Posts Tagged ‘Fred Kaplan’

Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power by Fred Kaplan (Wiley, 2008).

I just finished reading this book last night and posted a review to my weRead app on Facebook; here’s a copy of what I had to say:

(4.5 out of 5)

An excellent examination of the foreign policy ideas that drove the Bush administration into the Iraq quagmire.

What I found most valuable in this book is that Kaplan distinguishes the different viewpoints that existed – pre-9/11 vs post-9/11 Bush; Rumsfeld and Cheney’s belief that displays of America’s military might would prompt a wave of democratic reform; the more “pure” neoconservatism of Wolfowitz and co.; Powell’s multilateralism and Rice’s evolving philosophy.

Yet at the same time, Kaplan argues – convincingly – that a flawed notion unified and motivated this group of people to move largely in the same direction. That notion was that in the post Cold War world, the United States had the capacity to use its power to impose change for the better; that they could do so anywhere and everywhere, and that the more they did so, the easier the task would become.

Kaplan concludes by evaluating the implications of this failed approach for the prospect of future interventions that could achieve genuine humanitarian good. In the context of the current crises in Gaza, Congo, etc. (not to mention Afghanistan and Iraq), and with the Obama administration about to take the reins, the issues he raises are of vital importance.


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A couple of interesting perspectives on the position the Bush administration has created and how it affects their response to the war in Georgia:

  • Brandon Friedman notes that America’s military entanglements, particularly in Iraq, weaken both its moral authority and its military capacity to deter Russia.
  • Fred Kaplan looks at how the Bush administration led (and continues to lead) Georgia into thinking that the US will act to support them, and he examines the choices and lessons from this point forward.
  • UPDATE: I almost added (“reminiscent of the elder Bush’s handling of the Kurds”) to the last point, and now I wish I had – Marty Kaplan expands on the analogy.

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