Book Review: Exploring Tripoli’s road to radicalism

Book Review: Exploring Tripoli’s road to radicalism. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 January 2019
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Book Review: Exploring Tripoli’s road to radicalism

CHICAGO: Set in Tripoli at the time of the US invasion of Iraq, “The American Quarter” explores the zealotry and youthful radicalism that grew out of an era of political uncertainty and religious upheaval.
Celebrated Lebanese author Jabbour Douaihy introduces his readers to Ismail, a young man who becomes radicalized after leaving his hometown.
Douaihy’s characters embody the highs and lows of life in Tripoli’s American Quarter and display the resilience that allows its residents to survive.
Now a dwindling city, this former economic stronghold dating back to the 14th century is a backdrop to complicated and often disappointing lives.
The reader’s introduction to the American Quarter comes via the home of Abdelrahman Bakri, who lives with his family on the first floor of an apartment block, while 27-year-old Intisar Muhsin and her family live on the second floor. Overlooking a river and reached by climbing endless stairways, the area has been “inundated by poor folk from the nearby mountains.”
Muhsin, a mother of four with an incapacitated husband, captivates the reader with her strength. She is the caretaker of the house, a role she inherited from her mother, and has a family history almost as long as the city’s.

Through Douaihy’s characters, the reader learns how Tripoli’s past shaped the city and the lives of families who endured the French mandate of the early 1920s and other harrowing experiences.
Time has not always been kind to Tripoli, as the 2012 Bab Al-Hadid massacre by Syrian forces and the radicalization of the city’s youth show. However, Douaihy’s characters live their lives intelligently, and while their paths are not always clear, they venture along them bravely.
The author writes of the city with love, though it is clear that life in the American Quarter is far from easy. Survival is for those who refuse to allow anyone or anything to stand in their way.


What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

Updated 25 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

  • Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms

While work in international relations has closely examined the decline of great powers, not much attention has been paid to the question of their rise. The upward trajectory of China is a particularly puzzling case. How has it grown increasingly important in the world arena while lagging behind the US and its allies across certain sectors? 

Borrowing ideas of political determinism from ancient Chinese philosophers, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers explains China’s expanding influence by presenting a moral-realist theory that attributes the rise and fall of nations to political leadership. Yan Xuetong shows that the stronger a rising state’s political leadership, the more likely it is to displace a prevailing state in the international system. 

Yan defines political leadership through the lens of morality, specifically the ability of a government to fulfill its domestic responsibility and maintain international strategic credibility. Examining leadership at the personal, national, and international levels. 

Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms. Yan also considers the reasons for America’s diminishing international stature even as its economy, education system, military, political institutions, and technology hold steady. The polarization of China and the US will not result in another Cold War scenario, but their mutual distrust will ultimately drive the world center from Europe to East Asia.