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The Icarus Syndrome

A History of American Hubris

Peter Beinart

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

In The Icarus Syndrome, Peter Beinart tells a tale as old as the Greeks -- a story about the seductions of success. Beinart describes Washington on the eve of three wars -- World War One, Vietnam, and Iraq -- three moments when American leaders decided they could remake the world in their image. Each time, leading intellectuals declared that history was over, and the spread of democracy was inevitable. Each time, a president held the nation in the palm of his hand. And each time, a war conceived in arrogance brought untold tragedy.

In dazzling color, Beinart portrays three extraordinary generations: the progressives who took America into World War I, led by Woodrow Wilson, the lonely preacher's son who became the closest thing to a political messiah the world had ever seen. The Camelot intellectuals who took America into Vietnam, led by Lyndon Johnson, who lay awake at night after night shaking with fear that his countrymen considered him weak. And George W. Bush and the post-cold war neoconservatives, the romantic bullies who believed they could bludgeon the Middle East and liberate it at the same time. Like Icarus, each of these generations crafted "wings" -- a theory about America's relationship to the world. They flapped carefully at first, but gradually lost their inhibitions until, giddy with success, they flew into the sun.

But every era also brought new leaders and thinkers who found wisdom in pain. They reconciled American optimism -- our belief that anything is possible -- with the realities of a world that will never fully bend to our will. In their struggles lie the seeds of American renewal today. Based on years of research, The Icarus Syndrome is a provocative and strikingly original account of hubris in the American century -- and how we learn from the tragedies that result.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 05, 2010 – A century of unwise American military adventures is probed in this perceptive study of foreign policy over-reach. Daily Beast and Time contributor Beinart (The Good Fight) highlights three examples of Washington's overconfidence: Woodrow Wilson's “hubris of reason”: the belief that reason, not force, could govern the world; the Kennedy-Johnson administrations' “hubris of toughness” during the Vietnam War; and George W. Bush's “hubris of dominance” in launching the Iraq War. In each case, Beinart finds a dangerous confluence of misleading experience and untethered ideology; the Iraq War, he contends, was fostered both by a 12-year string of easy military triumphs from Panama to Afghanistan, and a belief that America can impose democracy by force. (The book continues the author's ongoing apology for his early support of the Iraq War.) Beinart's analyses are consistently lucid and provocative—e.g., he calls Ronald Reagan “a dove in hawk's feathers,” and his final conclusion is that “Obama will need to... decouple American optimism from the project of American global mastery.” The book amounts to a brief for moderation, good sense, humility, and looking before leaping—virtues that merit Beinart's spirited, cogent defense.
The Icarus Syndrome
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Jun 01, 2010
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
  • Seller: HarperCollins
  • Print Length: 496 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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