White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War

White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War

by John Gans

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Overview

“The NSC, part star chamber, part gladiator arena, and part Game of Thrones drama is expertly revealed to us in the pages of Gans’ primer on Washington power.” — Kurt Campbell, Chairman of the Asia Group, LLC

Since its founding more than seventy years ago, the National Security Council has exerted more influence on the president’s foreign policy decisions—and on the nation’s conflicts abroad—than any other institution or individual. And yet, until the explosive Trump presidency, few Americans could even name a member.

“A must-read for anyone interested in how Washington really works” (Ivo H. Daalder), White House Warriors finally reveals how the NSC evolved from a handful of administrative clerks to, as one recent commander-in-chief called them, the president’s “personal band of warriors.”

When Congress originally created the National Security Council in 1947, it was intended to better coordinate foreign policy after World War II. Nearly an afterthought, a small administrative staff was established to help keep its papers moving. President Kennedy was, as John Gans documents, the first to make what became known as the NSC staff his own, selectively hiring bright young aides to do his bidding during the disastrous Bay of Pigs operation, the fraught Cuban Missile Crisis, and the deepening Vietnam War.

Despite Kennedy’s death and the tragic outcome of some of his decision, the NSC staff endured. President Richard Nixon handed the staff’s reigns solely to Henry Kissinger, who, given his controlling instincts, micromanaged its work on Vietnam. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan’s NSC was cast into turmoil by overreaching staff members who, led by Oliver North, nearly brought down a presidency in the Iran-Contra scandal. Later, when President George W. Bush’s administration was bitterly divided by the Iraq War, his NSC staff stepped forward to write a plan for the Surge in Iraq.

Juxtaposing extensive archival research with new interviews, Gans demonstrates that knowing the NSC staff’s history and its war stories is the only way to truly understand American foreign policy. As this essential account builds to the swift removals of advisors General Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon in 2017, we see the staff’s influence in President Donald Trump’s still chaotic administration and come to understand the role it might play in its aftermath.

A revelatory history written with riveting DC insider detail, White House Warriors traces the path that has led us to an era of American aggression abroad, debilitating fights within the government, and whispers about a deep state conspiring against the public.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631494567
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 236,971
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.10(d)

About the Author

John Gans, PhD, runs the Global Order
Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry
World House. A former chief speechwriter at the
Pentagon and frequent teacher at John Hopkins
University, he lives near Philadelphia.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The President's "Personal Band of Warriors" 1

Chapter 1 The "Bright Young Men" on the NSC 11

Chapter 2 The "Center of the Foreign Policy Universe in America" 34

Chapter 3 "Reckless Cowboys, off on Their Own on a Wild Ride" 61

Chapter 4 "What No Other Part of the Government Did" 89

Chapter 5 A "Policy Person First and Foremost" 115

Chapter 6 A "Wartime" Staff 141

Chapter 7 "When You Work for the President, You Work for the President" 167

Epilogue: What the NSC's Warriors Have Won 200

Debts 217

Note On Sources 221

Notes 223

Sources 269

Index 285

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