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Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power

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A behind-the-scenes look at"the most powerful committee in the history of the world," the small group of men and women who work, often in secret, within the White House to make the most fateful decisions of our time

Never before in the history of mankind have so few people had so much power over so many. The people at the top of the American national security establishment, the President and his principal advisors, the core team at the helm of the National Security Council, are ...

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Overview

A behind-the-scenes look at"the most powerful committee in the history of the world," the small group of men and women who work, often in secret, within the White House to make the most fateful decisions of our time

Never before in the history of mankind have so few people had so much power over so many. The people at the top of the American national security establishment, the President and his principal advisors, the core team at the helm of the National Security Council, are without question the most powerful committee in the history of the world. Yet, in many respects, they are among the least understood. As deputy undersecretary of commerce, David Rothkopf served in senior positions in the U.S. government and knows personally many of its key players of the last twenty-five years. In Running the World he pulls back the curtain on this shadowy world to explore its inner workings, its people, their relationships, their contributions and the occasions when they have gone wrong. He traces the group's evolution from the final days of the Second World War to the post-Cold War realities of global terror-exploring its triumphs, its human dramas and most recently, what many consider to be its breakdown at a time when we needed it most.

Drawing on an extraordinary series of insider interviews with policy makers including Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, senior officials of the Bush Administration, and over 150 others, the book offers unprecedented insights into what must change if America is to maintain its unprecedented worldwide leadership in the decades ahead.

Author Biography: David J. Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, served in the Clinton Administration, and formerly as managing director of Kissinger Associates. A well-known commentator for leading newspapers and magazines, he has taught international relations at Columbia University; written, co-authored or edited five other books on international and information age themes; and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the President's Advisory Council of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He lives in Washington DC.

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Editorial Reviews

Evan Thomas
David J. Rothkopf has written an enlightening insider's history of what he calls ''the committee in charge of running the world.'' Formally, the N.S.C. comprises the president, the vice president, the secretaries of state and defense and other cabinet secretaries as designated by the president; but as a practical matter, it consists of the president's inner circle of foreign policy advisers, served by up to 200 staff members writing papers and proposals. The N.S.C. tends to work well when the president uses it to think through problems, and to fall apart when it becomes either too much like a debating society or too ''operational'' (think of Lt. Col. Oliver North's escapades during the Reagan administration).
— The New York Times
Warren Bass
… Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former Commerce Department official, does give free and chatty rein to some of the most memorable personalities in the foreign policy world. The national security adviser gang is all here: the icy, imperious McGeorge Bundy; Brent Scowcroft, perhaps the most successful holder of the job, the low-key embodiment of Republican realpolitik and competence who was at the helm as the Soviet Union imploded; the pallid Anthony Lake, weighed down by principle and feckless in practice as Bosnia and Rwanda burned; the garrulous, indefatigable, disorganized and powerful Sandy Berger, a fine foreign policy amanuensis for the freewheeling President Bill Clinton; and above all, Henry Kissinger, the shrewd accumulator of power and ruthless bureaucratic infighter who forever transformed the job of national security adviser. With relish, Rothkopf recounts old feuds among the foreign policy principals: the Buddha-like Dean Rusk watching his State Department lose ground to an NSC staff that New Frontier wags started calling "Bundy's State Department"; Zbigniew Brzezinski and Cyrus Vance brawling during the Iran hostage crisis; the legendary Reagan-era combat and contempt between Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger; the sharp-elbowed, bullying, wheedling Kissinger against all comers.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The NSC is a semi-defined group-the president, vice president, secretaries of defense and state, national security adviser and staff, and other officials as needed-with the open-ended mission of helping the president decide and coordinate military and foreign policy. Its institutional vagueness makes it an ill-chosen framework for this engaging but unfocused study of postwar American policy making. Working from interviews with NSC members, Rothkopf, an academic and Clinton administration commerce official, examines the NSC's history from its 1947 inception onward, reviewing its performance in major foreign policy crises and tracing the rising influence of the NSA post. He delves into bureaucratic minutiae, but focuses on such "Shakespearean" human factors as the character and managerial style of the president and the personal "chemistry" and patronage networks among his cabinet and advisers. Rothkopf prefers a centrist, internationalist security policy, with experienced hands restraining ideologues; he therefore gives high marks to the NSC under Nixon, Carter and Bush 41, while castigating the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations. He presents a wealth of information, but the NSC's ad hoc purview, unstable structure and personality-driven dynamics make it hard to discern a coherent outline of American policy among its wranglings. Agent, Esmond Harmsworth. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
The birth of the National Security Council did not exactly make the headlines. When the National Security Act established the NSC in 1947, The New York Times gave top billing to the creation of a new post of secretary of defense. Only on page 2 did the story get around to mentioning that "the legislation also provides for a National Security Council," composed of the most senior national security officials, whose "meetings will be presided over by the President."

In the half century since, the NSC has become a central institution — in important ways, the central institution — of U.S. foreign policymaking. And over this period, its basic character has changed: from a council of senior cabinet members deliberating with the president to a group of White House staff members headed by the assistant to the president for national security affairs, known as the national security adviser. Over the years, the NSC has increased the power of the NSA and the president but weakened those cabinet members without strong ties to the man in the Oval Office. All told, the advent of the NSC represents one of the most important organizational innovations of the U.S. government since 1945.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586482480
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/30/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 554
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.67 (d)

Meet the Author


David J. Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, served as deputy under secretary of commerce during the Clinton Administration, as Chairman and CEO of Intellibridge Corporation, a provider of international analysis to the national security community, and as managing director of Kissinger Associates. A well-known commentator for leading newspapers and magazines, he has taught international relations at Columbia University; written, co-authored or edited five other books on international and information age themes; and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the President's Advisory Council of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He lives in Washington DC.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2005

    Don't Miss This One

    Well researched, insightful, entertaining, fair and highly relevant to this day and age: a gift to both serious and casual students of the national security process. David Rothkopf, with this book, focuses on one of the best kept secrets of the foreign policy apparatus. An indispensible read for anyone interested in the workings of the executive branch of government.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    Bush Bashing 101

    While this book had the potential to provide insight into the origin and evolution of the National Security Council, the author lets his political bias get in the way. The book tends to be more about what Nixon, Reagan, Bush(41) and Bush(43) have done wrong while glorifying everything done by the democratic presidents. The author actually condemns some actions by republican presidents while commending the exact same action by a democrat. The author also leaves out vital information from some stories in an effort to make it support his conclusions.

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