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A former adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains how governmentâ€™s
oldest problem is its greatest destabilizing force.
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 northern 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 extremesâ€•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
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 causeâ€•not a resultâ€•of global
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