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Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power Paperback – July 11, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1586484231 ISBN-10: 1586484230

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Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power + Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council + The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484230
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484231
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The NSC is a semi-defined group—the president, vice president, secretaries of defense and state, national security adviser and staff, and other officials as needed—with the open-ended mission of helping the president decide and coordinate military and foreign policy. Its institutional vagueness makes it an ill-chosen framework for this engaging but unfocused study of postwar American policy making. Working from interviews with NSC members, Rothkopf, an academic and Clinton administration commerce official, examines the NSC's history from its 1947 inception onward, reviewing its performance in major foreign policy crises and tracing the rising influence of the NSA post. He delves into bureaucratic minutiae, but focuses on such "Shakespearean" human factors as the character and managerial style of the president and the personal "chemistry" and patronage networks among his cabinet and advisers. Rothkopf prefers a centrist, internationalist security policy, with experienced hands restraining ideologues; he therefore gives high marks to the NSC under Nixon, Carter and Bush 41, while castigating the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations. He presents a wealth of information, but the NSC's ad hoc purview, unstable structure and personality-driven dynamics make it hard to discern a coherent outline of American policy among its wranglings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Anecdotal, garrulous, even gossipy at times, it is just like school - only with higher stakes." The Economist"

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Customer Reviews

I found the book to be excellent, engaging, and thorough study.
William J. Romanos
It chronicles the changes under Carter and the use of the NSC by Clinton, but Kissinger dominates a large central section of the book.
J. Robinson
The book sometimes found its way to those points, but spent more time on other, better known topics.
Marc Korman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The arrogance and naiveté of the National Security Council and its principal protagonists is ably reflected in the title. The pretentiousness and unreality of "Running the World" is fittingly complemented by a cover photo of a Cabinet meeting, not an NSC meeting-the latter take place in crummy little rooms with poor ventilation, not at all the kind of image one wants as an Emperor, naked or not.

There are three consistent and very useful themes throughout the book that make it extraordinarily valuable to any student of the pathologies of the national security "decision" process (I use that term *very* loosely).

First, that each Administration allows personal ambitions and an almost pathological desire for "differentiation" from the previous Administration to first destroy and then slowly rebuilt the NSC. Hence, it is dysfunctional much of the time, regardless of the ideology prevailing at the time.

The second prevailing theme, one that Amy Zegart captured so well in her seminal scholarly work, "Flawed by Design," is the perpetual dysfunctionality, a constant dysfunctionality, between the Departments of State and Defense, and between Defense and the loosely managed U.S. Intelligence Community. The bottom line is that personalities and politics, not intelligence nor wisdom, are the prevailing drivers of U.S. national security.

Lastly, the irrelevance of secret intelligence to the White House decision process, regardless of what Administration is in power, is documented. Page 361 is an especially good indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in particular, and with specific reference to its complete incompetence at economic intelligence needed by the Department of the Treasury.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Robinson on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For this new book by David J. Rothkopf, one can ignore the cover and title as sales hype for the book for this is a solid history and analysis of the NSC from around 1945 to the present day; it is a 550 page book in small font so it is fairly detailed and lengthy, generally an impressive book in terms of volume of information, detail, and scope; the book is mainly text and notes but it has a few pictures. It gives an up close look at the workings of the NSC for various administrations going back to approximately 1945 - 46, and The National Security Act of July 26, 1947, which was used to create the National Security Council under Truman. The early role of the NSC was to coordinate other departments and act mostly in an advisory role to the preseident.

The NSC was started under Truman but became much more important under Eisenhower, who as a former general, appreciated good preparation, research, and security planning of foreign policy. The NSC included the President who was the chairman, the Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, and Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization. Also, other cabinet members participated including the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the JCS, and the Director of Central Intelligence. This form of the NSC, refined by Ike, has continued through to the present day, with the formality and impact of the NSC rising and falling, from one administration to the next, depending on the president and how he viewed and utilized his advisers. Kennedy did water down Eisenhower's NSC a bit and changed the NSC to permit the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to in effect run the committe, but the overall impotance of the NSC was restored somewhat by Kissinger working for Nixon.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Holechek on June 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We certainly ain't in Kansas anymore. We've gone international in a big way in the last 60 years. Decision making on this level has changed. Whether you realize it or not could be based soley on whether you've read this book, or not."Running The World" by David Rothkopf. It's a great (sometimes funny, sometimes scary)look into the function of the NSC, probably the most important branch of the government...that no one knows about. As far as a ruling body, the National Security Council are the CEOs of our government. Rothkopf is a great storyteller and as the former Managing Director of Kissinger Associates and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce (Clinton), he's been involved with domestic and international policy from the inside. He has the ability to captivate and inspire thought and ideas. Rothkopf himself coined the now-so-popular phrase "Emerging Markets" that has been spoken by Presidents Clinton and Bush. This was a great first read for me for the summer, it'll be a tough act to follow.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David W. Southworth VINE VOICE on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
David Rothkopf, CEO of both Intellibridge and the consulting firm the Rothkopf Group, has written an excellent historical narrative of the National Security Council, the committee "Running the World."

Rothkopf combines both solid scholarship and his own personal recollections as being a senior member of the Clinton administration to paint a compelling picture of the highest echelons of the national security apparatus of the United States. Rothkopf's main thesis is that the people who make sometimes world and history altering decisions are not extraordinary; they are not superhuman. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, not unlike most of humanity. But for whatever reason they have made it into positions of incredible power.

It is the importance of individuals that is the driving force of Rothkopf's story. The NSC has had its ups and downs. It played a strictly advisory role in its early years; while in the late 1960s to mid `70s was dominated by one man: Henry Kissinger. Mismanagement of the NSC nearly brought down President Reagan. However, just a few years later perhaps the most efficient and well run NSC in history was guided by Brent Scowcroft and George H.W. Bush through the first Persian Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is the role of individuals, especially the official chair of the NSC, the president, to shepherd U.S. national security policy through good and bad times. Rothkopf's biggest contribution is to paint a vivid picture of the role of individuals. For that, I highly recommend this book.
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