Kennedy Up Close

Richard Reeves’s book is hard to classify. Presented as a critical political biography, it turns the whole genre on its head. Rather than reciting essential facts and then reaching an informed appraisal of the achievements of President John F. Kennedy, Reeves begins by assessing Kennedy’s qualities as a human being, …

The Rationalist in Power

Anyone seeking an explanation of the initial success and ultimate disillusion of Robert McNamara should first examine the influence on him of a remarkable Texan named Charles Bates (“Tex”) Thornton. Thornton had been brought into the Army Air Corps by Robert Lovett, then assistant secretary of war for air, and …

Present After the Creation

When French civil servants retire, they are often awarded major jobs in government-owned banks and industrial companies, but they almost never return to public life. Retiring political leaders in Britain may remain in the House of Commons as members of the loyal opposition or be given a seat in the …

JFK’s Big Moment

The fading of the cold war makes it increasingly hard to write an objective review of Michael Beschloss’s excellent book. In this day of quieter relations with Moscow not even the most talented writer can fully re-create the atmosphere of fear and imminent danger that pervaded Washington. All of us …

The Gulf Crisis

With the end of the cold war and the onset of the Gulf crisis, the United States can now test the validity of the Wilsonian concept of collective security—a test which an automatic Soviet veto in the Security Council has precluded for the past forty years. The administration first began …

The War for Star Wars

In a speech to the nation on March 23, 1983, President Reagan announced his Strategic Defense (“Star Wars”) Initiative, which, he said, “holds the promise of changing the course of history.” The abrupt broadcasting of that unexamined project to the nation—and to the world—was, in my view, one of the …

White House Roulette

In opening the box of the atom’s secrets, man did not unleash evil, he merely acquired the capacity to unleash it. This left him with the oppressive burden of free choice—the power to decide whether or not to blow up the world. So the earth’s fate continues to depend on …

Sovietizing US Policy

This book is an impressive tour de force. In a mere eighty-four pages the author tells nonexpert Americans most of what they need to know about our nuclear predicament—and tells it with lucidity, cogency, and quiet persuasion. It is a vastly better book than the nuclear primer prepared by the …

The Cosmic Bluff

NATO’s nuclear strategy is founded on illusion—with a large component of self-deception: the dubious hope that America’s nuclear threat will permanently deter the Soviet Union from attacking Western Europe with conventional forces. That threat—the pretense of a winning hand in a transcendental poker game—is becoming every day less persuasive. The …