Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush

Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush


By (author) Peter W Rodman, Introduction by Henry A Kissinger

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  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA
  • Format: Paperback | 351 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 202mm x 16mm | 181g
  • Publication date: 12 January 2010
  • ISBN 10: 0307390527
  • ISBN 13: 9780307390523
  • Edition: 1
  • Sales rank: 908,242

Product description

A revelatory account from a Washington insider of how modern presidents have succeeded--and failed--in making foreign policy. An important contribution in the wake of recent American experiences abroad, and an essential book for the new administration, here is a fascinating, in-depth look at what actually happens in the Oval Office from a respected expert who has held high-level positions in several governments. Illuminating the qualities of personal leadership--character, focus, determination, persuasiveness, and consistency--that determine a president's ability to guide his staff, Peter W. Rodman makes clear how these qualities shape policy and determine how this policy is implemented. With telling anecdotes and trenchant analysis, he reminds us of the importance of a president's vision for the world and of his ability to make this vision a reality. Rodman's tour through the past forty years recounts both high points and dismal lows. He shows how Nixon's deep knowledge of the world combined with his personal paranoia to produce great victories (China) and deep failures (the demoralization of State and other departments). He demonstrates how Carter suffered from his own indecisiveness, and how Reagan's determined focus in dealing with the Soviets contrasted with his lack of attention to the Middle East, which helped lead to the disastrous events in Beirut. And, finally, he illustrates how George W. Bush put too much stock in bureaucratic consensus and, until the surge, failed to push hard enough for new strategies in Iraq. Rodman offers an original and telling survey of modern presidential policy-making, challenging many conventional accounts of events as well as many standard remedies. This is a vivid story of larger-than-life Washington personalities in action, an invaluable guide for our new president, and a deeply insightful primer on executive leadership. From the Hardcover edition.

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Author information

Peter W. Rodman was a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. He served as deputy assistant to the president for National Security Affairs, as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, as special assistant to Henry Kissinger in the White House, and, most recently, as assistant secretary of defense of international security affairs (2001-2007). Rodman is the author of More Precious Than Peace. He died in August 2008.

Review quote

"A brilliant tutorial on the way presidents, regardless of party or ideology, have struggled to control the vast national security bureaucracy they inherit after taking the oath of office." --"Wall Street Journal" "Presidential Command should be on the short list of readings for members of the Barack Obama administration--as much for its pointing out the mistakes to avoid as for illustrating the procedures to emulate." --Gary Hart, "The New York Times Book Review" "A guide about what works, and what doesn't, when it comes to making successful and effective national security policy." --"The Washington Times" "In an age of sensational leaks and headline-grabbing exposes that illuminate very little, it is bracing to read Peter Rodman's calm and reasoned dissection of foreign policy over the course of several recent administrations, which illuminates very much. His is the quiet voice of wisdom." --Robert D. Kaplan, author of "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos" "Outstanding. . . . On target. . . . Timely. . . . Rodman's experience in five of the presidencies he discusses, and his lucid style, keep the focus on reality and the narrative lively. . . . [His] studiously evenhanded and balanced style makes his zingers even more telling when they explode on the page, and he is especially acute assessing Republican administrations in which he served." --"National Review" "Fascinating and insightful." --"Richmond Times-Dispatch" "Surprisingly fun. . . . Rodman moves along briskly, mixing insidery dish with lucid analysis." --"Bloomberg News" "This masterful series of studies, by one of America's most gifted and sensitive national security analysts, merges a scrupulous taste for clarity with a broad and humane vision of the American national interest. It is enlightening, penetrating and always fascinating." --Philip Bobbitt, author of "Terror and Consent" "[Presidential Command] brings to bear t