Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security--From World War II to the War on Terrorism

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In Arsenal of Democracy, historian and public intellectual Julian Zelizer shows how internal politics have influenced American foreign policy since the Cold War. Rejecting the notion that, prior to the presidency of George W. Bush, politics “stopped at the water’s edge,” Zelizer exposes the partisan fighting that shaped the foreign policies of presidents from FDR to Kennedy to Reagan, revealing the extent to which the GOP and Democratic party have alternately sought to define themselves as the party of war and the party of peace as the political mood shifted. Republicans, he shows, have not always been hawks; during World War II, it was the Democratic party that took the lead not only in entering war, but in ensuring that the national security apparatus that emerged would remain a fixture of the American political landscape even after the war was over. A definitive account of the complex interaction between domestic politics and foreign affairs over the last six decades, Arsenal of Democracy is essential reading for anyone interested in the politics of national security.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite its title, this insightful examination of the impact domestic politics has had on American foreign policy actually begins with the Spanish-American war. Zelizer (Taxing America) traces changing attitudes toward foreign engagement through WWI, including Wilson’s failed advocacy for the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, and arrives at the cold war era, his principle focus. His key themes are the competition between the Republican and Democratic parties for electoral advantage on issues related to international affairs and the expansion of executive authority that began with the Korean War in the Truman administration and continued intermittently through the George W. Bush era. The author emphasizes foreign policy throughout, devoting mere paragraphs to major domestic events like the Kennedy assassination and the contested presidential election of 2000. Zelizer’s excellent analysis concludes with charting the rise and fall of conservative internationalism from Reagan to the election of Barack Obama, advancing a consistently thoughtful, complex and balanced argument about the decisive effect domestic politics has had on the evolution of the national security state. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Wide-ranging examination of the nexus between domestic politics and foreign policy during the past 60 years. In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt urged his countrymen to turn America into "the great arsenal of democracy," supplying the necessary weapons to defeat the Nazi threat. Within a year the United States fully entered World War II and subsequently devised numerous policies and institutions that abided for decades, creating a national-security state whose contours have always been shaped by domestic politics. Zelizer (History and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.; New Directions in Policy Issues, 2005, etc.) organizes his detailed survey around four themes: the ongoing battle between congress and the president for control of national-security policy; the constant jockeying between Democrats and Republicans for a national-security electoral advantage; the recurring debate about how big and powerful the national government should be; and the persistent controversy over unilateral vs. multilateral action. The author makes clear that moments of bipartisan coalition have been rare. Instead, ideological, electoral and institutional battles are the rule where the demands of a democracy and superpower status often conflict. Marching through the decades since WWII, Zelizer reminds us of episodes that have set off foreign-policy debates-the major wars, of course, but also now dimly remembered disputes over who lost China, the so-called missile gap with the Soviet Union, the rise of the military-industrial complex, the utility of detente and the wisdom of the nuclear-freeze movement. He skillfully charts the debate over various illustrative issues-defense spending, human rights abroad, first-amendmentrights at home-and his discussion of the draft, which once intimately connected the average citizen to the national-security state, is particularly fine. A timely analysis of the forces that will collide as President Obama ponders the way forward in Afghanistan. Author tour to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. Agent: Scott Moyers/The Wylie Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465028504
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/6/2012
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 489,925
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian Zelizer is a Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of Taxing America, winner of the Organization of American Historians’ Ellis Hawley Prize, and has contributed articles to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, American Prospect, Boston Globe, and Huffington Post among others. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Table of Contents

1 Four Questions 1

2 Uneasy Warriors 9

3 How the Democrats Won World War II 39

4 Building the National Security State 60

5 Making China Right 81

6 High Noon at Mid-Century 97

7 Make Missiles, Not Budgets 121

8 The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited 148

9 Running Scared into Vietnam 178

10 Ending the Draft 203

11 No Room for a Republican Center 237

12 The Lost Democratic Opportunity 273

13 Rambo Meets The Deer Hunter 300

14 Counter-Attack 333

15 What Comes Next? 355

16 Fighting Conservatism on Capitol Hill 386

17 9/11 431

18 Mission Accomplished? 467

19 Politics at the Water's Edge 503

Acknowledgments 507

Archives 509

Notes 511

Index 561

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