Arsenal of Democracy
The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism
Basic Books 2010
New Books in HistoryNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in National SecurityNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network January 14, 2010 Marshall Poe
Historians are by their nature public intellectuals because they are intellectuals who write about, well, the public. Alas, many historians seem to forget the “public” part and concentrate on the “intellectual” part. Our guest today–sponsored by the National History Center–is not among them. Julian Zelizer has used his historical research and writing to inform the public and public debate in a great variety of fora: magazines, newspapers, online outlets, radio, TV–and now New Books in History. Today we’ll be talking about his efforts to bring the historian’s voice to the public and his most recent book Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From WWII to the War on Terrorism (Basic Books, 2010) (which itself is a contribution to that effort). The book proves that in the U.S. politics does not “stop at the water’s edge”–not now, not ever. From the very beginning of the Republic, American foreign policy has been informed by a subtle mix of electoral politics, ideology, and institutional infighting. Julian’s book focuses on the most recent episode in this long story–the period from the Second World War to the present. He shows that politics plain and simple had a powerful effect on the major foreign policy decisions of the era: Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Reagan’s volte-face on disarmament, the First Gulf War, and the Second. It is, Julian says, in the nature of our political culture to cross swords and break lances over issues of foreign policy. Never truer words…
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