RISE OF THE VULCANS: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

By Mann, James; Fischer, Beth A. | International Journal, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

RISE OF THE VULCANS: The History of Bush's War Cabinet


Mann, James, Fischer, Beth A., International Journal


RISE OF THE VULCANS: The History of Bush's War Cabinet James Mann New York: Viking, 2004. xxii, 420pp, $39.00 cloth (ISBN 0-670-03299-9)

Why did the United States invade Iraq in the spring of 2003? One way to find an answer to this question would be to sift through the Bush administration's public remarks leading up to the war. All the key members of President Bush's foreign policy team appeared on television, delivered major speeches, and testified before a variety of international and domestic agencies laying out their case for war. This sort of an approach would allow us to understand all the stated reasons for invading Iraq: the belief that Iraq was a growing threat, the belief that the United States must act quickly and decisively to check this growing menace, and the belief that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was a central component of the war on terror.

But such an approach would not shed much light into why key foreign policy advisers believed these things. Why did the administration believe that the United States had to act? Why do key foreign policy advisers believe the war against Iraq was justified despite the fact the no weapons of mass destruction were discovered? Why do these advisers believe there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and the events of September nth? To answer these fundamental questions, one must have a sense of the beliefs and world views of those who are responsible for making US foreign policy. James Mann's book, Rise of the Vulcans, is excellent in this regard.

As Mann points out, one can imagine a very different set of responses to the events of September nth. In order to understand the Bush administration's response to this tragedy, one must have a sense of the policy makers involved, their histories, and their perspectives on international relations and the United States' place in the world. Thus, Mann has written a "collective biography," a book that traces the professional and ideological development of President Bush's key foreign policy advisers: Vice President Dick Cheney, National security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage. The term "Vulcans" refers to Bush administration officials who previously served in other Republican administrations. The nickname originated with the advisers themselves, during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Mann has wisely chosen to write the book in a thematic manner. Rather than devoting a single chapter to each individual, Mann has chosen to organize the book chronologically.

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