Given the plethora of foreign policies issues that the United States faces, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the drug war in the Philippines does not receive more attention in the U.S. media. Still, there has been some remarkable accounts, perhaps none of which has been as insightful as Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marchall’s, “Davao Boys: How a secretive police squad racked up kills in Duterte’s drug war.” This detailed piece of investigative journalism examines one particular police unit at the heat of the extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers. I’ve done my own work on military terror in Brazil, and know how difficult it is to obtain such information, even in historical cases. To document killings on this scale while the violence is taking place requires bravery, dedication and skill. Highly recommended.
Robert D. Kaplan is a well-known journalist who has authored popular works on international issues, such as Balkan
Ghosts and the Coming Anarchy. Kaplan has a knack for writing books on topics about to rise to international prominence; in his most recent work, he has sought to understand the international competition in the South China Sea, which is in the global news this week because of a naval confrontation between Vietnam and China.
Kaplan’s works typically try to show the legacies of history for contemporary issues, and this book is no exception. He begins by describing the historical influence of India upon Vietnam, which he depicts as a kind of cultural shatter zone between two great Asian powers. One of the strengths of his work is that he has traveled widely in Asia while writing it, so he can draw on conversations that he has had from Vietnam to Singapore. He also has read widely in history, so the work is interspersed with allusions to Walter Benjamin, Livy, Machiavelli and Thucydides, which are are generally well-chosen and insightful. It is this ability to put contemporary issues into a broad historical and geographical context that is Kaplan’s strength. …