George Bush's term as President occurred during a watershed era for international politics. In fact, so many major events took place on his watch that he limits A World Transformed to the years 1989 to 1991, in which the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the Persian Gulf War held center stage. Though some will claim that this narrow focus only confirms Bush's disproportionate interest in foreign rather than domestic affairs, the events in question certainly warrant a book of their own. Perhaps anticipating such a response, Bush hints in the introduction that further memoirs are in the works.
A World Transformed is divided into three voices: Bush, his coauthor and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and the collective "we" of the National Security Council (supplying vital background information and a wider view of the events discussed). Overall, this formula works--Bush's tone is particularly warm and chatty, his narrative peppered with telling anecdotes that reveal the personalities and emotions behind the bold-faced headlines. His remarks are mostly to the point, gratifyingly lucid, and often compelling. Diary excerpts supply many memorable insights, if few truly shocking revelations. For instance, at the end of the Persian Gulf War, he wrote: "Isn't it a marvelous thing that this little country will be liberated.... The big news, of course, is this high performance of our troops--the wonderful job they've done; the conviction that we're right and the others are wrong. We're doing something decent, and we're doing something good; and Vietnam will soon be behind us.... It's surprising how much I dwell on the end of the Vietnam syndrome."
In describing his interaction with other world leaders, Bush emerges as a skillful negotiator and statesman, fostering a personal, first-name-basis style of diplomacy that proved especially effective with Mikhail Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Scowcroft, the consummate support man and workaholic, focuses more on the nuts and bolts, balancing out their presentation of how crises are dealt with at the highest level. --Shawn Carkonen
From Library Journal
All presidential memoirs are efforts to write and influence history so as to put the author in the most favorable light possible. This book is no exception. However, this is a memoir with a difference. Jointly authored by former President Bush and his national security adviser and focusing not on the entirety of his presidency but on a few key foreign policy issues (the end of the Cold War, Desert Storm, the collapse of the Soviet Union), this book presents parallel descriptions by the two principals from different but related vantage points. Also included are excerpts from President Bush's diary and brief commentary providing context for the events. The unusual style of the memoir works very well, and Scowcroft's comments function as a constant reality check on Bush's more optimistic and at times simplistic explanations. While there are some serious gaps (e.g., virtually no mention of the New World Order), this book is required reading for anyone interested in the momentous changes of the Bush years.?Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
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