Editor’s Shelf

From Parameters,  Spring 2004, pp. 121-22.

Real heroes are hard to find and they do not always wear a military uniform. But there are a number who have. Such is the case of Congressman John (Jack) Murtha. Many in the military are aware of Jack Murtha through his efforts on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Few, however, know him as a combat Marine and highly decorated veteran. John Plashal, a former staffer on the House Appropriations Committee, joins the Congressman in the writing of From Vietnam to 9/11: On the Front Lines of National Security. I am not certain how much influence Plashal had over Congressman Murtha in the development of the book, but one thing is obvious, he had the good sense not to recast or attempt to enhance the more than 50 years of remarkable personal and professional service provided by this truly unique individual. A career built on a combination of key roles in the formulation of defense appropriations and the associated policy decisions provided Jack Murtha with keen insight into many of the events that have shaped America’s national security interests for more than three decades. From Vietnam to 9/11 affords readers the opportunity to garner a much greater appreciation for a man who has genuinely become an American hero.

As the presidential election of 2004 grows ever closer, the number of books assessing President George W. Bush and his Administration expand exponentially. Two former members of the Clinton Administration, Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, have penned what is perhaps one of the better assessments. America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy presents an evenhanded look at the President’s unilateralist approach to foreign affairs. The authors quickly dismiss the pundits claiming the President has fallen under the spell of neoconservatives; rather, they point out that the President is merely executing the foreign policy he outlined during his 2000 campaign. The events of 9/11 have simply permitted President Bush to recast his foreign policy in an even bolder fashion. The authors do caution that this decision to “go it alone” comes with considerable risk—i.e., resentment and lack of support from abroad.

Another view of the G. W. Bush Administration is by noted presidential scholar Fred I. Greenstein. Greenstein has assembled a distinguished group of contributors in his The George W. Bush Presidency: An Early Assessment. An excellent author in his own right, Greenstein excels as the editor for such well-knowns as Richard A. Broady, Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay (mentioned previously), John Fortier, Allen Schick, et al.  The book examines the multitude of ways a president might influence events on the national and global scene.  The first few chapters are devoted to Bush the man and his White House.  The middle third of the book reviews the Admin-


istration’s budgetary and foreign policy initiatives.  Finally, Greenstein concludes with a series of reviews of President Bush’s performance in the political arena.  Since the book is the result of a conference sponsored by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, it provides a reasonably fair and diverse analysis.  For those desiring insight into the President’s style and political vision, this work serves as the ideal primer.

For a closer look at the foreign policy of the Bush White House, one needs to turn to William Shawcross’s Allies: The U.S., Britain, and Europe in the Aftermath of the Iraq War (forthcoming). Accomplished with the same aplomb that won him praise for his earlier works, this new book finds Shawcross drawing on his 35 years as a correspondent and author to provide startling insight into why America had to lead the coalition against Saddam’s Iraq. Shawcross pulls no punches in his criticism of the European powers that were critical of that decision. Without minimizing the mistakes America and her allies made along the way, the author argues passionately that both the Coalition’s mission in Iraq and America’s leadership are just and necessary.

Several recent releases from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press on the subject of terrorism deserve our attention. Professor Philip B. Heymann, Professor of Law at Harvard and a former Deputy Attorney General of the United States, presents a pragmatic look at how best to deal with the realities of terrorism without sacrificing the basic principles upon which our democracy was founded. In his Terrorism, Freedom, and Security: Winning Without War, Heymann details why declaring “war” on terror was the wrong strategy. Rather, he makes a compelling case for a strategy built on intelligence and law enforcement efforts to defeat this threat. The author concludes that the fight against terrorism is an open-ended one, and that the American people should not be expected to accept indefinite infringements on their civil liberties or the abandonment of the rule of law in an effort to win the battle.

Two other new books from the MIT Press related to countering terror are the outgrowth of discussions held by the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. First to Arrive: State and Local Responses to Terrorism, edited by Juliette N. Kayyem and Robyn L. Pangi, develops the thesis that the best way for Americans to plan and prepare to counter the terrorist threat is to construct a strategy based on the experiences of those who actually must meet the threat on the ground. Drawing on the experiences of experts and first responders, the book takes a realistic look at the needs of states and municipalities, and attempts to provide solutions for the many challenges facing local governments. A second book from the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness is Countering Terrorism: Dimensions of Preparedness, also edited by Robyn L. Pangi, along with Arnold M. Howitt. In this work the editors have assembled a group of authors focused on “new threats” to American security—biological, dirty bombs, and cyber attacks. The authors argue that there is a compelling need to look beyond the simple reorganization of various government agencies to more telling needs, such as the training of health workers, the equipping of police and other emergency responders, and the establishment of new legal jurisdictions to oversee our responses. They conclude with an examination of the experiences of several nations in dealing with domestic terrorism and extrapolate how these lessons might be applicable to America’s needs. — RHT     

For details on publishers and prices of books mentioned, see “Off the Press” in this issue or call Parameters at 717-245-4943 (e-mail: usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil).  

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Reviewed 24 February 2004. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil