Magazine January 26, 2009, Issue

Where the Buck Stops

President George W. Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice leave the White House in Washington, D.C., February 12, 2001. (Reuters)
Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, by Peter W. Rodman (Knopf, 368 pp., $27.95)

Successfully exercising presidential power in national-security affairs is a political and constitutional imperative for American survival. Weak, corrupt, and incompetent Congresses can come and go — and often do — without fatally damaging us, but even one failed presidency, let alone a string of them, can cause enormous harm, as just four years of Jimmy Carter proved.

Thus, the subject of Presidential Command, Peter Rodman’s last book, published posthumously, is especially timely as we await Barack Obama’s inauguration. Rodman surveys the modern presidencies from Nixon to Bush 43, examining the factors that make for success in foreign-policy decision-making, but not rearguing

John R. Bolton is a former national-security adviser to President Trump and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

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