Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power

Fred Kaplan, Author . Wiley $25.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-470-12118-4

America’s leaders have gone from hubris to waking fantasy, according to this caustic critique of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Kaplan (The Wizards of Armageddon ) argues that the Cold War’s end and 9/11 persuaded President Bush and his advisers to unilaterally impose America’s political will on the world, while remaining blind to the military and diplomatic fiascoes that followed. Rumsfeld’s “Revolution in Military Affairs,” a doctrine touting supposedly omnipotent mobile forces and high-tech smart weapons, convinced Pentagon officials that Iraq could be pacified without a large force or a reconstruction plan. Bush abandoned Clinton’s diplomatic rapprochement with North Korea, then stood by as Kim Jong-Il built nuclear weapons. And imbued with a “mix of neo-conservatism and evangelism” that was peddled most flamboyantly by Israeli ideologue Natan Sharansky, Bush backed clumsy pro democracy initiatives that backfired by bringing anti-American and sectarian groups to power in the Middle East. Eschewing Kaplan’s favored approach of fostering international security through alliances and consensus building, Bush assumed that “by virtue of American power, saying something was tantamount to making it so.” The particulars of Kaplan’s indictment aren’t new, but his detailed, illuminating (if occasionally disjointed) accounts of the evolution of the Bush administration’s strategic doctrines add up to a cogent brief for soft realism over truculent idealism. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
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