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The world is blowing up. Every day a new blaze seems to ignite: the bloody implosion of Iraq and Syria; the East-West standoff in Ukraine; abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria. Is there some thread tying these frightening international security crises together? In a riveting account that weaves history with fast-moving reportage and insider accounts from the Afghanistan war, SaThe world is blowing up. Every day a new blaze seems to ignite: the bloody implosion of Iraq and Syria; the East-West standoff in Ukraine; abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria. Is there some thread tying these frightening international security crises together? In a riveting account that weaves history with fast-moving reportage and insider accounts from the Afghanistan war, Sarah Chayes identifies the unexpected link: corruption.Since the late 1990s, corruption has reached such an extent that some governments resemble glorified criminal gangs, bent solely on their own enrichment. These kleptocrats drive indignant populations to extremes—ranging from revolution to militant puritanical religion. Chayes plunges readers into some of the most venal environments on earth and examines what emerges: Afghans returning to the Taliban, Egyptians overthrowing the Mubarak government (but also redesigning Al-Qaeda), and Nigerians embracing both radical evangelical Christianity and the Islamist terror group Boko Haram. In many such places, rigid moral codes are put forth as an antidote to the collapse of public integrity.The pattern, moreover, pervades history. Through deep archival research, Chayes reveals that canonical political thinkers such as John Locke and Machiavelli, as well as the great medieval Islamic statesman Nizam al-Mulk, all named corruption as a threat to the realm. In a thrilling argument connecting the Protestant Reformation to the Arab Spring, Thieves of State presents a powerful new way to understand global extremism. And it makes a compelling case that we must confront corruption, for it is a cause—not a result—of global instability....

Title : Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security
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ISBN : 9780393352283
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
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Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-03-25 14:44

    Some say the heart is just like a wheel. When you bend it, you can’t mend it.The sage counsel offered by the McGarrigle sisters for matters of love could just as easily apply to the question of trust. Once betrayed, how easy is it to trust that person ever again. Now kick that up a level or three and apply to governments. When the people who offer to the public the face of government, the leaders, the police, the military, turn out to be criminals themselves, how can a people ever trust their government again? And if people cannot trust their government, that creates a breeding ground for lawlessness and even insurgency. Sarah Chayes - image from The Kansas City StarAs Afghans, beginning around 2005, found the international presence in their country increasingly offensive, it was not because of their purported age-old hatred of foreigners. Nor did puritanical horror at the presence of unbelievers in their land enter our conversations, or outrage about Afghan sovereignty trod underfoot. My neighbors pointed to the abusive behavior of the Afghan government. Given the U.S. role in ushering its officials to power and financing and protecting them, Afghans held the international community, and the United States in particular, responsible. My neighbors wanted the international community to be stricter with Afghan government officials, not more respectful. “You brought our donkeys back,” one man put it in 2009. “You brought these dogs back here. You should bring them to heel.”In her brilliant book Ghettoside, Jill Leovy notes the failure of government to prosecute murders against black men, noting the resulting establishment of non-official institutions that would. Sarah Cheyes looks at corruption on a national scale, over a considerable period of time. Government of, by, and for thieves is hardly a modern invention. And lest we think of it as a third world issue, there are plenty of first-world examples brought into the light. She makes the case that government corruption is an incubator for extremism, generating terrorism that extends beyond the corrupt nation’s borders, and presents challenges to other nations.Chayes looks at many examples and kinds of corruption in the world, east and west, and brings to bear the counsel of classic writers who addressed the same issues over the centuries. She cites Machiavelli…there was one vice that Machiavelli admonished his reader to shun if he cared to prolong his reign: theft of his subjects’ possessions. In other words, corruption. “Being rapacious and arrogating subjects’ goods and women is what, above all else . . . renders him hateful,” he wrote. And widespread hatred of a ruler was conducive to conspiracy. And conspiracy reliably brought down governments.There was already, in Machiavelli’s time a considerable body of advice-to-ruler writing, generally referred to as “Mirrors,” from as far back as 700 CE, by an anonymous Irish writer. Another was written in 1018 by a thoughtful Muslim administrator, as an aid to the rulers he served. Another, from the 9th century, was written by a bishop to advise an emperor’s grandson. Erasmus wrote a mirror as well. There are others. She notes eternal wisdom that can be found in these writings, writings that apply well to leadership issues of the 21st century. Chayes came to Afghanistan as an NPR reporter in 2001 to cover the fall of the Taliban, left that to work on local economic development, and later became an advisor to the US military. She has seen a lot first hand. Currently she is a senior associate in the Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.The examples she cites here are from Afghanistan, (the most attention to the place with which she is most familiar) Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Ireland, Iraq. There are plenty more in the world. Her analysis is fascinating and compelling. Autocracy and corruption are far less the product of extremism than they are the causes of it. Attempts to address violence by attacking insurgents is doomed to failure. Only a vision that takes on internal corruption within nations has any chance of succeeding in keeping extremist movements from sprouting up like mushrooms after a shower. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES are driven by the questions their clients ask them. If they have not compiled much information on the security impacts of acute corruption to date, it is because few policy makers have pointed them at that problem. Thus our focus on terrorism rather than its causes. Chayes’ analysis includes diagrammatic representations of the various structures of governmental corruption. She offers recommendations for addressing some of these problems. There is a tendency for kleptocracy to generate and be generated from autocracy, a necessary means for keeping those being fleeced from solving the problem legally or through more direct kinetic actions. In the USA, look at how few police are convicted for killing unarmed black men. Look at how Wall Streeters suffered virtually no jail time for fleecing the entire US economy. Look at how corporations include codicils in every purchase or contract that protects them from legal responsibility. We are headed in this direction. Personally, I would be more than happy to see Wall Street lined with pikes decorated by the CEOs responsible for the 2008 crash. And I am a relatively peaceful sort, no guns, or other weapons, no affiliations with extreme organizations. Just livid that there are two sets of rules in the USA, one for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of us, “the little people.” If I feel this way, I can only imagine how black people feel about the open season that our courts have declared for police violence against black men. It is also clear that there are many who feel that leaders of both parties have stood by while any gains in the national economy were all channeled to the already well off. And it does not help that one of the biggest thieves in the country is in charge of guarding the mint. It is clear by the pattern of his actions, that, if he is capable of planning, beyond his manifest talent for diversion, he would love to turn the USA into his private piggy bank. Refusal to reveal his tax returns, stonewalling investigations into his actions, refusing to divest his properties in order to spare the nation the uncertainty of wondering whether his executive decision-making is being done for the good of the nation or the good of his balance sheet, all lead one to question where his leadership interests lie. When the leadership of a nation, whether Afghanistan. Egypt, Ireland or the USA, is seen as being out solely for its own interests at the expense of the citizens those leaders are supposedly representing, the groundwork is laid for bad results. When the application of law is seen as unfair, the ground is laid for resistance. When elements of the public see the enforcers of the law as corrupt or insensitive to their rights, the groundwork is set for the growth of extra-legal forms of justice and, in the worst cases insurrection. When those on top cheat and lie without compunction, it encourages everyone to follow suit.We are faced with a growing crisis here in the USA. We expect out commander in chief to accept command responsibility for the actions he has approved. The buck stops in the Oval Office. Except when the occupier of that office is incapable of accepting any responsibility for his actions. A jaw-dropping example of his incapacity is when Swamp Thing actually told a grieving gold star widow soon after her husband had been killed in action that he “knew what he had signed up for.“ Corruption is the seed from which many toxic horrors grow. Chayes details many examples in the nations she describes. And how about at home? How about payments to legislators from those in the business of building and staffing private jails in order to encourage mass incarceration. How about massive contributions to legislators by the gas/oil/natural gas industries to ensure unnecessary tax breaks, and to protect them from responsibility for the ecological horrors they generate? How about contributions to legislators and others from the weapons industry, channeled through the NRA, to ensure that one of the largest public health crises in the nation, death by gunshot, remains minimally regulated. How about the deliberately mis-named Tax Reform proposal that is nothing less than the wealthy, operating through their paid legislative pawns, backing a Brinks truck up to the US treasury and loading up, yet again, leaving the resulting deficits for the rest of us to cover. The rich are taking advantage, by cheating, lying, manipulating, misdirecting, and stealing. So long as there is little or no progress in holding them accountable for their greed-based crimes, the chances increase that the only way to seek redress will be outside the boundaries of the legal framework.Unfortunately, autocracy can sometimes be sustained for generations, but the reactions it is generating these days will continue to make miserable the lives of millions of people across the world, as extremist elements seek to undermine government by proving, again and again, that government cannot protect them. Take a lesson from the past. Take a lesson from the experience of far too many nations across the globe. Corruption kills. It should be the highest priority of this and every nation. Without faith in the relative honesty of government, no government can, or should stand. The horrors we are experiencing in the USA are only the tip of the iceberg of dark possibility. Sara Chayes, in shining a light not only on some of the many corrupt regimes in the world, but on the long history of public corruption and its collateral damage, and on the sage advice offered by wise counselors of the past, offers us a way to understand much of what we see going on, both domestically and internationally, in today’s world. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about good government or who seeks to gain insight into the mechanisms of extremism and terrorism. Check it out before those it describes prevent you from or arrest you for doing so. Review posted – October 20, 2017Publication date – January 19, 2015=============================EXTRA STUFFHere is Chayes’ profile at the Carnegie Endowment PRINT-----A nice list of several Chayes-related pieces on PRI -----The Atlantic - Scents and Sensibility - on setting up a soap and body-oil business in Afghanistan- by Chayes---Interview by Tim Lewis of The Guardian – Sarah Chayes: on living in Afghanistan and sleeping with a KalashnikovIn the UK and the US, we’re in danger of letting our republics slip out of our hands without even noticing it and the results could be really devastating over time.VIDEO-----An excellent Carnegie Endowment panel discussion on corruption, focusing on Honduras. One of her points is that the theftocracy twists public regulation to support private interests. See every Trump cabinet appointment for glaring examples-----NY Times - October 21, 2017 - Why Has the E.P.A.Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots - by Eric Lipton-----Rachel Maddow Show - October 21, 2017 - Rachel interview with Chayes - Trump flouting norms risks venal turn in US----- Relevant music - Everything Old is New AgainAUDIO----- NPR -Sarah Chayes: Taliban Terrorizing Afghanistan - 2009

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-04-19 15:16

    If you read my book reviews, you know where I stand on American politics these days and so it should come as no surprise that I watch Rachel Maddow more often than not to understand what is happening over there, back home. Rachel has had Sarah Chayes on several times who has always impressed me in terms of her experience (having lived seven years in Afghanistan after being there for PBS as a journalist) and her brilliance (she is fluent in several dialects of Arabic, French and I am assuming several other languages). In Thieves of State, Ms. Chayes takes the experiences she had in Afghanistan with the corrupt Karzai regime and their endemic levels of corruption which were largely ignored by the US and UN military operations there. She uses lots of parallels in the literature of prince mirrors - books like The Prince that were written by courtiers and counselors over the years to advise men in power, Machiavelli being the most known one in the west but there are many she cites that are far older in the Islamic world as well as Erasmus from the end of the Middle Ages. In any case, Ms. Chayes surveys how corruption is very hard to root out of a society once it sets in, like a cancer.The somewhat surprising conclusion she makes is that money actually travels upwards from the street to the top of the power pyramid rather than the other way around. In other words, the common folk pay bribes for health care or administrative access of whatever, those folks bribe those above them and so on up the chain to the ruling clique. The system has several variants that she analyses (Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria, Uzbekistan) outside of Afghanistan which are all described and even diagrammed. The nice thing is that rather than leaving us in despair, she leaves us with a chapter that details a host of countermeasures that can be taken if the rest of the world has the balls to do so in order to fight corruption.While this may seem like an anodyne problem, the other primary thesis of the book (and thus its subtitle), is that corruption also plays into the hands of religious extremism. Having observed this personally in Afghanistan, she talks about how once people have been bled dry by the rapacious government functionaries via bribes and such and they realize that the police and justice system are equally corrupt and therefore there is absolutely no appeal process, many of them turn to militant Salafi movements - the radical Islamic strains that underpin the Taliban and ISIS. Now wait, you may say, we, the US, is there to help the government contain radical Islam and why don't they come to us for help? Well, the answer was alluded to already - we are there BACKING the regime which is essentially and irremediably corrupt so naturally we are seen as "just as bad" as the corrupt state and alien to their values whereas radical Islam appeals to their common culture and feeds off their anger and feeling of helplessness. In other words, the corruption feeds the radicalisation of the population and not the other way around as many think. Unfortunately, in many systems, such as Nigeria, this radicalisation is tolerated by the state because it keeps people's focus off the wholesale destruction of the environment and robbing the state of its natural resources. (This also happened in Argentina as I learned in the Peron biography by Page and in Algeria as I learned in the book about decolonization by Shepard). I think that it is an important book, but it would be good to have a wider palette of variants to be studied - she does not talk about European corruption or that of Central and South America which is just as sinister and often in lockstep with the drug cartels (this is extremely well analyzed in Extra Pure by Saviani). Regardless, I highly recommend this short but powerful analysis about the ills of corruption and also that you look for her segments on MSNBC and elsewhere where she talks about the dangers of corruption right at home in the current White House.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-08 16:43

    This book is one of the most significant I've read in a long time, and one I think should be read by anyone who's concerned about 'failed states' and the seemingly endless entanglements the U.S. and Europe have with them. First, Chayes makes the excellent point that what we've termed 'failed' states are actually very good at what they mean to do: channel money and power to an elite few. She points out that when we think of these not as governments, but essentially fronts for illicit behavior, then it makes clear why our foreign policy and efforts at state-building have so often been ineffective. Beyond that, however, Chayes illustrates her thesis with examples from her experiences in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, and doesn't flinch from pointing the finger at herself when she sees ways in which her own decisions (while trying to help Afghanis start small businesses) exacerbated the problem. And as a historian, I appreciated the brief excerpts from various examples of medieval and Renaissance 'mirror of kings' literature. Drawn from various sources, from England to Persia, these snippets indicate that we as a society are dealing with a problem old as civilization itself . . . and one to which we are not immune, even within our own borders.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-03-25 15:43

    Description: The world is blowing up. Every day a new blaze seems to ignite: the bloody implosion of Iraq and Syria; the East-West standoff in Ukraine; abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria. Is there some thread tying these frightening international security crises together? In a riveting account that weaves history with fast-moving reportage and insider accounts from the Afghanistan war, Sarah Chayes identifies the unexpected link: corruption.Since the late 1990s, corruption has reached such an extent that some governments resemble glorified criminal gangs, bent solely on their own enrichment. These kleptocrats drive indignant populations to extremes—ranging from revolution to militant puritanical religion. Chayes plunges readers into some of the most venal environments on earth and examines what emerges: Afghans returning to the Taliban, Egyptians overthrowing the Mubarak government (but also redesigning Al-Qaeda), and Nigerians embracing both radical evangelical Christianity and the Islamist terror group Boko Haram. In many such places, rigid moral codes are put forth as an antidote to the collapse of public integrity.The pattern, moreover, pervades history. Through deep archival research, Chayes reveals that canonical political thinkers such as John Locke and Machiavelli, as well as the great medieval Islamic statesman Nizam al-Mulk, all named corruption as a threat to the realm. In a thrilling argument connecting the Protestant Reformation to the Arab Spring, Thieves of State presents a powerful new way to understand global extremism. And it makes a compelling case that we must confront corruption, for it is a cause—not a result—of global instability.The Rachel Maddow Show 10/20: "THAT'S HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE"

  • Book
    2019-04-21 11:40

    Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes“Thieves of State” is an insightful look inside the world of global corruption. Former reporter, entrepreneur, and former special adviser to Generals McKiernan and McChrystal, Sarah Chayes provides readers with a revealing and unique perspective on one of the main causes of global upheaval, corruption. This provocative 272-page book includes fourteen chapters that will take the reader on a journey through: Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Netherlands, England and the United States. Positives:1. A well-written, insightful, and accessible book. 2. A fascinating and important topic. Chayes should be commended for her ability to gain insights into a unique arena.3. Refreshingly candid. “I had, in other words, been an accessory to fraud.”4. Makes perfectly clear what this book is all about. “Acute government corruption may in fact lie at the root of some of the world’s most dangerous and disruptive security challenges—among them the spread of violent extremism.” Provocative analysis is at the hallmark of this book.5. A historical look at corruption. “But there was one vice that Machiavelli admonished his reader to shun if he cared to prolong his reign: theft of his subjects’ possessions.”6. Interesting perspectives that most observers haven’t considered. “Given the U.S. role in ushering its officials to power and financing and protecting them, Afghans held the international community, and the United States in particular, responsible.”7. The hidden reality exposed. “ONE GROUP at ISAF headquarters was receptive to the premise that systematic corruption was discrediting the Afghan government in the eyes of the people and tainting the international community by association.” “In other words, development resources passed through a corrupt system not only reinforced that system by helping to fund it but also inflamed the feelings of injustice that were driving people toward the insurgency.”8. The business models of corruption. “That is because the business model their leadership has developed has nothing to do with governing a country. But it is remarkably effective in achieving its objective: enriching the ruling clique.”” The link between kleptocracy and violent religious extremism wasn’t just an Afghanistan thing. It was a global phenomenon.”9. Keen observations. “Moroccans told me that what was pushing people over the edge wasn’t just poverty or misfortune in general—it was poverty in combination with acute injustice: the visible, daily contrast between ordinary people’s privations and the ostentatious display of lavish wealth corruptly siphoned off by ruling cliques from what was broadly understood to be public resources.”10. The heart at the eruption in Egypt. “SO IT WASN’T Hosni Mubarak’s army that enraged the revolutionaries of 2011. It was, instead, a small network of high-rolling capitalists centered around the dictator’s son, Gamal.” “Abusive corruption brought down the Egyptian “prince”—as Machiavelli and so many other mirror writers had warned that it would.”11. …and in Tunisia. “In other words, state capture in Tunisia was not carried out through a parallel structure that operated alongside an increasingly marginalized bureaucracy, as in Egypt. Rather, the Tunisian bureaucracy itself was placed in the service of corruption.”12. Discusses the difficulties in addressing corruption.13. Uzbekistan’s corruption looked at. “Like their Afghan, Egyptian, or Tunisian counterparts, however, Uzbeks’ most frequent contact with their kleptocracy is through everyday shakedowns, especially at the hands of the police.”14. Nigeria’s corruptption. “The official salary of a senator tops one million U.S. dollars per year. With such fabulous sums in play, Nigerian politics has become a blood sport.” “And yet many Nigerians have accused these churches, with their opulent pastors and well-dressed officers, of replicating the very corruption they were supposed to counter. “They are taking money from poor people and keeping it for themselves,” says Ruth, explaining why she, the daughter of a pastor, no longer goes to church.”15. Military challenges. “Decision makers, including civilians, still saw corruption as secondary to the immediate task of fighting insurgents. The basic equation had not penetrated: that corruption was in fact driving the insecurity we were struggling to quell.” ““We have come to conclude that unless Afghans take the lead in combating corruption, efforts are doomed,” State Department officials insisted.”16. The sad realization that, “The overwhelming evidence that the market liberalization, privatization, and structural adjustment programs the West imposed on developing countries in the 1990s have often helped catalyze kleptocratic networks—and may have actually exacerbated corruption, not reduced it—conflicts with this group’s orthodoxy, and so is hard to process.”17. Myths debunked. “At the top of the list of reasons cited by prisoners for joining the Taliban was not ethnic bias, or disrespect of Islam, or concern that U.S. forces might stay in their country forever, or even civilian casualties. At the top of the list was the perception that the Afghan government was ‘irrevocably’ corrupt.”18. In support of democracy. “Milton had described elective kingship, or a presidency. He had built the argument for democracy—as the best practical means of guaranteeing redress of legitimate grievances, the best means of appeal here on earth.”19. Fascinating look at religious extremism. “Luther’s historic Ninety-Five Theses founded Protestantism, one of the most far-reaching intellectual and spiritual revolutions in human history.” “Luther’s theses—the genesis of the Reformation—were in large part an indictment of corruption.“ “Without doubt, the Reformation—which ignited wars and toppled kingdoms, in one of the most sweeping upheavals in Western history—was a revolution against kleptocracy.”20. A look at some remedies against corruption.21. Notes and helpful appendix included.Negatives:1. Corruption comes in many flavors and degrees. I wished Chayes would have done a better job of differentiating them for the reader. There was one attempt to do so but it fell quite short. 2. The tone is serious and unrelenting until the end. 3. The book takes a while to find its footing but once it does it excels. 4. The author rambles a bit and is at times repetitive. Some of it is due to the nature of global corruption.5. The book is limited to the Middle East.6. The book will not surprise those who have lived in any of the countries mentioned in the book. 7. No formal bibliography.In summary, this is a worthwhile book to read. Chayes’s expertise in global corruption and her journalistic background helps her showcase some of her astute observations. She does a commendable job of demonstrating the impact of corruption on global security. The book does take a while to get going but once it does it really takes off and in fact I found some of the latter chapters to be the most rewarding. I recommend it! Further recommendations: “Corruption in America” by Zephyr Teachout, “Plutocrats” by Chrystia Freeland, “The Looting Machine” by Tom Burgis, “Pay Any Price” by James Risen, “Predator Nation” by Charles H. Ferguson, “Globalization and its Discontents” by Joseph E. Stiglitz, “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig, “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu, “ECONned” by Yves Smith, “The Great Divergence” by Timothy Noah, and “Bailout” by Neil Barofsky.

  • Mehrsa
    2019-04-03 11:17

    Corruption causes extremism. Let this stand as a warning to us all.

  • Rachel Grant
    2019-04-07 15:16

    Fascinating 1st person account with a deep knowledge of the Middle East and developing world. Listened to audiobook narrated by the author, former NPR reporter.

  • L. Stephen Wolfe
    2019-04-03 13:34

    If you want to understand what motivates young men to join the IS, murder Parisians by the score, and then blow themselves up, I highly recommend this book. It's available in hardcover and audio formats. A paperback is coming soon.The book contains a lot of history you probably don't know. It calls into question US foreign policy for most of our lifetimes. It explains why Islamic fundamentalism is supported even by people who don't believe in its extreme doctrine.Sarah is a Harvard graduate and was once an NPR reporter and currently works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is one of the most straight-talking truth seekers I have read. Even more amazing is that she admits her own mistakes.I don't agree with Sarah's prescriptions at the end of the book. Her heart's in the right place, but the people and organization of the US government are too inept to execute them. But her analysis and organization of incredible stories from around the world are priceless.

  • Diogenes
    2019-04-13 14:23

    "Corruption--an ambiguous word in every language, implying moral as well as material depravity."In Thieves of State, Chayes tackles the behemoth of acute corruption not only as a brief history (it's only 200 pages long) of "mirror writings" (historical works written for kings and sultans, imams and popes on how to govern well without getting one's royal head lopped off), but also her own intimate involvements in present-day Afghanistan and North Africa. All too fascinating in the mirror writings are prescriptions for thwarting corruption within one's organization, and more often than not, kings and czars, presidents and popes chose to ignore them, just as they do today. Paramount to her thesis is the Karzai "criminal syndicate" and U.S. protection of it. This is nothing new; I myself witnessed such de-evolutions in Iraq as a grunt in 2004 (never mind the brilliant propaganda campaign that brought on the invasion of Iraq), but Chayes offers a ringside seat to the dealings of both, from Kabul to the Pentagon. She does a nice job of illustrating the different forms of kleptocratic regimes around the world, ties the (reductionistic) catalysts of the Protestant Reformation to Islamic extremism today well enough, and (thankfully) at the very end shines a harsh light on Ireland, Iceland, and Wall Street to emphasize the pervasiveness of corruption amongst the whole human herd. No one is truly spared. Greed, so often across the churning historical sea, rules the masses, in one way or another. The author does dedicate an entire chapter to "solutions," but in the face of such overpowering examples and insidious manifestations across cultures, borders, and systems of control, solutions prove impotent, if not foolish. From the World Cup to the Olympics commission, BP to blood diamonds, multinational corporations to oligarchs, the World Bank and "the Beltway," rooting out corruption would take a mighty moral maelstrom, a systematic sea change in upholding accountability, and if we used the Reformation as an example of such a manifestation, bloodshed and chaos inevitably rise and ultimately cease, new systems of rule emerge, and Corruption in all its ugliness seeps through the walls once again. The cycle is endless: power corrupts.On the flipside, Scandinavian forms of "socialism" seem to work really, really well on so many levels, for the greater good of their populations. Perhaps there is a real model of "best" governance already flourishing, but how the world is irreversibly linked in a web today, "the global system" as it were could very well fail (e.g., Scandinavia could easily fall to the wolves of Russia howling in the hills). Here, the book's subtitle is crucial: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security.Here's the author being interviewed by Guernica: worth the read.

  • Kathy
    2019-04-02 11:22

    This is a thoughtful and insightful book. The author has lived and worked for many years in various '3rd world' countries that has given her an insight in the various systems of corruption in those countries - both how it works to enrich those in power - and the demands and pain it inflicts upon ordinary people who pay and pay but see no improvement in their lives.The author has taken a fascinating approach and outlined current corrupt regimes around the world (think of the mafia as in control of the government and you won't be far wrong)and compared them to the 'mirrors' written for various princes all over the world for the last 1000 years. These guide for princes on what they should do if they want to stay in power give an illuminating view of how history in the case of corruption keeps repeating itself in society after society.I think a lot of us vaguely understand how, for example, the sale of public assets to private corporations can lead sometimes to monopolies which then can extort the people who need to use the services down the track leaving little redress for the consumers to fight the corruption involved in many cases...but this is only a minor example of how whole governments can go from serving the people to looting a country for the gain of a few people in charge. This is a rather frightening, but nevertheless enlightening book to read and should be on the reading list for anybody interested in social justice or economics.

  • Thomas Ray
    2019-04-02 18:18

    Details ways in which various countries governments are actually kleptocracies, existing to siphon wealth into the hands of government officials for their private benefit. These include Afghanistan (the U.S.-created Karzai regime, where the corruption is funded by the U.S. CIA), Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and Nigeria. Then at the end, we hear the fall of the other shoe: the worst of the bunch is the U.S. itself. Here the kleptocracy exists to use the machinery of government to enrich Wall Street banks and corporations--often illegally.The author cites four other books for further reading on U.S. corruption:Simon Johnson and James Kwak, /13 Bankers/, 2010Charles Ferguson, /Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America/, 2012Neil Barofsky, /Bailout/, 2012Laurence Lessig, /Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress/, 2011and the documentary film /Inside Job/, 2010, whose author, Charles Ferguson, details the "deliberate concealment of financial transactions that aided terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, and large-scale tax evasion; assisting in major financial frauds and concealment of criminal assets . . . ."

  • Jeannette
    2019-04-14 15:30

    I so resisted reading this book, as my husband urged me to do. I knew it was about corruption, but I already understood that corruption is rampant and bad. Duh! Why did I need to be further preached to on that topic -- and depressed in the process? Still, I was in between audio books and so I acquiesced and started listening. Within 30 minutes, I was spellbound by the Chayes's personal story. In short order, I became awestruck by all the ground she covers -- both historic and geographic -- and by the larger picture that she illuminates. I learned so much about so many things, but none more urgent than what Chayes teaches about the connections between corruption, political instability, and religious extremism. I salute her for her courage, her tenacity, and her great power and eloquence as a writer. I can only hope that millions of people, like me, overcome their aversion to thinking about this crucial subject. That has to be the first step to a better path.

  • Gordon
    2019-03-31 19:43

    5 stars. A must read for any leader, operator, or student concerned with security, instability and conflict. Having worked with Sarah in 2008-9 I was immediately interested in reading her second book on the subject of corruption and governance. It was better than I could have imagined. A brilliant approach to an under addressed and misunderstood subject, using Medieval historical counsel to rulers and modern day examples of poor and predatory governance across three continents.

  • Angie Boyter
    2019-03-24 18:24

    Great blend of commentary, history, and memoir. Read by the author, who does a nice job.

  • Tony61
    2019-04-06 19:43

    Thieves of State, by Sarah Chayes Five stars. [Hardcover, borrowed from the library.]Rarely does a book come along with such important, qualified, nonpartisan information. Sarah Chayes provides a concise history of corruption and gives examples in the current era. She speaks from experience, having lived in Afghanistan for 10 years as a journalist, small business owner and advisor to US generals and civilian administrators through two administrations. Her perspective is unique.As citizens of the international Leviathan, Americans should be aware of the ramifications of the actions of our government, military and CIA throughout the world and the responsibility we have for order, disorder, corruption and the resultant terrorism that it foments. Thieves of State is not a diatribe about the evils of US power and foreign policy. Far from it. Chayes is constructive in her appraisal of how we wield force; she recognizes the difficulty in such interaction and she provides useful remedies that are within reach.For centuries, thinkers--both eastern and western-- have provided “Mirrors for Princes” which are advice manuals written by political litterati for use by monarchs to help them in administering healthy and productive government. The most famous is Machiavelli’s The Prince from the 1500’s, written for the Medici dynasty, but there are dozens of others that have been written for all manner of ruler from Chinese moguls to English kings. Chayes outlines the similarity of advice over the ages and cultures. Rulers would do well to be fair, not take from their subjects and not allow corruption under their watch. Such mistreatment and irresponsibility might be paid for in the afterlife, but more pertinent according to the “mirrors”, unfairness and corruption will lead to civil unrest in the here-and-now. Princes might do well to be feared, as Machiavelli famously opined, but more importantly, Princes need to be fair.Chayes connects the dots to Afghanistan, a locale with which she is most familiar. The Karzai government resembles the classic vertically integrated syndicate with money flowing to the elite from outside sources like the US and international community, but more shameful is that Karzai administrators are also extracting money from Afghan citizens, business owners, importers and nearly everyone else. It looks more like the Sopranos of the 1990’s that the nascent American democracy of the 1700’s. The US entered Afghanistan with the best intentions of establishing a burgeoning representative government to provide stability and break up the hornet’s nest of Islamic terrorism in the region. Appointing and supporting Ahmed Karzai as titular head of the parliamentary structure seemed like a good idea. However, very quickly Karzai had constructed a web of corruption that shook down citizens in the street, collected protection money and off-the-books tariffs which made the citizens more despondent, and such despondency led them to the Taliban as a solution for the corruption. Oddly, this actually worked in Karzai’s favor because he then could point to the increasing Taliban terror activity to extract more military aid from the US, which actually strengthened the government’s stranglehold on all economic activity. Karzai has a fully integrated top-down mafia corporation with multiple sources of income operating under the protection the US Army. Money has been extracted and sent to offshore accounts in the names of Karzai and his cronies. None of this has been lost on the average Afghan citizen. They can see clearly who is benefiting from their labor and the unrest of the Taliban. The bureaucratic snafus, the Kafka-esque police state, the outright thievery and government-run heroin operations and sex slavery ring all act to demoralize the populace and increases sympathies for any solution, even extreme Islamic solutions. The US bears responsibility as benefactor of the Karzai regime. We are the Prince. Chayes compares other corrupt regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya which led to the Arab Spring of 2011; Uzbekistan and Nigeria, also this this century; and even shows similarities to the Papacy of the 16th century which led to the Protestant Reformation. Her analysis of the causes, effects and their correlation to the universality of human nature is fascinating. Nobody wants to have their property stolen and their daughters raped. This is a book any citizen of the world should read. The ramifications of corruption, too often supported by western powers, are too great to ignore. Chayes provides a fair assessment and crystal clear solutions. This is not a political diatribe or discursive polemic. Left-wing, right-wing, Republican, Democrat: Read this book.

  • Frank Stein
    2019-04-02 15:17

    This book teems with wonderful insights and original ideas, along with some amusing and horrifying anecdotes, I just wish it was a little more tightly organized. Sarah Chayes was an NPR reporter in Afghanistan, then a NGO organizer there, and finally an advisor to the U.S. military on Afghan corruption issues. The most important insight Chayes brought to the military was that the United States was consciously and unconsciously enabling a corrupt and kleptocratic state in Afghanistan, which was itself one of the chief instigations for the Taliban movement. She pointed out that in Afghanistan, as in many other developing countries, Western interlopers relied on a small handful of local intermediaries to channel aid and assistance, which made those intermediaries the real powers in the country. The Westerners could not get direct contact with locals without the intermediaries, because of their lack of local knowledge, so they abetted and allowed these intermediaries to build up corrupt networks as the only transmission mechanism for funds and power downwards. Even more importantly, these intermediaries used their power to transfer more bribes and money from the populace upwards into their corrupt networks. All the while, the occupiers remained oblivious to the consequences of their actions, reliant only on what they assumed were semi-faithful local servants for information and advice.Chayes shows that these corrupt state networks are common across the world, and she goes to Nigeria, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Morocco to survey the damage they cause and the typically religiously fanatic insurgencies they inspire. She makes a strong case that both Westerners and even locals who abet a certain amount of corruption, supposedly in order to accomplish other goals, are actually enabling a dangerous in-state power network that devastates a country. Most heartbreakingly, she describes how she tried to organize an anti-corruption drive with General David Petraeus in Afghanistan, which led to the arrest of one low level administrative assistant Muhammad Zia Salefh of President Hamid Karzai. Salefh was quickly released, however, and it was later revealed that he was the bagman for CIA cash transfers to Karzai himself. It turns out the U.S. government could not fight the corrupt state because we were actively encouraging it.Chayes sprinkles the book with sage advice from the long history of "mirrors of princes" literature, from John Salisbury's "Policratus" to Ghazali's "Book of Counsel for Kings" to Erasmus's "Education of a Christian Prince." She shows that overwhelmingly they demand that rulers hear a wide variety of voices and take responsibility for their underlings, since those underlings have a universal tendency to prevent voices of the people from reaching the king and tend towards corruption without strong oversight. The surprising, and semi-unstated, premise of this book is that if one is going to rule or occupy a country, one has become the real ruler, and keep any local intermediary truly under your control. Making a pretense of "local rule," while still channeling funds and power through a small groups just exacerbates corruption, and ultimately terror. It's a sobering conclusion.

  • Grace Jenchura
    2019-04-21 16:44

    Sarah Chayes' analysis makes a lot of sense. She convincingly presents her theory that corruption fuels fundamentalist terrorism that is at the heart of so much insecurity in the world today and throughout history. This book should be a "must read" for any0ne involved in fashioning US foreign policy.

  • Adri Nurellari
    2019-04-14 11:41

    This is a great book which provided very interesting angles od view to the security implications of corruption. I believe the analysis of the other is valid and applicable to countries in other parts of the world, including mine.

  • Jared
    2019-04-11 17:34

    "A fish rots from the head..."This is a wonderful book on corruption. The author, Sarah Chayes, knows what she is talking about. Having spent a decade or so in Afghanistan, she has seen quite a bit of it. She is honest about how she herself has also been blind to the tricks employed by the corrupt. Sarah has served as an advisor to Gen Petraeus and others. If you are interested in the topic of 'corruption' and how to combat it, you should pick up this book. ***PURPOSE OF GOV'T- "The very objective of government, Locke wrote, is “setting up a known authority to which everyone of that society may appeal upon any injury received."CORRUPTION IS AT THE HEART OF MANY OTHER PROBLEMS- "Acute government corruption may in fact lie at the root of some of the world’s most dangerous and disruptive security challenges—among them the spread of violent extremism."- "We talk about child labor, and torture, and religious freedom. We talk about them separately from corruption. But corruption is the reason for everything, the means of existence of the whole system.”- "The basic equation had not penetrated: that corruption was in fact driving the insecurity we were struggling to quell."WORDS OF ADVICE[Throughout the book, the author provides various excerpts from something collectively known as 'mirrors for princes' (from the Middle Ages and Renaissance). Mirrors for princes instruct kings or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behaviour, but in a broader sense the term is also used to cover histories or literary works aimed at creating images of kings for imitation or avoidance. Authors often composed such "mirrors" at the accession of a new king, when a young and inexperienced ruler was about to come to power.]- "Machiavelli knew The Prince was vying with long tradition. The rich and well-known body of advice literature was referred to collectively as “Mirrors for Princes.” Hundreds had been written and copied and traded across continents by the time Machiavelli wrote his."- "The Prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he at least avoids hatred. . . . This he can always do if he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects, and from their women." —NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI, The Prince- "...Oppressors! Tyrants! Liars! Bribe-takers! If the government administration in this country isn’t reformed, it doesn’t matter how many soldiers the Americans bring, the situation will never improve.” - elder from Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan- "Erasmus warned of acute economic inequality, seeing in it a potent danger to the health of the empire—a concern that led him to the brink of advocating a redistributive income tax."- "Those injuries of possession and honor are matters that harm men more than any other offense, and against which the Prince ought to guard himself, for he can never despoil one so much that he does not leave a mind obstinate to vengeance.” - Machiavelli, Discourses- "Indeed, nearly all the mirror writers, Christian and Muslim alike, divided by the centuries and by different systems of government, seem to have shared a consensus that eludes many of today’s policy makers: that acute, abusive government corruption prompts extreme responses and thus represents a mortal threat to security."DON'T WORK THROUGH INTERMEDIARIES- "The classic error that outsiders make in Afghanistan is to single out a proxy in whom to repose trust and through whom to interact with most other locals. Over the years of intrusions by outside powers, some Afghans have grown adept at capturing this privileged position and exploiting it to advance and enrich themselves, while disempowering (and thus incensing) their neighbors."- "These people are very clever. They figured out how to express just what the Westerners expected to hear.” Their objective being the seizure of power rather than the midwifing of democracy, these individuals corralled the transition: “If the rules of the new game were ‘democratic,’ they would play by those rules—well enough to get their grip on power.”- "One way Abdullah kept me in thrall was by cultivating fear..."- "A further technique was to keep me from interacting with anyone else face to face, without his presence in the room."- "And so did I commit—at my own humble level—one of the signal errors that many mirror authors warned their august readers to avoid. I lost touch with the people I was purporting to serve."- "nothing is more damaging to the subjects and prejudicial and sinister to the king than royal inaccessibility and seclusion; and nothing impresses the hearts of the subjects and functionaries more than ease of access to the king..."- "Like so many before him, including myself, McChrystal got captured by corrupt intermediaries, whose abuse was driving Afghans into the arms of the very extremist insurgents his soldiers were fighting."- "Time and again U.S. officials are blindsided by major developments in countries where they work. Too often they are insensible to the perspectives and aspirations of populations. Focused on levers to pull, on people who “get things done,” they overlook or help enable networks that are bent on power and private enrichment and are structured to maximize both, at the expense of the citizenry. And they formulate reasons why doing so is, unfortunately, necessary to the U.S. national interest.""DAD SAID I COULD USE THE CAR..."- "assign a single administration “case-officer” to Karzai, to reduce the number of mixed messages he was receiving and his ability to play one U.S. official off against another."IF YOU'RE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION...- "If those officials were engaged in flagrant political corruption and their ISAF interlocutors ignored it, they—and ordinary Afghans—took the silence as approval."- “For, one who permits anything to take place that he is able to impede, even though he has not done it himself, has virtually done the act if he allows it.” - "Corruption, in army-speak, was a force multiplier for the enemy."- "The point was not to end all interactions with these officials. It was to break with the prevailing binary thinking. “Working with” corrupt officials seemed always to mean writing them a blank check. And the only alternative seemed to be cutting all ties—a move that was rarely possible."- "But as long as U.S. military interventions and stabilization campaigns ignore the broader framework within which soldiers and aid workers are operating—or worse, as long as those interventions inadvertently enable host government abuses—then all the efforts by all the brave soldiers on a tactical level will add up to nothing."- "For many Afghans, the passivity of U.S. officials could only add up to complicity."- "push Karzai toward a binary junction at which his actions would irrefutably identify him as either part of the solution or part of the problem..."THINK SEVERAL STEPS AHEAD WHEN ADDRESSING CORRUPTION- "For each course of action, we considered the likely outcomes."- "Finally, we listed arguments for and against each course of action."THE TAIL WAGGED THE DOG IN VIETNAM, TOO- "Robert W. Komer dissected it brilliantly in a 1972 analysis of U.S. failings in Vietnam, titled 'Bureaucracy Does Its Thing'. The monograph spells out how the weak and discredited and not independently viable government of South Vietnam had deftly brought superior leverage to bear over its U.S. patron."SECURITY OR GOVERNANCE FIRST?- "Whenever Sultans rule oppressively, insecurity appears. And however much prosperity there may be, this will not suit the subjects if accompanied by insecurity.” But Western officials, military and civilian alike, habitually flipped the sequence: first let’s establish security, then we can worry about governance."FREE STUFF USED AS CORRUPTION TOOL- "For years, the notion had prevailed that the best way to sway Afghan “hearts and minds” was by giving away stuff: blankets, bags of wheat, wells for drinking water, Afghanistan, infusions of development resources often exacerbated local conflict rather than reducing it, by providing new prizes for opposing groups to fight over."- "development resources passed through a corrupt system not only reinforced that system by helping to fund it but also inflamed the feelings of injustice that were driving people toward the insurgency."CORRUPTION IS NOT A GENETIC TRAIT- "‘Corruption is part of the culture in a place like Afghanistan,’ we kept hearing. ‘What can really be done about it?"- "An absence of integrity within this system did not mean Afghans as a people were intrinsically or culturally corrupt. This late in the game, constructive men and women had been stripped out—and by now might prefer to stay clear."KNOWLEDGE IS POWER- [Understand the system in which you are operating. How does power work there?]- "...the international community knew almost nothing useful about the government officials or local contractors we were dealing with."HOW CORRUPTION WORKED IN AFGHANISTAN- "Money, Kolenda argued, was moving up the chain of command in today’s Afghanistan, in the form of gifts, kickbacks, levies paid to superiors, and the purchase of positions."- "What the top of the system provided in return was, first, unfettered permission to extract resources for personal gain, and second, protection from repercussions."- "The Sayfullah arrest—like any legal challenge—represented a test case. How well the regime defended even its lowliest officials would broadcast a message throughout the system about the strength of the protection guarantee."KARZAI SENT SIGNALS TO ASSURE THE SYSTEM - "Standing on either side of Karzai as he made this pronouncement, however, were his vice presidents, Karim Khalili and Muhammad Qasim Fahim, two of the most notorious war criminals in all Afghanistan."- "...would he be removing any key officials as part of this new anticorruption campaign? “These problems cannot be solved by changing high-ranking officials,” Karzai replied. “We’ll review the laws and see what problems are in the law, and we will draft some new laws.” AFGHAN GOV'T NOT GOOD AT GOVERNING BECAUSE THAT IS NOT WHAT ITS GOAL WAS. (IT WAS TO ENRICH ITSELF)- "Perhaps [Afghan gov't] could best be understood not as a government at all but as a vertically integrated criminal organization—or a few such loosely structured organizations, allies but rivals, coexisting uneasily—whose core activity was not in fact exercising the functions of a state but rather extracting resources for personal gain."- "If [Afghan gov't] main objective was siphoning riches, then why should it waste manpower on the impoverished east?"- "Weak,” “incapable,” and “absent” were the words Americans typically used, evoking a void that the Taliban, according to the standard narrative, were filling. But that was not the government we lived with in Kandahar. Kandaharis were up against an arbitrarily powerful, abusive entity—as noxious to many of them as the Taliban themselves."- "Such an analysis might well be applied to other “failed” or “failing” states. They are failing at being states. That is because the business model their leadership has developed has nothing to do with governing a country. But it is remarkably effective in achieving its objective: enriching the ruling clique."THE WHOLE GOV'T IS BAD? NO WAY, RIGHT?- "For this group of Westerners, the notion that an entire government might be transformed into what amounts to a criminal organization, that it might have entirely repurposed the mechanisms of state to serve its ends, is almost too conceptually challenging to contemplate."DON'T BE FLASHY WITH YOUR RICHES- "Erasmus warned against just such elite extravagance in the midst of want"STAY AWAY FROM MY LADY!- "A story making the rounds referred to a court photographer, whose job was to go to the high-society weddings and snap pictures of beautiful girls who would then be invited to Ben Ali family parties."RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM OFTEN SEEN AS ONLY RECOURSE TO CORRUPTION- "Militant political religion as the only alternative to corruption. That was just the nexus I had seen in the Taliban’s appeal in Afghanistan, and in the frequent presence of extremist insurgencies in other acutely corrupt countries. Public integrity, the proposition seemed to be, could only emerge through the rigid purity of religious practice—imposed by law if need be, or savage violence."- "The argument they are making is that the regime is corrupt and unjust because it’s secular."- "the sentiment she derives from discussions with religious leaders is that “it’s not possible to get at the problem of economic corruption except through spiritual purity.” Here again, corruption—an ambiguous word in every language, implying moral as well as material depravity—seems to nourish a turn toward religion, seen as the most powerful means to combat it."- "Entrenched kleptocracies may find it simpler to face off against violent extremists, who terrify their populations and the international community alike, and who can be killed as enemies, than to confront political or economic movements calling for deep-seated government reform."- "Boko Haram’s vilification of “Western education” should be understood—at least in the early years. “The system of going to school and getting a job in the civil service and skimming off contracts—that’s what they’re angry at,”OR RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM CAN BE USED AS A TOOL BY THE CORRUPT FOR $$$- "Some corrupt governments, like Algeria’s or Pakistan’s or Yemen’s, may deliberately cultivate terrorist groups—even while simultaneously projecting themselves as counterterrorism allies, to tap into a continuing flow of military assistance dollars."- "It is at the moment that a crisis becomes most evident that external finances flow most easily.”RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM- "...the resemblance between the language Al Qaeda uses to explain its violence, and that of the earlier Protestant insurrectionaries castigating the acute corruption of the Catholic Church and its royalist allies, is unmistakable."- "This Western support for Middle Eastern kleptocracies was “the real reason that pushed the mujahideen to carry out these blessed attacks [referring to 9/11].”- "In this context—and recalling the history of Dutch Protestants ransacking the physical manifestations of Catholic kleptocracy—the choice of the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, near Wall Street, as the target of the 9/ 11 attacks may take on an enhanced meaning. Perhaps Al Qaeda’s main intent was not to kill large numbers of Americans so much as to visit a spectacular symbolic punishment upon the manifestations of what it saw as a criminal kleptocracy that controlled the most powerful instruments of force on earth."PARALLEL GOV'T STRUCTURES- "...this “new guard” surrounding Gamal Mubarak created “parallel structures” within key government ministries. “They didn’t touch the positions or salaries of the old bureaucrats—they just created a new structure alongside them.”COUNTRY FOR SALE- [As in 'The Shock Doctrine' book, we see the role that privatization plays in corruption]- "Egyptians bought the factory without having to bid on it, and they sold it to a foreign company within a year,” he recounted with a wry shrug. “They did it to make money off the sale, not to invest in modernizing anything.”- "Society did not gain anything, and the profits were sent overseas.”A COUNTRY'S RESOURCES CAN BE SEEN AS A CURSE INSTEAD OF A BLESSING- "Nigeria is a case study in what has come to be called the “resource curse.”- "Quality of life changes negligibly, or even negatively, for regular people, despite the bonanza."MAKE LAWS JUST TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHILE YOU DO SHADY STUFF (NON-ELITES MUST PAY BRIBES)- "That’s part of the brilliance of corruption in Egypt!” exclaims Wael El Zoghbi. “They make it legal!” According to the retired official, “Fathi Srour [the speaker of parliament] made laws for Gamal so he could circumvent the whole judicial system.”- "Erasmus instructed the future Holy Roman Emperor, “special care must be taken to ensure that they do not smell of profit for the privy purse or of special treatment for the nobility.”- "A soft state is a state that passes laws but does not enforce them. The elites can afford to ignore the law because their power protects them from it, while others pay bribes to work round it."THE POWER/UTILITY OF BRIBES - "As in other kleptocracies, those at the bottom of the Uzbek ladder are not committing such larcenies purely out of personal greed. They are locked into a system that requires them to pay off their superiors."- "Most Uzbeks believe the authorities also allow the taking and giving of bribes in order to collect violations—as in Tunisia—to hold over people’s heads."- "The whole government is set up that way—to make you do wrong—so then they have you on a hook."- "...anticorruption efforts traditionally punished the bribe payer, not the official extorting the money."TOOLS TO COMBAT CORRUPTION- At the end of the book, the author provides tips/tools for: - Chief of State - Intelligence - Diplomats - Financial System - Legal - Aid - Security Sector - Multilateral- Business - Citizens FACTOID- "I know of people who bought their apartments [in Uzbekistan], but the buildings were torn down shortly afterward and the land was transferred to private developers close to Karimova,”- [Forced labor in Uzbek cotton industry] "In 2012 all high school students were called up, about one million kids.” A U.S. embassy official visited a military academy for noncommissioned officers in the fall of 2011. “There was no one there. They were all out picking cotton!”- [Nigeria - and other countries - have shady entities know as...] "Government Operated NGOs” (GONGOs)"??!!- "Among Parliament's supporters during the English Civil War were seven of the ten young men who made up the first graduating class of Harvard College. They, along with many other Americans, sailed to England to take part in the struggle against absolutism. Some went on to take up key positions in the short-lived English republic."

  • Shane
    2019-04-15 16:28

    This was a fascinating work! It starts off as a straightforward account of governmental corruption in Afghanistan but quickly evolves into a look at kleptocracies around the globe and their direct links to the source of terrorism. The reflections on the "Arab Spring" and the financial collapse of 2008 were interesting. The historical examples taken from middle-ages 'mirrors' to the reformations and revolutions in the Netherlands, England, colonial America the even the Catholic church really give these ideas some depth.This is so far outside the context of anything I have learned or read, I don't have any way to judge it on its veracity. It is however very cleanly, clearly, and concisely written and makes an extremely compelling argument for a rethink of our approaches to foreign policy.

  • Jake Bernstein
    2019-03-21 12:24

    An excellent primer on how corruption works and U.S. complicity in it. In Guatemala City, as a young reporter, I saw how the street kids robbed in part because they needed to pay the cop on the beat or suffer brutal consequences. The cop then kicked up to his commanding officer in order to keep his job and illicit income. The commanding officer in turn had to pay off his superior and on it went up the chain. Thieves of State explains these pyramids of corruption in other contexts around the world. As Chayes points out in this fantastic book, U.S. policymakers have been extraordinarily slow, perhaps willfully so, in recognizing this corruption paradigm. This is a tremendous book.Jake BernsteinJournalist, AuthorAuthor of “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite”

  • Nick
    2019-03-29 18:44

    Thieves of States was one of the most original books I've read in a very long time. Written by a security/intelligence professional of the Middle East whose previous career was as a journalist for NPR, she cites excerpts from mirrors for princes (google it) to emphasize examples of corruption in multiple case studies of North African countries. These case studies are then tied into a larger case study of Afghanistan, which is the writer's primary country of focus throughout the book. It was a bit of an effort to get into the style of the book, but by a third of the way through I began to understand why she was writing the way she was. It ended up being a very well-rounded and deeply insightful book with a last chapter that tied it all together perfectly.

  • Ben
    2019-04-20 14:42

    Really a great read. It focused more on foreign governments as opposed to the U.S. government, which allows the reader to draw his own conclusions about the influence of corruption on our own soil. The author weaves historical accounts, ancient texts, and contemporary quotations into a penetrating look at the role corruption has played throughout modern history. Would recommend to anyone interested in politics and the role of the United States in the geopolitical arena.

  • Puck
    2019-03-30 13:39

    Cannot recommend this one highly enough - it really helps shed a light one of the factors fueling what is going on in the world today and the icing on the cake is that the author is not so bold to say that the problems that feed extremist views do not exist on home soil. So good and so interesting.

  • Cordelia
    2019-03-21 13:42

    This book definitely makes some interesting connections and observations.

  • Johannes
    2019-04-19 13:23

    Thieves of State is an important and fascinating book, and while I don't find the writing terribly elegant, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in national security and US foreign policy. Sarah Chayes spent many years working in Afghanistan from 2001 onwards, first as a reporter, then as an NGO worker, and finally as a security expert, and credibly gives voice to the popular frustration with corruption in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, and many of the countries involved in the Arab Spring. As an advisor to Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Chayes attempted to refocus US state-building efforts on corruption. Her view is that corruption is too frequently dismissed as an inevitable cultural component rather than a crucial risk to national security that needs to become an urgent priority for American policymakers. The book makes the case that, by actively supporting corrupt governments in a number of fragile states, American officials are both perpetuating avoidable injustice and breeding strong resentment towards the US and its allies that can lead to extremism.Chayes laments the US modus operandi in "difficult countries" of relying exclusively on a handful of close relationships with insiders that tend to be very adept at garnering and cultivating the trust of and exclusive access to American officials on the one hand, and at building stable kleptocratic networks that allow them to "run" the country in a way that facilitates the enrichment of their own inner circle. Chayes' main example is that of the relationship between the US and the Karzai administration, but she provides a number of other compelling cases. According to the author, while many of the most corrupt countries may suffer from the lack of institutional stability that can result in widespread corruption, the involvement of the US often significantly exacerbates such situations by enabling the aforementioned insiders to stay in power through active US military support and financial resources. Those insiders then become even less accountable to those they are supposed to govern than they were to begin with and instead become beholden to American foreign ministers and military strategists who are often much more interested in maintaining a superficial notion of stability (i.e., keeping their guy in the seat of power) than in building a truly functional state with good governance. To make matters worse, the Americans' reliance on their few close allies makes them vulnerable to misinformation that is designed to foster mistrust any other source of information.In corrupt countries, funds flow from the bottom to the top. The low-level corruption that is often dismissed as harmless palm-greasing is one of the starting points of a scheme that funnels cash all the way to the highest levels of government. Seemingly harmless bribes to police and other front-line functionaries perpetuate a massive hidden pyramid that is impossible for public servants and civilians to escape from.Chayes states that, contrary to the common narrative of corruption as an accepted fact of life in many developing countries, locals usually despise corrupt leaders. When those leaders are difficult to remove (for example because they're propped up by millions or billions from the US government), their populace becomes increasingly irate and desperate, and extremist movements flourish.My main gripe with "Thieves of State" is its lack of style and its simplifications. The main points of the book are reasonably well substantiated, the stories are interesting, but the writing is often clunky and overburdened with florid adjectives. Also, Chayes glosses over the nuances of local definitions of corruption and often gives starkly simplified accounts of the relationships between governments and citizens in her arguments. Nonetheless, the book is worth the struggle.

  • Suzanne
    2019-03-22 12:27

    Fascinating look at corruption in government around the world. But "overwritten" for a "mass audience." The author is very bright and knows the subject thoroughly but like so many who know so much about their subject she finds it difficult to "translate" it for the rest of us. I call it "writing down" but do not mean that in a pejorative sense, merely in the sense of translating for those without the same background knowledge. I was interested in the subject matter and hypothesis, and saw the author on TRMS and was impressed, but her book was a hard read, a slog which put me to sleep every few pages, literally. That is not a good thing in a book you are interested in absorbing. But one must agree with her that corruption at the top threatens global security as well as destroying security within the countries suffering that corruption. This book was published in 2015, presumably written in 2014, so before Mitch McConnell corruptly stole the Garland seat on the Supreme Court and before Republicans and Russians corruptly stole the White House (and yes, I do believe both statements). Sadly, what I kept thinking as I read was that the corruption detailed in country after country == Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, and she could have included other countries around the world in the present day (Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, the list goes on and on) == is sadly equally true in the USA present day. She also goes back in time and writes of a couple of religious wars against corruption in the church and clergy, in Chapter 12 and 13. Chapter 2 is also back in time, writing of "mirrors for princes" similar to Macchiavelli's work. (Outlining beforehand might have been helpful.) But it is the chapters on kleptocracy that are the most disturbing, and the most revealing of how our own govt, federal and some states, are not working for us. She ends with a chapter on Remedies but they are very idealistic and require true leadership, statesmanship, manhood, willingness to put something ahead of self, none of which are in much evidence today (outside of Pope Francis, who is under attack from his spoiled, wealthy cardinals and bishops). I liked her Epilogue, on Self-Reflection. She says "the American state is not entirely captured yet" by "criminalized networks" but we have little time to "forestall the extremism born of desperation"; I hope that is still true but it is less true than it was in 2014 imho. I fear I see an organized crime family in all three branches of govt now. She makes a case for Islamic extremists having risen because of "Western culture" and the USA in particular. I'm not sure I buy that, though she makes the case. I believe a killer is going to find a justification for killing and the fact that these violent extremists kill more of their own people than they do the hated West seems to put the lie to their excuse.But one Al Qaeda leader said of the West: "It is a corrupt, wayward, and unjust system... based on beastly behavior, and seven principles: greed, glluttony, injustice, selfishness, extreme materialism, abandonment of religion." It's hard to disagree with that, sadly. But it should not, cannot, be allowed to be used to destroy all freedom and liberty and opportunity and hope in the world.... or here at home.... So politicians really should read this book! And pay attention!

  • Robert Christie
    2019-04-15 12:43

    A fascinating tale of Sarah Chayes' adventures, insights, and struggles in becoming aware of how U.S. foreign policy is implemented in places like Afghanistan, Libya, Tunisia, and several other nations with which she has had extensive on the ground experience, first as an award-winning NPR reporter, then civic entrepreneur, adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and political actor. Chayes' insights into the role of U.S. military and political engagement with its client states 'enables' the corruption that breeds more insurgency and terrorism than it can ever suppress, is more than ground breaking. It should be required reading for all the U.S. State Department and Pentagon "deciders" who are either now driven out of government service by the Trumpery of the executive branch or set adrift by lack of coherent policies emanating from the administration.This is a powerful book; it indicts by merely describing what happened, especially in Afghanistan, and how Sarah Chayes came to understand how the people view their corrupt government, its function as a criminal enterprise, and the U.S. role in perpetuating corruption. This is the kind of knowledge that is made possible only by a remarkably astute person putting in the time and living with the people in the midst of not only the fog of war but the fog of policy driven by careerism and cultural ignorance on the part of U.S. actors chasing demons and Utopian dreams of "success."

  • Vince
    2019-03-31 11:19

    Chayes' journalistic expertise and knowledge of her subject are the recipe for an outstanding thought-provoking treatise mapping the route between acute systemic corruption at the state level and violent extremism among a disaffected populace. Her detailed examination of the machinations of corruption at all levels of Hamid Karzai's Afghan regime are particularly informing and help connect the dots to a U.S. foreign policy that is often complicit in supporting corrupt governments and thus fomenting violent blowback contrary to our own interests and stated mission.Although Afghanistan's kleptocracy is a central focus, Chayes also highlights the corruption that led to the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa, the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the problems that quickly emerged in former Soviet states following the collapse of communist rule. She also warns of our own slide toward kleptocracy and in the book's penultimate chapter provides prescriptive actions that can be taken to combat systemic corruption both here and abroad.A short and easily read book that packs a punch, Thieves of State is a good choice for those wanting to better understand the ways state-level corruption works and how is breeds extremist reactions that lead to global insecuity.

  • Fargojay
    2019-04-19 11:40

    I have always been frustrated by the fact that our government with regularity backs corrupt leaders and Chayes book does an excellent job of explaining how we are drawn in and mired down by these quagmires. Last year I read "The Locust Effect". The crux of the book was pointing out that efforts to address hunger, disease, and homelessness being a waste of time without addressing the, "hidden epidemic of everyday violence-of rape, forced labor, illegal detention, land theft, police abuse, and more- that is undermining our best efforts to assist the poor." Chayes explains how she was drawn in,