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He Remade Our World

A series of decisions, made more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, still shape the world we live in today:

In the end, perhaps inevitably, Bush would disappoint Cheney, bowing, in the steely unforgiving view of the older man, to the shoddy demands of politics and the fear of “negative press stories.” As Cheney describes the end of the Stellar Wind confrontation in his memoirs, one can almost hear the condescending disappointment in the former vice-president’s voice:

“Faced with threats of resignation, the president decided to alter the NSA program, even though he and his advisors were confident of his constitutional authority to continue the program unchanged.”

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4186 words)

Rumsfeld's War

A political history of Donald Rumsfeld, from the Nixon years to a war in Iraq that he promised would be over in months:

Rumsfeld would offer the “creative” plan for the Iraq invasion that his president had requested that tearful evening in September 2001, one that envisioned a relative handful of troops—150,000, fewer than half the number the elder Bush had assembled a decade before for the much less ambitious Desert Storm—and foresaw an invasion that would begin in shock and awe and an overwhelming rush to Baghdad. As for the occupation—well, if democracy were to come to Iraq it would be the Iraqis themselves who must build it. There would be no occupation, and thus no planning for it. Rumsfeld’s troops would be in and out in four months. As he told a then adoring press corps, “I don’t do quagmires.”

It did not turn out that way. Having watched from the Oval Office in 1975 the last torturous hours of the United States extracting itself from Vietnam—the helicopters fleeing the roof of the US embassy in Saigon—Rumsfeld would be condemned to thrash about in his self-made quagmire for almost four years, sinking ever deeper in the muck as nearly five thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. He was smart, brash, ambitious, experienced, skeptical of received wisdom, jealous of civilian control, self-searching, analytical, domineering, and he aimed at nothing less than to transform the American military. The parallels with McNamara are stunning.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5011 words)

In Conversation: Robert Silvers

The founding editor of the New York Review of Books looks back on 50 years:

Danner: "I’m holding here the first issue, which declares, in a statement on the second page: 'This issue … does not pretend to cover all the books of the season or even all the important ones. Neither time nor space, however, have been spent on books which are trivial in their intentions or venal in their effects, except occasionally to reduce a temporarily inflated reputation, or to call attention to a fraud.' This is the only editorial statement that you’ve ever made."

Silvers: "That’s it! And that’s still what we try to do. We shouldn’t pretend to be comprehensive. There’s no point in reviewing a book if you can’t find someone whose mind you particularly respect. And even so, we have to turn down every month or so a piece we’d asked for. But I left one thing out of that editorial statement: the freedom of those people to reply at length, to make their case."
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6995 words)