Since its founding the National Security Council has exerted more influence on the president’s foreign policy decisions―and on the nation’s conflicts abroad―than any other institution or individual. And yet, until the Trump presidency, few Americans could even name a member. Juxtaposing extensive archival research with new interviews, Gans demonstrates that knowing the NSC staff’s history and its war stories is the only way to truly understand American foreign policy today.
White House Warriors is a history of the National Security Council (not to be confused with the National Security Agency, the vast organization that collects electronic intelligence), but is also in many ways a work of advocacy ... a bottom-up history, told largely from the perspective of NSC staffers. Mr. Gans begins with the council’s formation in the aftermath of World War II and traces its development up through Donald Trump. But the issue of why the NSC has accumulated so much influence in the U.S. government, and yet seems to accomplish so little with it, eludes the author’s analysis ... Under an exceptional national security adviser—Henry Kissinger, John Bolton—the NSC can be a powerful force for good for America. But Mr. Gans’s account makes us conclude that all too often its successes are a matter of luck and circumstance more than design.
This forceful historical account is a much-needed published assessment, given that NSC members are generally not known to the public, which this author believes is a good thing ... This book is essential reading for all interested in politics, government, and contemporary U.S. history.
Relying on a combination of academic research and less formal anecdotes, Gans...shifts back and forth between admiration for the NSC and warnings that the mostly publicity-shy staff members have accumulated too much influence without being overseen by anybody outside the White House ... A chief value of the book...is the author’s focus on case studies about how less-visible staff have exerted influence ... A useful historical study that will especially interest those seeking a look at government from the inside.