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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  7,395 Ratings  ·  446 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)
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Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Samantha Power è nata in Irlanda nel 1970. Quando aveva dieci anni la sua famiglia si trasferì in USA. Quando ne aveva diciannove stava coronando il suo ‘american dream’: essere una giornalista sportiva (per la CBS), anche se solo leggendo il punteggio. Sullo schermo dello stadio di Atlanta, nel giugno del 1989, passarono le immagini di piazza Tienanmen, e Samantha capì di essere nel posto sbagliato, capì che stava sbagliando, non era lo sport la sua meta. Da allora è div
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
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tomas Bella
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Výnimočná a výnimočne dôležitá kniha. Detailný príbeh vzniku konceptu genocídy, medzinárodnej intervencie a príbeh genocíd 20. storočia (Arméni, Kambodža, Rwanda, Bosna, Kosovo) a americkej reakcie a nereakcie na ne.
Ak vás trápia otázky, prečo "niekto niečo" neurobil v Rwande alebo Sarajeve, tak tu je nepríjemná odpoveď: nemáme žiadnu jednoduchú odpoveď typu "nebola tam ropa" alebo "mocným na životoch nezáleží", ale vždy je to komplikovaný výsledok činnosti alebo nečinnosti množstva rôznych úra
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books-ever
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
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book does a good job of documenting some of the genocides in the 20th century but offers little insight into how they could have been prevented or how our current systems failed. There is larger missing problem which is never addressed in this book, which is how we can respond more quickly and positively in the future.

There is no examination of international law as it exists today, how it works and does not work. There is no mention of Russia and China's role on the security council and ho
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Walker
Actually more like a 4.5, but I rounded up because it's a book I think that many people (but especially Americans) should read.

It's been a long time since I've read such a well constructed, well argued, and thoroughly damning analysis of US foreign policy. Samantha Power lays out an accessible, data-rich take on the history of genocide in the 20th-century, focused on American foreign policy decisions, or more frequently the lack thereof. The book is structured chronologically, beginning with the
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
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
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
so again, I'm sucked into a book that angers and saddens me. Samantha Power demonstrates that despite the lofty (but rhetorical) pledge "never again" after the Holocaust, the US gov and state leaders have never ever been willing to prevent or stop any genocide in the twentieth century. the systematic inaction and indifference of the US gov and the UN in the face of the plights of the Kurds, Cambodians, Tutsis, Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims are invariably characteristic when realpolitik remains th ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: citizens of the USA
Recommended to Erik by: no one
I've been helping a friend clear out an old two-storey, five-car garage recently acquired by the condominium association she heads. Amongst various items ranging from sex toys to a truck engine were a number of books, this among them. I picked it up and read it not knowing that Samantha Power has gone on to become the U.S. representative to the United Nations. Back when she wrote it she was simply an academic with a background in journalism including work in the former Yugoslavia.

Power's experie
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
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the book is a must read for every person who is interested in human rights around the world and in American foreign policy. the book starts with a great and grabbing style but ends with too many details and redundancy. still highly recommended
I tend to get really depressed in the winter, and this year I just thought well.... why not?
Hwa Pyung
To sum up the 516 pages: realism pervades policy-making in Capitol Hill and lack of national interest has motivated the U.S.' silence in the face of such atrocities. Power calls upon policymakers to see the long-term interests of preventing genocides and the people to provide the necessary pressure for politicians.

Considering the short span in which Power attempts to summarize and explain multiple genocides of the 20th century, she does a good job of providing easy-to-follow explanations of how
David Molloy
After much deep reading, study and quiet reflection, I have come to this conclusion: genocide is bad and you shouldn't do it
Majestic Terhune
One of my favorite books. Happy that instructors are putting it on syllabi.
This book, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a classic and deserves its reputation. If Power's tone is just a bit too self-righteous for my tastes, her outrage at the world's anemic responses to modern genocides, and particularly those of the United States, is fully warranted by her exhaustive and heart-rending research.

Reading the book today, one necessarily muses about Power's own success in preventing contemporary genocides as U.S. ambassador to the UN, especially the war crimes and crimes against
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: human-rights
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
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...
“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” 1 likes
“The United Staes had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred,” 0 likes
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