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War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals Hardcover – September 18, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of 17 books, David Halberstam has a gift for bringing current events alive and putting them into historical perspective in an engaging way. In many respects, War in a Time of Peace serves as a sequel to his classic The Best and the Brightest in its examination of how the lessons of Vietnam have influenced American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. Beginning with the Persian Gulf War, Halberstam discusses the political shift in emphasis from foreign to domestic issues that ushered in the first Clinton administration. Despite the fact that Clinton, along with much of the country, preferred to focus on the home front, the U.S. nonetheless found itself drawn into conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, and the Balkans--events that reflected American discomfort with the use of its military forces abroad while at the same time acknowledging that much of the world is dependent upon the U.S. for both guidance and support. The book also highlights the many nonpolitical factors that have influenced these political changes, including a generational shift in national leadership, the modern media's emphasis on entertainment over foreign news, a leap in military technology, and American economic prosperity that has rendered foreign policy largely irrelevant to many citizens.

Halberstam is a master at presenting well-rounded portraits and telling anecdotes of the personalities that have created U.S. policy, casting new light on well-known figures such as Clinton, Colin Powell, and George H.W. Bush, as well as supporting players such as Anthony Lake, Richard Holbrooke, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, General Wesley Clark, Al Gore, and many other influential American leaders of the past decade. Having covered many aspects of American history and foreign policy since the early 1960s, Halberstam is uniquely qualified to report on an era in which the U.S., and the world, has changed so dramatically. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

Events and personalities clash in this extraordinary sequel to Halberstam's classic examination of America's road to Vietnam, The Best and the Brightest (to be reissued in September by Modern Library). Thirty years on, the world is a different place; no longer clearly divided between good guys (us) and bad guys (the Soviets), the danger lies in local wars of ethnic and nationalist hatreds. If America, looking inward and little concerned with the wider world, was too quick to use power in Vietnam, it is now too confused if not too unwilling to know how to use it. Bush the elder, despite his triumph in the Gulf War, is replaced by Clinton, a leader more in tune with America's desires. But the world will not go away: disaster strikes in Somalia as a dead American soldier is dragged through the streets for the world to see. The military are confirmed in their distrust of the brash politician Clinton, a "flirt and seducer," and harden their resistance especially Colin Powell's to the commitment of U.S. military power without a clear plan and purpose. With all of this in play, Halberstam's central story unfolds: the U.S. reaction to the crimes and aggression of the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic. Clinton advisors and the military thrust and parry for years as the carnage continues, and while eventually a U.S.-dominated air war does drive Milosevic from power, the broader question of America's role in a new world remains unanswered. This is vintage Halberstam, combining sharp portraits of the political players Bush, Clinton, Powell, Madeleine Albright, and so many others with nuanced reportage of the events they shape and are shaped by. (Sept.) Forecast: This will be reviewed everywhere, and Halberstam will do a seven-city tour that will undoubtedly include lots of national media (Charlie Rose is already booked). Bestsellerdom is a definite possibility, with a first printing of 100,000 and first serial to Vanity Fair. The book is also a BOMC alternate.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743202120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743202121
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Craig L. Howe on October 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had a professor who defined journalism as "history written in a hurry." In his sequel to The Best And The Brightest author David Halberstam uses the journalist's tools - personal interviews and background research - to explore how the shadow of Vietnam and the Cold War shaped the United States' foreign policy during the 1990s.
What emerges, is a thoughtful, portrait of the United States from the perspective of its foreign policy decisions. It is a book written for thoughtful citizens; a book that, clearly, was not written in a hurry; a book that unearths the struggles, egos and the political maneuvering among the key figures in The White House, the State Department and the military. Halberstam shows how the decisions of Vietnam War Veterans, like Colin Powell and Anthony Lake, and those who were not, like President William Clinton, influenced American politics and policy.
Lesser-known players who contributed to the picture were not overlooked. Halberstam notes that the irony of the Gulf War was the wrong branch of the service and the wrong military leaders were celebrated at its conclusion. Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell received ovations for their humiliation of an allegedly mighty, but now bedraggled Iraqi Army.
If one man was responsible, he notes, it was an innovative air force strategist, Colonel John Warden. At the time of the Gulf War, Warden was the head of a top-secret air force group working within The Pentagon and represented a group of younger military officers who were eager to adapt military thinking and planning to the uses of the new technological advanced weaponry.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tony Sanchez on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was a tough read because of the author�s too frequent clauses within nearly every sentence. Also, there are many names to remember, and the publisher could have provided a map of the region in question. Otherwise, I would have given this book a full 5 star rating.

That aside, this was an exceptionally good book on the recent Balkan war that was fought by NATO. The Balkan war is notable in military history for being the first war waged and won strictly through the use of air power. It is also considered Pres. Clinton�s greatest foreign policy success.
As military history, the book is a worthwhile read. The author, however, ventures beyond the military aspects to tie in the political, historical, sociological, and psychological countenance of the individuals involved with the campaign. I found it of particular interest to read about the pettiness of the military structure as it related to the president, and its own field commander.
The author is not shy in offering his analysis of each major character, but he remained even-handed. He, for example, described the power of Gen. Powell�s personality, but who also used his position to prematurely close discussion on important international issues. He similarly discusses other major characters (especially Clinton, Gore, Gen. Clark and Bush I).
The author does not attempt to present the most encompassing story of the war, and he is generous in citing authors of very recent publications including the recent memoirs of NATO commander Clark. The serious student will be able to find greater detail of the Balkans, the diplomacy, and the Serbian genocide from these other authors.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on May 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For those of us who marveled at former journalist David Halberstam's masterful account of the ways in which the personal biographies and contemporary history fatefully intersected to produce the disastrous American incursion into Vietnam in 1970's "The Best And The Brightest", his recent (2001) tome "War In A Time Of Peace" is the long-awaited sequel and companion piece on the ways in which the ghost of our involvement in southeast Asia yet haunts America's role in foreign affairs in the late 20th century. As in the previous work, Halberstam's trademark insights into the ways in which personal ambitions and private agendas fuel and contort the political processes of which American foreign policy is a part make this book memorable and worthwhile. For example, his observation's on former Secretary of State Madeline Albright's arrogant attempt to nation-build in Somalia makes it easier to understand lapses in our policy there that led to the now-famous firefight chronicled so brilliantly in "Blackhawk Down", resulting in several dozen American causalities and hundreds if not thousands of dead and wounded Somalis.
His brilliance is in showing how these individual personalities interact, often clashing based on the existential circumstances they find themselves embroiled in. Thus does Army General Wes Clark find himself embroiled in a very difficult conundrum in the Balkans, facing both an intransigent enemy and an uncertain and indecisive command structure by way of both President Clinton and the Joint Chiefs.
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