Books by Anthony Lake

Released: Nov. 1, 2000

"A pretty damp squib."
The former National Security Adviser to President Clinton tugs mightily to stretch what is at heart an op-ed piece into a full-dress jeremiad. Lake's unremarkable thesis is that, although the Cold War is over and the Doomsday clock is ticking a little more slowly, there are still plenty of bad guys out there waiting to bring down Western civilization. Their newfangled weapons range from laptop computers to nerve gas, from fertilizer bombs to ethnic propaganda. In the author's view, the West is unprepared to deal with such threats, given its fondness for bills of rights and its prevailing view that we need not spend quite as much money on war materiel as was deemed necessary when the Soviet Union was a going concern. But Lake's view is unremittingly apocalyptic, from his Hooverian title to his painful stretches of invented dialogue and imagined correspondence—presumably thrown in to pep up what would otherwise be a humdrum set of end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it adages and wonkish policy recommendations. "When confronted by governments with murky ties to terrorists, or by those terrorist organizations themselves," he declares, "we need to secure more options for action between launching missiles, especially without a clear basis, or meekly accepting our fate." Read full book review >
SOMOZA FALLING by Anthony Lake
Released: March 7, 1989

A most valuable case study in US foreign policy-making by Lake (Political Science/ Mount Holyoke College), former director of policy planning in the State Department during the Carter Administration. By detailing the response of US policy-makers to the fall of Somoza in Nicaragua in the late 1970's, Lake offers a primer on the ins and oats of foreign policy, replete with the power struggles between various levels of departments at State, the ways in which policy memos are framed before the President gets to read them, and the little ego games that are played (using rules such as office and desk placement). Dating Somoza's slide from power at the moment of Pedro Chamorro's assassination in January 1978, Lake begins with the scurrying of officials on the vaunted Seventh Floor (the pinnacle of power at State), where "the paneled walls, the carpets, the understated style. . .made it seem surprisingly quiet. But the quiet was deceptive. . .the stillness. . .of a highly charged atmosphere." The author weaves the troubled history of Nicaragua into his narrative back to the rivalry between the original Somoza and Sandio, showing how the Somoza patriarch fashioned his command of the National Guard into the main avenue of power, becoming, in FDR's famous dictum, a "son of a bitch. . .but our son of a bitch." But the relationship was to later haunt us—at State, "policy dilemmas are often seen as conflicts between principle and preservation." Ultimately, Somoza fell victim to a determined US policy of "distancing" from repressive military regimes. Lake reasonably posits that the voice of middle-level career bureaucrats should be heard in future policy-making as a sort of supra-political brigade of expertise. All in all, then: a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the US became involved in the quagmire of Nicaraguan politics—and what goes into the working lives of the people who shape policy. Read full book review >