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Release Date: September, 1998
George Bush's term as President occurred during a watershed era for international politics. In fact, so many major events took place on his watch that he limits A World Transformed to the years 1989 to 1991, in which the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the Persian Gulf War held center stage. Though some will claim that this narrow focus only confirms Bush's disproportionate interest in foreign rather than domestic affairs, the events in question certainly warrant a book of their own. Perhaps anticipating such a response, Bush hints in the introduction that further memoirs are in the works. A World Transformed is divided into three voices: Bush, his coauthor and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and the collective "we" of the National Security Council (supplying vital background information and a wider view of the events discussed). Overall, this formula works--Bush's tone is particularly warm and chatty, his narrative peppered with telling anecdotes that reveal the personalities and emotions behind the bold-faced headlines. His remarks are mostly to the point, gratifyingly lucid, and often compelling. Diary excerpts supply many memorable insights, if few truly shocking revelations. For instance, at the end of the Persian Gulf War, he wrote: "Isn't it a marvelous thing that this little country will be liberated.... The big news, of course, is this high performance of our troops--the wonderful job they've done; the conviction that we're right and the others are wrong. We're doing something decent, and we're doing something good; and Vietnam will soon be behind us.... It's surprising how much I dwell on the end of the Vietnam syndrome." In describing his interaction with other world leaders, Bush emerges as a skillful negotiator and statesman, fostering a personal, first-name-basis style of diplomacy that proved especially effective with Mikhail Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Scowcroft, the consummate support man and workaholic, focuses more on the nuts and bolts, balancing out their presentation of how crises are dealt with at the highest level. --Shawn Carkonen
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Detailed and Thrilling Account of Historic Change
Posted by Wayne A. Smith on 10/23/1999
George Bush and Brent Scowcroft have written a great book about a fascinating subject. This is very engaging and at times is very much a page turner. I was left thinking that a more detailed account of history being made by the movers themselves may not exist. The end of the Cold War is a great story in and of itself, but also a story that could have had a very different ending were it not for the team that managed to bring it to a successful close.
This is a very honest book by honest men. Evenly though successful on all of the big issues, they write of miscues, uncertainty and difficulties in reaching the "right" decision. It is not a self-praise tome, but a book that is not afraid to lay out an accurate rendering of the facts and atmosphere. The reader has enough information and background to put himself in the role of President and ask, "What would I have done in that siguation." It's the mark of a thorough book.
One can not help but come away impressed by the Bush foreign policy apparatus and the President's own grasp of events, the players and the vital interests of the United States. He, aided by one of the best foreign policy / national security teams ever assembled, played America's hand superbly.
After reading this book, anyone who still believes that any President's main responsibility is "the economy, stupid" is.....well, stupid.
Surprisingly good and informative
Posted by Jeff R. Lord on 11/10/1998
I did not have high expectations for this book, given the dramatically uneven quality of most historical memoirs. But Bush and Scowcroft's book manages to give a fly-on-the-wall view of the truly epoch-making events that took place on their watch. Now it's hard to believe that all this (and more) took place during only one presidential term, but it's clear that in the center of the storm there was a remarkably unified team with the ability to see a few steps ahead -- and even more importantly, understand the consequences of American action. It's not enough for the US to simply follow trends, sabre-rattle, or hew to the middle path. The crucial role of leadership, particularly in the face of dissent, comes through clearly.
The best feature about the book is undoubtedly the unique "three-voiced" way of telling the story -- Bush, Scowcroft, and the 'narrarator' that reflects both their input. I was skeptical that they'd be able to pull this off, but they did. While most historical memoirs either read like something put together by a staff of research assistants (Kissinger and Nixon's books come to mind) or are exercises in score-settling (Brzezinski, to a degree), this one really gives a sense of both mens' attitudes and beliefs -- and they're pretty forthcoming about both their counterparts and their own errors.
Essential Foreign Affairs work
Posted by Andrew Leyden on 10/8/1998
Although they left office only six years ago, it seems the world they describe is nothing like the one today. The collapse of communism, the Gulf War, and the crackdown in China seem so far removed from the current Balkan battles and Asian/Russian economic woes.
The book is much more than a "kiss and tell" biography of the life and times of two during the Cold War. Bush and Scowcroft wisely limited their discussion to only a few matters and that allowed them to cover in more depth these important events than so many "What I Did in the White House" books that are on the market. Still, the hard core foreign affairs scholar may be seeking much more, but I think this is an important read for anyone wanting to know "how it was" at the end of the Cold War.
The book provides insight into these decisions that I found refreshing to read. It showed the personal nature that is important to diplomacy, and it spoke a great deal about trust. I don't want to sound too political because this is going to be the best history of one of the most important times since the end of World War II, but as you read about the negotiations and "first name" diplomacy practiced with incredible skill and character, you won't want to put down this book and read the newspapers because you'll just feel depressed about the current state of the Presidency.
As a friend of mine said, who hasn't yet finished the book, "It makes you long for the days when adults were in the White House."