Monday, July 30, 2007

Nixonian to Wilsonian: A Book List

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Any Presidential candidate is going to have make a choice between foreign policies: The Wilsonian Idealism belief that spreading Democracy is the key to World Peace or by choosing Nixonian Realism, allowing Dictators to counter-balance against each other, giving a temporary peace until the next revolution. Collective security by the United Nations is fading like the League of Nations after Italy's invasion of Abyssinia. Thus, the power of the Executive Branch will force the individual holding the power to make a choice: Wilsonian idealism or Nixonian realism.

By nature, I am a reader. There are books everywhere. In my car, in my room, in my bathroom. Here are books that led me from Nixonian Realism to Wilsonian Idealism. You will be very surprised.

Books on Nixonian Realism
In the Arena by Richard Nixon -- This book helped a 21 year old understand Realpolticks in a Cold war world.

Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger -- How Realpolitick was once the provenience of Kings, Tsars and Presidents. How Wilsonianism begot the United Nations and the history of modern Foreign policy by the Master of Diplomacy.

Books on Central Asia
The Great Game Series by Peter Hopkirk -- Afghanistan and Iran as the Chessboard between two Empires: The British (City and Raj) and the Russians; later, The British and the Soviets.

Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden -- On November 4, 1979, the world changed. The first Islamic Republic changed the face of the Middle east and Central Asia. Because of the breach of protocol by taking hostages from the American Embassy, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Iraq attacked Iran.

Ghost wars by Steve Coll -- The history of Afghanistan from December 25, 1979 until September 10, 2001. From a failed invasion by a nation scared by the Islamic Revolution to a failed state that gained succor by attracting NGO's with a dangerous purpose.

Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile -- Because of Prime Minister Zia of Pakistan, American troops were not allowed in Afghanistan. Our money and our weapons found their way through a shady Texas Congressman who found the Mujahideen, a Rebel force to be respected. Once the Soviets were defeated, the Democratic Congress pulled the plug and made Afghanistan a failed state. Tom Hanks will star as Charlie Wilson in the movie version.

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin -- Sometimes, Diplomacy doesn't work.

The Prize by Daniel Yergin -- Oil and it's influence in war and Diplomacy. Again, why diplomacy is not always the answer.

Your assignment, if you so choose, Mr. Phelps, is to read these books. If Wilsonian Idealism doesn't work, then please do a Blog Post on why Thomas Friedman's Golden Arches Theory is wrong too.


  1. Are any of these available as audio books? I used to have time to read, but these days I can cram in a lot more through my ears than my eyes. I don't know if I could stomach listening to Kissinger's yapping for more than a minute. I've got The Deathly Hallows in my iPod right now, competing for ear time with downloaded commercial free day old Howard Stern. For such an avid music fan, I find myself listening to far more talk than music.

  2. Jason,

    I'll take the list to my local Barnes and Noble and give an answer later. I have a habit of reading Books on Pages.

    These books tie in to the overall theme of American and European foreign policy. It seems every decade, the chessboard moves.

  3. I prefer to read books too, but I challenge anyone to try paying attention to a book while they've got a toddler who has just learned how to move improvised climbing devices around the house and is now obsessed with upward exploration.

    Don't look through B&N on my account. I'll do a torrent search. There's also an audio book rental store in Berkeley.


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