The Washington Post's Sunday "Book World" section published two book reviews today offering some notice and praise for new books by New York Times reporters/authors.
One was a review of recently departed New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer and his new America-bashing book "Overthrow." Julia Sweig oozed: "Kinzer's narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description and fine detail, demonstrating why he ranks among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling, especially for those on the left." She loved his book "Bitter Fruit" on American intervention in Guatemala. (Short summary: Kinzer was against it.) He's a raving leftist, but Times top editor Bill Keller still insists they don't run a liberal newsroom over there.
Sweig does make a nod to the right at the end by acknowledging that "fans of gunboat diplomacy" would argue that American removal of dictators hasn't always been bad for the liberated country. But she concludes:
Unfortunately, the very audience that should read this book -- those who theologically defer to the shifting diktats of the national interest and still endorse deploying U.S. military power to remake countries -- is the least likely to bother picking it up. Twenty years ago, Bitter Fruit motivated a generation to think seriously about the impact of U.S. interventions in the southern hemisphere. I have a sad suspicion that, with Iraq's seemingly endless toll, Overthrow will likewise become required reading.
Also, Moises Naim praised Times financial columnist Louis Uchitelle for his book "The Disposable American: Layoffs And Their Consequences."
The problems Uchitelle highlights are important, and some of the solutions he proposes make sense. It is clearly wrong, for example, to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy when working families must struggle with limited health insurance or none at all. Cutting outrageous corporate-welfare programs and using the savings to improve health and education for workers is also an unassailable proposal.
Naim balances out the praise by noting Uchitelle isn't objective enough to explore how liberal policies might not work:
Unfortunately, not all of Uchitelle's prescriptions are so easy to defend. Government regulations that would make it costlier for employers to fire workers, for example, are good news for the workers who already have jobs but hurt those who are unemployed and looking for work because higher firing costs reduce companies' propensity to hire.
In the end, Naim tilts against the book as a whole. The best, most telling paragraph in the review was this one:
Last February, for example, New York Times readers learned that, "in one of the strongest job reports since the start of the recovery in late 2001, the government reported yesterday that the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, its lowest in more than four years. The nation's employers hired workers in nearly every industry." The author of the article? The same Louis Uchitelle who in The Disposable American claims that labor conditions in the United States are a "festering national crisis."