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U.S. Versus Them: How a Half-Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America's Security Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 17, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This cogent first book from the executive editor of the New Republic forcefully argues that 50 years of American conservatism have undermined U.S. security and pushed the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. Scoblic charts the course of American conservatism, from its development by William F. Buckley Jr. through the disastrous Cold War to Bush's failure to safeguard the United States after 9/11: in stark, often frightening detail, Scoblic examines how Bush embraced regime change as a means of fighting evil and neglected to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, failed to prevent North Korea from reprocessing plutonium, rebuffed requests for negotiations from an Iranian regime that was, in 2003, willing to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency, repeatedly ignored U.S. intelligence and pursued the war in Iraq. Scoblic illustrates how and why conservatism shaped the current administration and explains how it guided Bush's good vs. evil morality. This is an important book, well researched and well reasoned in its assessment of conservatism and mandatory reading for anyone concerned with America's security and future. (May)
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From Booklist

The threat of nuclear attack is too critical and present to be held prisoner to political ideology, asserts Scoblic, executive editor of the New Republic. Yet the Bush administration’s belief in the moral virtue of the U.S. and the contrasting evil of its geopolitical enemies has distorted foreign policy, leading to a unilateral war on Iraq and shunning diplomatic approaches to the nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea. Scoblic traces the administration’s foreign policy to a long tradition of an “us versus them” perspective on the world, based on American exceptionalism rooted in the founding of the nation. In the first half of his book, Scoblic analyzes that history, tracing conservative ideology espoused by William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan and how it has evolved into the Bush administration. In the second half, Scoblic explores the consequences of the unilateral worldview that has heightened the need for diplomacy in the post-9/11 world. Scoblic’s analysis is sweeping in scope and is both detailed and accessible in explaining the complexities of the nuclear threat and foreign policy. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018821
  • ASIN: B001IDZK6C
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,501,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Afia TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Peter Scoblic, foreign policy expert, historian, journalist and editor, reveals some of the psychology that might from time to time influence foreign policy. This book is at once highly intellectual and thoroughly entertaining, regardless of where, if anywhere, one falls along the spectrum of liberal to conservative leanings.

Scoblic shows us how human nature causes even the policy makers to gravitate from time to time to a state of moral clarity. Everything is easier once you achieve moral clarity and it provides a very saleable message. This type of thinking sometimes divides the world into "us" and "them", which would be fine if we didn't have to deal with "them".

The problem is that more than ever, foreign policy matters, especially because of economic interdependence and the fact that some actors have weapons of mass destruction. In this sense, the human nature to define what is not well understood into clear issues of good and evil is a liability according to the author. Thus, there is a need for professional diplomacy and politicians that work well with this function.

Scoblic interprets diplomacy's tug of war between the intellect and the hardwired brain. What is so amazing about Scoblic is his ability to understand America as both an insider and also as an observer. And this is the gift that he gives us in U.S. vs THEM.

After reading Scoblic, you will be able to understand why apolitical intelligence might be distrusted in any era and nation. More than that, I think readers will be able to apply some of these principles to our own lives. That is what great scholars can do for us, and I count Scoblic as one of the best. Hopefully, he will one day come out with a documentary.
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Format: Hardcover
Scoblic's book is exactly the sort of well researched, intelligent exploration of the Bush administration's foreign policy that I have been looking for. I have always known that there is something seriously flawed about Bush's foreign policy, and the conservative approach in general (it was Reagan's talking with the Soviets as much as his spending the ended the Cold War)- but didn't have the facts to back it up. Now I do.

Not only does the overall concept of this book original and insightful, but Scoblic manages to avoid the trap of too many politically oriented books- he does not veer randomly into tabloid style right wing bashing while simply sprinkling his book with facts. The book sticks coherently to it's main message and backs up its ideas strongly.

Finally- the book is written with a slight fictional flare- the opening line in: "This book is about a mystery." This style, applied delicately as it is, helps to move the reader through the detailed and at times complex themes and arguments, making US VS THEM, a seriously important book, not only informative, but entertaining and engaging.

I read in one review something along the lines of "if you have to read on book before the upcoming elections, make it this one." I couldn't agree more. No matter what happens in November, the Republicans have tapped into something in the American Psyche so that, no matter how badly they screw things up and are caught in scandals, they are still never far from power. Their overall policies and strategies aren't going to change dramatically. US VS THEM gives invaluable insight into why, whether you are on the left or right, the Republicans have to change their foreign policy or American will be in even more trouble than it is now.
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Format: Paperback
Scoblic begins his novel with a very strong argument:

"In foreign policy, 'conservative' describes a distinct attitude in which the world is conceived in terms of 'us versus them' or 'good versus evil,' with the United States assuming the role of a righteous protagonist facing a monolithic enemy. It is often an explicitly religious vision, with frequent allusions not only to good and evil, but also to God, Satan and Armageddon." - from the introduction, xv.

He intends to show us why the Bush Administration went into Iraq and left North Korea and Iran alone, while allowing relations with Russia and (to a lesser extent) China to deteriorate. While the book is a good analysis of what went wrong during many past administrations, especially under GOP leadership, he fails to make a strong argument for this initial premise.

For most people who are not gormandizers of liberal propaganda, this over the top definition of foreign policy conservatism will be hard to stomach. First of all, the worldview that some conservative opinion leaders push as a justification for jingoism does not usually come from the top conservative leadership but from the extreme religious right and certain agitating (i.e. sheep-herding), in other words, paranoid factions of the GOP. Although this myopic worldview does influence the decisions made by conservative leaders (by reining them in from more pragmatic pursuits), it mainly holds sway over the voters who poorly understand the world and must be given such a broader vision to get them excited over national pride and psyched up for war.

Scoblic fails to properly develop the role of the profit motive and U.S. economic hegemony as the real motives for a conservative foreign policy. When conservatives wage war or otherwise assert U.S.
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