Tag Archives: Peter Bergen

Two Compelling Books

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Peter Bergen – Trump And His Generals; The Cost Of Chaos

Peter Bergen

It is a simple fact that no president in American history brought less foreign policy experience to the White House than Donald J. Trump. The real estate developer from Queens promised to bring his brash, zero-sum swagger to bear to cut through America’s most complex national security issues, and he did. If the cost of his “America First” agenda was bulldozing the edifice of foreign alliances that had been carefully tended by every president from Truman to Obama, then so be it. It was clear from the first that Trump’s inclinations were radically more blunt force than his predecessors’. When briefed by the Pentagon on Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, he exclaimed, “The next time Iran sends its boats into the Strait: blow them out of the water! Let’s get Mad Dog on this.” When told that the capital of South Korea, Seoul, was so close to the North Korean border that millions of people would likely die in the first hours of an all-out war, Trump had a bold response, “They have to move.” The officials in the Oval Office weren’t sure if he was joking. He raised his voice. “They have to move!” Very quickly, it became clear to a number of people at the highest levels of government that their gravest mission was to protect America from Donald Trump. Trump and His Generals is Peter Bergen’s riveting account of what happened when the unstoppable force of President Trump met the immovable object of America’s national security establishment–the CIA, the State Department, and, above all, the Pentagon. If there is a real “deep state” in DC, it is not the FBI so much as the national security community, with its deep-rooted culture and hierarchy. The men Trump selected for his key national security positions, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and H. R. McMaster, were products of that culture: Trump wanted generals, and he got them. Three years later, they would be gone, and the guardrails were off. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria and Iran, from Russia and China to North Korea and Islamist terrorism, Trump and His Generals is a brilliant reckoning with an American ship of state navigating a roiling sea of threats without a well-functioning rudder. Lucid and gripping, it brings urgently needed clarity to issues that affect the fate of us all. But clarity, unfortunately, is not the same thing as reassurance.

Colin Woodard – Union: The Struggle To Forge The Story Of United States Nationhood

Colin Woodard

Union tells the story of the struggle to create a national myth for the United States, one that could hold its rival regional cultures together and forge, for the first time, an American nationhood. It tells the dramatic tale of how the story of our national origins, identity, and purpose was intentionally created and fought over in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On one hand, a small group of individuals–historians, political leaders, and novelists–fashioned and promoted a history that attempted to transcend and erase the fundamental differences and profound tensions between the nation’s regional cultures. America had a God-given mission to lead humanity toward freedom, equality, and self-government and was held together by fealty to these ideals. This emerging nationalist story was immediately and powerfully contested by another set of intellectuals and firebrands who argued that the United States was instead an ethnostate, the homeland of the allegedly superior “Anglo-Saxon” race, upon whom Divine and Darwinian favor shined. Their vision helped create a new federation–the Confederacy–prompting the bloody Civil War. While defeated on the battlefield, their vision later managed to win the war of ideas, capturing the White House in the early twentieth century, and achieving the first consensus, a pan-regional vision of U.S. nationhood in the years before the outbreak of the First World War. This narrower, more exclusive vision of America would be overthrown in mid-century, but it was never fully vanquished. Woodard tells the story of the genesis and epic confrontations between these visions of our nation’s path and purpose through the lives of the key figures who created them, a cast of characters whose personal quirks and virtues, gifts, and demons shaped the destiny of millions.

Show #377

 

Peter Bergen. Jordan Ellenberg. Tana French. Matilda Mann.

Peter Bergen Trump And His Generals

Journalist, author and CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen’s timely new book, Trump And His Generals reads like an outrageous fantasy thriller, set in Washington DC. The antics of the president and his cohorts as they proceed without customary norms to select generals for major posts in his administration could be sub-headed, “Truth Is Definitely Stranger Than Fiction!” Bergen, without unnecessary titillations, soberly lays out the course of events before Trump sets foot in the White House, until the present day. Peter’s almost deadpan narrative is occasionally interrupted by a slight chuckle when the dark humor of the story is alluded to by Life Elsewhere host, Norman B.

Jordan Ellenberg How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

“I believe you have Dyscalculia”, mathematics Professor, Jordan Ellenberg tells Norman B, who admits to having difficulty with numbers and being daunted by interviewing the author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. The professor’s book, now out in paperback is all about math, but not the math we learn in school which can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. Instead, Jordan Ellenberg explains to us how terribly limiting this view is. “Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it, the math.” the professor says.

Tana French Dublin Murders

All seven of Tana French’s books are set in Dublin, and six of them form the loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad series.  Instead of featuring a static cast of characters solving every case, the cast is a daisy chain, with each new book narrated by a supporting character from a previous volume. 2007’s In the Woods is narrated by one detective; in The Likeness, his former partner takes over; in Faithful Place, her former boss becomes the narrator; and on it goes. That evolving cast allows French to escape from one of the great problems of the detective story: namely, how to make the detective into someone who changes and evolves over time, while also preserving the status quo enough to allow them to continue building their lives around solving mysteries. French’s detectives are undone and remade by their cases. In every novel, they are taken apart and then put back together again by mysteries that are fiendishly designed to reveal their very worst tendencies. Now, Starz has adapted her first two books, In the Woods and The Likeness, into the new TV show Dublin Murders. Tana always a welcome guest on Life Elsewhere each time she releases a new book. So, for this edition, we have gone back into our archives for a conversation with the celebrated crime novelist.

Matilda Mann Loch Ness Monster; Nothing At All

Matilda Mann

Talented London-based, Arlo Parks is a good example of a singer-songwriter we spotted long before she had risen to major acclaim. With 2020 just ahead,  Arlo is already poised to become a serious headliner. So, it’s with great delight we bring you another name we rate highly,  19-year-old Matilda Mann from West London. From the small examples of her singer-songwriting abilities, we are suggesting Matilda could be another name to watch out for. You’ll hear two cuts, Loch Ness Monster and Nothing At All, both songs have depth, yet with enough pop sensibility for us to give serious approval and ask you to make sure we hear your feedback.

 

 

Show #353