In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served--From JFK to George W. Bush [NOOK Book]


The most solemn obligation of any president is to safeguard the nation's security. But the president cannot do this alone. He needs help. In the past half century, presidents have relied on their national security advisers to provide that help.

Who are these people, the powerful officials who operate in the shadow of the Oval Office, often out of public view and accountable only to the presidents who put them there? Some remain obscure even ...
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In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served--From JFK to George W. Bush

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The most solemn obligation of any president is to safeguard the nation's security. But the president cannot do this alone. He needs help. In the past half century, presidents have relied on their national security advisers to provide that help.

Who are these people, the powerful officials who operate in the shadow of the Oval Office, often out of public view and accountable only to the presidents who put them there? Some remain obscure even to this day. But quite a number have names that resonate far beyond the foreign policy elite: McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.

Ivo Daalder and Mac Destler provide the first inside look at how presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush have used their national security advisers to manage America's engagements with the outside world. They paint vivid portraits of the fourteen men and one woman who have occupied the coveted office in the West Wing, detailing their very different personalities, their relations with their presidents, and their policy successes and failures.

It all started with Kennedy and Bundy, the brilliant young Harvard dean who became the nation's first modern national security adviser. While Bundy served Kennedy well, he had difficulty with his successor. Lyndon Johnson needed reassurance more than advice, and Bundy wasn't always willing to give him that. Thus the basic lesson -- the president sets the tone and his aides must respond to that reality.

The man who learned the lesson best was someone who operated mainly in the shadows. Brent Scowcroft was the only adviser to serve two presidents, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Learning from others' failures, he found the winning formula: gain the trust of colleagues, build a collaborative policy process, and stay close to the president. This formula became the gold standard -- all four national security advisers who came after him aspired to be "like Brent."

The next president and national security adviser can learn not only from success, but also from failure. Rice stayed close to George W. Bush -- closer perhaps than any adviser before or since. But her closeness did not translate into running an effective policy process, as the disastrous decision to invade Iraq without a plan underscored. It would take years, and another national security aide, to persuade Bush that his Iraq policy was failing and to engineer a policy review that produced the "surge."

The national security adviser has one tough job. There are ways to do it well and ways to do it badly. Daalder and Destler provide plenty of examples of both. This book is a fascinating look at the personalities and processes that shape policy and an indispensable guide to those who want to understand how to operate successfully in the shadow of the Oval Office.
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Editorial Reviews

David Ignatius
…[an] excellent new history of the national security adviser's position…The authors, Ivo Daalder and I.M. Destler, combine an insider's focus on process with a scholar's distance and perspective
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The position of national security adviser is by far the most powerful unelected (and unconfirmed by Congress) post in the federal government, with tremendous influence over American foreign policy (for good and for ill). Daalder (coauthor, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy) and Destler (coauthor, American Trade Politics), foreign policy experts at, respectively, the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland, do an excellent job of examining the different philosophies and styles of all who have filled the role, from McGeorge Bundy to Condoleezza Rice, as well as how different presidents have deployed the skills of their national security advisers. Unlike Cabinet secretaries, the national security adviser maintains an office in the White House and operates free of the politics and bureaucratic demands of running federal departments. There is no one-size-fits-all mold, and no standard résumé for this vital job. Some advisers have been college professors, others diplomats, still others veterans of the military. Each, as the authors astutely show, has brought unique talents and prejudices to the assignment, and each has left an indelible mark on history. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Scholars Daalder (senior fellow, Brookings Institution; America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy) and Destler (Sch. of Public Policy, Univ. of Maryland: American Trade Politics) have produced a timely survey of national security advisers, members of the President's staff who often wield substantial power despite not going through a public confirmation process. Drawing upon research conducted as part of an oral history project at the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution, the authors undoubtedly bring the right combination of insight and experience to the story. Starting with the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his adviser, McGeorge Bundy, in 1961, they devote a chapter to each administration up through George W. Bush, describing how these advisers interacted with the President, secretaries of state and defense, and others to shape national security policy. Because it covers such a broad time period, the book introduces a dizzying number of players; a reader without a basic grounding in modern U.S. history could become confused. However, the authors have a readable style and fill a niche in political history with their specific focus. Recommended for undergraduate libraries serving political science students and larger public libraries where there is interest. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/15/08.]
—Elizabeth Goldman

Kirkus Reviews
The history of recent presidents' influential top advisers, heavy on political maneuvering but never dull. According to the Constitution, counseling the president is the Cabinet's job. But as the government grew larger in the 20th century, write the authors, presidents often found Cabinet secretaries too partisan on behalf of their various departments. For disinterested advice, they increasingly relied on trusted intimates: Colonel House, "neither elected nor appointed to any office," served as Woodrow Wilson's de facto secretary of state at the 1919 Paris Peace conference, while Harry Hopkins was FDR's primary diplomat during World War II despite holding no foreign-policy position. Unhappy with this ad hoc arrangement, Congress passed the National Security Act in 1947 to create a distinct executive organization, the National Security Council. It remained a minor department until 1961, when Kennedy gave broad, day-to-day responsibility for coordinating foreign policy (and a large office in the West Wing) to a man he had chosen personally, the dean of faculty at Harvard. Like many of his successors, McGeorge Bundy was an academic who had never held a top government position; his overriding qualification was that the president knew him and wanted him. He took advantage of this intimacy to become a major source of foreign-policy advice, overshadowing Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Former NSC staffer Daalder and co-author Destler (Public Policy/Univ. of Maryland), who have both published technical works on foreign policy, deliver a surprisingly lively account of Bundy and his 14 successors, their complex relationship with the president and often-stormy interactions with the cabinet and media.Some advisors (Bundy, Brent Scowcroft, Steven Hadley) ran an efficient department that emphasized delivering policy advice. Others (Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Condoleezza Rice) became powerful figures, opposing and even feuding with the secretaries of state. A revealing, unsettling look at how our presidents receive advice on foreign policy. Agent: Andrew Stuart/The Stuart Agency
From the Publisher
"Beginning with the Kennedy years, the role of national security adviser has grown to be one of the most powerful in government. Daalder and Destler provide a colorful, intimate, and revealing look at what it takes to do the job right. By describing the delicate balances, power plays, and personality factors involved, this book shows what really happens in the corridors of the White House." — Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Kissinger

"This is a wise, important, and even urgent book. Its astute judgments on the relationships between the national security advisers and the presidents they served over a half-century — the ways they made and implemented foreign policy, and the results, successful to disastrous — should be taken to heart by the next U.S. foreign policy team, and alerts the rest of us to what to watch for." — Elizabeth Drew, author of Citizen McCain

"Every national security adviser in the last fifty years had his or her strengths and weaknesses. Now, for the first time, a book focuses on each of them as individuals, succinctly and precisely. Essential reading for the new administration — and anyone interested in the history of the National Security Council system." — Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

"Given the daunting array of national-security challenges facing the Obama administration, this lucid, insightful, and authoritative book could hardly be more timely. Drawing on their deep knowledge of how the White House and the world work, Daalder and Destler have shed light on one of the most important, but least understood, posts in the U.S. government at a pivotal moment in American foreign policy." — Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state and author of The Great Experiment

"With well-drawn examples, Ivo Daalder and I. M. Destler chart U.S. foreign policy through the prism of the vital but amorphous post of National Security Adviser. Their tracing of bureaucratic intrigue from McGeorge Bundy through Kissinger and Brzezinski to Condoleezza Rice is always fascinating, if not always reassuring." — A.J. Langguth, Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439156520
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • File size: 645 KB

Meet the Author

Ivo Daalder served on the national security council staff in the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (with James M. Lindsay), won the 2003 Lionel Gelber Prize.

I. M. Destler is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. His previous books include the awardwinning American Trade Politics and (with Leslie Gelb and Anthony Lake) Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy.

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Read an Excerpt


"The President Needs Help"

Some say it all began with "Colonel" Edward M. House, a man "neither elected nor appointed to any office," who operated as Woodrow Wilson's de facto secretary of state during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Others point to Harry Hopkins, who also held no foreign policy position but who served as Franklin Roosevelt's primary diplomat during World War II. Or perhaps it was Brigadier General Andrew Jackson Goodpaster, "staff secretary" to Dwight Eisenhower, "tending the door and handling urgent messages silently." There were other precursors to the fourteen men and one woman who have held, since 1961, the modern position of "assistant to the president for national security affairs," aka "national security adviser." John F. Kennedy was not the first president who needed and empowered an aide, responsible to him alone, to handle critical foreign policy business. But with the coming of the Cold War, requiring the United States to pursue a global foreign policy and maintain a huge national security establishment, pressures on presidents grew. It was only a matter of time before they organized the White House so they could respond to this leadership challenge.

The American presidency is the most demanding job in the world. What presidents do can decide the fate of millions -- even of the earth itself. It is also the most lonely job -- since presidents can- not share their ultimate responsibility -- and yet it is one they cannot do on their own. Presidents need help. They need aides to help them understand the issues they must address, and to manage everything from their daily schedules to their most consequential policy deliberations. In earlier times, these aides were often members of the cabinet, the heads of various government departments and agencies. But as government grew larger, presidents learned that people who were designated to be the White House's representative to their agency often became their agency's representative to the White House, offering advice that reflected interests of the agency but not necessarily of the president. Charles G. Dawes, the first U.S. budget director, concluded in the early 1920s that cabinet members were "the natural enemies of the President," because they were, functionally, "Vice-Presidents in charge of spending." Presidents often found their cabinet members unresponsive on non-budget matters as well. Increasingly, presidents discovered that they needed advisers who were beholden to no person, institution, or interest other than the president and his office.

Colonel House, Harry Hopkins, Andy Goodpaster -- their roles were ad hoc responses to presidential needs. Beginning with Roosevelt, however, Congress and the president also moved to build durable, White House-based staff institutions. Faced with overseeing the enlarged range of government programs established under his New Deal, FDR established the President's Committee on Administrative Management, chaired by Louis Brownlow, which summarized its findings with a memorable sentence: "The President needs help." To provide some of this help, Congress in 1939 established the Executive Office of the President. Additional support was offered by the designation of general purpose "administrative assistants to the president," who -- the Brownlow group urged -- should combine a "passion for anonymity" with devoted service to their chief. FDR's successor, Harry S. Truman, relied on White House special counsel Clark Clifford to handle a broad range of policy and political matters. Truman's successor, Dwight David Eisenhower, added a chief of staff, former New Hampshire governor Sherman Adams, and special aides for congressional relations. By 1963, leading presidency scholar Richard E. Neustadt could write that, due to their key policy and operational roles, "presidential aides outrank in all but protocol the heads of most executive departments."

As impressive was the development of separate staff units within the Executive Office of the President, which became known as the "institutional presidency." At its core was the Bureau of the Budget (Office of Management and Budget after 1970), which enhanced the chief executive's authority over government spending and domestic policy. Others were added over time to deal with a broad range of subjects -- from economic policy to the environment, from science policy to drugs. Today, the president's Executive Office totals eighteen hundred employees, working across seventeen separate entities. Central to the story here, though, is the institution that would provide the organizational base for presidential national security advisers: the National Security Council (NSC), established by the National Security Act of 1947.

The creation of the NSC did not generate many headlines. The big story in the July 27, 1947, New York Times was President Truman signing on the previous day "the history-making legislation unifying the nation's armed forces," and the naming of James Forrestal as America's first secretary of defense. Only on page two did the Times get around to reporting that the legislation "further provides for a National Security Council, consisting of the heads of the units making up the new national military establishments. Its meetings will be presided over by the President."

This second-order treatment of the NSC was hardly surprising. "The Council," David Hall noted in his study of its early years, "seemed a marginal proposal in the context of the momentous debate over the unification of the Army and Navy into a single Defense Department." This bruising battle had been mediated at Truman's behest by Clark Clifford, who later remarked that the NSC was born "almost as a byproduct to military reorganization." Nor was the NSC intended by its original designers to enhance the power of the president. Roosevelt's "intimate, personalized, ad hoc, 'disorderly'" conduct of World War II decision making had "caused great pain at the Pentagon and State." In his position as secretary of the Navy, Forrestal had been one of those who felt that pain most acutely. Contrasting the operations of FDR's White House with the British War Cabinet, Forrestal saw much to recommend in the latter. He became the foremost advocate of the NSC concept because he wanted to regularize presidential decision making, and hence constrain the chief executive, by establishing a formal, top-level group with which he would be obligated to meet regularly.

But Truman had his own ideas. Though he was a passionate supporter of unifying the military, he resisted creation of the NSC until the statutory language was toned down to make it clear that this would be an advisory, not a decision-making body. He also insisted that the title of its chief of staff be changed from the powerfulsounding "director" to the more reassuring "executive secretary," perhaps to mollify Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who worried that with the president as its chair and senior cabinet officials as its members, the Council could "markedly diminish the responsibility of the Secretary of State."

Once the Council was established, Truman moved to underscore his independence from it: after presiding over its inaugural session, "he did not attend a council meeting for another ten months," though he encouraged it to meet without him. Truman also put Forrestal in his place. He rebuffed the new defense secretary's bid to locate the Council staff in the Pentagon, and he ordered the secretary of state, not defense, to preside over it in his absence. He did, however, welcome the executive secretary of the NSC as an "enlargement of the Presidential staff," choosing for the position Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, an experienced national security hand and St. Louis business executive. Souers defined his role as that of "a non-political confidant of the President," who would "subordinate his personal views on policy to the task of coordinating [and] forego publicity and personal aggrandizement." With Truman's approval, Souers recruited a staff of civil servants who, Truman intended, "should serve as a continuing organization regardless of what administration was in power."

The NSC got off to an active start, but its main role was to foster interagency cooperation on emerging policy issues rather than to address current presidential choices. For ongoing policy decisions, Truman relied heavily on his secretaries of state -- first General Marshall, who he considered "the greatest living American," and then Dean Acheson. And while Truman employed NSC meetings to help him manage the Korean War that followed the North's invasion of the South in 1950, he did so by working with his chief cabinet advisers. James Lay, who succeeded Souers as executive secretary, was a competent careerist who sat at least two notches below them in the bureaucratic pecking order.

When Eisenhower became president, he upgraded the National Security Council. He decided that it needed to be managed by a presidential aide with senior rank, so he created, on top of Lay and the career staff, the position of special assistant to the president for national security affairs. Its first occupant, Robert (Bobby) Cutler, organized an elaborate interagency process featuring detailed policy papers covering essentially all significant national security issues. To review and debate these papers, the NSC met weekly -- a total of 346 times during the eight years Ike was president -- and he himself presided about 90 percent of the time. The aim, in the words of one close Eisenhower aide, was "to establish a fabric of policy that would reflect the security interests of the United States." And Cutler lovingly described the NSC process as "policy hill," with papers marching upward to the Council and decisions flowing downward for implementation. Under him and his successors, the NSC became a substantial institution, its several dozen career aides now reinforced by a five-person "special staff" tasked with providing independent analysis and review. At the very least, the Eisenhower NSC's "process of coordinating, planning, discussing [and] educating" created, in the words of a senior staff member, "a network of relationships which constituted a national security community" within the U.S. government. (Eisenhower liked to quote the Prussian general Von Moltke's aphorism that "plans are nothing, but planning is everything.")

Even with this heightened visibility and activity, however, the NSC did not challenge the authority of the secretary of state. John Foster Dulles, who as a junior aide had watched his uncle, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, be humiliated by Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House at the Paris Peace Conference, combined assiduous cultivation of the president with fierce and relentless defense of the prerogatives of his office. And Eisenhower, the most organizationminded of all American presidents, believed in delegating authority to his cabinet members. So his administration, like Truman's before, relied on the secretary of state to develop and implement the main lines of its foreign policy.

Beyond State and the NSC, Ike also had a third resource for foreign policy management: his staff secretary Andrew Goodpaster. The formal job was created in 1954 when Eisenhower lost his temper over mismanagement of White House paperwork -- "Andy's" initial task was to be sure it flowed smoothly, to the right people. But once Goodpaster solved that problem, he was available to do much more. Quietly and efficiently, he handled much of Eisenhower's most critical national security and intelligence business. He sat in the West Wing, down the hall from the Oval Office. He organized and took notes for the president's many informal meetings with senior advisers on international matters. He smoothed communications between Eisenhower and Dulles, and perhaps even more between the president and Dulles's successor, Christian Herter. He watched over the sensitive U-2 surveillance aircraft flights that flew over the Soviet Union, and over the nascent Cuba operation that became Kennedy's Bay of Pigs. He did not provide independent substantive advice, nor was his stature equal to that of Eisenhower's formal national security assistants, Bobby Cutler and later Gordon Gray. But he played a key operational coordination role. And Eisenhower trusted him totally -- he would remark that every man would want his son to be like Andy Goodpaster.

It was this day-to-day policy support, in fact, that John F. Kennedy and subsequent presidents would find essential. But Eisenhower and his people never publicized the Goodpaster role or the importance the president attached to it, choosing instead to highlight their formal NSC-based process. This invited, in turn, a withering attack from skeptics of the process, above all from the arguably partisan but intellectually credible reports of the Senate Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery, chaired by Senator Henry M. Jackson. Their negative take was buttressed by expert outsiders asking questions like, "Can We Entrust Defense to a Committee?" The general picture they painted was one of thick papers reviewed at long, sterile meetings, producing mushy compromise formulations for a passive president while John Foster Dulles ran the show.

Subsequent evidence has demonstrated that this picture was, at best, oversimplified. But as the historian Anna Kasten Nelson put it, Eisenhower and his NSC associates "unwittingly...supported the conclusions of their critics" by the way they responded to the system's detractors. "The role of the council was so greatly overstated that its real usefulness as a policy mechanism was completely denigrated." And, as two of the Eisenhower system's staunchest defenders noted, "Eisenhower's...procedures [for organized policy planning] did not outlast his terms in office." In a December 1960 Oval Office meeting to discuss the presidential transition, Eisenhower urged Kennedy "to avoid any reorganization until he himself could become well acquainted with the problem." Kennedy asked Eisenhower to postpone Goodpaster's follow-on military assignment so that he could stay on for the new administration's first month; but he had no intention of keeping the elaborate NSC machinery in place. He was determined to start anew.

The modern National Security Council dates back to that Eisenhower- Kennedy transition. Since then, presidents have given less priority to making the overall government function with maximum effectiveness, and more to having a White House staff that is loyal to them alone. Over time, the size of the president's staff has gradually The modern National Security Council dates back to that Eisenhower- Kennedy transition. Since then, presidents have given less priority to making the overall government function with maximum effectiveness, and more to having a White House staff that is loyal to them alone. Over time, the size of the president's staff has gradually increased -- and so has the distance between the president and the rest of the federal government. The action -- the real locus of decision making -- moved from the cabinet to the White House. This has sometimes brought greater presidential control over policy and execution, but it has also encouraged greater secrecy and threatened accountability. These dangers have been particularly acute at various points in our history of national security policymaking, notably in the 1970s, the mid-1980s, and since 9/11.

The process began in earnest with the Kennedy administration. There, for the first time, Americans could see in practice what General Marshall had warned against fourteen years earlier -- the potential, inherent in the NSC, to "markedly diminish the responsibility of the Secretary of State." But it came not from the Council per se, but from the staff position that Eisenhower had created, that of presidential assistant for national security affairs. Kennedy gave broad, day-to-day responsibility for coordinating foreign policy to a senior aide he had chosen personally for this position and would work with intimately. McGeorge Bundy was the first national security adviser to have an office in the West Wing. And he was the first to bring a coterie of men into the White House to serve as the president's own national security staff.

Subsequent presidents followed this model, leaning heavily on a man (Condoleezza Rice was the lone woman) and staff that was responsible to them -- and them alone. They were often very influential. In August 1990, for example, Brent Scowcroft was appalled by the initial NSC discussion of the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait. His colleagues had been concerned about rising oil prices and the impact on the U.S. economy, not about reversing aggression in the world's most volatile region. Later that day, Scowcroft conveyed his distress to President George H. W. Bush. At the next day's NSC meeting, he proposed to Bush, he would argue that the Iraqi invasion was intolerable and needed to be reversed -- by force, if necessary. The president agreed. "This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait," the president subsequently declared. There ensued in six short months the assembling of an international coalition of 540,000 troops, which ousted Saddam Hussein's forces. Scowcroft was the man who first made the case for this action to the president and his most senior officials. And in the months that followed he supported the president in the numerous actions, large and small, through which his administration implemented this initial August decision.

Not all national security advisers have had such influence, and few have played the role with Scowcroft's deftness. Their relationships with successive presidents have varied, shaped by how each chief executive operated and what problems he confronted. Some presidents (Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and Bush the elder) engaged deeply in policymaking; others (Reagan, early Clinton, and Bush the younger) were happy to leave the details to their subordinates. Some preferred regular and formal processes, while others worked better informally. Some advisers gave priority to running a good policy process (Bundy, Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley) and others were more focused on making and explaining policy (Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Rice). Some administrations have operated in wartime, when there was a clear focus in policy (Johnson, Bush the son); others came to office when priorities were less settled (Carter, Clinton). Each of these variables helped to shape the relationship between the president and his national security adviser, and the role and responsibility of the advisers and their staffs within the administration as a whole.

None of these advisers had held a top government position outside the White House prior to their appointment. The most prominent were distinguished academics, and most had significant foreign policy background. But their overriding qualification was that their president wanted them to do this job in his White House. Cabinet members might have to serve multiple constituencies -- the advisers could concentrate on serving just one. Indeed, the fact that the president can choose pretty much whomever he wants to fill this post increases the odds that their relationship will prosper and that the national security adviser will come to wield enormous power. In every transition between presidencies, reporters speculate obsessively on who will be named to the cabinet, above all who will be chosen for its most senior position, that of secretary of state. But it is typically the adviser, not the secretary, who sits at the crossroads of policy.

America's capacity for wise and effective foreign policy has come to depend on the capacity of the national security adviser not just to do what the president wants, but also to make the broader U.S. foreign policymaking system work. Never has this been more important than in today's increasingly complex and interconnected world. The White House has become the locus of effective policymaking -- both for foreign and national security matters and for economic and domestic policy -- and all the more so as the distinctions between these disparate policy spheres have increasingly blurred. Presidents have come to rely on the national security adviser as their point person to integrate the many different policy dimensions -- defense and diplomacy, international and homeland security -- into a coherent whole. Indeed, though presidents have other senior aides for economics and the environment, they often rely on their national security advisers to coordinate these issues as well -- because of the overlap with traditional security concerns and because presidents work more closely with, and hence have more trust in, this unique individual. And they expect the adviser to work with the many different agencies, departments, and interests that necessarily need to be involved in addressing these different policy issues. It's an extraordinary set of responsibilities for one person to have.

The job exists because presidents want it to exist. And the person occupying it has power and influence over policy because the president wants him or her to have that power and influence. In the following chapters, we tell the story of how presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush have relied on their national security advisers to manage America's engagements overseas. It's a story about different personalities, their power and their principles, as they confront a complex and dangerous world. It's a story of how chief executives, to enhance their own control over government, have empowered aides accountable to no one but themselves. It's a story that begins with the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union, and continues to the problems of today, from combating terrorism to countering weapons proliferation to coping with the turmoil in the Middle East. It's not a story about national security policy per se, but about how presidents and their aides have made that policy.

The primary focus is on the advisers themselves -- the fifteen people who have held this position over the past forty-eight years. Their ambitions, operating styles, and policy views were critical in shaping America's response to the Cold War and post-Cold War worlds. Even more important to their performance, however, were the presidents they worked for: how those presidents governed, what they wanted from their aides, their relationships with their national security advisers and the other senior members of their foreign policy teams. Therefore, this historical examination of how these national security assistants operated provides a rare window into the Oval Office -- its occupants and the policies they pursued. And drawing upon that history, we conclude with suggestions of how future national security advisers might best assist their presidents -- and the nation -- that they serve.

Copyright © 2009 by Ivo H. Daalder and I. M. Destler

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Table of Contents

1 "The President Needs Help"

2 "You Can't Beat Brains"

3 "You Don't Tell Anybody"

4 "I Would Never Be Bored"

5 "Serious Mistakes Were Made"

6 "Brent Doesn't Want Anything"

7 "You Have to Drive the Process"

8 "I'm a Gut Player"

9 "Trust Is the Coin of the Realm"




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