Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power [NOOK Book]

Overview

America's power is in decline, its allies alienated, its soldiers trapped in a war that even generals regard as unwinnable. What has happened these past few years is well known. Why it happened continues to puzzle. Celebrated Slate columnist Fred Kaplan explains the grave misconceptions that enabled George W. Bush and his aides to get so far off track, and traces the genesis and evolution of these ideas from the era of Nixon through Reagan to the present day.
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Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power

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Overview

America's power is in decline, its allies alienated, its soldiers trapped in a war that even generals regard as unwinnable. What has happened these past few years is well known. Why it happened continues to puzzle. Celebrated Slate columnist Fred Kaplan explains the grave misconceptions that enabled George W. Bush and his aides to get so far off track, and traces the genesis and evolution of these ideas from the era of Nixon through Reagan to the present day.
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Editorial Reviews

Anne-Marie Slaughter
A lively and entertaining—if occasionally horrifying—read, it offers a cautionary tale for any administration and for the men and women who hope to serve in one…Even when the facts are familiar, Kaplan weaves these stories together in a way that highlights the often hidden connections between them. The result is an account of the pathologies not only of individuals and departments in the Bush administration, but also of Washington itself.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
What sets Mr. Kaplan's Daydream Believers apart is his emphasis on the Bush administration's failure to come to terms with a post-cold-war paradigm, which, he argues, left America's power diminished, rather than enhanced, as former allies, liberated from the specter of the Soviet Union, felt increasingly free to depart from Washington's directives. Also illuminating is his close analysis of the impact that the White House's idees fixes had, not just on the Iraq war but also on other foreign policy problems like North Korea, and his detailed examination of the formative role that the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky played in shaping President Bush's determination to try to export democracy around the world.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

America's leaders have gone from hubris to waking fantasy, according to this caustic critique of the Bush administration's foreign policy. Kaplan (The Wizards of Armageddon) argues that the Cold War's end and 9/11 persuaded President Bush and his advisers to unilaterally impose America's political will on the world, while remaining blind to the military and diplomatic fiascoes that followed. Rumsfeld's "Revolution in Military Affairs," a doctrine touting supposedly omnipotent mobile forces and high-tech smart weapons, convinced Pentagon officials that Iraq could be pacified without a large force or a reconstruction plan. Bush abandoned Clinton's diplomatic rapprochement with North Korea, then stood by as Kim Jong-Il built nuclear weapons. And imbued with a "mix of neo-conservatism and evangelism" that was peddled most flamboyantly by Israeli ideologue Natan Sharansky, Bush backed clumsy pro democracy initiatives that backfired by bringing anti-American and sectarian groups to power in the Middle East. Eschewing Kaplan's favored approach of fostering international security through alliances and consensus building, Bush assumed that "by virtue of American power, saying something was tantamount to making it so." The particulars of Kaplan's indictment aren't new, but his detailed, illuminating (if occasionally disjointed) accounts of the evolution of the Bush administration's strategic doctrines add up to a cogent brief for soft realism over truculent idealism. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
* Regular Swampland readers know how much I respect the Pentagon analysis filed by Fred Kaplan of Slate. Kaplan's new book Daydream Believers is excellent and devastating, not just on the Iraq war, but also on the Bush Administration's fantastic devotion to anti-missile defense and its first term refusal to negotiate with the North Koreans. Kaplan is also terrific on the depredations of former Rumsfeld assistant Douglas Feith, who also has a new, rather obese book out trying to justify his lethal foolishness. I'd love to see Kaplan review it somewhere—a Cliff's Notes version of Feith's greatest whoppers would be a small, but essential, public service. But go, please, and buy Kaplan's book. His great work deserves attention and reward.
Patrick Cockburn's Iraq obsession puts my tiny 5-year jones to shame. He's been out there for two decades and really knows the place and the players, which makes his new biography of Muqtada Sadr essential reading, especially now. I haven't finished it yet—last few chapters to go—but it seems eminently fair and very well-informed so far and I decided to include here and now because of the events on the ground in Mesopotamia.
Speaking of which, I agree with Kevin Drum's assessment of today's New York Times piece about the mysterious Mr. Sadr...especially the part where Kevin confesses that he's not quite sure what's going on. My suspicion is that Sadr sees more hope in the October elections than in a military confrontation with the U.S. and Badr Corps right now. Also fascinating that the Iran seems, for the moment, to be taking sides with its more tradition partner—the Hakim Shi'ite faction—and against the militias that Crocker and Petraeus, Bush and McCain were so convinced were Iran's cat's paw in Iraq. It's always good to remember that while the Sadr family stayed in Iraq during Saddam's reign, the Hakims lived in Iran and their militia—the Badr Corps, now melted into the Iraqi Army, were organized and served as part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
It's a classic policy conundrum: Sadr is more anti-American, but Hakim is more pro-Iranian. Short-term Sadr is a real problem—especially those Sadrist elements that are lobbing mortars into the Green Zone and setting bombs to kill American troops. Long term, though, the Hakim faction may be crucial in the further empowerment of Iran in the region. (Time.com, April 20, 2008)

"Author Fred Kaplan offers an insightful analysis of what he sees as the unrealistic hopes at the root of President George W. Bush's problematic foreign policy in the Mideast" [and calls his arguments] "strong." (Boston Globe, April 12, 2008)

"[Kaplan] sheds new light on the important part played by certain advisers within the Bush White House, while explicating several pivotal and perplexing matters concerning the administration’s decision-making process.... illuminating... incisive." (The New York Times, March 18, 2008)

"A lively and entertaining — if occasionally horrifying — read, it offers a cautionary tale for any administration and for the men and women who hope to serve in one...master archaeologist who can see through the shards and stones of a dig to reconstruct the culture of the city below." (Washington Post, March 16, 2008)

America’s leaders have gone from hubris to waking fantasy, according to this caustic critique of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Kaplan (The Wizards of Armageddon) argues that the Cold War’s end and 9/11 persuaded President Bush and his advisers to unilaterally impose America’s political will on the world, while remaining blind to the military and diplomatic fiascoes that followed. Rumsfeld’s "Revolution in Military Affairs," a doctrine touting supposedly omnipotent mobile forces and high-tech smart weapons, convinced Pentagon officials that Iraq could be pacified without a large force or a reconstruction plan. Bush abandoned Clinto

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470489758
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/18/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,247,373
  • File size: 581 KB

Meet the Author

Fred M. Kaplan

Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column in Slate, and contributes frequently to the New York Times. The author of the classic book The Wizards of Armageddon, he has also written for the New Yorker, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other publications. A former Boston Globe newspaper reporter based in Washington and Moscow, he co-won a Pulitzer Prize for a special Sunday supplement on the nuclear arms race. He earned a Ph.D. from MIT. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Brooke Gladstone.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Mirage of Instant Victory 7

2 The Fog of Moral Clarity 53

3 Chasing Silver Bullets 77

4 Breaking the World Anew 113

5 The Dreams Dissolve into Nightmares 149

6 Waking Up to Reality 189

Acknowledgments 201

Notes 203

Bibliography 221

Index 231

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