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A revelatory account from a Washington insider of how modern presidents have succeeded—and failed—in making foreign policy. An important contribution in the wake of recent American experiences abroad, and an essential book for the new administration, here is a fascinating, in-depth look at what actually happens in the Oval Office from a respected expert who has held high-level positions in several governments.
Illuminating the qualities of personal leadership—character, focus, determination, persuasiveness, and consistency—that determine a president’s ability to guide his staff, Peter W. Rodman makes clear how these qualities shape policy and determine how this policy is implemented. With telling anecdotes and trenchant analysis, he reminds us of the importance of a president’s vision for the world and of his ability to make this vision a reality.
Rodman’s tour through the past forty years recounts both high points and dismal lows. He shows how Nixon’s deep knowledge of the world combined with his personal paranoia to produce great victories (China) and deep failures (the demoralization of State and other departments). He demonstrates how Carter suffered from his own indecisiveness, and how Reagan’s determined focus in dealing with the Soviets contrasted with his lack of attention to the Middle East, which helped lead to the disastrous events in Beirut. And, finally, he illustrates how George W. Bush put too much stock in bureaucratic consensus and, until the surge, failed to push hard enough for new strategies in Iraq.
Rodman offers an original and telling survey of modern presidential policy-making, challenging many conventional accounts of events as well as many standard remedies. This is a vivid story of larger-than-life Washington personalities in action, an invaluable guide for our new president, and a deeply insightful primer on executive leadership.
“In an age of sensational leaks and headline-grabbing exposés that illuminate very little, it is bracing to read Peter Rodman’s calm and reasoned dissection of foreign policy over the course of several recent administrations, which illuminates very much. His is the quiet voice of wisdom.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
“A brilliant tutorial on the way presidents, regardless of party or ideology, have struggled to control the vast national security bureaucracy they inherit after taking the oath of office.” —Wall Street Journal
“Presidential Command should be on the short list of readings for members of the Barack Obama administration—as much for its pointing out the mistakes to avoid as for illustrating the procedures to emulate.” —Gary Hart, The New York Times Book Review
“A guide about what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to making successful and effective national security policy.” —The Washington Times
“In an age of sensational leaks and headline-grabbing exposés that illuminate very little, it is bracing to read Peter Rodman’s calm and reasoned dissection of foreign policy over the course of several recent administrations, which illuminates very much. His is the quiet voice of wisdom.” —Robert D. Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
“Outstanding. . . . On target. . . . Timely. . . . Rodman’s experience in five of the presidencies he discusses, and his lucid style, keep the focus on reality and the narrative lively. . . . [His] studiously evenhanded and balanced style makes his zingers even more telling when they explode on the page, and he is especially acute assessing Republican administrations in which he served.” —National Review
“Fascinating and insightful.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Surprisingly fun. . . . Rodman moves along briskly, mixing insidery dish with lucid analysis.” —Bloomberg News
“This masterful series of studies, by one of America’s most gifted and sensitive national security analysts, merges a scrupulous taste for clarity with a broad and humane vision of the American national interest. It is enlightening, penetrating and always fascinating.” —Philip Bobbitt, author of Terror and Consent
“[Presidential Command] brings to bear the qualified judgment of someone who in many cases was actually there. . . . [Rodman] has bequeathed his country a priceless legacy. One can only hope that administrations present and future will make good use of it.” —The American Spectator
“Pungent, provocative, perspicacious. . . . An incisive, in-depth, and often firsthand examination of the successes and failures of the last seven administrations.” —Tulsa World
“Invaluable. . . . Rodman casts a cold light on a number of established clichés about foreign policy conflicts. . . . But at its heart this book is about more than foreign policy. In the end, Presidential Command is about the central problem of democratic government today in all fields of policy.” —The Weekly Standard
“Telling. . . . Rich in detail.” —The National Interest
“Observers of the new Obama administration and its inaugural moves in foreign affairs should find lessons in Rodman’s experienced outlook.” —Booklist
“Peter Rodman was incisive, wise, and fair and these qualities are reflected in his revealing, timely, and truly important account of how our recent presidents both succeeded and failed in exercising strategic ‘command’ over U.S. foreign policy.” —Zbigniew Brzezinski
“Provocative. . . . Highly insightful. . . . Fascinating. . . . Fair-minded.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Rodman’s rankings of presidential performance pack interest.”—Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Insightful. . . . [Rodman’s] grasp of the inherent conflict between State and National Security will probably make this book required reading in many parts of the Obama administration.”—Sacramento Book Review