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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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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.

Review

"Anecdotal, garrulous, even gossipy at times, it is just like school - only with higher stakes." The Economist"
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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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64 of 74 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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15 of 17 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
David J. Rothkopf was a junior member of the Clinton administration. In this fascinating book, he studies the post-1947 record of the American foreign policy élite, the National Security Council and its staff, about 200 people. This exclusive establishment, which he actually calls an `aristocracy', is the part of the US ruling class that runs national policy across Republican and Democrat administrations.

He contrasts 1947 with post-2001, finding `a stunningly different set of conclusions about what to do with American power and prestige'. He supports the multilateralism of NATO, the Marshall Plan, the IMF, the World Bank and the UN, under the slogan of globalisation, and argues against Bush's unilateralism, which puts the USA `above and beyond the influence of global institutions or the rule of law'. He agrees with Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, that terrorism is a tactic not an enemy.

He notes `the debacle in Iraq', yet misunderstands the region completely when he writes, "it is the decay of Middle Eastern civilisation that is the threat to us." Not the US state's unpopular alliances with the Saudi and Israeli states then!

He describes the USA's whole political system as suffering "an irresponsible separation between the will of the majority of America and the will of the representatives of the American people." But if the people's supposed representatives do not represent them, how can this be a democracy?

Finally, Rothkopf warns, "The real strategic threats come from those who would offer an alternative to our leadership." These "will argue that our system has exacerbated rather than resolved basic problems of inequity in the world.
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