War And The American Presidency was written by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who used to be an adviser for Adlai Stevenson's campaign and a special assistant to President Kennedy . He participated in the founding of Americans for Democratic Action, America's oldest independent liberal lobbying organization . Schlesinger wrote many famous books about the American politics, including the much heralded work The Imperial Presidency (1973). War And The American Presidency was published in September 2004, two months before the presidential elections. As a liberal historian, it is not a surprise that Schlesinger disapproves with the so-called Bush doctrine, but as the author underlines it in the Foreword (p. XI), the historical dimension is essential to understanding current issues such as the war in Iraq.
[...] Once more, Arthur Schlesinger wanders from the initial subject, the war in Iraq and the Bush presidency. After two chapters off subject, he concludes the book with a general thought on history. Thus, he explains that history must be known by policymakers, but is often a negative model rather than a positive one. This non-partisan conclusion contrasts with the rest of the book, but also contradicts the two previous chapters. After having analyzed the future of democracy through history, Arthur Schlesinger declares that historical analogy has important limits. [...]
[...] that there was no imminent threat from Iraq, which leads Schlesinger to the conclusion that it is a preventive war, that is to say, a “potential, future, therefore speculative threat”. It was an easier target than the war on terrorism (p. 31). Thus, war “becomes a matter of presidential choice” (p. 21) and signals the renewal of the “imperial presidency”. This increase in executive powers can be a danger for democracy if it lasts. Then, the author analyzes the history of dissent in wartime through centuries. [...]
[...] Many other books about the war in Iraq and about the American presidency have been written, but Schlesinger sets himself apart by emphasizing American history. Since he has written numerous books, he can use his own theories. He adapts for instance his theory of an “imperial presidency”, first used under Nixon, to the current Bush presidency. He shows how this situation is against the original aim of the Founding Fathers, willing to balance powers and having positioned Congress before the executive power in the Constitution. [...]
[...] He demonstrates that dissent has always existed, and then declares that Bush has changed the tradition of foreign policy because there was no real debate before the War in Iraq. If he tries to say that the debate lacks quality because the President did not listen to Americans, this is not a change in the American tradition; wars have always been unpopular. Moreover, the criticized Patriot Act has been preceded by severe infringements of civil liberties such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 of the Sedition and Espionage Acts of 1917. [...]
[...] Moreover, the book is inconsistent, looks like several essays put together, letting the reader wonder whether Schlesinger finished it in a hurry so as to publish it on time during the presidential campaign. Even the chapters' titles reveal this flaw. One can immediately tell that Democracy A Future?” or to Democratize American Democracy” are not appropriate in a book titled War and the American Presidency. Maybe the problem comes from the choice of the book title. Schlesinger's language is clear and simple, but his rhetoric is clumsy. Arthur Schlesinger's historical purpose provides a new perspective on the conflict in Iraq. Approaching [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee