Minute Zero“For every African state, like Ghana, where democratic institutions seem secure, there is a Mali, a Cote d’Ivoire, and a Zimbabwe, where democracy is in trouble.” — Michael Ignatieff

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” ― Nelson Mandela

Zimbabwe. Like so many African countries, and honestly so many countries across the world, “Zimbabwe was poisoning itself with a toxic cocktail of greed, dictatorship, and fear.” This is the Zimbabwe the American is concerned with, as he stands upon the bridge spanning Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the Smoke That Thunders,” the breathtaking expanse of Victoria Falls. And it is from here that he plunges to his death, a victim of all that is hidden in Zimbabwe.

“Minute Zero.” That time, even more urgent than the “Golden Hour” – as Dr. Judd Ryker, head of the State Department Critical Response Unit, describes it, “In analyzing cases of major political shock . . . Immediately after an upheaval, there can be a very short period of breakdown. A window of chaos . . . (when) the entire political system, even one that seems highly stable, is suddenly up for grabs.” The minute in time when chaos sits on the edge of the blade, when the edge turns one way to political stability, the other to war.

Zimbabwe sits on that edge – the edge between continuing dictatorship, murder, genocide and military control is faced by the hope of democracy in the form of Gugu Mutonga, the candidate for the opposition Democracy Union of Zimbabwe. The US has a chance here – a chance to help the Zimbabwean people to move out from under the thumb of the dictator who has drained the economy and the lives of the people for the past thirty years under President Tinotenda. It can happen.

Except.

As always, as with so much that makes America a joke in the international community – and for the same reason 9/11 was so easily carried out – “The Boys” can’t seem to play well together. The Secretary of State, the Zimbabwean counsel, the various and sundry Department Heads. Nobody wants to share their toys. And in this case? It isn’t just the political scene that is a cluster. There is a new variant of uranium hitting the world market. And that uranium has unusually high levels of the U-235 isotope. Of course, “The Boys” still don’t want to share their toys, their political flag waving and ladder climbing, their chance of impressing the next person up the ladder – their intel about the isotope and its mining in the backwaters of the world, even between their own agencies, not to mention the countries where the danger is perilously high.

So.

What happens next is a cluster of the highest order as “The Boys” spend their time pissing into a high wind, the world sits on the edge of the knife, and a small group of people, including Dr. Ryker, attempt to dance along the brink of catastrophe. Todd Moss has a tight grasp on the idiocy of the political machine, the manipulations and missed chances, the stunted growth and stunted capabilities of the military industrial complex, and the horrors inherent in so many countries – not just Africa, but the rest of the world as well.

If you like military/political intrigue, give Todd Moss’s “Minute Zero” a chance. It will be released on September 15, 2015 by Penguin. I received this book from Penguin in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

About this author

Todd MossTodd Moss, formerly the top American diplomat in West Africa, draws on his real-world experiences inside the U.S. Government to bring to life the exhilaration—and frustrations—of modern-day diplomacy. His first novel, THE GOLDEN HOUR (Putnam/Penguin), was originally inspired by the August 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania. Todd was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the time and was dispatched by Secretary Condoleezza Rice to negotiate with the junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Just weeks after Todd completed the first draft of THE GOLDEN HOUR about an army takeover in Mali, the real President of that country was overthrown in a coup. Within days, the northern half of the country was overrun by Tuareg separatists and Islamist extremists, a threat to Africa and the world that was only ended by a French military invasion in early 2013.

The sequel, MINUTE ZERO (Putnam/Penguin), about an election in Zimbabwe that goes awry, will be published in 2015.

Todd is also the author of several non-fiction books on African development and economics. He currently works as Senior Fellow and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington DC and lives in Maryland with his family. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has taught at the London School of Economics (LSE) and at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He holds a PhD from SOAS and a BA from Tufts University.

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