Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes - review by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh

Grease My Palm

Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security


W W Norton 262pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Thieves of State is instructive, though not in ways Sarah Chayes intended. Intellectuals are often attracted, like moths to the flame, to power, especially if that power consists of regimental insignia on the arms and phalanxes of aides called Bob or Chuck with laser wands to highlight PowerPoint presentations of kinetic kill rates.

In the following passage, Chayes describes a ‘gaggle’ at the Afghan headquarters of General David Petraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF):

Petraeus dubbed us his ‘Directed Telescopes’. The group included the rotund and amicable [sic] Fred Kagan, of the American Enterprise Institute, a powerful  framer of arguments, and his tiny, bespectacled, secrecy-obsessed wife Kim, who ran her own think tank called the Institute for the Study of War. There was intense

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