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Fighting the last warWar in a Time of Peace Bush Clinton and the GeneralsDavid HalberstamIn the ranks of American journalism David Halberstam is a four-star general About 25 years ago he published The Best and the Brightest the definitive inside story of how America went to war in Vietnam Overnight he became the spokesman for his generation and also the chief critic of government policy-makers Perhaps only in America where the constitutional role of the press is so fiercely honoured could a journalist acquire such national gravitasHalberstam has since kept away from the subject that made him rich and famous He wrote a book about the American press The Powers That Be and he wrote about the American economy and its impact on politics The Reckoning Otherwise like Achilles he sat in his tent studiedly not participating in the cut and thrust of civil-military relations Now he has broken his long silence with the kind of massive analytical sit-rep befitting a grizzled veteranHis argument in a sentence is an exhaustive variation on the old truth that generals and politicians almost always find themselves fighting the last war He gives this line a bit of top spin by arguing passionately that America has failed to live up to its obligations as a superpower failing to do so chiefly as a result of the baleful influence of VietnamIn the years since the end of the Cold War he says Vietnam has dominated American foreign relations and the minds of American policy-makers shaping the American response to a series of international crises large and small the Gulf War Somalia Bosnia the issue from hell Haiti and Kosovo This is all very well argued but its Halberstams bad luck that since 911 from Foggy Bottom to Downing Street the map of international relations has been torn up Although his publisher has done its best there is a new post-911 introduction this book speaks of conflicts and tensions that now
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