Since Alex La Guma passed away in 1985, his name has generally faded from public memory, at least in the Western world. Yet during his lifetime, La Guma was a well-regarded novelist, short-story writer, and South African anti-apartheid activist.
Christine Hong’s marvelous book, A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific, arrives at a time when Washington’s Indo Pacific Strategy is driving U.S. political, economic, and military confrontation in the Asia-Pacific, as the culmination of a long process that began in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.Read More »
Review: The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66, by Geoffrey B. Robinson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018. Cloth, pp 429.
Half a million people killed and more than a million imprisoned and tortured; the tragedy that befell Indonesia in 1965 was among the more dramatic moments in 20th-century history. It is also one of the most ignored. After more than half a century, Geoffrey B. Robinson’s new book is the first comprehensive history to appear in the English language.
Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom, by Stephen Gowans. Montreal: Baraka Books, 2018. Paper, $24.95, pp 270
The release of Stephen Gowans’s superb new book could not be better timed. With the Korean Peninsula on the potential brink of major change, looking to Western mainstream media for reasoned analysis is a fool’s errand. Gowans provides a valuable service in filling that gap by situating Korea in its historical context, while making no compromise with received opinion or resorting to lazy formulations.
The war in Syria, mainstream media tell us, is a simple story, with a brutal dictator on one side and freedom-loving rebels on the other. Into this mix, the Islamic State has inserted itself, while the benevolent United States must intervene to rescue the Syrian people. U.S. involvement in Syria, motivated by altruism, the story goes, arose in direct response to events in 2011.
This view is as fanciful as it is notable for its myopic self-regard.
In Washington’s Long War on Syria, Stephen Gowans dismantles the official story, myth by myth, and provides the context without which it would be impossible to understand events.
America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity, by Campbell Craig and Fredrik Logevall. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009. $26.95; paper, $18.95, Pp. 439
U.S. foreign policy in the post-World War II era has been notable for its militarism, with the United States embroiled in a more or less permanent state of war coupled with military spending that now exceeds that of the rest of the world combined. How this came to be is the question that Craig and Logevall set out to answer in America’s Cold War.
For nearly a century, baseball players were chained to their teams through contracts that included a reserve clause, under which a player was not free to sell his services to another team once his contract had expired. Only two options were open: a player could either sign another contract with the same team, or he could retire. The effect of this arrangement was to hold player salaries down.
In 1922, in a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the reserve clause did not violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. Baseball was a game, not a business, the Court averred and as such it was exempt from anti-trust laws. So firmly entrenched did the reserve clause become as a result of this decision, that baseball fans can be forgiven for thinking that no serious challenge had been mounted prior to Curt Flood’s legal battle in 1970 and the arbitration decision five years later that ruled Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally free-agents.
Any time that a book appears by Bruce Cumings, one of our foremost scholars on Korea, it merits attention. His latest book, The Korean War, is particularly welcome given the recent sharp increase in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The past informs the present, and perhaps nowhere is that more so than in the case of the two Koreas. While South Korea has changed dramatically since the advent of democracy, it is still the case that relations between the two Koreas continue to be influenced by the war.