Instead of a declaration of war, presidents have justified their war-making powers by citing "commitments," private and public, made by former presidents. Many of these commitments have been honored, but some betrayed. Surprisingly, given the tight U.S.-Israeli relationship, Israeli leaders feel that at times they have been betrayed by American presidents. Is it time for a negotiated defense treaty between the United States and Israel as a way of substituting for a string of secret presidential commitments?
From Israel to Vietnam, presidential commitments have proven to be tricky and dangerous. For example, one president after another committed the United States to the defense of South Vietnam, often without explanation. Over the years, these commitments mushroomed into national policy, leading to a war costing 58,000 American lives. Few in Congress or the media chose to question the war's provenance or legitimacy, until it was too late. No president saw the need for a declaration of war, considering one to be old-fashioned.
The word of a president can morph into a national commitment. It can become the functional equivalent of a declaration of war. Therefore, whenever a president "commits"the United States to a policy or course of action with, or increasingly without, congressional approval, watch out—the White House may be setting the nation on a road toward war.
The Road to War was a 2013 Foreword Reviews honorable mention in the subject of War & Military.
Marvin Kalb is the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice (Emeritus) at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and founding director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. He also serves as a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Foreign Policy Studies. His distinguished journalism career covers thirty years of award-winning reporting and commentary for CBS and NBC News, including stints as bureau chief in Moscow and host of Meet the Press. His twelve previous books include Haunting Legacy (Brookings Press, 2012), The Nixon Memo (University of Chicago) and Kissinger (Little Brown). He hosts the Kalb Report at the National Press Club.
Saunders argues that leaders' threat perceptions—specifically, whether they believe that threats ultimately originate from the internal characteristics of other states—influence both the decision to intervene and the choice of intervention strategy. These perceptions affect the degree to which leaders use intervention to remake the domestic institutions of target states. Using archival and historical sources, Saunders concentrates on U.S. military interventions during the Cold War, focusing on the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. After demonstrating the importance of leaders in this period, she also explores the theory's applicability to other historical and contemporary settings including the post–Cold War period and the war in Iraq.
That, it seems, is also Trump’s goal. In Enemy of the People, Marvin Kalb, an award-winning American journalist with more than six decades of experience both as a journalist and media observer, writes with passion about why we should fear for the future of American democracy because of the unrelenting attacks by the Trump administration on the press.
As his new book shows, the press has been a bulwark in the defense of democracy. Kalb writes about Edward R. Murrow’s courageous reporting on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “red scare” theatrics in the early 1950s, which led to McCarthy’s demise. He reminds us of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting in the early 1970s that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Today, because of revolutionary changes in journalism, no Murrow is ready at the battlements. Journalism has been severely weakened. Yet, without a virile, strong press, democracy is in peril.
Kalb’s book is a frightening indictment of President Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the American press—and put the future of our democracy in question.
This sharp deterioration in East-West relations has raised basic questions about Putin's provocative policies and the future of Russia and Ukraine. Marvin Kalb, who wrote commentaries for Edward R. Murrow before becoming CBS News' Moscow bureau chief in the late 1950's, and who also served as a translator and junior press officer at the US Embassy in Moscow, argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Putin did not "suddenly" decide to invade Crimea. He had been waiting for the right moment ever since disgruntled Ukrainians rose in revolt against his pro-Russian regime in Kiev's Maidan Square. These demonstrations led Putin to conclude that Ukraine's opposition constituted an existential threat to Russia.
Imperial Gamble examines how Putin reached that conclusion by taking a critical look at the recent political history of post-Soviet Russia. It also journeys deep into Russian and Ukrainian history to explain what keeps them together and yet at the same time drives them apart.
Kalb believes that the post-cold war world hangs today on the resolution of the Ukraine crisis. So long as it is treated as a problem to be resolved by Russia, on the one side, and the United States and Europe, on the other, it will remain a danger zone with global consequences. The only sensible solution lies in both Russia and Ukraine recognizing that their futures are irrevocably linked by geography, power, politics, and the history that Kalb brings to life in Imperial Gamble.
1956 was an extraordinary year in modern Russian history. It was called “the year of the thaw”—a time when Stalin’s dark legacy of dictatorship died in February only to be reborn later that December. This historic arc from rising hope to crushing despair opened with a speech by Nikita Khrushchev, then the unpredictable leader of the Soviet Union. He astounded everyone by denouncing the one figure who, up to that time, had been hailed as a “genius,” a wizard of communism—Josef Stalin himself. Now, suddenly, this once unassailable god was being portrayed as a “madman” whose idiosyncratic rule had seriously undermined communism and endangered the Soviet state.
This amazing switch from hero to villain lifted a heavy overcoat of fear from the backs of ordinary Russians. It also quickly led to anti-communist uprisings in Eastern Europe, none more bloody and challenging than the one in Hungary, which Soviet troops crushed at year’s end.
Marvin Kalb, then a young diplomatic attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, observed this tumultuous year that foretold the end of Soviet communism three decades later. Fluent in Russian, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, he went where few other foreigners would dare go, listening to Russian students secretly attack communism and threaten rebellion against the Soviet system, traveling from one end of a changing country to the other and, thanks to his diplomatic position, meeting and talking with Khrushchev, who playfully nicknamed him Peter the Great.
In this, his fifteenth book, Kalb writes a fascinating eyewitness account of a superpower in upheaval and of a people yearning for an end to dictatorship.