Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (A New Republic book)” as Want to Read:
A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (A New Republic book)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (A New Republic book)

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  6,160 ratings  ·  378 reviews
A character-driven study of some of the darkest moments in our national history, when America failed to prevent or stop 20th-century campaigns to exterminate Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians, and Rwandans .
Kindle Edition, 640 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Problem From Hell, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Problem From Hell

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Samantha Power's 'A Problem from Hell' is a broad attempt to document the major acts of genocide/human rights violations of the 20th century paired with the international community's subsequent negligence in each case. She reports on the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and especially her major areas of research- Rwanda and Serbia.

However, Powers is content to simply recount major instances of crimes against humanity that the U.S. and other major Western powers simply ignored (a worthy histori
A passionate, but incomplete look at the problems of genocide and intervention. Argues that political quagmires and mismanagement lead to a lack of intervention in times of humanitarian necessity, leading to disaster. Her own experience is with the Balkans and Rwanda, and these chapters are easily the best in the book.

It is one thing to recognize and stop evil. It is another to fight apathy, which the author fights with all her might.

The greatest omission, and one which is only too relevant, is
This is a difficult book to read. Both for its content and length. Most books about genocide are difficult, so this is no surprise. I have read extensively about the Armenian Genocide (Meds Yeghern), and the Shoah, or Holocaust of European Jews. These parts of the book added little to my knowledge. But, the rest of the book was very informative and distressing, relaying the stories of genocide after the world had declared "Never again"!
These were the stories of the Cambodian, Kurdish, Bosnian, R
I have a lot of complaints and very few positive remarks about this book. I'll start with the little good: I enjoyed the biographical information about Raphael Lemkin. That said, there are many other more in-depth books about him out there that could tell an even fuller story.

The majority of this book, however, was a hollow argument for the superiority of liberal interventionism. The structure of each case study goes like this: a genocide started; the US MAY have borne some blame for the conditi
Samantha Power's excellent history of American responses to genocide in the 20th-century is a very enlightening and very depressing story of moral failure. It follows the story of genocide from the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 through the Jewish Holocaust 30 years later, and on to the Khmer-Rouge sponsored killing fields in Cambodia in the late '70s, the mass murder of Iraqi Kurds by Saddam's government in the late '80s, the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides in the early and mid '90s and ending wi ...more
Samantha Power has written a very well-researched book profiling cases of genocide in the 21st century (in Turkey, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, Balkans, Srebrenica, and Kosovo). Powers descibed the crusade taken on by numerous heroic individuals to avert genocide (none of whom I had previously heard of), such as Raphael Lemkin, William Proxmire, Henry Morgenthau, and James Kenneth Galbraith.

Power not only describes the recognition and responses to genocide in each of the case studies p
Тільки лінивий не сміявся над риторикою глибокої стурбованості, серйозного занепокоєння і постійної тривоги, до якої вдається міжнародна спільнота замість того, щоб завдати хоч якусь користь. Втім, багатьом із нас ні з чим порівнювати - скажімо, я не відстежувала реакцію цієї спільноти на інші трагедії. Тож для перспективи я з інтересом прочитала «A Problem from Hell” Саманти Пауер - тієї Саманти Пауер, яку ми всі ніжно любимо, постпредставниці США.
Свою кар'єру Саманта Пауер починала як журналіс
Samantha Power gives a compelling account of the twentieth century history of genocide and American responses (largely non-responses) to this horrendous evil. She covers a sobering reality with a journalists skill of both careful documentation and rendering a riveting narrative.

She begins with the life of Rafael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent who became fascinated at the crimes against humanity wrought by the Turks against Armenians in World War 1. Fleeing Poland when he recognizes th
Grinding, grueling, exhausting account of a series of genocides and the United States's response – or generally lack thereof.

Other people have criticized this book at length for failing to address the ways the United States was actively complicit in genocidal violence through support of its perpetrators. The criticism is accurate, though I think it's a product of the focus of this book very specifically on passive complicity.

I had read excerpts of this over the years, and I'm glad I finally sat
In "Dress to Kill", Eddie Izzard says:
But there were other mass murderers that got away with it! Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, well done there; Pol Pot killed 1.7 million Cambodians, died under house arrest at age 72, well done indeed! And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people, and we're sort of fine with that. ... Hitler killed people next door... “Oh... stupid man!” After a couple of years, we won't stand for that, will we?
I thought of
Your first reaction to seeing this title is probably “Alex, why on earth would I ever read a 500+ page nonfiction book about genocide? What a downer…” And you’re right. It is a downer. Published in 2002, Samantha Power, a former journalist, human rights activist, and Harvard professor, later a chief foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, and recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations -- this book focuses specifically on America’s responses to the genocides of the twentieth century ...more
The excruciating detail with which Power researched an assembled this book is evident from page one. It is an impressive work, worthy of the prizes it has received. Power's intense analytical scrutiny lays bare many of the decisions and motivations behind America's troubling ability to turn a blind eye to important humanitarian situations where we deem there is no "national interest." It is an important book, though tremendously disheartening.

My only problem with this book, if it can be called t
This book really consists of two parts. One is a documentation of the birth and evolution of the concept of "genocide" during the 20th century. Power's access to documentation and powerful players in international affairs gives her unique insight into the issue. The chapters on the Armenian genocide in Turkey are especially timely given the still ongoing denial of this historical atrocity.

However, this is all ultimately used in support of an insidious agenda dressed up in humanitarian language.
Kelly Rincon
Probably the most well-researched book I have ever read. A shocking, thorough account of genocide in the 20th century, and America's response. Power is obviously against genocide, but refreshingly balanced in her perspective and the picture she paints. She provides context for each instance of genocide, and a detailed chronology of when people knew what and how decisions were made. It really shows just how difficult it is making decisions in government leadership, but also manages to reveal some ...more
Aug 06, 2008 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Every American should read this book twice! It is exceptionally well written, well researched, and unbelievably compelling. It explains the history of America's place in international law and polics from the Armenian genocide of WWI to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It tells the compelling personal stories of those involved on the international stage, and behind the scenes. This book is exceptionally well balanced. It neither praises nor villifies the United States. Rather, its purpose is to in ...more
Not easy to read, but essential reading for everyone: just to take the atrocities of this century and to look at them one after another is beyond words and an amazing accomplishment. She started as a journalist and now is the US Ambassador to the UN. I really appreciate how careful she was to portray in wonderful detail the heroes in this story of genocide, because when you read the book, the depression induced by it can only be mitigated by the men and woman who never gave up their quests to na ...more
I tend to get really depressed in the winter, and this year I just thought well.... why not?
Ah, the book about genocide I've had sitting on my book shelf for 7 years! Finally read it. Samantha Power does a thorough job of detailing the history of genocide in the 20th Century, along with explaining the evolution of the concept of genocide in the global consciousness. She pays special attention to the role that America has played (or in most cases, not played) in responding to genocide around the world. The moral of the story: America usually does nothing because doing nothing is politic ...more
It's a well documented and informed review of all the genocides of the last century and the role the U.S. played in all of them, mostly as a silent witness turning a blind eye when it was happening. Even helping economically those who were commiting it. It's chilling to read what humans are capable of doing to other fellow beings. But it's more astonishing to see that the rest of the world didn't care at all! As Ortega y Gasset said, the worst crime is not commited by those who kill, but by thos ...more
Samantha Power gives a well selected, episodic history of genocide in the twentieth century, a history of the development of the term "genocide" and, most importantly the sorry record of the United States in not intervening into situations in which hundreds of thousands or millions of innocent people were killed based solely on their religion, ethnicity or nationality. She is most convincing in showing how the administration in power will always oppose intervention in humanitarian disasters and ...more
Elizabeth Trundle
One piece of the picture: a bizarre and destructive mental state in which people are able to know, and at the same time not know, about something evil that is happening

An example: Power describes an official in the United States government. In 1942, this official had a face-to-face interview with Jan Karski, a Polish activist who had witnessed, firsthand, the crimes of the German state against Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. Karski reported that he saw, for example, the murder of pregnant women, and
Certainly a groundbreaking and seminal work in genocide policy work, even read over a decade after its release.

The book gives you a primer in the history of international law, then spends the bulk of the text on a series of case study-esque sections on genocides in the last 100 years, including both international and domestic American factors that led to the United States failing to take effective action in most cases.

It's obvious that Bosnia and Kosovo are the two conflicts Power feels closest
If there was ever a book I would make required reading for all heads of state and government leaders, this would be that book. Despite making much-vaunted claims of 'never again' when speaking of the Holocaust, Power shows that America and the West has indeed allowed genocide to occur, over and over again - in Iraq, in Bosnia, in Cambodia, in Rwanda. Only once has the West intervened to prevent genocide from occuring, in Kosovo, and then only largely because the world had already seen Milosevic ...more
Fascinating, passionate, and damning in equal measure, A Problem from Hell is an indictment against the prevailing attitudes in the USA (and much of the west) towards genocide throughout the twentieth century. From the Turkish massacres of the Armenians, through to the Serbian butchery in Kosovo, Power examines the ways in which American politicians have paid lip-service to opposing genocide, while failing to act for reasons of political expediency. As Power writes: "No US President has ever mad ...more
Ariel Shalev
Interesting, well researched, and eye opening. A great peek into american foreign policy for someone who is not so politically savvy. awfully repetitive - not the authors fault that history repeats itself but still, the book gets slow towards the end. Lots of characters that come and go and are hard to keep track of. Great book to skim but maybe not necessary to read in depth unless this is a topic you are trying to educate yourself on.
Very readable book mainly about USA foreign policy failures when it comes to genocide. Looks at the Armenian Genocide, Hitler's final solution, the Khmer Rouge, Hussein extermination of Kurds, Burundi's Hutu massacre by Tutsis, Rwanda's Tutsi massacre by Hutus, Serbian massacres of Bosnian muslims and others. It is history, it is international relations, it is international law, and it is very well written, should be compulsory reading for those considering a career in either international relat ...more
The first chapter covers the Armenian Genocide and opens with Talaat Pasha's assasination in 1921. He was the former Interior Minister for the Ottoman Empire and architect of the genocide. He was shot in Germany by a survivor, Soghomon Tehlirian. In 1915, Mr. Tehlirian and his family were deported from Erzindjan and forced to march into the desert. Turkish soldiers raped his sisters, split his brother's head open with an ax, and shot his mother. He was hit on the head and left for dead, waking u ...more
I began reading this book with the preconceived notion that this liberal had composed some America hating tripe about how all genocide was our fault, or more specifically the fault of conservative Americans. Having just finished it, Mrs. Powers proved me wrong. This book was an eye opening look at genocide in the world since the Turkish massacre of Armenians until the Serbian massacre of several of their former countryman. I am ashamed to say I was not aware of the specifics or the size of Cambo ...more
Samantha Power is an Irish-born American academic, author and diplomat who (currently)? serves as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Power began her career by covering the Yugoslav Wars as a journalist.

This book discusses the ways America, primarily, has reacted to 'genocide.' I put it in quotes because it seems to be a word that is either thrown around without genuine thought or else is carefully avoided. Ms Power discusses the development of the idea of 'genocide' as a descrip
A really eye-opening book about the history of genocide in the 20th century. I tend to be a dispassionate, cold logician when it comes to policy arguments, and this book tends to go more of the righteous-anger route, but it was so well written that it won me over. I think it is particularly important for people to read now, in the wake of the disastrous wars in the first decade of the 21st century, to remind us that the US is still capable of doing great deeds and that pure isolationism is far t ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Definitely From Hell 1 61 Apr 20, 2008 03:15PM  
  • Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
  • Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945
  • Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe
  • Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond
  • The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response
  • The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism
  • Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris
  • Blood And Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur
  • Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families
  • The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
  • Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
  • A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations
  • The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda
Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writer, and academic. She is affiliated with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School, holding the position of Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. From 1
More about Samantha Power...

Share This Book

“Those who argued that the number of Cambodians killed was in the hundreds of thousands or those who tried to generate press coverage of the horrors did so assuming that establishing the facts would empower the United States and other Western governments to act. Normally, in a time of genocide, op-ed writers, policymakers, and reporters root for a distinct outcome or urge a specific U.S. military, economic, legal, humanitarian, or diplomatic response. Implicit indeed in many cables and news articles, and explicit in most editorials, is an underlying message, a sort of “if I were czar, I would do X or Y.” But in the first three years of KR rule, even the Americans most concerned about Cambodia—Twining, Quinn, and Becker among them—internalized the constraints of the day and the system. They knew that drawing attention to the slaughter in Cambodia would have reminded America of its past sins, reopened wounds that had not yet healed at home, and invited questions about what the United States planned to do to curb the terror. They were neither surprised nor agitated by U.S. apathy. They accepted U.S. noninvolvement as an established background condition. Once U.S. troops had withdrawn from Vietnam in 1973, Americans deemed all of Southeast Asia unspeakable, unwatchable, and from a policy perspective, unfixable. “There could have been two genocides in Cambodia and nobody would have cared,” remembers Morton Abramowitz, who at the time was an Asia specialist at the Pentagon and in 1978 became U.S. ambassador to Thailand. During the Khmer Rouge period, he remembers, “people just wanted to forget about the place. They wanted it off the radar.” 0 likes
“To paraphrase Walter Laqueur, a pioneer in the study of the Allies’ response to the Holocaust, although many people thought that the Jews were no longer alive, they did not necessarily believe they were dead.18” 0 likes
More quotes…