RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewExercise in Power is written from a perspective somewhere in the middle — call it the view from the deputy’s chair, which Gates, at different points in his long career, occupied at both the C.I.A. and the National Security Council ... On the surface, the book is conventional. It starts with a list of all the tools national security policymakers can draw on, from military force and economic sanctions to diplomacy, foreign aid and beyond, and ends with wise advice. What makes it special is what comes between—a dozen case studies of how the last six administrations have used those tools in managing post-Cold War security challenges including China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the rest. The familiar stories gain new life and interest when told by somebody who’s been in the room where it happens. Gates says what he thinks and refuses to pull his punches and, as a result, the book offers in one volume the most accurate record available of recent American security policy, the most incisive critique of that policy and the most sensible guide to what should come next ... His tone is judicious and nonpartisan, and he grades all the administrations fairly according to his standards of professional competence ... what gradually emerges from the book are the outlines of an alternative approach to foreign policy and national security ... Looking ahead, the approach Gates offers would be a plausible way to begin repairing the damage to America’s international position wreaked by the Trump administration ... Gates is cut from the same cloth as Marshall, and he too has written a lucid, constructive manual to pass on his hard-earned wisdom. Hopefully there are still some left to listen.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewJohn Kerry has written a solid political memoir. Every Day Is Extra offers a detailed record of an important life, a dutiful recounting of long-forgotten triumphs and setbacks, and a high-minded coda about the virtues of public service. Like others in its genre, it is long and slow, but it is frank, thoughtful and clearly written. Aspiring candidates and officials will find good career advice; wonks will appreciate the ticktocks of negotiations on Israel, Iran and climate change; cynics will see it as a trial balloon for one last run. There are a few mini-revelations, but what lingers are not the parts but the whole; not the life, but the man ... As the chapters proceed, the narrator seems increasingly a man out of time, a ghost from an age when class meant something more than money. This is Buddenbrooks via Louis Auchincloss, told by someone in the tomb where it happened ... Every Day Is Extra is a bittersweet reminder of what the country once demanded of its leaders, and what the American upper classes once aspired to supply. Today’s meritocratic elites want power without responsibility. They should have learned from people like Kerry. Some might learn from one of his St. Paul’s classmates, Robert Swan Mueller III.
RaveThe New York Times...Savage provides a comprehensive, authoritative history of the legal side of national security policy making during the Obama years. That might sound dry and forbidding, especially in a book so dense and long (almost 700 pages of text). But anyone truly interested in foreign policy or national security should find it essential and enthralling, thanks to the author’s intelligence, objectivity, legwork and literary skill.