With the Iraq War now in its fourth year, its merits are still contested by leading politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere. And revelations suggest that the president's secretary of state, Colin Powell, had opposed going to war. Historians have often analyzed the relationship between presidents and their advisors, but rarely the influence of those counselors who have dissented from the views of the chief executive. Mark J. White considers the question of alternative policies by examining the response of presidents, from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson, to dissent within their own. Mr. White fashions a provocative interpretation of America's role in the cold war and questions about the potential effectiveness of policies that might have been.
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Mark J. White has written widely on American foreign policy, including The Kennedys and Cuba, Kennedy: The New Frontier Revisited, Missiles in Cuba, and The Cuban Missile Crisis. He lives in East Yorkshire, England.
Would challenging advice from his inner councils have helped George W. Bush avoid the unfolding disaster in Iraq? One can only speculate, since he got none. But what is clear from Mark White's eye-opening disquisition on presidential decision making is that vigorous dissent has long been an integral part of the process. Now a reader in history at the University of London, White follows in the distinguished tradition of British analysts of American foibles, once again demonstrating that the trans-Atlantic span seems to enhance wisdom and sharpen insight. -- Robert Shogan, Author of No Sense of Decency: The Army-McCarthy Hearings This is a book that is as much about the moment as it is about history. Even in the United States, people pay a price for dissent, particularly at the highest levels. From the earliest days of the Cold War, to the Korean Conflict and on to Vietnam, there were honest voices close to presidents who risked everything to say 'No.' Against the President should be mandatory reading for those who would lead the nation and for those who would counsel leaders everywhere. -- Charles M. Madigan, Presidential Writer in Residence, Roosevelt University, Chicago In his thoughtful and balanced account, Mark J. White reveals how a handful of prescient advisors frequently offered Cold War presidents sound advice that challenged their policies and, especially, their assumptions. White clearly demonstrates that millions of lives might have been saved had this courageous small minority of dissenters been able to win their administrations' internal debates. -- Melvin Small, author of At the Water's Edge and Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves Mark White's insightful study of the men who dissented from major policy decisions in the Cold War could not be more timely. His theme is one of missed opportunities on a grand scale. These dissenters analyzed the flaws in assumptions, the missing piece in all too many presidential initiatives. White's book should become essential reading for all White House aspirants. -- Lloyd Gardner, author of Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam Mark White's Against the President provides a fascinating look at officials from Joseph Davies to George Ball who challenged executives over the conduct of American foreign policy from World War II to Vietnam. Timely and well-researched, White's book effectively uses history to illuminate the decline of the tradition of presidential advisers who spoke their mind to those in power. -- Lewis L. Gould, author of The Modern American Presidency Against the President is a lucid, well-researched, judicious study of the fissures in America's Cold War consensus in foreign policy, and why some officials dared to call for a different path. With an eye for telling quotations and a keen sense of the interplay between temperament, ideology, and ambition, White reveals the importance of dissent to a healthy foreign policy without romanticizing the dissenters. -- Robert Weisbrot, author of Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence This [book] will engage students of presidential decision making. -- Gilbert Taylor * Booklist * Very informative and interesting. * Journal of American History * Well-researched and cogently argued . . . White's analysis often offers new insights on familiar material. -- Matthew J. Dickinson * Political Science Quarterly *
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