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U.S. vs. Them: How a Half Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America's Securityby J Peter Scoblic
Synopses & Reviews
For nearly eight years, the American people have struggled to understand George W. Bus‛s approach to the world. Many analysts, lacking a frame of reference, have simply dubbed it revolutionary. But in U.S. Vs. Them, J. Peter Scoblic provocatively argues that the best way to understand Bus‛s foreign policy is to recognize that it is not radical, but rather the most recent expression of conservatism, an often misunderstood ideology whose national security instincts are rooted in Americ‛s eighteenth-century view of itself and whose modern form has percolated for more than a half century, reaching full strength in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Scoblic persuasively shows that the foreign policy of the American Right has been stuck for decades on a binary setting that allows it to see the world only in terms of us versus them or good versus evil. During the Cold War, that approach fostered an unwillingness to negotiate with the Soviet Union, a distrust of apolitical intelligence, and an insistence on military dominanceÂ— even as the advent of nuclear weapons rendered the traditional notion of victory in war obsolete. Today, what conservatives often present as moral clarity is in fact nothing more than a continued failure to recognize that American security depends on our ability to think outside our bordersÂ—to stop seeing the United States in unavoidable opposition to the rest of the world.
Tracing the history of Cold War conservatism from its development by William F. Buckley to its manifestation in Barry Goldwater through its implementation by Ronald Reagan and its culmination in the Bush administration, Scoblic weaves an intellectual history that reveals how the Righ‛s belligerence, intransigence, and disinclination for diplomacy not only brought us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, but also failed to meet the grave post-9/11 challenges posed by Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and especially by the most serious danger that looms before us: that of nuclear terrorism. Wha‛s more, although the Bush administration is nearing its end, conservatism is certainly not, as this yea‛s Republican presidential candidates clearly demonstrated.
U.S. Vs. Them is a revealing and sometimes alarming analysis, but in diagnosing the origins of Bus‛s foreign policy, it illuminates the path to renewed American leadership in the twenty-first century.
A challenging, clear-eyed, and authoritative history of American conservatism and its grave effect on our country's foreign policy
In this compelling and sometimes alarming analysis, J. Peter Scoblic, executive editor of The New Republic, traces the history of American foreign policy and how it has evolved from the Cold War conservatism of the 1950s to today. The belligerence, intransigence, and disinclination for diplomacy that mars the right wing once brought us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. More recently it has failed to meet the post-9/11 challenges posed by Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Scoblic argues forcefully that the only way to face these new threats practically and seriously is by adopting an approach exactly opposite to that suggested by conservatism. By diagnosing the origins of Bush's foreign policy, U.S. vs. Them illuminates the path to renewed American leadership in the twenty-first century as the most serious danger ever faced looms before us: nuclear terrorism.
How American foreign policy has been formed by conservative ideals that pose a catastrophic threat to our future
In U.S. Versus Them, J. Peter Scoblic argues that the Bush administrationas belief in amoral clarityaaits insistence that our foreign policy be based on a fight to the death between America and the forces of evilahas put us at grave risk. Although this worldview may have appealed to many voters in the 2004 election, it has in fact exacerbated the greatest threat to our country: nuclear terrorism. U.S. Versus Them reveals that the seeds of current foreign policy were planted fifty years ago, at the beginning of the Cold War, when conservatism was just beginning to take root, defining itself in opposition to Soviet communism. Scoblic shows how conservative ideology itselfafrom its development by William F. Buckley, Jr., through its implementation by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to its culmination in the current administrationahas endangered Americans and will continue to do so long after this president has left the Oval Office.
As James Mann does in Rise of the Vulcans, Scoblic does more than simply describe or deride Bushas foreign policy; he explains it, showing how and why the president has failed the greatest challenges to American security in the post-9/11 worldaindeed, why he was destined to make those mistakes from the moment he took office. U.S. Versus Them is an intellectual history that also answers the question: How can we defend ourselves while restoring Americaas place in the world?
About the Author
J. Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic. Formerly the editor of Arms Control Today, he wrote this book while a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting researcher at Georgetown Universit‛s Center for Peace and Security Studies.
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