IRC Book Club
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About the Book Club
The IRC Book Club gives participants the opportunity to discuss foreign affairs, global topics, authors' perspectives, historical events, and their current local relevance in a respectful, engaging setting. Convened by seasoned Great Decisions leader Jack McLaren, the group meets every six to eight weeks to dig into a different author's work.

Next Meeting
Thursday, June 21, 2018 – 6:30-8 p.m.
Kauffman Foundation Conference Center (4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110)
Session Leader: Col. Bill Eckhardt (U.S. Army, ret.)
This is a free program that is open to the public, though reservations are requested to help with planning.
For those who would like to continue the discussion after 8:00, the group may move to some place like the Brooksider.

Register here »

Currently Reading

The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force
by Eliot A. Cohen – 304 pages

Available for purchase (hardback, paperback, or e-reader): Amazon »
We encourage you to visit local booksellers: Rainy Day Books »
Local libraries have copies of the book and audiobook available.

Description: "Speak softly and carry a big stick" Theodore Roosevelt famously said in 1901, when the United States was emerging as a great power. It was the right sentiment, perhaps, in an age of imperial rivalry but today many Americans doubt the utility of their global military presence, thinking it outdated, unnecessary or even dangerous. In The Big Stick, Eliot A. Cohen – a scholar and practitioner of international relations – disagrees. He argues that hard power remains essential for American foreign policy. While acknowledging that the US must be careful about why, when, and how it uses force, he insists that its international role is as critical as ever, and armed force is vital to that role.

Cohen explains that American leaders must learn to use hard power in new ways and for new circumstances. The rise of a well-armed China, Russia's conquest of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, and the spread of radical Islamist movements like ISIS are some of the key threats to global peace. If the United States relinquishes its position as a strong but prudent military power, and fails to accept its role as the guardian of a stable world order we run the risk of unleashing disorder, violence and tyranny on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The US is still, as Madeleine Albright once dubbed it, "the indispensable nation."


Previous Selections

January 16, 2018
Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know

by P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman – 320 pages

Available for purchase (hardback, paperback, or e-reader): Amazon » Ebay »
We encourage you to visit local booksellers: Rainy Day Books »
Local libraries have copies of the book and audiobook available.

Description: A generation ago, "cyberspace" was just a term from science fiction, used to describe the nascent network of computers linking a few university labs. Today, our entire modern way of life, from communication to commerce to conflict, fundamentally depends on the Internet. And the cybersecurity issues that result challenge literally everyone: politicians wrestling with everything from cybercrime to online freedom; generals protecting the nation from new forms of attack, while planning new cyberwars; business executives defending firms from once unimaginable threats, and looking to make money off of them; lawyers and ethicists building new frameworks for right and wrong. Most of all, cybersecurity issues affect us as individuals. We face new questions in everything from our rights and responsibilities as citizens of both the online and real world to simply how to protect ourselves and our families from a new type of danger. And yet, there is perhaps no issue that has grown so important, so quickly, and that touches so many, that remains so poorly understood. 

In Cybersecurity and CyberWar: What Everyone Needs to Know®, New York Times best-selling author P. W. Singer and noted cyber expert Allan Friedman team up to provide the kind of easy-to-read, yet deeply informative resource book that has been missing on this crucial issue of 21st century life. Written in a lively, accessible style, filled with engaging stories and illustrative anecdotes, the book is structured around the key question areas of cyberspace and its security: how it all works, why it all matters, and what can we do? Along the way, they take readers on a tour of the important (and entertaining) issues and characters of cybersecurity, from the "Anonymous" hacker group and the Stuxnet computer virus to the new cyber units of the Chinese and U.S. militaries. Cybersecurity and CyberWar: What Everyone Needs to Know® is the definitive account on the subject for us all, which comes not a moment too soon.


November 1, 2017
China's Future

by David Shambaugh – 244 pages

Description: China's future is arguably the most consequential question in global affairs. Having enjoyed unprecedented levels of growth, China is at a critical juncture in the development of its economy, society, polity, national security, and international relations. The direction the nation takes at this turning point will determine whether it stalls or continues to develop and prosper. Will China be successful in implementing a new wave of transformational reforms that could last decades and make it the world's leading superpower? Or will its leaders shy away from the drastic changes required because the regime's power is at risk? If so, will that lead to prolonged stagnation or even regime collapse? Might China move down a more liberal or even democratic path? Or will China instead emerge as a hard, authoritarian and aggressive superstate? In this new book, David Shambaugh argues that these potential pathways are all possibilities - but they depend on key decisions yet to be made by China's leaders, different pressures from within Chinese society, as well as actions taken by other nations. Assessing these scenarios and their implications, he offers a thoughtful and clear study of China's future for all those seeking to understand the country's likely trajectory over the coming decade and beyond.

September 12, 2017
The Retreat of Western Liberalism
by Edward Luce – 232 pages

Description: In his widely acclaimed book Time to Start Thinking, Financial Times chief US columnist and commentator Edward Luce charted the course of America's relative decline, proving to be a prescient voice on our current social and political turmoil. In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy―of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a terrifying symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance towards society's economic losers, and complacency about our system's durability―attitudes that have been emerging since the fall of the Berlin Wall. We cannot move forward without a clear diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed. The West's faith in history teaches us to take democracy for granted. Reality tells us something troublingly different. Combining on-the-ground reporting with intelligent synthesis of the literature and economic analysis, Luce offers a detailed projection of the consequences of the Trump administration, the rise of European populism, and a forward-thinking analysis of what those who believe in enlightenment values must do to defend them from the multiple onslaughts they face in the coming years.

July 26, 2017
Megachange: Economic Disruption, Political Upheaval, and Social Strife in the 21st Century
by Darrell M. West – 224 pages

Description: Big, unexpected changes are here to stay. Slow, incremental change has become a relic of the past. Today's shifts come fast and big, what Darrell West calls megachanges, in which dramatic disruptions in trends and policies occur on a regular basis. Domestically, we see megachange at work in the new attitudes and policies toward same-sex marriage, health care, smoking, and the widespread legalization of marijuana use. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and then collapse of the Arab Spring, the emergence of religious zealotry, the growing influence of nonstate actors, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the rise of new economic and political powers in Asia, and the fracturing of once-stable international alliances. With megachange becoming the new normal, our domestic and global institutions must develop the ability to tackle the massive economic, political, and social shifts that we face.

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Calendar

5/24/2018
The Opportunities and Challenges of Chinese Investment in the U.S.: A Public Forum

5/30/2018
IRC Networking Hour

6/6/2018
Global Experience: The Fulbright Program

6/12/2018
Decisions: U.S. Global Engagement & the Military

6/21/2018
IRC Book Club: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force

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