A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power

'A Problem from Hell. America and the Age of Genocide' by Samantha Power is a piece of nonfiction that won her the Pulitzer prize in 2003. The book is an account of genocide throughout the last century, with a focus on American policy and response in each situation. It details the genocide of Armenians in Turkey, the Jewish holocaust, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Kosovo. It explains American political thinking, policies, and action (or inaction) at each point in time.

The book is hard to read because it reminds the reader of their own passivity while thousands upon thousands of people around the world are being killed brutally. The book is, however, very easy to read in that it is extremely well written. Samantha Power writes in a very engaging manner, and explains the complex geopolitics surrounding each genocidal act very well. For the first time I clearly understood how 'special interests' often define policies in Washington DC. I also gained respect for several politicians who fought for attention toward and a response to genocide out of moral outrage and not for political gains.

While the book bashes American governments (both republican and democrat) for the most part, it is also very interesting (and important) to note that America is often 'damned if it does, damned if it doesn't'. While US world policy needs much improvement, one wonders what other developed nations wait for before they act.

This is obviously a controversial book, and it made me laugh when I realized last week the author is the same Obama aide who called Hillary a monster! Power obviously has strong views on whom she supports. In summary, I would like very much for more Americans to read this book, in order to appreciate the numerous crimes against humanity that occur worldwide, and to appreciate that NO country (including America) is on high moral ground.


chica said...

That is so true, its so important to keep up and try to understand the reasons behind so many policy decisions. This reminds me of another book I want to read, but haven't gotten down to it, Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons.

Swati said...

Oh man that title seems SO intriguing. I don't know how I'll keep up with all these books!

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