March 18, NY Times

American troops bogged down in Iraq, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, an overstretched military and National Guard, simmering tensions with Iran and North Korea, and growing hostility toward the United States around the world: these are just some of the consequences of Bush administration foreign policy over the last seven years. To the Slate columnist Fred Kaplan, these woes all stem from two grand misconceptions held by the White House and its top advisers: that the world fundamentally changed after 9/11, when in fact “the way the world works — the nature of power, warfare and politics among nations — remained essentially the same”; and that in a post-cold-war era, the United States “had the power to set the terms of the new world order” and could therefore act unilaterally, without entangling alliances and without compromising “with competing concepts or interests.”

The devastating consequences of the administration’s embrace of such idées fixes (along with its cavalier dismissal of facts and arguments that did not support its big theories) has been examined before, of course, most notably by the New Yorker writers Seymour M. Hersh and George Packer in their groundbreaking books, “Chain of Command” (2004) and “The Assassins’ Gate” (2005), respectively.

What sets Mr. Kaplan’s “Daydream Believers” apart is his emphasis on the Bush administration’s failure to come to terms with a post-cold-war paradigm, which, he argues, left America’s power diminished, rather than enhanced, as former allies, liberated from the specter of the Soviet Union, felt increasingly free to depart from Washington’s directives.

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