Category Archives: International Relations

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

I haven’t been interested in reading any of former President Jimmy Carter’s books.

And this Nobel Peace Prize winner has written a lot of books:

I didn’t know that he wrote not just non-fiction but also a book of poetry and a children’s book. And that doesn’t even include the books that he’s written prefaces, forewords or introductions for!

But the one I’m considering reading now is Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I remember reading a less than glowing New York Times review of this book in January 2007 not long after this book came out.

Obviously the publisher thinks much more highly of this book; here’s what the publisher has to say about this book:

President Carter, who was able to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, has remained deeply involved in Middle East affairs since leaving the White House. He has stayed in touch with the major players from all sides in the conflict and has made numerous trips to the Holy Land, most recently as an observer in the Palestinian elections of 2005 and 2006.

In this book President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy, and the international “road map” for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel’s official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal of a just agreement that both sides can honor.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is a challenging, provocative, and courageous book.

Having read Queen Noor’s Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, I’d like to learn more about Israeli-Palestinian history and politics and I’m interested in reading Carter’s Palestine because I suspect that it tells a different side of the story than we normally hear in the United States.

That this book has sparked much uproar makes me think that this is an important book to read — whether or not it is accurate.

Click here to view the table of contents or click here to read an excerpt.

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Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome?

Cullen Murphy’s Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America is definitely worth reading, particularly if your knowledge of Roman history is lacking (click here to view all my posts about this book).

I don’t know enough about Roman history to properly evaluate the points Murphy makes but I still found it interesting. Murphy writes for the average person and not the highly educated scholar.

Murphy is clearly well-read and appears to have done substantial research for this book. I was surprised by how often he mentioned other books. Some of the books he mentioned are:

The breadth of Murphy’s sources is astonishing. He even quoted video games such as Rome: Total War and several movies — including Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Gladiator, and Spartacus.

I found that I enjoyed this book immensely at the start but found my interest wavering as I got further into the book. But Murphy concludes this book rather succinctly with what he calls the “Titus Livius 100-year Workout Plan”:

  1. Instill an appreciation of the wider world, including creation of immigration-friendly policies and an increase in the number of Americans who are fluent in another language.
  2. Stop treating government as a necessary evil and instead rely on it proudly for the big things it can do well.  Examples include nurturing business, reducing poverty, Social Security, and guaranteed student loans.
  3. Fortify the institutions that promote assimilation (public services for illegal immigrants).
  4. Take some weight off the military and national service.

I wonder what Murphy thinks of the current financial crisis….hmm….

Click here to read an excerpt from Are We Rome? or click here to view the table of contents.

Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy

With the upheaval in the financial markets these past few weeks, it’s been especially interesting to read Cullen Murphy’s Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (click here to view all my posts about this book). I had high expectations for this book and I have not been disappointed.

Murphy begins by telling readers how the Roman emperor Diocletian and his imperial entourage can be easily compared to President George W. Bush and his entourage:

  • mensores: advance men who requisition supplies and arrange for security
  • protectores: imperial bodyguards / secret service
  • comitatus: caravan / all people in the Executive Office of the President
  • pragustatores: food-tasters / undercover agents who purchase food supplies anonymously at American supermarkets
  • nomenklatura: name-callers of emperor’s visitors
  • haurs pices: oracles who interpret entrails of sheep
  • augurs: oracles who interpret the flight of birds

He also explained that the thumbs-down sign originated from the gladiatorial turned thumb sign “pollice verso” before eventually summarizing the six parallels between Rome and America that Murphy focuses his book on:

  1. How Americans see America, particularly how those in Washington view Washington itself.
  2. Military power: the shortage of manpower and the widening cultural and social divide between military social and civilian society.
  3. Privatization” (and “corruption”) and the fading distinction between public and private responsibilities and resources.
  4. How Americans view the world.
  5. Borders.
  6. The inevitable complexity that comes with being a large empire/country.

I’ll write more after I get further along, but in the meantime thought I would share this typical George W. Bush quote that Murphy used to illustrate the consolidation of power in the executive branch that has happened in the past 8 years:

I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain¬† . . . . I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.

Click here to read an excerpt or click here to view the table of contents.