By Jason Criss Howk
16 February 2019
Dispatches from Pinehurst now offers #shortBookReviews for you. These reviews will be concise and hopefully useful…no author critiquing, no opining on the shortcomings of the book, no literature reviews of similar books on the topic.
These reviews serve a simple purpose: to tell you what is in the book and why you might want to read it. All books selected for review are recommended reading…I’m not reviewing books just because they are new, but instead because they are valuable.
Some of these books challenged me and changed my thinking during my life—I hope they can help you. Some taught me about issues I didn’t understand and others highlighted how great leaders make challenging decisions that shape history. Maybe most importantly, many books give examples of humans that disagree on policy issues (domestic and foreign) but work wisely with their ideological opponents to find solutions.
I hope you enjoy these reviews, and welcome your suggested books for review or your own short book reviews for publication here on DFP. email@example.com
If you want to understand the Cold War, look no farther. This examination of the lives of Kennan and Nitze will walk you through every major event of this era. Thompson’s book made such an impact on me a few years back that I made it my textbook for my college Introduction to International Relations course. It is short, teaches complex topics in short entertaining chunks, and most importantly for my young students…remember-able.
By studying the two lives of these policy makers during the length of the Cold War you learn how Policy is made (and undone) and what the foreign policy tool box can hold.
The best lesson is that members of the foreign policy establishment can and should vigorously disagree at work, but they should also remain friends and never stop sharing ideas with each other. America is stronger together and yet group think is usually the predecessor to failed policy decisions.
I think this book serves as a warning to neither subscribe to optimism bias or pessimism bias, but to be realistic long-term thinker when working on foreign affairs. There are many foreign policy tools and the proportion in which we employ them is different for every problem…and there is no proven solution or mixture.
Political science is an art, not a science at all. Science requires variables that react the same in every test so we can develop laws about how they can be combined—yet the most critical foreign policy variable is the human being—it never reacts the same because every human is unique and can react anyway it wants to in every experiment and environment. History can guide us but it’s not a prophet. Learn to experiment and gather valuable insights…fill your own toolbox and develop rules of thumb.
artwork Pat Dowden
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