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The Rise and Fall of the Neocons, from Nixon to Obama

by Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-125389-8
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Chronicle of the decades-long battle between the pragmatists and the neocons for control of U.S. foreign policy.

Colodny (co-author: Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, 1991) and Shachtman (Airlift to America: How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours, 2009, etc.) trace the origins of the neocons particularly to the influence of long-serving and little-known Defense Department advisor Fritz Kraemer, whose devotion to liberty, democracy, moral absolutism, belief in the efficacy of military power and skepticism of diplomacy attracted many acolytes throughout the government, most prominently Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig. Kissinger’s apostasy from Kraemerite doctrine estranged him from his mentor and from a growing cadre of true believers who gathered strength under Reagan, even as they sniped at the president’s doing business with Gorbachev. Sidelined under George H.W. Bush and Clinton, the neocons came roaring back under George W. Bush. With the stunningly rapid and successful invasion of Iraq in March 2003, their long-term project to reshape American foreign policy reached its apex. Five years later with the economy in a ditch, the voters—after the lingering, painful Iraq occupation, a simultaneous war in Afghanistan, the alienation of America from its allies and the refusal to deal diplomatically with enemies—abandoned the leadership of the neocons in favor of the seemingly pragmatic Barack Obama. In this readable history, the authors tell many intriguing tales, including the neocon incubator that was Scoop Jackson’s senate office; the military spying on Nixon’s National Security Council; Haig’s maneuverings during Nixon’s final days; the rise of Cheney and Rumsfeld under Ford and their denouement under Bush II; the neocon’s shameless readopting of Reagan after his accords with Gorbachev proved successful; the controversial decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the Gulf War; and the continuing and curious role of reporter Bob Woodward in the neocon story.

A well-reported, fast-paced history lesson on the eternal conflict between ideologues and policymakers and the hubris that always accompanies success.