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Against the President: Dissent and Decision-Making in the White House: A Historical Perspective

Overview

With the Iraq War now in its fourth year, its merits are still contested by leading politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere. And revelations suggest that the president's secretary of state, Colin Powell, had opposed going to war. Historians have often analyzed the relationship between presidents and their advisors, but rarely the influence of those counselors who have dissented from the views of the chief executive. Mark J. White considers the question of alternative policies by examining the response of ...
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Overview

With the Iraq War now in its fourth year, its merits are still contested by leading politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere. And revelations suggest that the president's secretary of state, Colin Powell, had opposed going to war. Historians have often analyzed the relationship between presidents and their advisors, but rarely the influence of those counselors who have dissented from the views of the chief executive. Mark J. White considers the question of alternative policies by examining the response of presidents, from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson, to dissent within their own. Mr. White fashions a provocative interpretation of America's role in the cold war and questions about the potential effectiveness of policies that might have been.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
Very informative and interesting.
Booklist
This [book] will engage students of presidential decision making.
— Gilbert Taylor
Journal Of American History
Very informative and interesting.
Political Science Quarterly
Well-researched and cogently argued . . . White's analysis often offers new insights on familiar material.
— Matthew J. Dickinson
Robert Shogan
Would challenging advice from his inner councils have helped George W. Bush avoid the unfolding disaster in Iraq? One can only speculate, since he got none. But what is clear from Mark White's eye-opening disquisition on presidential decision making is that vigorous dissent has long been an integral part of the process. Now a reader in history at the University of London, White follows in the distinguished tradition of British analysts of American foibles, once again demonstrating that the trans-Atlantic span seems to enhance wisdom and sharpen insight.
Charles M. Madigan
This is a book that is as much about the moment as it is about history. Even in the United States, people pay a price for dissent, particularly at the highest levels. From the earliest days of the Cold War, to the Korean Conflict and on to Vietnam, there were honest voices close to presidents who risked everything to say 'No.' Against the President should be mandatory reading for those who would lead the nation and for those who would counsel leaders everywhere.
Melvin Small
In his thoughtful and balanced account, Mark J. White reveals how a handful of prescient advisors frequently offered Cold War presidents sound advice that challenged their policies and, especially, their assumptions. White clearly demonstrates that millions of lives might have been saved had this courageous small minority of dissenters been able to win their administrations' internal debates.
Lloyd Gardner
Mark White's insightful study of the men who dissented from major policy decisions in the Cold War could not be more timely. His theme is one of missed opportunities on a grand scale. These dissenters analyzed the flaws in assumptions, the missing piece in all too many presidential initiatives. White's book should become essential reading for all White House aspirants.
Lewis L. Gould
Mark White's Against the President provides a fascinating look at officials from Joseph Davies to George Ball who challenged executives over the conduct of American foreign policy from World War II to Vietnam. Timely and well-researched, White's book effectively uses history to illuminate the decline of the tradition of presidential advisers who spoke their mind to those in power.
Robert Weisbrot
Against the President is a lucid, well-researched, judicious study of the fissures in America's Cold War consensus in foreign policy, and why some officials dared to call for a different path. With an eye for telling quotations and a keen sense of the interplay between temperament, ideology, and ambition, White reveals the importance of dissent to a healthy foreign policy without romanticizing the dissenters.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
This [book] will engage students of presidential decision making.
Political Science Quarterly - Matthew J. Dickinson
Well-researched and cogently argued . . . White's analysis often offers new insights on familiar material.
Journal of Cold War Studies
[White] presents a well-written study that is accessible to both students and specialists.
—Thomas R. Maddux
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566637442
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark J. White has written widely on American foreign policy, including The Kennedys and Cuba, Kennedy: The New Frontier Revisited, Missiles in Cuba, and The Cuban Missile Crisis. He lives in East Yorkshire, England.
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Table of Contents


Introduction     3
Truman, Hopkins, Davies, and the Polish Question
The Ghost of FDR     9
Talking with Churchill and Stalin     37
Truman, Wallace, and the Soviet Challenge
Troubled by Truman     61
The Bomb     78
Fighting the Cold War Consensus     95
Eleven Days in September     112
Eisenhower, Wilson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War
A New Wilsonianism     137
"Nothing But Grief": Contesting a Commitment     152
Kennedy, Stevenson, and Cuba
The Rivals     171
Operation Castration     189
War or Peace     218
Johnson, Ball, and the Vietnam War
The Accidental President and the Tardy Rebel     251
Devil's Advocate     267
Crossing the Rubicon     293
Conclusion
Decision-Making in the White House     317
Notes     325
Index     359
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