The Common Good

In the Stacks, June 25, 2012

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest:

Daniel Klaidman's “Kill or Capture” and David Sanger's “Confront and Conceal

Kill Or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency

By Daniel Klaidman

Confront And Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

By David E. Sanger

Reviewed By Dina Temple-Raston

Two new books portray President Obama as more aggressive in his counterterrorism policy than many thought he would be. Front and center is the case of an American-born radical imam named Anwar al-Awlaki, targeted and killed by a drone strike in Yemen.

 “Kill or Capture” by Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman focuses on the president’s counterterrorism policy specifically, from the hand-wringing over the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison to the development of drone policies. The book makes clear that Obama had no qualms about killing Awlaki.

Klaidman’s account is supported by another meticulously reported, immensely readable book from the New York Times’ chief Washington correspondent, David Sanger. In “Confront and Conceal,” Sanger provides details about a memo that administration lawyers wrote in 2010 with the goal of providing legal justification for the assassination of Awlaki.

Klaidman and Sanger were clearly given extraordinary access to key players in the administration to write their books. In some cases, they appear to have talked to the same sources: Several of their stories track nearly word for word. The problem is that both authors, perhaps because of the access, provide a largely uncritical view of the Obama administration’s process. Fly-on-the-wall reporting, by its very nature, lacks skepticism.

“The Harm in Hate Speech”

By Jeremy Waldron, Reviewed by Michael W. McConnell

A legal philosopher urges Americans to punish hate speech.

Waldron begins with the premise that in a “well-ordered society” not only must all people be protected by the law; they are entitled to live in confidence of this protection. “Each person . . . should be able to go about his or her business, with the assurance that there will be no need to face hostility, violence, discrimination or exclusion by others.” Hate speech undermines this essential public good. “When a society is defaced with anti-Semitic signage, burning crosses and defamatory racial leaflets,” Waldron says, this assurance of security “evaporates. A vigilant police force and a Justice Department may still keep people from being attacked or excluded,” but the objects of hate speech are deprived of the assurance that the society regards them as people of equal dignity.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)