Customer Reviews


21 Reviews
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly accurate
I have spent 20 years working in various parts of Africa and already knew that most aid projects were pointless - but had assumed that the effects of the aid were at worst neutral if not vaguely benign. I was already aware that after the Rwanda genocide, the Tutsis got no aid, whereas the refugee Hutus (who carried out the murders) were overloaded with aid.

It...
Published on 9 July 2010 by Mr. Peter Roberts

versus
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not the whole 9 yards!
I bought the book hoping for an in depth critique and analysis of the subject and some answers to the problems thrown up by the author....but I was disappointed!

It was interesting insofar as it publicised problems associated with the subject but only in a gossipy sort of way, it was journalistically lazy I felt! I know these problems exist due to my work, but...
Published on 30 May 2010 by SG


Most Helpful First | Newest First

5.0 out of 5 stars War Games by Linda Polman, 6 July 2011
By 
J. Wilkinson (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
A very readable book with interst on every page, War Games exposes the real facts about the operations of the Aid Agencies in Africa and Asia. On the ground, these are almost completely controlled by the local warlords or militias who can dictate how the aid is spent or distributed. The numerous aid agencies compete for donations and make no distinction between aggressors and victims. The corruption in the aid business, although known about for many years, is fully exposed here, and this brilliant account should be read by all who give their money.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Uniquely Depressing Book, 31 Oct 2010
By 
pjr (London, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
A long time ago someone I know made a throwaway comment about the fact the money raised for Live Aid didn't help, it made things worse, not better. I've always laughed that phrase off. Linda Polman's "War Games" illustrates this and many other crisis in her relentlessly depressing book. For her international aid is almost an industry and one clearly not just interested in helping people.

She attempts to ask questions but doesn't really provide much in the way of answers. Whilst some are debating the veracity of some of the information found here I found a great ammount of it both plausible and believable. Her premise that aid may not do the good it sets out to is illustrated well.

This isn't a happy read and, as a lifelong believer in the postive aspects of aid it does seem at times a thouroughly negative appraisal of the situation. Yet her style comes across as honest and heartfelt which does make her position that much more understandable. This is more polemic than fact, but that doesn't detract.

There are many criticising her factual grasp, but one thing that did impress me was her analysis of the changing face of the charity through understanding and operating as brand. This is spot on and a central reason why I, for one, remain convinced that, however unpalpable this piece may seem, it is an interesting and worthwhile read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing rant that doesn't inform the reader, 17 May 2010
By 
Mark Farmaner - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I started reading this book because I was concerned by some reviews which referred to accusations that ethnic Karen used humanitarian aid to help their struggle against the dictatorship.

In fact there is just one sentence in the book about this: "...and the Karen people fight the military dictatorship in Burma from camps in the Burmese jungle, cared for by humanitarians."

This statement is simply wrong. There are no Karen camps cared for by humanitarians which are used as bases like this. I have visited camps for civilian internally displaced people in Karen State, Burma, and they are full of villagers who are barely surviving. Most of the time the only aid they get is rice and salt, and medical supplies are not enough to prevent Malaria and other diseases. I have also visited separate military bases of the Karen, who have even less food and medicine, none of it supplied by humanitarian aid agencies.

Maybe a mistake can be forgiven, and as this information is wrong I am sure it will be corrected in future editions, but this is a mistake that could have serious consequences. It plays into the hands of governments and UN agencies which refuse to fund the cross-border aid that millions of people in Eastern Burma desperately need. Because of restrictions by the dictatorship, cross-border aid is the only way to get aid to some ethnic parts of Burma. Restrictions that governments and the UN do very little to challenge. Linda Polman hit the wrong target, missing the real scandal of aid agencies and the UN which allows an unknown number of deaths from disease because of their unwillingness to challenge or defy the aid restrictions imposed by the dictatorship. It is missed because that isn't a story which fitted her agenda.

The rest of the book is just as disappointing. Polman claims that the book is meant to prompt questions about aid, whether sometimes aid does more harm than good, such prolonging conflict, but it isn't written in a way that will enable a sensible and informed debate. At times it seems more like a rant. Parts of the book read as if the author had spent months assembling as many negative facts and anecdotes as possible to support her argument, listing them in bullet points. She then just used `find and replace' in Microsoft Word to delete the bullet points, and called it a chapter.

Too often points are made using anecdotes instead of facts. Conversations overheard in bars are a frequent source of information. More than once Polman attempts to make her case by describing how aid workers drink in bars, use swimming pools, and have air conditioning in buildings they use. Shocking revelations indeed! These are cheap shots, not journalism.

Other groundless statements are made, such as saying there is barely any discussion in the humanitarian world of the ethics of the fact that eighty percent of staff killed in war zones are residents of the countries in question. This is a totally unfair accusation. In fact, many agencies are so concerned about the safety of local staff that those local staff complain about safety restrictions placed upon them.

Polman seems so obsessed in making her case she cannot find a single positive thing to say about aid agencies. Even the successful campaign to cancel third world debt, which has saved lives and benefitted millions of people in developing countries, is dismissed as rewarding incompetence and punishing good behaviour.

A reader of this book who doesn't know much about aid agencies would be left with the impression that aid agencies are simply cynical self promoting organisations who chase money rather than help those in poverty, and that they don't care if aid money is stolen or used to buy arms. Of course this is nonsense. The reader would also be left with the impression that aid workers themselves are also cynical and uncaring, getting drunk in bars every night. Again untrue.

This book doesn't help or inform a sensible debate on improving how aid agencies operate. It is effectively a hatchet job that doesn't leave the reader better informed on how to solve problems in aid delivery. Linda Polman doesn't even bother to make suggestions on how things should be improved.

There is no in-depth analysis beyond a few stats and anecdotes. There are no constructive proposals from the author, or mention of proposals or options for change from anyone else. There is no balance with case studies showing where aid has made a huge difference, that could be used as good practice to improve things in future. Nor are there examples, such as in Burma, where more aid is needed but not delivered. Instead, only stories which make the case against aid which the author wants to make are included, and even one of these, as in the claims on Burma, is not accurate.

The reader does not get a balanced and well-researched picture that allows them to come to an informed opinion. There is a real need for debate and discussion on improving international aid in conflict situations. This book isn't it. Its style reads more like it was written to grab headlines that boost sales. In that one thing at least, it has succeeded.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 11 Oct 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Linda Polman uses a series casual observations made on her own priviliged forays into places few choose to go to come to some odd and outdated conclusions. Her essays are filled with cynicism that may have been justified somewhere, sometime but she completely fails to make any sort of coherent argument for what on the face of it seems a reasonable assumption, aid corrupts. Unfortunately her acidic style and poor record of facts detract from an argument I would have previously been happy to go along with! Now pass the tin chugger, here's a fiver...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Florence Nightingale question, 9 Oct 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Polman asks an important question. If an army (as Napoleon remarked) marches on its stomach, does supplying humanitarian aid help third world armies to march?
Florence Nightingale was quite clear on this point. The responsibility for victims of war lies squarely with the war makers. So the Red Cross view of charitable assistance merely relieves the combatants of part of the burden and cost of war. Naturally, more war will be the result.

Polman's view is probably closer to Florence Nightingale's than Henri Dunant's. This book is not a polemic, however. Neither (how could it be?) is it an audit. The quality of Aid Agency accounts ranges from the scanty to the frankly unbelievable so a "true" picture is never likely to emerge.

Some reviewers have criticised this book as "anecdotal". This should be taken as a compliment in the circumstances. The Florence Nightingale question, difficult and revolting as it is, remains.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Games, 11 Jun 2010
By 
A. J. Ivins "Antony" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a first-class expose of the Humanitarian-aid industry by a well-informed observer. One report, that has been doing the rounds, suggests that of every $3 donated only 6 cents reaches the needy. After reading this book I am now convinced the report is not exaggerated. The UN and the big donors are obligated to ensure that this corruption is speedily curtailed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly disappointed, 24 Oct 2011
This review is from: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times (Paperback)
I started the book anticipating a good read. I am interested in this subject. I never got to find out if the content is good though. Within the first few pages I hit two errors that are so serious the book lost any credibility. Either it was not edited, or the editor was as lazy as the author / translator. I gave up in irritation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Further corroboration, if needed..., 30 Oct 2010
By 
Joiner (Shropshire, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is perhaps significant that the cynical voices raised against this book come from people who have been involved in the aid business and feel tarred with the same brush. Rather than aim your brickbats at the author, perhaps you should use your influence to bring about change from within, although as your own experiences run counter to all other evidence you're going to be hard-put to see anything to aim at through those rose-tinted glasses.

I suggest that anyone thinking of buying this book should first read "The Road To Hell" and "Lords Of Poverty", in that order, after which all the critical reviews of this book will take on a certain perspective, not entirely flattering to its critics.

Sorry about that, but extensive reading about the "aid industry" (for such it is) doesn't so much cause the scales to fall from your eyes as blast them away with high explosive.

If uncritical supporters of the aid inudstry really want to right the balance in their favour, perhaps one of them should put pen to paper and examine the claims against them and present a clear rebuttal of the "allegations". If there is one already out there, someone has been keeping very quiet about it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars War Games, 24 May 2010
By 
A series if aid misadventures over a number of years. Easily read but by a lady who seems very cynical and takes no account of the major reevalaution of processes by NGOs after the tsunami, although the book was clearly still being written at that stage. Because the author fails to provide any kind of balance to her comment she is in real danger of turning many away from aid without in anyway sorting the problems she is trying to address.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty scary, 28 May 2010
This book says what most people are afraid to say because of recrimination. The author puts forward very cogent arguments backed with personal experience as well as contributions from other well informed sources. It exposes the less savoury interests on all sides of the aid industry in a very convincing way.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times
War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times by Linda Polman (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
£6.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews