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The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship

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Those questions are at the heart of The Peacemakers, a kind of global edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Writing at a time when peace seems elusive and conflict endemic, when tensions are running high among the major powers, when history has come roaring back, when democracy and human rights are yet again under siege, when climate change is moving from futur Those questions are at the heart of The Peacemakers, a kind of global edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Writing at a time when peace seems elusive and conflict endemic, when tensions are running high among the major powers, when history has come roaring back, when democracy and human rights are yet again under siege, when climate change is moving from future to present tense, and when transformational statesmanship is so needed, Bruce W. Jentleson shows how twentieth-century leaders of a variety of types—national, international institutional, sociopolitical, nongovernmental—rewrote the zero-sum scripts they were handed and successfully made breakthroughs on issues long thought intractable. The stories are fascinating: Henry Kissinger, Zhou Enlai, and the U.S.-China opening; Mikhail Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War; Dag Hammarskjöld’s exceptional effectiveness as United Nations secretary-general; Nelson Mandela and South African reconciliation; Yitzhak Rabin seeking Arab-Israeli peace; Mahatma Gandhi as exemplar of anticolonialism and an apostle of nonviolence; Lech Walesa and ending Soviet bloc communism; Gro Harlem Brundtland and fostering global sustainability; and a number of others. While also taking into account other actors and factors, Jentleson tells us who each leader was as an individual, why they made the choices they did, how they pursued their goals, and what they were (and weren’t) able to achieve. And not just fascinating, but also instructive. Jentleson draws out lessons across the twenty-first-century global agenda, making clear how difficult peacemaking is, while powerfully demonstrating that it has been possible—and urgently stressing how necessary it is today. An ambitious book for ambitious people, The Peacemakers seeks to contribute to motivating and shaping the breakthroughs on which our future so greatly depends.


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Those questions are at the heart of The Peacemakers, a kind of global edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Writing at a time when peace seems elusive and conflict endemic, when tensions are running high among the major powers, when history has come roaring back, when democracy and human rights are yet again under siege, when climate change is moving from futur Those questions are at the heart of The Peacemakers, a kind of global edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Writing at a time when peace seems elusive and conflict endemic, when tensions are running high among the major powers, when history has come roaring back, when democracy and human rights are yet again under siege, when climate change is moving from future to present tense, and when transformational statesmanship is so needed, Bruce W. Jentleson shows how twentieth-century leaders of a variety of types—national, international institutional, sociopolitical, nongovernmental—rewrote the zero-sum scripts they were handed and successfully made breakthroughs on issues long thought intractable. The stories are fascinating: Henry Kissinger, Zhou Enlai, and the U.S.-China opening; Mikhail Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War; Dag Hammarskjöld’s exceptional effectiveness as United Nations secretary-general; Nelson Mandela and South African reconciliation; Yitzhak Rabin seeking Arab-Israeli peace; Mahatma Gandhi as exemplar of anticolonialism and an apostle of nonviolence; Lech Walesa and ending Soviet bloc communism; Gro Harlem Brundtland and fostering global sustainability; and a number of others. While also taking into account other actors and factors, Jentleson tells us who each leader was as an individual, why they made the choices they did, how they pursued their goals, and what they were (and weren’t) able to achieve. And not just fascinating, but also instructive. Jentleson draws out lessons across the twenty-first-century global agenda, making clear how difficult peacemaking is, while powerfully demonstrating that it has been possible—and urgently stressing how necessary it is today. An ambitious book for ambitious people, The Peacemakers seeks to contribute to motivating and shaping the breakthroughs on which our future so greatly depends.

52 review for The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fang Yiyang

    Adopting neither the structuralist theories of Political Science nor the “Great Men” theory of history, Jentleson forges a middle path through 13 case studies of “Peacemakers” who, in the words of Isaiah Berlin, “at crucial moments, at turning points…determine the course of history”. These profiles, though facing constraints and limited conducive conditions, nonetheless made choices that changed the course of history, in one of five categories: Managing Major Power Rivalries, Building Internatio Adopting neither the structuralist theories of Political Science nor the “Great Men” theory of history, Jentleson forges a middle path through 13 case studies of “Peacemakers” who, in the words of Isaiah Berlin, “at crucial moments, at turning points…determine the course of history”. These profiles, though facing constraints and limited conducive conditions, nonetheless made choices that changed the course of history, in one of five categories: Managing Major Power Rivalries, Building International Institutions, Reconciling the Politics of Identity, Advancing Freedom and Protecting Human Rights, and Fostering Global Sustainability. Such breadth is welcome fresh air from the narrow, even myopic, focus on political and military actors that political scientists tend to over-emphasise (the inclusion of Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams of the Northern Ireland Women for Peace, Peter Benenson of Amnesty International and the Gates Foundation, for instance, are a welcome surprise). Though the author admits that “the full set of profiles is heavily Western and mostly male”, reflecting the imbalance of the 20th Century international system, it is still obvious that great effort was made to keep the gender and ethnic lines as balanced as possible, with a range of American (Kissinger, Wilson, FDR), European (Hammarskjold, Walesa and the aforementioned Corrigan and Williams), African (Mandela) and Asian (Gandhi and Suu Kyi) profiles, though female leaders are shorter in supply. Clearly written with a general audience in mind, each chapter follows a simple formula of WHO (introducing the character), WHY (their motivations for making change), HOW (the means by which the breakthroughs were made) and WHAT (an evaluation of their relative importance and effectiveness). Along with simple prose, this makes for easy reading, even for readers unfamiliar with the leaders mentioned. However, this creates a sense of being too narrative, and one does wish that the author had devoted more words for in-depth analysis. But at 13 chapters and nearly 400 pages, it is understandable why some meat had to be cut out. The characters were selected for their contributions “at critical junctures, [making] breakthroughs marked by significant progress on issues long thought intractable”. Inevitably, that means snubs for those that the author views as less important supporting characters (e.g., Gorbachev gets his own chapter while Reagan is relegated to only brief mentions) and more transactional or status quo leaders whose fortune or misfortune was to preside over more stable times, or whose contributions were more incremental than transformational (King Hussein of Jordan comes to mind, as does Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton). None of these peacemakers were perfect, either in accomplishing their goals or being equally good elsewhere. Kissinger is credited for his breakthrough with China, but acknowledged to have shortcomings in Vietnam, Chile and South Asia. Gandhi’s relationships with his wife and children were less morally pure. Aung San Suu Kyi is cited as a “cautionary tale” in light of recent developments in the Rohingya region. Indeed, many of these Peacemakers, so good at propagating their cause, falter when it comes to actual governance (such as Suu Kyi, Walesa, Benenson and to some extent, Gorbachev). Only Rabin and Hammarskjold seem closest to all-round perfection, but both had incomplete careers owing to their deaths in office—perhaps given more time, they too would have faltered. And that is perhaps the point—politics is a tricky business; no one is perfect; there is only so much an individual can act against structural constraints; qualities good for creating breakthroughs may be ill-suited for the more transactional, nitty-gritty day-to-day governance. Nonetheless, we still have something to learn from each of these “peacemakers”, who, to varying degrees of success, managed to transform the world, largely for the better. While little commonality can truly be found, a few do stand out: personal capital, a belief in a cause greater than the individual, and determination against strong opposition forces. One may not agree with all the profiles included, and may question why certain others are not included (one glaring omission is Deng Xiaoping). But this book is not meant to be an exhaustive list, only a representative one, and it does a good job at encompassing a range of themes and demographics. In the end, The Peacemakers gets the ball rolling and leaves readers wanting for more—and it is for the better if it stimulates discourse on good leadership for the 21st Century, which, in the age of Trump, Brexit and the rise of China, is much needed and in short supply. Footnote: for those interested in similar themes, I'd recommend John Lewis Gaddis' On Grand Strategy, and three books by Joseph Nye: Do Morals Matter?; Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era; The Powers to Lead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Greg Schloesser

    Sometimes life passes you by quickly and you do not pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. Even for a lover of history such as myself, I often failed to pay attention to much of what was happening in the world, particularly in my teen-age and early marriage years. I was simply too busy with other things. A shame, really. So, reading The Peacemakers by Bruce W. Jentleson helped give me a deeper understanding of some incredibly important figures who helped shape modern (and perh Sometimes life passes you by quickly and you do not pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. Even for a lover of history such as myself, I often failed to pay attention to much of what was happening in the world, particularly in my teen-age and early marriage years. I was simply too busy with other things. A shame, really. So, reading The Peacemakers by Bruce W. Jentleson helped give me a deeper understanding of some incredibly important figures who helped shape modern (and perhaps future) history by striving for peace and the hope of a better world for all. Sure I was somewhat familiar with Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev, Woodrow Wilson, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and a few others. But what about important figures such as Dag Hammarskold, Yitzhak Rabin, Aung San Suu Kyi and others? I knew little or next-to-nothing. Nor did I fully understand or appreciate the tremendous efforts these and others undertook to achieve peace and justice. Reading The Peacemakers was enlightening and educational. It helped me better understand the history that unfolded around me, even though I was often not paying much attention. Yes, the author certainly seems to have a socialist bent, but one cannot find much fault with the individuals he selected to spotlight in this book. Yes, there were some notable omissions (where, oh where, is Martin Luther King, Jr.?), but I do appreciate the information presented on those he selected. This is a good and informative read, particularly regarding the stories of the individuals spotlighted.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Neil H

    How do we apply the seemingly impossible accomplishments of Nelson M, Ghandi and even the once(?) venerated Aung Sun Su Kyi? We're they a freak of nature, composed of insights, charisma and talent which makes them legendary. Or are they the confluence of luck, hard work, situational context etc. Yes, this book shows how individuals provided the best ideas suitable to fit the masses at a local or transnational level in a specific time in history addressing the need of the moment or the seed growt How do we apply the seemingly impossible accomplishments of Nelson M, Ghandi and even the once(?) venerated Aung Sun Su Kyi? We're they a freak of nature, composed of insights, charisma and talent which makes them legendary. Or are they the confluence of luck, hard work, situational context etc. Yes, this book shows how individuals provided the best ideas suitable to fit the masses at a local or transnational level in a specific time in history addressing the need of the moment or the seed growth for the issues increasingly pertinent. Breaking down into the Who, how, why and what simplifies an objectively complex to manageable bits for those who have made our lives different.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Politicized heavily to one very narrow perspective of successful leaders of peace. Failed to communicate a broader understanding and interaction of influences that assisted leade5s of various peace movements described in the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

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    Maja Pralas

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    Kevin

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    Hou Lei

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    Urh

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    Faith Chudkowski

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    Graham Raymond

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    Kelsey Sommerville

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    Steven

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    Emma Dabelko

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    Tsering Lama

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    Laura Grossmann

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    Ron

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    Sofia Guerra

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    Lim Song Yi

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    JRC

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    Marianne

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    Musiclib

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    Andres Velez

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    Tom Boeger

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    Sara Matar

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    Angela Karnes

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    John Willis

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    Tim Watson

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    J. Dana

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    Aaron Groh

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    CO

  52. 4 out of 5

    Nolan

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