Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State
From Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills, a groundbreaking examination of how the atomic bomb profoundly altered the nature of American democracy and has left us in a state of war alert ever since.
Look out for a new book from Garry Wills, What the Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.
In Bomb Power, Garry Wills reveals how the atomic bomb transformed our nation down to its deepest constitutional roots-by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state-in ways still felt today. A masterful reckoning from one of America's preeminent historians, Bomb Power draws a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush.
The invention of the atomic bomb was a triumph of official secrecy and military discipline-the project was covertly funded at the behest of the president and, despite its massive scale, never discovered by Congress or the press. This concealment was perhaps to be expected in wartime, but Wills persuasively argues that the Manhattan Project then became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era. The wartime emergency put in place during World War II extended into the Cold War and finally the war on terror, leaving us in a state of continuous war alert for sixty-eight years and counting.
The bomb forever changed the institution of the presidency since only the president controls "the button" and, by extension, the fate of the world. Wills underscores how radical a break this was from the division of powers established by our founding fathers and how it in turn has enfeebled Congress and the courts. The bomb also placed new emphasis on the president's military role, creating a cult around the commander in chief. The tendency of modern presidents to flaunt military airs, Wills points out, is entirely a postbomb phenomenon. Finally, the Manhattan Project inspired the vast secretive apparatus of the national security state, including intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA, which remain largely unaccountable to Congress and the American people.
Wills recounts how, following World War II, presidential power increased decade by decade until reaching its stunning apogee with the Bush administration. Both provocative and illuminating, Bomb Power casts the history of the postwar period in a new light and sounds an alarm about the continued threat to our Constitution.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Narboink - LibraryThing
True words. Garry Wills is probably the most under-appreciated historian working today. His previous books are intense, provocative and intellectually bulletproof; this latest one is no exception. His ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - dbeveridge - LibraryThing
Fascinating account of the rise of the imperial presidency and the security state as a function of the development of the atomic bomb. A warning to all who feel that a change in administrations means a change in the balance of power. Read full review
1 STRATEGIC SERVICES UNIT ORGANIZED OCTOBER 1 1945
2 CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE GROUP INAUGURATED JANUARY 22 1946
3 LONG TELEGRAM FEBRUARY 22 1946
4 CLIFFORD MEMORANDUM SEPTEMBER 24 1946
5 KENNAN CRITIQUE OF WILLETT PAPER OCTOBER 7 1946
6 KENNAN SPEECH TO THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS JANUARY 7 1947
7 KENNAN MEMO TO FORRESTAL JANUARY 31 1947
BAY OF PIGS
IKES SECRET ARMIES
9 LOYALTY ORDER EXECUTIVE ORDER 9835 MARCH 21 1947
10 ATTORNEY GENERALS LIST OF SUBVERSIVE ORGANIZATIONS APRIL 3 1947
12 DELTA COUNCIL SPEECH BY ACHESON MAY 8 1947
13 MARSHALL PLAN SPEECH HARVARD JUNE 5 1947
14 X ARTICLE IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS JULY 1947
15 NATIONAL SECURITY ACT JULY 16 1947
16 NSC 4A PSYWAR DECEMBER 17 1947
17 NSC 7 COUNTEROFFENSIVE MARCH 30 1948
19 NSC 201 ROLLBACK AUGUST 18 1948
20 NSC 204 WAR AIMS NOVEMBER 24 1948
21 NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY APRIL 4 1949
24 PSYCHOLOGICAL STRATEGY BOARD APRIL 4 1951
25 NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY INAUGURATED NOVEMBER 4 1952
UN POLICE ACTION?
DRAFTING RAILROAD WORKERS
SEIZING STEEL MILLS
UNITED STATES V REYNOLDS ET AL1953
THE PIKE COMMITTEE
WAR IN PEACE
THE CARE AND KEEPING OF THE BOMB
COMPLETING THE APPARATUS 19481952
SECRECY AS EMBARRASSMENT COVER
SECRECY AS CONGRESS DECEIVER
SECRECY AS POLICY DISABLER
SECRECY AS CRIME CONCEALER
THE UNITARY EXECUTIVE