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Wills - Bomb Power (2010) - Synopsis

Wills - Bomb Power (2010) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Garry Wills, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (New York: Penguin Press, January 2010). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on March 22, 2010.
Synopsis of Garry Wills, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (New York: Penguin Press, January 2010). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on March 22, 2010.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Mar 22, 2010
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper CXVIII: March 22, 2010, 7:00 p.m. 
Garry Wills,
Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State
(New York: Penguin Press, January 2010).
"[T]he Bomb altered oursubsequent history down to its deepestconstitutional roots" (1).]
"Blessed are thepeacemakers."
Introduction: War in Peace.
Constitutional normality never returned afterthe invention of the Bomb (1-3). It has beenat the root of executive power since then (3-4).
The 'miracle' of American state capitalism made victorypossible in WWII (7-10). The ManhattanProject, with an emphasis on the secrecyinvolved and on the Oppenheimer-Grovesrelationship (10-23).
Ch. 2: Atomic Politics.
There was noconsideration of not using the Bomb (24-26).Hiroshima and Nagasaki (26-27). For avariety of reasons, mostly political, thosewith the Bomb "could not
use it" (29; 27-30). The main concern was not over whetherto use the Bomb, but rather "with producingmore"; Groves wanted to "keep the Bomb inmilitary custody" but the McMahon Act of 1946 established the Atomic EnergyCommission (30; 30-31). Edward Tellerpromoted a fusion bomb ("the Super" at LosAlamos, as opposed to "the Gadget") (32; 33-40). Any chance of international control of nuclear weapons was lost when BernardBaruch has named to present such aproposal to the U.N. (32-33). Trumancavalierly dismissed the anguished debateover whether to build the hydrogen bomb,regarded as necessary "if only for bargainingpurposes . . . Once again, they could not
develop it" (36; 34-37). Removal of Oppenheimer's security clearance wasdictated by his initial opposition to the H-bomb; "[s]ecrecy had become a way of punishing, not protecting" (40; 37-40).
Ch. 3: The Care and Keeping of theBomb.
Wars alter conditions that makereturn to the status quo ante impossible (41).Not the bombs themselves, but the securitysystem around it and the development of delivery systems, accounted for theimmense cost of nuclear weapons (42-43). These also dictated foreign relations: "Beingthe champion of 'the free world' meantmaintaining nuclear superiority, not actuallyadvancing freedom in the countries thatcooperated with us. . . . The care andkeeping of the Bomb was a continuallyexpanding set of tasks" (44). The Air Force,the deliverer of the Bomb, was created andgranted 47% of the defense budget by themid-1950s (44-45). The Atomic Energy Actof 1946 gave the president "the soleauthority" over the use of the Bomb, whichrepresented "a violent break in our wholegovernmental system. . . . This was in effecta quiet revolution" (45-46). The presidencywas irrevocably altered; the president has nopower over civilians, but at present "[l]oyaltyto the Commander in Chief is now equatedwith loyalty to the country, even though it isclearly a form of disloyalty to theConstitution (48; 46-49). The "actual passingof authority over the Bomb" in the event of the death of the president "is secret,classified, and outside the legal pattern"(50). The now common practice of autonomous executive action is a legacy of the Bomb (51-53).
PART TWO: THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATECh. 4: Beginnings (1945-1946).
The 25steps creating the National Security State ,1945-1952 (57-59). (1)
Strategic ServicesUnit
organized (October 1, 1945) in thePentagon to give a home to OSS personneland resources (59-60).
CentralIntelligence Group
inaugurated (January22, 1946) because Truman wanted his ownintelligence agency (61-62). Diplomaticundersecretary George
Kennan's LongTelegram
(February 22, 1946) exaggeratedthe Soviet threat, as even Kennan later
acknowledged; this document was widelycirculated (62-65). At Truman's request,Clark
wrote a
(September 24, 1946) on the influenceKennan's memo was having, and translatingit into the imperative of weaponsdevelopment (including biological weapons)and persecution of American Communists(65-68).
Kennan's critique of Willett
paper (October 7, 1946): Kennan criticized apaper urging a massive military build-up, but James Forrestal thought this too "weak" (68-69).
Ch. 5:
 Annus Mirabilis
In 1947,"the instruments of war were locked inplace" (70).
Kennan's speech to theCouncil on Foreign Relations
(January 7,1947): A version of this became the famous"X" article in
Foreign Affairs
Kennan memo to Forrestal
(January 31,1947): recommended confrontation with theRussians at every point (71). Manichean,hyperbolic
Truman Doctrine Speech
(March 12, 1947): any Communist regimeanywhere undermines U.S. national security(72-73).
Loyalty Orde
r (Exec. Order 9835,March 21, 1947): this was largely political(73-74).
Attorney General's list of subversive organizations
(April 3, 1947)(75).
Policy Planning Staff 
created (May5, 1947) by Secretary of State GeorgeMarshall (75-76).
Delta Council speech
(May 8, 1947) delivered in Mississippi byDean Acheson (76-77).
Marshall Planspeech
(June 5, 1947) (77-79).
"X" articlein
Foreign Affairs
(July 1947) proposed the"policy of firm containment" (79-82). The
National Security Act
(July 16, 1947)reorganized U.S. military resources, creatingthe Dept. of Defense (as it was laterrenamed), the National Security Council, andthe CIA (82-84). The NSC set up a separatecovert war operation to conduct "
"on the USSR (December 17, 1947) (85).
Ch. 6: Completing the Apparatus (1948-1952).
(March 30, 1948) called for a"world-wide counter-offensive" against theSoviet Union (86).
NSC 10/2
set up theOffice of Policy Coordination (June 18, 1948)to meddle secretly in foreign politics (87-89).
NSC 20/1
(August 18, 1948) declaredrollback of Soviet power as a state objective,even at the risk of war (89-91).
NSC 20/4
(November 24, 1948) states that the U.S.must prevent the Soviet takeover of Europe(91). The
North Atlantic Treaty
(April 4,1949) founded NATO (91-92).
NSC 58
(September 14, 1949), encouraged by Tito'ssplit with Moscow, called for pressuring othercountries to do so (92). Paul Nitze's
NSC 68
(April 14, 1950) called for massive warmobilization, quadrupling the military budget(92-97). A
Psychological Strategy Board
(April 4, 1951) was set up to work onpropaganda (97). The
National SecurityAgency
was created (November 4, 1952) tomonitor foreign information (98). Theseinstitutions founded the National SecurityState; "The whole structure is outside theConstitution" (98). It was "riddled withillegalities from the outset" (99). Itinstitutionalized "subversion, sabotage, andassassination. It may be said—it has beensaid—that all governments do these things.But the United States had not done so in anysystematic way before the period after WorldWar II. And other countries do not have theUnited States Constitution" (99). It violatedthe Constitution's requirement of accountability (99-102).
The Korean War was the firstassertion of the president's prerogative inthe Bomb Power era; the decision was madeindependently of Congress; Sec. of StateAcheson's claims of precedent were bogus(105-08), as were the claims of a U.N. policeaction (108-13). Gen. MacArthur workedagainst Truman's policy and was dismissed;presidential wars prove hard to end (113-19).
Ch. 8: Permanent Emergency.
Trumandeclared a national emergency on Dec. 16,1950 (120-122). He promoted UniversalMilitary Training (UMT) (122). He sought thepower to draft railroad workers (123-25). Hetried to seize steel mills (125-28). He andother presidents multiplied executive ordersmeant to have the force of law—and behindall the usurpations of power was the Bomb(128-34).
PART FOUR: INFORMATION POWERCh. 9: Secrecy as Embarrassment Cover.
Hundreds of millions of secret papers aregenerated every year (137-40). The statesecrets doctrine had its origin in a case
based on governmental lying aboutmalfeasance,
U.S. v. Reynolds,
Ch. 10: Secrecy as Congress Deceiver.
Secrecy in Iran-Contra (148-52). The"secret" bombing of Cambodia (152-55).Operation Mongoose, the secret sabotageoperation against Cuba (155-58). Castro'sintroduction of Soviet missiles was aresponse to Operation Mongoose, but thiswas kept from the American people (158-60)."Each lie entailed new ones," and the onlyones deceived were "the American people"(160).
Ch. 11: Secrecy as Policy Disabler.
Secrecy offers an argument for dismissinginconvenient policy analyses and often thesecrecy is more harmful to the nation thanany revelations could be, as is shown by theBay of Pigs (161-66) and the PentagonPapers, which actually contained no statesecrets (167-74).
Ch. 12: Secrecy as Crime Concealer.
AbuGhraib (175-77). Eisenhower's use of secretarmies, successfully in Iran, Guatemala, theDominican Republic, and Congo (177-82).Stephen Kinzer has identified 114 caseswhere the U.S. "denied a country the right tochoose its own government" (183).
The War PowersResolution, so detested by Dick Cheney,itself goes too far in granting the presidentthe power to make war; it is "ridiculouslyinadequate" (192; 187-96). "The extremismof the reaction to the WPR cannot beoverstated. In a fury that the Congress haddared to say the President had
powerover war (which he does not, under theConstitution), the administration of GeorgeW. Bush asserted that the President had
power over its initiation and conduct. Themonopoly on nuclear war that was given atthe dawn of Bomb Power was now extendedto all aspects of war" (196).
Ch. 14: Challenging Secrecy.
Timidcongressional challenges to the NationalSecurity State: the Rockefeller Commission,the Church Committee, the Pike Committee(197-208).
Ch. 15: The Unitary Executive.
"Conservatives" in the office of Reagan'sAttorney General Edwin Meese devised the"unitary executive theory"; the expandeduse of "signing statements" also began then(209-21).
Ch. 16: American Monarch.
George W.Bush was the culmination of these trends,which began to recede from their high-watermark when James Comey and other JusticeDept. lawyers organized resistance to theattempt to circumvent restrictions onwarrantless wiretapping; Bush was obliged towithdraw a statement he had signedasserting this power (222-36).
The Bush-Obama transitiondemonstrates that "[s]ixty-eight years of waremergency powers (1941-2009) have madethe abnormal normal, and constitutionaldiminishment the settled order (238; 237-39). Diego Garcia exemplifies the new order:stolen from its people, funded throughdeception, maintained in secrecy (240). Thepresident is "the prisoner of his own power"(240). Concluding words: "Nonetheless,some of us entertain a fondness for thequaint old Constitution. It may be too late toreturn to its ideals, but the effort should bemade. As Cyrano said, 'One fights not onlyin the hope of winning' (
Mais on ne se bat  pas dans l'espoir du succès
)" (241; a bettertranslation: 'It is not in hopes of winning thatone fights').
23 pp.
12 pp.
About the Author.
Garry Wills
haswritten many books and won many awards,including the Pulitzer Prize. He is professorof history emeritus at NorthwesternUniversity and writes frequently for the
NewYork Review of Books.
Additional information. Garry Wills
was born on May 22, 1934, in Atlanta andgrew up in Michigan and Wisconsin. Heattended a Jesuit HS and joined the Jesuitorder, then left. He was hired as a dramacritic for the
National Review
by William F.Buckley at the age of 23. In 1961, at the ageof 27, he received his Ph.D. in Classics from Yale. His ideological trajectory has taken

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