FDL Book Salon Welcomes Hugh Wilford, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

Welcome Hugh Wilford (Cal State University, Long Beach) (author, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America), and Host Jeremi Suri (Univ Texas, Austin) (JeremiSuri.net) (Twitter)

America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

One of the most enduring changes in American government occurred in the years after the Second World War, when the United States created its first permanent foreign intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Authorized by the National Security Act of 1947 and built from the bones of the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA had an immediate impact on American activities in all regions of the globe, especially the Middle East. The United States maintained limited and distant relations with the Arab world before 1947; as American interests in the region rapidly expanded, the new intelligence agency played a fundamental role in shaping how the United States interacted with Middle Eastern leaders and their populations. The CIA nurtured close cooperation between the United States and powerful figures in Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria. It also deeply implicated the United States in the troubling coups and other repressive practices that have dominated Middle Eastern politics for the last sixty years. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Danny Dorling, The No-Nonsense Guide to Equality

Welcome Danny Dorling (DannyDorling.org) and Host Jeremi Suri (Mack Brown Distinguished Professor for Global Leadership, History, and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Austin)

The No-Nonsense Guide to Equality

Modern democratic society requires basic equality. Our Founding Fathers understood this point when they drafted the Declaration of Independence with the radical statement, in its time: “All men are created equal.” Citizens must feel that they have a say in political decisions, that they are represented in some way. Citizens must also feel that they have an opportunity to “win” sometime in the future, even if their causes and candidates “lose” today. The opportunity to change government and policy based on citizen interests is central to democracy, and it requires a foundation in interpersonal equality.

Danny Dorling’s provocative book expands upon these insights. He argues that “human beings are happier and healthier the more equal they are, and that this is borne out by looking at statistics from all over the world today – as well as by surveying the whole of human history”. Dorling’s book provides both the statistics and the history to back many of his claims. Most important, he shows how the emergence of greater income equality in the United States between 1928 and 1973 contributed to economic growth, public investment, innovation, and national power as a whole. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio, Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics

Welcome Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio, and Host Jeremi Suri.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics

Jeremi Suri, Host:

I remember receiving a phone call from a prominent newspaper reporter in Fall 2009 about the emergence of the Tea Party, largely in opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care legislation. “Is the Tea Party going to become a major force in American politics,” the reporter asked. “No,” I responded confidently. “Like other fringe protest parties in the past, it will fizzle quickly. Their message is too negative.”

I have never been so wrong in my life! My confident prediction gave way to a true nightmare in my home state of Wisconsin. In November 2010 the citizens of what is often labeled America’s progressive state elected Tea Party followers to virtually all government offices. Scott Walker became governor, the Fitzgerald brothers (Scott and Jeff) became the leaders of the two houses of the state legislature, and unknown businessman Ron Johnson unseated the long-serving progressive stalwart, Russ Feingold, from the U.S. Senate. Similar things happened in other states (New Jersey, Indiana, Ohio), but the reversal of Democratic leadership in Wisconsin was especially dramatic. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Campbell Craig and Fred Logevall, America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity

[Welcome authors, Campbell Craig and Fred Logevall, Hosted by Jeremi Suri]

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.   – bev]

Craig and Logevall, America’s Cold War

America’s Cold War is a powerful and provocative book written by two very talented historians. Campbell Craig and Fredrik Logevall offer a compelling survey of the Cold War that begins with debates about American foreign policy during the Second War, and extends into the post-9/11/01 “war on terror.” The authors draw on a deep reading of primary documents from the U.S. government and a broad familiarity with the extensive secondary literature on the period. Craig and Logevall sketch insightful lines of continuity in American politics from the debates about communist aggression in the Korean War to the Vietnam War, from the efforts at assuring nuclear advantage in the Eisenhower years to Reagan’s strategic buildup. Time and again, the authors show, American policy-makers opted for more force and threatening behavior, rather than more diplomacy and efforts at political settlement. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster

Gordon Goldstein - Lessons in Disaster[Welcome Gordon Goldstein, and Host Jeremi Suri.] [As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam

Gordon Goldstein’s Lessons in Disaster (Holt, 2008) is a remarkable and very relevant book. The author spent more than a year working with an icon from the second half of the twentieth century, McGeorge Bundy, as he struggled to compose his memoirs. Bundy was one of the most influential figures in a postwar generation of smart, energetic, confident, well-born men who transformed universities, politics, and foreign policy in Cold War America. As Goldstein explains, Bundy was the central character in David Halberstam’s rueful parable of The Best and the Brightest. He was one of the Masters of the Universe who brought the United States into a terribly self-defeating and enormously destructive war in Vietnam. Readers today might naturally wonder about the parallels with the architects of the twenty-first century wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the investment strategies and corporate management philosophies that brought the world economy to its knees.

“Why do smart people make stupid decisions?” My undergraduates frequently ask this question in reference to both Vietnam and Iraq. (more…)