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A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Written by Samantha Power

Narrated by Joyce Bean


A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Written by Samantha Power

Narrated by Joyce Bean

ratings:
4.5/5 (27 ratings)
Length:
22 hours
Released:
Apr 12, 2012
ISBN:
9781455879984
Format:
Audiobook

Description

In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power-a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy-asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in A Problem from Hell, a groundbreaking work that tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.

Released:
Apr 12, 2012
ISBN:
9781455879984
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Samantha Power is a Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School. From 2013-2017, Power served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. From 2009-2013, Power served on the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. Power began her career as a journalist, reporting from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School.  Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. She is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World (2008) and The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir (2019), which was named one of the best books of 2019 by the New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, NPR, and TIME. Power earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

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What people think about A Problem From Hell

4.3
27 ratings / 15 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    This book is not for the faint-at-heart. And it's best read when one has the stomach for human tragedy. That said, this is one of the most important books I've read in a very long time. The author, Samantha Power, is the current US Ambassador to the United Nations.

    This is a clear-eyed and impassioned view of some of the 20th Century's most horrific events - those that have cleared the definition of genocide in international law. That story is in itself a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.

    The book is doubly tragic by framing its narrative around the quixotic figures who did what they could against evil - Raphael Lemkin, who fought tirelessly to get the UN Genocide Convention adopted, and died penniless and broken. Senator William Proxmire (D-WI), who stood on the floor of the US Senate every day that it was in session and spoke out to get the US to ratify the Convention (over 3,000 speeches). State Department field officers who put their careers on the line - sometimes destroying those careers entirely - by speaking out about the killings in Cambodia or the genocide against the Kurds in Iraq in the late 1980s. The generals who led UN peacekeeping missions and who were marginalized for demanding the troops and the rules of engagement that would allow them to stop the killing.

    Thank you, Raphael Lemkin. Thank you Peter Galbraith. Thank you Romeo Dallaire. Thank you General Wesley Clark. Thank you Richard Holbrooke. I'll end with a quote from Holbrooke: "If we had bombed those f**kers, as I recommended, Srebrenica would not have happened."
  • (4/5)
    Ugh. Deep journalism and sledgehammer history. If you want to see America's (lack of) response over and over and over again to genocide across the globe, read this one. It's not easy to read because it's not a pretty picture.
  • (5/5)
    Amazingly detailed and every detail significant. A thoroughly engaging and informative work.
  • (1/5)
    This whole book is written as though Power was not at the helm of power making decisions about US foreign policy. No mention of Yemen, a saudi led atrocity, supported by her state department.

    This reads like the work of the zodiac killer
  • (5/5)
    Terrific - you will learn a ton about the history of genocide in the 20th century from this book.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book was a serious, but very easy to understand, read. I say it was tough, but it is not necessarily the writing, more the subject matter. It is hard to read about genocide no matter how nicely it is written about.

    I thought this book was a great overview of how US foreign policy has reacted to genocide in the last century, and how each subsequent crisis has shaped how we look at the future. It was well written and worth all the time I spent reading it.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    Great work, full of references. But The last chapters feel rushed and full of personal anecdotes. Furthermore there's a general feeling, specially in the last chapter (conclusion), of the author's trying to justify interventionism for each and every case.
  • (3/5)
    Genocide and America’s lack of response to it from the Turks killing the Kurds onwards (with not much about the Holocaust—while it’s the point of comparison, it’s also almost unaddressable on its own terms in this book). Power argues that American policy has in fact been a success, in that American policy has been to ignore genocides whenever possible. She documents that the same arguments always pop up—we don’t know for sure what’s going on, we couldn’t do anything anyway, if we intervened we’d make it worse—and argues that in many cases more aggressive policies could have done some good. That’s the weakest part of the book, in part because there’s so little evidence of any strong power taking military or military-lite action and actually stopping a genocide. (For some instances, she argues, economic threats could’ve worked, or even un-carried-out threats of military action, but again she doesn’t have much to go on.) As a catalog of unredressed atrocities treated as problems of political management, it’s depressing in a completely different way than Generation Kill, although that book possibly works as an argument against her proposal for more aggressive actions.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    There are, I suspect, a lot of people out there who'd accuse Samantha Power of taking an excessively negative view of American foreign policy. Of course, I also suspect that most of those people would never sit down with "A Problem from Hell" in the first place, to say nothing of getting through its five-hundred pages. This book is, in a certain sense, a gigantic refutation of the notion that the United States is "the world's policeman" or that it constantly goes out of its way to defend the defenseless. Power makes her argument carefully and at length: from the legal and linguistic origins of the concept of genocide to verbatim accounts from victims, perpetrators, and bystanders, "A Problem From Hell" is skillfully sourced and meticulously written. It often makes for tough reading, though, and many American readers may end up sharing the author's sense of outrage when she considers what the U.S. government could have done differently in order to avert some of the human tragedies that took place during the last half of the twentieth century. "A Problem from Hell" isn't just dry policy analysis, though. Power also investigates how outsiders react to the fact of genocide, paying particular attention to defense mechanisms that policy makers tend to use to deny its existence or justify not having to do much to stop it, and its these analyses that might make it really useful. Power wants to let her readers know that genocides are neither uncommon nor wholly unpredictable: they can, according to this account be stopped -- or at least slowed down -- by acute observation and decisive action. If genocide is a permanent feature of our modern age, though, it's also important to realize that most of our modern institutions are not terribly well equipped to deal with it. "A Problem From Hell" is, in some ways, less a criticism of past American foreign policies than an attempt to point out the shortcomings of the institutions that could conceivably halt the next genocide before all that's left for us to do is provide aid to the survivors and to tally the dead. Apparently, Ms. Power has gone on to bigger and better things in the Obama administration since she won the Pulitzer for "A Problem from Hell." Her own descriptions of political infighting and bureaucratic negligence make it seem unlikely that this, in itself, means that the American government has made the halting of genocide a genuine priority. Even so, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of important people read her book. Here's hoping that someday, some historian can honestly tell us that it made a real difference.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I read this book so long ago (was it actually 2005...good lord) that I can't say much about it. I remember being pretty moved by it, and that it changed my mind about the Clinton presidency. Highly recommended for those interested in foreign relations, human history, and the immense suffering we seem determined to inflict on each other.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    One of the most important books on genocide. Samantha Power gives us a damning account of America's indifference and apathy in some of the world's worst mass murders.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I read this book shortly after its 2/02 publication and it was so powerful that I was hell-bent on the US just once taking out a dictator. This led to my initial support of what later became our very misguided misadventure in Iraq. I was wrong about Iraq. The US simply didn't know how to do it right. Now I worry, based on that debacle, that we will spend another hundred years allowing genocides to occur unabated and without intervention.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Read this and be prepared to feel very very angry. Ample demonstration of the utter hypocrisy of American foreign policy and that nation's willingness to condemn thousands to death, through inaction, when it suits American interests. A great, powerful and important book.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This is an awesome book by anyone's standards. The sheer volume of eighty six pages of notes and attributes should be a warning to the reader of the immense depth of research to which the author, Samantha Power, went to in producing this exceptional work of over 500 pages. The core of the book, the use of the word GENOCIDE to describe the many atrocities around the world, is a fascinating insight into the life of the man who coined the word in the first place. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew, lived from 1900-1959 - not long enough to see his almost lifelong work finally achieve recognition by the United States in 1984. It is small wonder that Samantha Power has won so many awards for this work, and for anyone with an interest in the subject this book is an absolute must, and a gripping read.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    In this intense and moving book Power explores America's role, or lack there of, in the genocides of the recent century, spanning from 1920 Armenia, through 1999 Kosovo. Wonderfully detailed, but intriguing accounts of America's response to genocide around the globe. There are occasional graphic stories; sixteen year old reading and up. Especially interesting opinions from Elie Wiesel.