Modern history

Suggestions for Further Reading

A GOOD OVERVIEW OF AMERICAN POLICY IN THE PAST FORTY YEARS IS the sprightly and informative American Foreign Policy: A History (1977) by Thomas Paterson, J. Garry Clifford, and Kenneth Hagan. A thorough and judicious recent interpretation is Warren I. Cohen’s America in the Age of Soviet Power (1993), a volume in the Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations. John Lewis Gaddis’s We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (1997) is a useful analysis of recent international events. For a witty, perceptive history of the American experience of the Cold War, from Truman’s creation of the CIA to Reagan’s creation of SDI to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, see H. W. Brands’s The Devil We Knew (1993). There are a number of good general histories of the Cold War, although unfortunately most tend to begin in 1945. An exception is D. F. Flemming’s The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 (1961), a comprehensive two-volume study that, although poorly organized, is vigorous in its criticism of American policy. A better balanced treatment is Walter LaFeber’s America, Russia, and the Cold War, 7th Edition (1993). Louis Halle’s The Cold War as History (1967) attempts with some success to view with detachment, and has been described as the confessions of a former Cold War Warrior. For a thoughtful, underappreciated appraisal see Martin Walker’s The Cold War: A History (1993). Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy (1994) is full of important Cold War insights and is surprisingly easy to read. One of the first critical accounts of America’s Cold War policies is The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1962) by William A. Williams. Herbert S. Dinerstein looks at events from the Russian point of view in Fifty Years of Soviet Foreign Policy (1968). A good general survey of the personalities involved is Lloyd Gardner’s Architects of Illusion: Men and Ideas in American Foreign Policy (1970). The best book ever written on U.S. Cold War policymaking is Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), a group portrait of Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, Charles Bohlen, and John McCloy. On the CIA be sure to read Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows (1996), an indispensable slice of Cold War history. The best scholarly analysis of covert operations since the Second World War is John Prados’s President’s Secret Wars (1986). McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival (1988), is a history of nuclear weapons, their political use and misuse, and their impact on superpower relations. For this section, as well as those that follow, the interested student should consult the excellent bibliographies in the already cited works of Gaddis and LaFeber.

World War II

The literature on American policy in World War II is staggering in scope. One happy result is that there are a number of excellent, engaging, interpretative works, such as Robert Dallek’s Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-45, (1979), Robert A. Divine’s Roosevelt and World War II (1969), Kent Robert Greenfield’s American Strategy in World War II: A Reconsideration (1963), which is stronger on the military than on foreign policy, John L. Snell’s Illusion and Necessity: The Diplomacy During the Second World War (1963), and Gaddis Smith’s American Diplomacy During the Second World War (1965). Eric Larrabee’s Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (1987) is a wonderful illustration of FDR’s grand strategy in action. The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1970) and D-Day: June 6, 1944 (1994) by Stephen E. Ambrose are detailed accounts of American military policy in Europe. Paul Fussell’s Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989) is a masterful psychological analysis of war. The newly revised Atomic Diplomacy(1985), by Gar Alperovitz, examines the motives behind the use of the atomic bomb. Although long, detailed, and somewhat dated, Robert E. Sherwood’s Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1950) is still very much worth reading. The standard work for wartime diplomacy is Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought (1957), which is almost an official history. For a forthright revisionist account, highly critical of American policy, consult Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War: The World and the United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945 (1968). Volume three of Forrest C. Pogue’s biography of George Marshall, Organizer of Victory: 1943-1945 (1973), is a magnificent book about the man who was at the center of the whirlwind for the last two years of the war. John Keegan’s The Second World War (1989) is the best of the one-volume histories of the conflict. A book that cannot be put down, once begun, and that as a bonus has many insights into the politics of the use of the atomic bomb, is Enola Gay (1977), by Gordon Thomas and Max Witt, and is the story of the bomb from its inception to the first shock wave over Hiroshima. David Eisenhower’s Eisenhower at War (1987) is a detailed and argumentative work that concentrates on Ike’s relations with the Russians. Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley’s FDR and the Creation of the UN (1997) offers a comprehensive overview pf postwar planning from the Atlantic Charter to the San Francisco Conference.

The Truman Years

There have been a number of outstanding books on the early Cold War, particularly Herbert Feis’s From Trust to Terror: The Onset of the Cold War, 1945-1950 (1970), John Lewis Gaddis’s The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (1972), Melvyn P. Leffler’s A Preponderance of Power (1992), and Daniel Yergin’s Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State (1977). Truman’s own two-volume Memoirs (1955), and those of Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation(1969), provide a comprehensive official view. David McCullough’s Truman (1992) and Alonzo Hamby’s Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (1995) are both first-rate biographies. George Kennan’s Memoirs, 1925-1950 (1967) is a joy to read, not only because of Kennan’s matchless style but also because he is somewhat detached, admits to mistakes, and examines the assumptions on which policy was based. There are a number of solid academic studies of Kennan, including Walter Hixson, George F. Kennan: Cold War Iconclast (1989) and Anders Stephenason, Kennan and the Art of Foreign Policy (1989). Another important memoir, particularly with respect to the creation of Israel, is Clark Clifford’s Counsel to the President (1991). Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal (1992), is an important account of America’s first Secretary of Defense.The Forrestal Diaries (1951) edited by Walter Millis and Private Papers (1952) by Arthur H. Vandenberg are other important sources. Joseph M. Jones’s The Fifteen Weeks (1955) examines in detail, but uncritically, the events leading to the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Michael Hogan’s The Marshall Plan (1987) is a model scholarly study. Bruce Kuniholm’s The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece (1980) is a landmark work. There have been a number of good books on Truman’s China policy, but the best is Nancy B. Tucker’s Patterns in the Dust (1983). H. W. Brands’s The Specter of Neutralism (1989) evaluates the emergence of the Third World between 1945 and 1950. Bruce Cumming’s two-volume The Origins of the Korean War (1981-90) is remarkable in its judicious detail and keen insight. David Ree’s Korea: The Limited War (1964) is a good general treatment of the conflict. The most balanced popular account is Burton Kaufman, The Korean War (1987). Max Hastings’s The Korean War (1987) is a superb battlefield history. N.A.T.O.: The Entangling Alliance(1962) by Robert E. Osgood and N.A.T.O. and the United States (1998) by Lawrence S. Kaplan are model studies. Forrest Pogue’s fourth and concluding volume, Marshall: Statesman, 1945-1959 (1989), is indispensable to any study of the Truman administration’s foreign policy. A scathing denunciation of that policy, from a Marxist perspective, is Joyce and Gabriel Kolko’s The Limits of Power (1972). Robert James Maddox has blasted the revisionists’ work, especially that of William A. Williams and Gabriel Kolko, in his controversial The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War (1973). Michael S. Sherry’s The Rise of American Airpower: The Creation of Armageddon (1987) is an outstanding study of the role of the atomic bomb in the early Cold War. Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light (1985), covers the impact of the bomb on American life in general. Richard Rhodes has written two first-rate studies of U.S. nuclear policy: The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986) and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995).

The Eisenhower Years

Eisenhower’s memoirs, The White House Years: A Personal Account (two volumes, 1963 and 1965), are primarily concerned with foreign policy. For a comprehensive and critical view, see Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: The President (1984). Samuel P. Huntington’s The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics (1961), a truly outstanding work, is essential to any study of Eisenhower’s (and Truman’s) military policy. There was a multitude of critics of the New Look; perhaps the most important was Maxwell Taylor’s The Uncertain Trumpet (1959). Her-man Finer’s Dulles Over Suez (1964) is a critical account of the Secretary of State’s role in the 1956 crisis. The best book on the crisis is Suez 1956 (1989), edited by W. Roger Louis and Roger Owen. The most searing attack on Eisenhower’s policy toward Castro is William A. Williams,The United States, Cuba and Castro (1962). Theodore Draper’s Castro’s Revolution (1962) expressed the view that Castro betrayed the revolution. Stephen G. Rabe’s Eisenhower and Latin America (1988) is the best book on hemispheric affairs in the 1950s. A good biography of Ike is Pete Lyon, Eisenhower: Portrait of the Hero (1974). Herbert Parmet’s Eisenhower and the American Crusades (1972) is a solid account of Ike’s years in office. Richard A. Melanson and David Mayers have edited an important collection of revisionist essays in Reevaluating Eisenhower (1987). The politics of oil is explored by Burton Kaufman in The Oil Cartel Case (1978) and Daniel Yergin in The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil: Money and Power (1991). Walter McDougall, The Heavens and the Earth: The Politics of the Space Age (1985), is a fascinating account of the relationship between the space race and international politics. Michael Beschloss, Mayday (1986), is an insightful and fast-paced narrative of the U-2 incident. Gordon H. Chang, Friends and Enemies: The United States, China and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (1990), while good on the entire period it covers, is especially recommended for its treatment of the Eisenhower administration’s relations with China.

Kennedy and Johnson

The best books on JFK’s foreign policy are Kennedy’s Quest for Victory (1989), edited by Thomas G. Paterson, and The Crisis Years (1991) by Michael Beschloss. An excellent recent biography of JFK’s White House years is Richard Reeves, Kennedy (1993). A previous biography—Herbert Parmet’s J.F.K. (1983)—is also worthwhile. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965) and Theodore Sorenson’s Kennedy (1965) are accounts by insiders who are fully devoted to the memory of the late president. Schlesinger writes more about foreign affairs than Sorenson does. Christopher Matthews’s splendid study Kennedy and Nixon (1996) is a must-read for any one interested in U.S. political history. For evaluations of the Berlin Crisis see Douglas Brinkley, Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-1971 (1992), and Robert Slusser, The Berlin Crisis of 1961 (1973). The Pentagon mind-set during the Kennedy-Johnson years is ably explored in Deborah Shapley’s Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara (1993). Philip Geyelin, Lyndon B. Johnson and the World (1966), and Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power (1966), are also good. Elie Abel’s The Missile Crisis (1966) is a first-rate account by a professional journalist; part of the inside story is told by Robert F. Kennedy in his Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1966). The most accurate recent accounts of the Cuban Missile crisis are The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited (1992), edited by James Nathan, and Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1991) by Dino A. Brugioni. A groundbreaking recent study—based on Soviet archives—is Aleksandar Fursenko and Timothy Naftali’s “One Hell of a Gamble”: Kruschev, Castro, and Kennedy 1958-1964 (1997). The literature on Vietnam is overwhelming and still growing. David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest (1972) is sprightly reading. All of Bernard Fall’s books are good; students should begin with the collection of his articles, Vietnam Witness, 1953-1966 (1966). Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam (1984; revised 1997) is now the standard one-volume account of both the French and American wars in Indochina. Townsend Hoopes, The Limits of Intervention(1969), is an exceptionally good memoir by a key participant in the crucial decision to halt the bombing of North Vietnam. Robert W. Tucker’s Nation or Empire? (1968) is an excellent essay. David Kraslow and Stuart Loory, in The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam (1968), give the details of Hanoi’s peace moves and Washington’s reactions. Johnson’s own memoirs, From the Vantage Point (1971), are rather dull and uninformative. Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War (1978) is the exact opposite, an autobiography that skillfully captures the mood of the time and the war as it was. Larry Berman’s two Vietnam War books Planning a Tragedy (1982) and Lyndon Johnson’s War (1989), are essential to understanding Washington policymaking. Peter Braestrup’s Big Story (1977) is a detailed, excellent analysis of press coverage of the 1968 Tet offensive. For biographies of Vietnam War dissenters, see James A. Bill’s George Ball (1997), David DiLeo’s George Ball, Vietnam, and the Rethinking of Containment (1991), and Randall Woods’s Fulbright (1995). Of all the many books on Vietnam, the most accessible and balanced remains George C. Herring’sAmerican’s Longest War (second edition, 1986).

The Nixon Years

Begin with Nixon’s own memoirs, RN (1981), the most revealing of any presidential memoirs. Kissinger’s White House Years (1979) and Years of Upheaval (1982) are massive in both size and ego. Monumental in scope, they are witty, detailed, frequently self-serving, highly quotable, often informative, never dull, sometimes brilliant—in short, rather like the amazing Dr. Kissinger himself. Walter Isaacson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Kissinger (1992) is well-written, balanced, and highly recommended. Stephen E. Ambrose,Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician (1989), extensively covers Nixon in Vietnam, the opening to China, and détente. Herbert Parmet’s Nixon and His America (1990) is a solid interpretive study. Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977), is on the list of must-reads about Vietnam; it is an impressionistic look at Vietnam in the late sixties, with an emphasis on how the war was fought. Frank Snepp’s Decent Interval (1978) is well described by its subtitle: An Insider’s Account on Saigon’s Indecent End Told by the CIA’s Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam. Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold Schecter, The Palace File (1987), tells the story of American-Vietnamese relations in the Nixon/Ford years. Likewise, John Robert Greene’s The Limits of Power (1992) is a well-written look at the foreign policy approaches of Nixon/Ford. William Colby’s Lost Victory (1989) is a firsthand account of the CIA’s activities in Vietnam and an analysis of why victory was not achieved.

Gerald Ford’s A Time to Heal (1979), at times sophomoric, is an underappreciated presidential memoir with a good chapter on the Helsinki Accords. Seymor M. Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (1983), is a scathing attack on both Kissinger and Nixon. An unabashed defense of Nixon can be found in C. C. Sulzberger’s The World of Richard Nixon (1987). Far better balanced and much more thoroughly researched and developed is Raymond Garthoff’s Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (1985). Daunting in size (1,147 pages), it is a treasure, perhaps the best book on American foreign policy we have ever read, and it is ideal for students searching for term paper information. Robert Litwak’s Détente and the Nixon Doctrine (1984) documents the conflicting sides of U.S.-Soviet détente. Gerald Smith’s Doubletalk (1980) is a colorful insider’s account of SALT I. William Hyland, Mortal Rivals: Superpower Relations from Nixon to Reagan (1987), is also a useful study.

The Middle East and Africa

General histories that cover both areas well include James Nathan and James Oliver, United States Foreign Policy and World Order (1978), which is especially strong on the relationship between foreign policy and domestic politics, and Stewart C. Easton, World History Since 1954 (1968), a comprehensive review. Books on Kissinger abound; he is a fascinating subject, irresistible to many authors, including Matti Golan, whose The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger: Step-by-Step Diplomacy in the Middle East (1976) caused a sensation when it appeared and remains invaluable. G. Warren Nutter’s Kissinger’s Grand Design (1975) is a thoughtful denunciation of détente and Kissinger’s Middle East policy. Gil Carl Alroy’s The Kissinger Experience: American Policy in the Middle East (1975) is a bitter criticism of Kissinger for his supposed abandonment of his own people, the Jews. Much more balanced and trustworthy is Edward Sheehan, The Arabs, Israelis, and Kissinger (1976), a detailed account of Kissinger and the Yom Kippur War. The best overview of America in the Middle East can be found in Thomas L. Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), a brilliant analysis of Israeli-Arab relations.

A good background for U.S.-African relations is Thomas J. Noer’s Cold War and Black Liberation (1985); another excellent concise account is Roland Oliver and J. D. Fage, A Short History of Africa (1969). Vernon McKay’s African Diplomacy (1966) is a collection of essays on emerging Africa by various African scholars; so is Yassin El-Ayouty and Hugh Brooks, African and International Organization (1974). For Kennedy’s African policy, see Richard Mahoney’s JFK: Ordeal in Africa (1983). Anthony Lake’sThe Tar Baby Option (1976) is a classic account of U.S.-Rhodesian policy. Kwame Nkrumah’s Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965), the book that made Lyndon Johnson furious, is an African account of how economics works in Africa. John Stockwell’s In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (1978) is the memoir of CIA Chief of the Angola Task Force; Stockwell had second thoughts about what he was doing, resigned from the CIA, and published a book about his experiences, in what had become a relatively common practice for disgruntled ex-CIA agents.

The best raw source on the CIA and its impact on foreign policy is in government publications, especially hearings, and most especially the various volumes of the Church Committee Hearings (the “Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities”). Published in 1976, the volumes contain a history of the CIA and testimony from dozens of ex- and current agents and their bosses about various operations dating back to 1948. One entire volume is devoted to “Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders.” Another government document that is most helpful in understanding American policy in Africa is NSSM 39, published as The Kissinger Study of Southern Africa, edited and with an excellent introduction by Mohamed A. El-Khawas and Barry Cohen (1976).

Carter and Reagan

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s memoirs, Power and Principles (1985) portions of which appeared in 1982, were the first insider’s account of the Carter administration to appear. They revealed his frequent policy differences with Secretary of State Vance. Carter’s own White House memoirs, Keeping Faith (1983), are disappointing overall, but outstanding on his greatest triumph, the Camp David accords. Gaddis Smith’s Morality, Reason and Power (1986) is the single best book on Carter’s foreign policy. A serious study of Carter’s Middle East Diplomacy is William B. Quandt’s Camp David (1986). The event of the Carter years that has attracted the most attention is, of course, the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis, which has produced a number of excellent books. First among them is Barry Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran(1981), a masterful study that is indispensable. Nearly as good is John Stempel, Inside the Iranian Revolution (1981), by the former Deputy Chief of Political Section of the American Embassy in Teheran. A New York Times team of reporters led by Robert McFadden published No Hiding Place: Inside Report of the Hostage Crisis (1981), which provides extensive, excellent coverage. Michael Leeden and William Lewis, Debacle: The American Failure in Iran (1981), is a useful short summary. William H. Sullivan’s Mission to Iran (1981) is a candid report by the last American ambassador to Iran. Former NSC hand Gary Sick’s All Fall Down (1985) and October Surprise (1991) both controversially recount America’s tragic encounter with Iran from an insider’s perspective. James Bill’s The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of Iranian-American Relations (1988) is outstanding. Strobe Talbott’s Endgame: The Inside Story of Salt II (1979) is a fascinating account of the intricate nature of arms talks. Wayne S. Smith’s The Closest of Enemies: A Personal and Diplomatic Account of U.S.-Cuban Relations Since 1957 (1987) written by a Foreign Service career officer, is critical of American reliance on covert operations rather than on diplomacy. Robert A. Pastor’s Whirlpool (1992) offers a brilliant analysis of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin American and the Caribbean during the Carter, Reagan, and Bush presidencies. T. Carothers’s In the Name of Democracy (1991) is another important interpretive study of U.S. policy toward Latin American in the Reagan years. An interesting defense of Reagan’s Nicaragua policy is Robert Kagan’s A Twilight Struggle (1996). Lou Cannon, Reagan (1981), and Bill Boyarsky, Ronald Reagan(1982), are solid early studies. Michael Schaller’s Reckoning with Reagan (1992) is a valuable brief analytical primer. Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency (1988), is a fascinating account of the way the Reagan administration managed the news, especially the bad news on foreign policy misadventures. John Dumbrell’s American Foreign Policy (1997) offers a shrewd analysis of the Reagan doctrine. An indispensable memoir of the Reagan years is George P. Shultz’s Turmoil and Triumph (1993). By contrast Reagan’s An American Life (1990) is disappointing.


The Bush administration has produced two first-rate memoirs: James A. Baker’s The Politics of Diplomacy (1995) and Colin Powell’s My American Journey (1995). There are a number of books on Desert Storm. Among the best are Jean Edward Smith’s George Bush’s War (1992), which is very critical of the former President, and Norman Friedman’s Desert Victory (1992), which strongly supports Bush’s policies. L. Freedman and E. Karsh’s The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991 (1994) is also worth consulting. The history of U.S.-Iraqi relations during the Reagan-Bush years is best understood through reading Bruce Jentleson’s With Friends Like These (1994). Investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s The Commanders (1991) is full of Gulf War gossip and plucky analysis.

Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson’s The Imperial Temptation (1992) is a thoughtful and disturbing look at the new world order and America’s purpose. The End of the Cold War: Its Meaning and Implications (1992), edited by Michael Hogan, is a timely collection of essays from some of the leading diplomatic historians in the United States and Europe. It discusses such important issues as the origins of the Cold War, its ideological and geopolitical sources, the cost of the conflict, and the future world order. A brilliant recounting of the collapse of the Soviet Empire is David Remmick’s Lenin’s Tomb (1993). Raymond L. Garthoff ’s The Great Transition (1994) is the best study of U.S.-Soviet relations at the end of the Cold War.

For Gorbachev, consult Zhores Medvedov’s Gorbachev (1986), a balanced biography of a leading Soviet dissident. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century (1989), written by Carter’s national security adviser on the eve of the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe, is challenging, thought-provoking, and solid. For a wide-ranging discussion of the end of the Cold War, consult the Summer 1989 issue of The National Interest, which contains Francis Fukuyama’s article, “The End of the History?” and responses by six critics. Michael Beschloss and Strobe Talbott’s At the Highest Levels (1992) is a fast-paced account of Gorbachev’s relationship with Reagan and Bush. A highly recommended critique of post-Cold War democracy building is Tony Smith’s America’s Mission (1994).

Clinton One

The best critique of Clinton’s first-term foreign policy is Martin Walker’s The President We Deserve (1996). A fair early appraisal of Clinton’s diplomacy is Larry Berman and Emily O. Goldman’s “Clinton’s Foreign Policy at Midterm” in The Clinton Presidency(1996), edited by Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman. A good survey of Clinton’s trade efforts is William A. Orme, Jr.’s Understanding NAFTA (1996). Elizabeth Drew’s The Clinton Presidency (1994) is a smart, trenchant look at our forty-second president’s leadership style. Ronald Steel’s Temptations of a Superpower (1995) is a provocative study on how to avoid the excesses of the Cold War in a post-Cold War world. Michael Parenti’s Against Empire (1995) is a devastating critique of Clinton’s globalization efforts. Douglas Brinkley’s “Democratic Enlargement: The Clinton Doctrine” inForeign Policy (Spring 1997) is a positive examination of NSC Adviser Anthony Lake’s attempts at creating a post-Cold War grand strategy. Warren Christopher explains his foreign policy vision in “America’s Leadership, America’s Opportunity” in Foreign Policy (Spring 1995). William J. Perry summarized Clinton’s military strategy record in “Defense in an Age of Hope” in Foreign Affairs (Nov./Dec. 1996). By contrast, a fairly critical appraisal isClinton and Post-Cold War Defense (1996), edited by Stephen J. Cimbala. Much has been written about the West’s failure in Bosnia but the two most accessible studies are David Rieff’s Slaughterhouse (1995) and Roy Gutman’s Genocide (1993). Yet by bringing NATO into the Balkans the Clinton administration was able to stabilize the region. The best explanation of Clinton’s successful Bosnia policy is Richard Holbrooke’s “Annals of Diplomacy: The Road to Sarajevo” published in the New Yorker (October 21 and 28, 1996).

For a powerful polemic against NATO expansion read Michael Mandelbaum’s Dawn at Peace in Europe (1996). The case for NATO expansion is taken up in Thomas Blood and Bruce Henderson’s State of the Union: A Report on President Clinton’s First Four Years in Office (1996). A positive review of the administration’s attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland is Conor O’Cleary’s Daring Diplomacy (1996). Before leaving his post as NSC Adviser, Anthony Lake had compiled a massive fact book (known as the blue book) titled “Clinton Administration Foreign and Security Policy” (September 30, 1996). It offers the most ardent defense of Clinton global strategies available.

For instant yet thoughtful analysis of the state of the world, students should go to Current History, published monthly during the academic year, and containing articles on current developments by leading scholars. Current History is also invaluable for its section “The Month in Review: Country by Country, Day by Day,” which provides one-sentence summaries of the important events around the world. The Washington Post’s “Weekly Edition” is a reliable guide to U.S. policymaking abroad. And any serious student of diplomacy should also acquire the four-volumeEncyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations (1997), edited by Bruce Jentleson and Thomas G. Paterson. For Washington insider information, reading National Journal is a must. We urge students who wish to study foreign policy in greater depth to join The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) in order to receive its quarterly journal, Diplomatic History, with its many outstanding articles, ideal for use in preparing term papers, and its superb book review section. The pertinent articles in two contemporary journals—Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy—are always, without exception, essential reading.

Clinton Two

Every year it seems important new books get published on the Clinton administration. The best starting place is John F. Harris’s excellent The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House (2005). Historian Taylor Branch regularly taped President Clinton in secret White House meetings between 1993 and 2001. The result is The Clinton Tapes (2009), a treasure trove of foreign policy anecdotes about world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Boris Yeltsin, and Tony Blair. A useful new reference book is Peter B. Levy’sEncyclopedia of the Clinton Presidency (2002). Must reading for understanding the U.S. unpreparedness in fighting the War on Terror are Time Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007) and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower (2006). There are a number of decent memoirs pertaining to foreign policy during the Clinton years. Madeleine Albright’s Madam Secretary (2003) is probably the best. Richard Holbrooke’s reflection on Bosnia—To End a War (1999)—is a modern classic. On Kosovo policy read Andrew J. Bacevich and Eliot A. Cohen’s (eds.) War Over Kosovo: Policy and Strategy in a Global Age (2001); Rebecca Grant’s The Kosovo Campaign: Aerospace Power Made It Work (1999); Adam LeBor’s Milošević: A Biography (2004); and David Fromkin Kosovo Crossing’s American Idols Meet Reality in the Balkan Battlefields (1999). A classic explanation of the former Yugoslavia remains Balkan Ghosts: A .Journey Through History (1994) by Robert Kaplan.

A rising tide of Clinton revisionist studies started appearing in the late 1990s. The three best are Richard So1e’s Clinton’s Secret Wars: The Evolution of a Commander in Chief (2009); William C. Hyland’s Clinton’s World: Remaking American Foreign Policy(1999) and Joe Klein’s The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton (2002).

James T. Patterson’s Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore was invaluable in better understanding the World Wide Web and globalization. Likewise, Sean Wilentz’s The Age of Reagan provides a good overview of the Bush presidency.

September 11, 2001

When studying 9/11 the first place to turn is Thomas H. Kean and Lee Hamilton’s The Complete Investigation of the 9/11 Report: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004). This is perhaps the most well-written public report in American history. A cottage industry of books is starting to be published on 9/11. An excellent summary is John Farmer’s The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11, which outlines the story of the al Qaeda terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C., in a dramatic blow-by-blow fashion. Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower focus on al Qaeda’s nefarious activity in Afghanistan. Journalist Bob Woodward is at top form in Bush At War (2002). The two best insider accounts on 9/11 are Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies: Inside the War of Terror (2004) and George Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm (2007). Both memoirs deal with the bogus connection the Bush administration made between al Qaeda and Iraq. There is still no reliable biography of Bush. But Karl Rove’s memoir Courage and Consequence is a fine defensive of his White House boss during 9/11.

Bush: After the Attack and Iraq

The best books about the Bush years were written by Bob Wodward. His trilogy—Bush at War (2002), Plan of Attack (2004), and State of Denial (2006)—were all composed in a timely fashion. Nevertheless they’re factually sound. The must-read chronicle of the Bush administration’s misadventure in Iraq is George Packer’s outstanding The Assassins’ Gale: America in Iraq (2005). Other informative books include James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcan; Thomas E. Ricks’s Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq(2006); Michael B. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor’sCobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (2006); Ali A. Allawi’s The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (2007) and Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine(2006). Two excellent evaluations of Bush’s personal shortcomings are Frank Rich’s,The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina (2006) and Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (2006). The last chapters of H. W. Brands’s American Dreams: The United States Since1945 was extremely constructive.

One suspects ex-Bush administration foreign policy hands will try to even the critical score with revisionist memoirs of their own. Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Armitage, Condoleezza Rice, and Dick Cheney are all working on memoirs. As is the 43rd President himself, whose Decision Pointswas published in late 2010.

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