Monday, August 22, 2011

War and the American Presidency - Schlesinger

War and the American Presidency

By Arthur M. Schlesinger

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Well, I guess I will have to start reading more Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. I enjoyed reading this book. I had forgotten how good he was.

This work was not exactly what I would call a history book and not really a political book either. But it was filled with both. It was more of a conversational book with an historian about today’s politics and guess-timations for the future. He is very blunt and outspoken. You may not agree with the author but he certainly doesn’t seem to be hiding anything.

After reading this thin book of slightly more than 150 pages, I have no doubt from where this man is coming. He is a Democrat; he accepts globalism and the necessity for world trade; he is against unilateralism; he is not an isolationist; he is a capitalist with provisions, he questions laissez-faire and free trade; he supports world cooperation, the UN etc.; he is an anti-Marxist or anti-Communist; he is anti-Bush and the Bush Doctrine of preventive war; he supports diplomacy and is more of a dove than a hawk; he is an establishment type more than any rebel and he thinks nationalism is dead but will linger on nevertheless in the hearts and minds of the unsophisticated. On this last point, I certainly hope that he is wrong. Without a strong revival of nationalism, I doubt that America will ever be what it has been and what I think it should be.

He gives simple to-the-point explanations of complicated issues. He has a very good writing style; easily understood even to the average reader. I have several of his other books in my library. I will have to get to them.

I read this book in a day or two and I have it filled with highlights. I feel that there is much that I don’t agree with in what he has to say. But there is more than enough that I do agree with to peak further curiosity. He is knowledgeable and smart and he backs up what he has to say with historical insights.

His evaluation of pre-emptive war and the Bush legacy, Bush Doctrine of the preventive war, is right on. As the author points out pre-emptive war is legal and preventive war is illegal. He has nothing flattering to say about Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld.

I really didn’t think that president Bush had established a Doctrine. I was hoping it would be considered more of an aberration. But it is what it is and I hope it will go away. At the moment it appears to be advancing under the present Democratic administration.

I found the book to be refreshing, informative, authoritative, historical and opinionated. I couldn’t put it down.

In this short 150 pages the author covers everything from George Washington and the Revolution to the present war in Iraq. He hits on Wilson and Truman, World War I and Korea. We stumble around with Munich and World War II and the battle between the peaceniks and the war-mongers in various wars throughout American history.
It is a wonderful synopsis of the presidency, where it has been and where it is heading.

Mr. Schlesinger doesn’t mess with the small stuff. He crams bunches of big stuff into this tiny volume. A great read.

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