“America’s Defense Meltdown” makes The Washington Monthly’s list of 25 books recommended for President Obama
The latest edition of The Washington Monthly features an article “What Obama Should Read: Twenty-five books the new president should have by his bedside.” James Fallows, author and national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, recommends “America’s Defense Meltdown,” describing the book as “by an all-star array of truly expert authors. There is no better, terser, more comprehensive or authoritative introduction to an independent, realistic perspective on the Pentagon – complete with the facts, details and nuance to give Obama confidence in these views.”
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Fallows specific comments on “America’s Defense Meltdown” follow:
We all know the areas in which Barack Obama’s experience, instincts, and long-stated positions make him his own policy expert. Rule-of-law questions, plus management of racial frictions, are the two most obvious illustrations. I assume he is getting a crash education on economic and energy policy from a very strong team, and I bet he quickly shows a good natural feel for dealing with foreign leaders.
The place to worry is about defense policy. Obama said next to nothing about it during the campaign. Of course, he emphasized getting out of Iraq and focusing more on Afghanistan and about the limits of military-firepower answers to complex economic and ethnic questions. But about the cost and nature of America’s defense establishment, the training and nature of the officer corps, the relative roles of the services, and a hundred similar issues Obama has been hazy at best. This is a problem not just because the issues are so important but also because Democratic leaders can so easily be mau-maued into thinking that they must be resolutely “pro-military”—which in practice means never questioning budgets—to hold off attacks from the right. Clearest recent case study: Hillary Clinton’s eight-year role on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
What would make me feel best about Obama on this front? News that he had actually, himself, read America’s Defense Meltdown, by an all-star array of truly expert authors. There is no better, terser, more comprehensive or authoritative introduction to an independent, realistic perspective on the Pentagon—complete with the facts, details, and nuance to give Obama confidence in these views.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly . His most recent book, published in December, is Postcards From Tomorrow Square: Reports From China.