War and the American Presidency

Overview

The Bush Doctrine in foreign policy and what it means for American democracy.

The gravest decision in a democracy is the one to go to war. In a book that brings a magisterial command of history to the most urgent of contemporary questions, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., explores the war in Iraq, the presidency, and the future of democracy.

Describing unilateralism as "the oldest doctrine in American ...

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Overview

The Bush Doctrine in foreign policy and what it means for American democracy.

The gravest decision in a democracy is the one to go to war. In a book that brings a magisterial command of history to the most urgent of contemporary questions, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., explores the war in Iraq, the presidency, and the future of democracy.

Describing unilateralism as "the oldest doctrine in American history," Schlesinger nevertheless warns of the dangers posed by the fatal turn in U.S. policy from deterrence and containment to preventive war. He writes powerfully about George W. Bush's expansion of presidential power and the revived Imperial Presidency (a phrase Schlesinger invented). He reminds us of our country's distinguished legacy of patriotism through dissent in wartime, calling on us to honor that tradition even in the face of our need for security. And he reminds us of the inscrutability of history.

War and the American Presidency shines an essential light on the meaning of our history and a guide for using our understanding responsibly in meeting today's challenges.

Author Biography: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is a writer and historian. Among his many works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. He lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles A. Kupchan
American history informs Mr. Schlesinger's indictment of the Bush administration, but it also instills his confidence in democracy's "capacity for self-correction." Mr. Schlesinger predicts that the reckless adventurism will not last, noting that "Americans are simply not competent imperialists, as demonstrated in Iraq in 2004." The country's "own humane, pluralistic and tolerant ideals" will ultimately undermine its imperial aspirations. In three concluding essays, Mr. Schlesinger dwells on the need to reinvigorate these ideals, again drawing on the lessons of history to caution against complacency and stress the importance of renewing America's democratic institutions and spirit.
— The New York Times
Josef Joffe
… Schlesinger has it right where he transcends passion in favor of prudent principle: "The United States, as it seeks to advance its national interests, will increasingly discover, I believe, that joint action may often be the best way to safeguard those interests." This is not the counsel of wimpishness but of realism. Indifference to consequences was driven by weakness in 1812, by fabulous strength in 2003. In both cases, America might have been better off staying at home rather than going it alone.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
A liberal public intellectual and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (for The Age of Jackson and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House), Schlesinger presents cogent essays that provide historical background to the Iraqi War. He condemns the Bush Doctrine, which makes preventive war a tool of American diplomacy, arguing that preventive wars (as opposed to preemptive wars, which are fought to stop an impending attack from a proven enemy) have no historical precedent in the United States. The Iraqi War is an unsuccessful preventive war-a war based on speculation rather than sound intelligence, claims Schlesinger. The author cautions against the return of the Imperial Presidency, a subject he wrote about during the excesses of the Nixon administration, and calls dissent a patriotic response to controversial government actions. He concludes with a warning about using history to determine precisely how events will unfold. Strongly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/04.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060027
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Unilateralism : the oldest doctrine in American foreign policy 3
2 Eyeless in Iraq : the Bush Doctrine and its consequences 21
3 The imperial presidency redux 45
4 Patriotism and dissent in wartime 69
5 How to democratize American democracy 83
6 Has democracy a future? 105
7 The inscrutability of history 121
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