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Book review by Dr Jeffrey Bradford, Director of Research, U K Defence Forum
House of War by James Carroll
A very personal history of the Pentagon and its role in shaping
American foreign and domestic policy. James Carroll writes from an
unashamed personal perspective. The son of a former FBI officer
promoted to General in the US Air Force at the time of the McCarthism
scares, James grew up going to the Pentagon on a Saturday with his
father. Later he protested the Vietnam war outside the Pentagon as a
priest and now applies his intimate experiences to his role as a
journalist making sense of the cultural construct which the Pentagon
has grown into and its impact on thinking in the United States.
At the heart of his dialogue is the identification of key people and
the ways in which they influence policy and successive generations of
Pentagon leaders. One new fact to this reviewer was how Vice-
President Dick Cheney's first role was as an assistant to Donald
Rumsfeld - just one illustration of the intertwining relationships
which span generations. A further theme is the role of nuclear power
and policy at the heart of Pentagon thinking. Whilst it might seem
anachronistic today, the amounts being spent on ballistic missile
defence have a lineage of thinking spanning back several decades.
Additionally the development of atomic and nuclear policy is charted
from the perspective of the Pentagon's role in skewing the American
economy and R&D base to serving the organisations needs - and thus
having a major impact on the role of the Presidency. The third theme
is that of dates and the way in which major events occur on similar
dates on different years is a recurring theme.
This book is not an objective academic story, but more a passionate
personal view of an institution spanning decades, its people, impact
on society, the authors family and the international community. (672
pages, published by Houghton Mifflin ISBN: 0618187804).