While campaigning for president in 2000, George W. Bush downplayed his lack of foreign policy experience by emphasizing that he would surround himself with a highly talented and experienced group of political veterans. This core group, consisting of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Condoleezza Rice, has a long history together dating back 30 years in some cases. Dubbing themselves the Vulcans, they have largely determined the direction and focus of the Bush presidency. In this remarkably researched and fascinating book, Mann traces their careers and the development of their ideas in order to understand how and why American foreign policy got to where it is today.
As Mann makes clear, there has never been perfect agreement between all parties, (the relationship between the close duo of Powell and Armitage on one side and Rumsfeld on the other, for instance, has been frosty) but they do share basic values. Whether they came from the armed services, academia, or government bureaucracy, the Vulcans all viewed the Pentagon as the principal institution from which American power should emanate. Their developing philosophy was cemented after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and is best reflected in the decision to invade Iraq. They believe that a powerful military is essential to American interests; that America is ultimately a force for good despite any negative consequences that may arise from American aggression; they are eternally optimistic about American power and dismiss any arguments about over-extension of resources; and they are skeptical about the need to consult allies or form broad global coalitions before acting.
Rise of the Vulcans succeeds on many levels. Mann presents broad themes such as the gradual transition from the Nixon and Kissinger philosophies to the doctrine espoused by Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the rest in clear and logical terms. He also offers minute details and anecdotes about each of the individuals, and the complex relationships between them, that reveal the true personalities behind the politicians. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand the past quarter century and what it means for America's future. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Mann, a former correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, offers a lucid, nonpolemical and carefully researched history of President Bush's foreign policy team, the self-described "Vulcans" (after the Roman god of fire). In doing so, Mann illuminates the administration's rationale for the Iraqi war with impressive clarity. For the Vulcans, he shows, the war is not an anomalous foreign adventure or a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. On the contrary, the foreign policy, devised by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, was 35 years in the making and has its roots in the Republican Party faction that opposed detente with the Soviet Union. Vulcan philosophy has three major tenets: the embrace of pre-emptive action, the notion of an "unchallengeable American superpower" and the systematic export of America's democratic values. Implicit is the rejection of both the notion that transatlantic relationships are the natural focus of U.S. foreign policy and the Kissingeresque realpolitik that dominated much of 20th-century policy. Mann's purpose is to explicate Bush's foreign policy, not to make sweeping value judgments about its wisdom; he takes care to expose not only errors in the Vulcans' assumptions about the war in Iraq but also those of the war's opponents. This well-written, serious, evenhanded effort should be essential reading for anyone interested in American foreign policy.
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