A new book from David Halberstam is usually more of an event, and one of the reasons why is that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 17 other works has an uncanny ability to not only reflect the mindset of the American public, but usually be at least a few steps ahead of it.
“War in a Time of Peace“ is Halberstam‘s most recent foray into bringing history to life, and it is a most worthy sequel to his classic, “The Best and the Brightest,“ which examined the decisions made during the Vietnam era and the men who made them. Here, he looks at how many of the lessons learned have come to influence American foreign policy in the past two presidential administrations and since the Gulf War.
Lest that sound like a tonic for insomniacs, be assured that it is anything but. Halberstam is a master at creating finely etched character portraits, finding just the right behind-the-scenes anecdote to illustrate a point, and skillfully weaving in pop culture perspectives to keep serious subjects from becoming overwhelming. The result is another journalistic tour-de-force, one guaranteed to make the same kind of long-lasting impact that “The Best and the Brightest“ was destined for 30 years ago.
His primary point in this highly-anticipated follow-up is that the long shadow of the Cold War still looms over American foreign policy, even as shifts in our domestic politics, policies, and players have changed our identity as a nation and as a world power. The dynamics are even more complex than ever reasons Halberstam in a well-presented case that leaves no stone unturned, from egos to the environment.
In the opening chapter, the author sets the stage as the balance of power is about to be passed on to a new administration, one that will place domestic policy ahead of foreign for the first time in nearly five decades. He writes: