, 1999
Reviewer: A reader
In this book we read the thoughts of a man who lived more than 400 years ago and was the founder of one of the great empires of the world. It is remarkable that he found the time to write in so much detail about his experiences yet being so busy defending and building an empire all his life starting from the time he became a king at the age of tweleve. Never before or since do we get such an intimate glimpse at what it means to be a king. It is refreshing to read it today as it must have been then. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title
The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, reviewed by N.S. Rajaram
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->He writes of some Afghan prisoners: <b>Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp.(p 188) How about his tolerance of other religions, especially Hinduism</b>.Here is Babur speaking:Chanderi had been in the daru'l-harb [Hindu rule] for some years and held by Sanga's highest-ranking officer Meidini Rao, with four or five thousand infidels, but in 934 [1527-28], through the grace of God, I took it by force within a ghari or two, massacred the infidels, and brought it into the bosom of Islam ... (p 331) And when in a particularly happy mood, he composed the following poem:<b>For the sake of Islam I became a wanderer;I battled infidels and Hindus.</b>

I determined to become a martyr. Thank God I became a holy warrior. (p 387)And what did he find interesting in India"Hindustan," he wrote, "is a place of little charm. ... The one nice aspect of Hindustan is it is a large country with lots of gold and money."All told, a reading of the Baburnama fails to impress one with the author's charm. He comes across as studious, pragmatic, calculating, and yes, bigoted and cruel, without a touch of warmth or spontaneity in him. He speaks so often, and with obvious glee of having made 'a tower of skulls', that one soon begins to sicken at the expression. It is not hard to see why Babur ki aulad is considered the worst form of abuse in North India. He was beyond dispute a soldier of ability, but his being a 'Prince Charming' is a modern Secularist myth of which one finds not a trace in his own writing.
<b>Napoleon and his Marshalls</b>


<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->At a time when military commanders in Europe were royal princes and dukes, Napoleon's marshals were often the sons of peasants or clerks. And they were usually half the age of their opponents - whom they thrashed soundly with almost monotonous regularity<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

What a book! And what colorful characters! Here are only a few from the book:

Marshall Murat, son of an innkeeper. He was regarded as the greatest cavalry officer in the world and became a Grand-Duke from his military exploits (and also because he had married Napoleon’s sister). He became a Marshall at age 37.

Marshall Augereau, son of working mason. Regarded as the best swordsman in France he had the manners and tongue of a thick-headed buffoon. Napoleon had a low opinion of his strategic abilities but he was considered the best tactician in the French Army. He became a Marshall at age 47.

Marshall Massena, son of a tanner. In military ability he was the best, next only to Napoleon, and he saved France by defeating three armies from his base in Switzerland. His other pursuits were money and women…he amassed 40 million francs by smuggling and looting and successfully chased pretty women until his deathbed! He became a Marshall at age 48.

Marshall Ney, son of a barrel-cooper. The red-headed Franco-German was obsessed by the idea of glory, honor, and sacredness of the battlefield…ideas which were rudely interrupted by Napoleon’s method of not merely defeating but destroying the enemy in a single campaign. He became a Marshall at age 35.

Marshall Soult, son of a lawyer. As great a looter as Massena, he was not wanting in ability. Soult led the French to victory at Austerlitz and wished all his life to be recognized for that effort; unfortunately Austerlitz was regarded as something of a personal triumph by Napoleon himself. He became a Marshall at age 35 and went on to become a Marshall-General of France.

Marshall Bernadotte, son of a lawyer. He was Napoleon’s most hated Marshall, having begun his career by marrying Desiree Clary, who had at that time rejected Napoleon’s advances! Bernadotte was exceptionally kind to enemy civilians all through his career and was elected to by one such group…the Swedes…to be their King! He fought against his own country in the Waterloo campaign. He became a Marshall at age 41.

Marshall Davout, son of an officer. The only Marshall with an aristocratic background, he was considered to be as good as Massena in military warfare. But in personal conduct he was honest and ruthlessly efficient…and he was totally in love with his wife. He became devoted to Napoleon after the Egypt campaign and remained loyal to the very end. Davout became a Marshall at age 34.

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