European Affairs

(Some of the books mentioned here will be the subject of more extensive treatment in reviews or articles in forthcoming issues of European Affairs.)

The Foundation: A Great American Secret
By Joel L. Fleishman, Public Affairs, 2007, 341 pages

Foundations are a largely American phenomenon and they matter. Spending $32 billion per year, they spur the economy and philanthropy in America – and the world. For over a century they have been a dynamo of social change. This groundbreaking book pierces some of the obscurity that often prevails on the subject, tells the story of some of the most successful initiatives and explains why foundations may be changing the world.


Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World
By Andrew Wilson, Yale University Press, 2005, 352 pages

Foreign Affairs had this description of this book. “By fair means or foul (mostly foul), regimes throughout the post-Soviet region have mastered the art of simulated democratic politics, replete with fake political parties, spectral politicians, illusory competition, and manipulated outcomes. Because real authoritarianism is not within their reach, those in charge resort to various exotica ("administrative measures," "invented opposition," "clone parties," and the like). Wilson dissects their ploys, tactics, and tricks, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.


Making History: The State of the European Union (Vol. 8)
By Sophie Meunier and Kathleen McNamara, Oxford University Press, USA, 2007, 352 pages

This volume argues that the EU today may be at a crossroads - not because of the failed constitutional referendum but rather because of the unresolved tensions in European governance not banished with the referendum’s defeat. This collection offers case studies to analyze the past and future political and institutional trajectory of the European Union across a wide variety of policy areas.


Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl
By Steven Bach, Alfred A. Knopf Press, 2007, 400 pages

This is the definitive biography of Leni Riefenstahl, the woman best known as “Hitler’s filmmaker.” It is told by a man who has been great experience in the world of high-powered film-making in Hollywood. He recounts the tale of this woman driven to be an artist – dancer, actress, director, photographer among the Nuba in Africa and then in the coral reefs when she became a scuba diver at 80. Making her movies, she turned a blind eye to Nazism’s crimes. This book grippingly portrays the cost of her obsessions.


By Thérèse Delpech, Grasset& Fasquelle, 2005, 366 pages

This important French strategic thinker argues that a return to horror in world affairs could be in store. She cites three major problems that dominate the outlook. Islamic terrorism will pursue its targets doggedly into developed countries. Weapons of mass destruction are liable to proliferate. China, flexing new power, may be tempted to annex Taiwan – for bad historical reasons but strong strategic ones. Western countries, France included, are complacent in their materialism, according to the newspaper LeMonde.


The Transatlantic Economy: An Annual Survey of Jobs, Trade and Investment between the United States and Europe
By Daniel S. Hamilton and Joseph P. Quinlan, Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2006, 113 pages

This annual survey - by the Center for Transatlantic Relations, John Hopkins University, in Washington -- is a compelling, authoritative analysis of the unmatched scale and density of economic ties between nations (and regions) on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Some of its findings are often cited, but the book seems inexhaustible in its detailed breakdown of this unique global bond. Despite talk about the rise of China and India, their importance is far from matching the bilateral economic bonds of the United States and Europe, which have only grown stronger this decade.


On The Wealth of Nations
By P.J. O’Rourke, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006, 256 pages

“The Wealth of Nations” is, without a doubt, a book that changed the world. But it has been taking its time. Two-hundred thirty-one years after publication, Adam Smith’s practical truths are only beginning to be absorbed in full. And where practical truths are most important – amid counsels of the European Union, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, British Parliament, and American Congress – the lessons of Adam Smith end up as often sunk as sinking in.”


Le Coq et la Perle
By Sylvie Goulard, Editions du Seuil, 2007, 184 pages

France has diverted from the vision of Europe’s founding fathers, demonstrating many contradictions, incoherence and a manifest sense of superiority. In the country of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, rare are French politicians that think and act as a European. No one seems to feel responsible for the common good. Current challenges to the EU are however temporary and reversible. Europe must refocus itself following the communitarian spirit.


Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews
By David Pryce-Jones, Encounter Books, 2006, 171 pages

A scathing tract accusing the Quai d'Orsay in pushing French foreign policy away from Israel and toward a pro-Arab policy. The book lays bare the French Foreign Ministry's historical susceptibility to anti-Semitism and delusions about France's appeal to the Muslim world. Elegantly written, the book overestimates the role of France's diplomats in charting French foreign policy, especially in an era of presidential-style government since General de Gaulle. But it captures an irony that French ambitions to be a "Muslim power" seem to have boomeranged with the emergence of a threatening Muslim under-class inside France.


Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Basic Books, 2007, 234 pages

Brzezinski is often said to be the foreign-policy guru of Barack Obama, the main Democratic presidential challenger to Hillary Clinton. At 78, Brzezinski asks whether the United States can reclaim its position of world leadership. It can, Brzezinski says, if the next president moves beyond the U.S. emphasis on the ideology of free markets and democracy. U.S. leadership, Brzezinski writes, requires a new "instinctive grasp of the spirit of the times in a multi-cultural world that is stirring, interactive, and motivated by a vague but pervasive sense of prevailing injustice in the human condition."


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number 8, Issue number 2-3 in the Summer/Fall of 2007.