So OftenBen and I were having a discussion about how "the flame of rebellion" isn't necessarily a "youth thing" so much as it's an "imprudence thing" and I opined that, basically, the world does not run in a democratic fashion. Voting is nice and all, but the world is run by appointees, ambassadors, field agents and mid-level bureaucrats who care very little for congress, presidents, or anything on the Hill so long as they continue to get their money.
I threatened Ben with a reading list. He called my bluff. It is listed below.
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A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Not just for Good Will Hunting. Zinn is definitely an agitator but he makes a point to outline all the failed rebellions crushed by the establishment in the name of the American Dream: Why we celebrate MLK Day instead of Malcolm X Day, the Socialist movement of Washington State, how racism created the San Fernando Valley.
The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis. Gaddis lays out the basic fact that the past 100 years were about two warring ideologies that ground themselves to nubs against each other while the rest of the world picked something in the middle. It's not that the US won the Cold War, it's that we lost last.
The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War and its Dangerous Legacy by David Hoffman. Hoffman won a Pulitzer for this one. It's not just about Perimeter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Hand_(nuclear_war) ), the Soviets' still-functioning suicide switch on Armageddon. It's the first book to really explore the Russian decline from world power to kleptocracy, from the ascension of Andropov to the shelling of Yeltsin's Kremlin (and Western roles in it).
Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer. Hawaii is a state because of a coup. The Panama Canal isn't the Nicaragua Canal because someone rich had land to sell. Why, exactly, the Iranians are 100% in the right for hating the fuck out of the United States. And more!
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. This was an mk recommendation and I wholeheartedly second it. Basically outlines, in gripping terms, how a calcified alliance system and the crumbling remnants of the Hapsburgs brought about unconditional European annihilation despite everyone's best intentions. On a related note -
Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour also by Barbara Tuchman. If you've ever wanted to know "why Israel" this book will tell you. It's not what you think.
Similarly, Paris 1919: 6 months that changed the world You learned the Treaty of Versailles. You took a test on it. And you didn't realize that it was a British-American ploy to remake the world in their own image, for their own advantage, and that every Western conflict since traces its roots to what was or was not settled when Germany was beat back and the Ottomans expired.
Speaking of "Ottomans" and "Palestine", let's bring this back to current adventures:
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA paints an incomplete but fascinating portrait of everything we've done in the world since WWII that you don't know about. The Cold War was a Hot War for a select group of Americans, and a lot of them are dead. Tim Weiner's book ends shortly after 9/11 and paints a portrait of a stumbling, incompetent, overbureaucratized agency left castrated and defenseless by an angry Congress, which, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know is complete bullshit. Along those lines, See No Evil by Robert Baer is a great inside perspective on how secret wars are conducted, and illustrates pretty cleanly the point that we hate Iran because the CIA fucked the Iranians over so the Iranians got back at the CIA (not exactly the United States) through Hizbollah through much of the '80s. Seen Syriana? Robert Baer was played by George Clooney.
Excellent companions to See No Evil are Charlie Wilson's War and Ghost Wars Charlie Wilson's War explains how we threw gasoline on the spark of global jihad in order to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan while Ghost Wars documents how the spark turned into a conflagration. The larger contexts of this particular pickle are laid out well in
The Fight for Jerusalem and Hatred's Kingdom by Dore Gold, paired with How to Win A Cosmic War and No God But God by Reza Aslan. Dore Gold is the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He's published by Regnery. He does not fuck around and lays out the case that Wahabi Islam, as practiced in Saudi Arabia, is the direct cause of global jihad and terrorism. To quote Bernard Lewis,
- "Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan gets total control of the state of Texas,” Lewis told Princeton’s Alumni Weekly. “And the Ku Klux Klan has at its disposal all the oil rigs in Texas. And they use this money to set up a well-endowed network of colleges and schools throughout Christendom, peddling their peculiar brand of Christianity. You would then have an approximate equivalent of what has happened in the modern Muslim world.”
Reza Aslan, on the other hand, is an Islamic apologist. He makes the point that the entire muslim world isn't crazy but there is a lunatic fringe (that will eventually die out as the world becomes more modern). Of course, Robert Baer disagrees "Sleeping with the Devil" and "Hatred's Kingdom" dovetail to a disturbing degree.
I don't know how many books that is, but the only one that contains anything related to "voting" is Charlie Wilson's War, and that only as appropriations in secret by elected representatives with no responsibility to constituents whatsoever. The closest any of these books get to political involvement by the average citizen is when the voters in Charlie Wilson's conservative Texas district choose to re-elect him, despite a scandal involving Vegas, hookers and blow.