I highly, HIGHLY recommend David Sanger’s book “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power.” Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times, really helps you understand the dynamics in dealing with various countries. We hear lots of posturing from political pundits on cable news, with simplistic, hardline answers to world issues. Sanger takes us behind the scenes, where we see nuance in all its complex varieties.
The book is divided into 8 parts, with 2-4 chapters in each part. The first five parts deal with a specific country.
A couple themes emerge:
- In every chapter, we see how America was unduly distracted by Iraq. We lost opportunity after opportunity because all of our focus was on Iraq.
- Dick Cheney’s hardline influence dominated US foreign policy during the first six years of the Bush Administration.
- During his last two years in office, George Bush, having marginalized Dick Cheney, began getting a lot of things right. But in most cases, it was too late.
Part 1: Iran. The first chapter is a fascinating look at Iran’s nuclear program and its efforts to build The Bomb. There is a lot of spycraft here, as America (and other countries) tried to learn what exactly Iran was up to. And there were some incredible breakthrough. When it comes to electronic intelligence-gathering, the USA is GOOD.
Sanger also tells stories about Ahmadinijad which show what an idiot the Iranian president truly is.
Part 2: “Afghanistan: How the Good War Went Bad.”
Part 3: “Pakistan: How do You Invade an Ally?” These chapters explain the double-dealing deceptions of Musharaff, the political and religious complexities of this country, and how Pakistan is obsessed with threats from India. We learn much about Pakistan’s nuclear program–how its weapons are secured, and how nuclear technology was given to other countries.
The chapters tell about numerous diplomatic missions from the US, as we attempted to keep the regime on track and nudge them in certain directions. Sanger tells about US Special Forces attacks into Pakistan, and how the current regime is seriously threatened by its own internal Taliban.
Part 4: North Korea: The Nuclear Renegade that Got Away.” This section begins with the story of the Syrian nuclear installation that Israel destroyed in 2007. It was being built by North Koreans right next door to Iraq–but we didn’t know about it. Israel, on the other hand, had pictures from inside the facility. This section mostly illuminates the failed approach of the Bush Administration.
Part 5: “China: New Torch, Old Dragons.” This is a fascinating look at modern-day China. While we were bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, China was gobbling up and investing in resources throughout the rest of the world, especially in Africa. It’s a bit worrisome.
Part 6: “The Three Vulnerabilities.” Sanger goes deep in explaining how the US is vulnerable to nuclear attack, biological attack, and cyber-attack (triggering economic collapse). These are scary chapters.
The book represents excellent reporting, with behind-the-scenes stuff none of us have heard about before (and never will hear about on shallow cable news). If you really want to understand these countries, and the complexities of US foreign policy in dealing with them, I highly recommend “The Inheritance.”