According to the New Yorker, Barack Obama boned up on international affairs to prepare for the presidency by reading Thomas Friedman. For foreign-policy cognoscenti, this is like reading John Grisham novels to study for the bar exam. With most of the Republican 2012 wannabes, like Obama, having spent their careers focused on domestic issues (or in the case of Donald Trump, the Miss USA pageant), it seemed only fair for FP to help these international relations neophytes. So we asked an array of seasoned foreign-policy professionals and general smart folks to provide reading suggestions for our aspiring leaders. The one obvious conclusion? All roads to understanding American foreign policy run through Joe Nye.
Joseph S. Nye Jr.
Professor, Harvard Kennedy School
• Thinking in Time, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May. Still the best primer on the uses and abuses of history in policy.
• Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger. Chapter 2 on the lasting and contrasting influences of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt is alone worth the price of the book.
• The Future of Power, Joseph S. Nye Jr. At the risk of seeming immodest, I believe policymakers should understand the two great 21st-century power shifts -- the recovery of Asia and cyberpower -- described here.
President, MacArthur Foundation; longtime U.S. diplomat
• The Future of Power, Joseph S. Nye Jr. A textured and subtle realist approach.
• Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. A well-argued explanation of how democracy has produced the lopsided distribution of wealth that now characterizes America.
Book critic, New York Times
• The Desert and the Sown, Gertrude Bell. A remarkably enduring portrait of Middle Eastern character and pride.
• Hiroshima, John Hersey. Shocking eyewitness accounts that will help those who seek the executive office to consider the awful responsibility of the power they seek to wield.
Philip D. Zelikow
Former State Department counselor; professor, University of Virginia
• The Power of Place, Harm de Blij. Seeing the global and the local.
• The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective, edited by Niall Ferguson, et al. Interesting ruminations about how to comprehend today's crises.
• Thinking in Time, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May. Lux aeterna.