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Description - The Silence of the Rational Center by Stefan Halper

Two distinguished conservatives give a stinging indictment of how American foreign policy is mismanaged, and make an urgent call for a return to sanity. Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke argue that members of what used to be called America's foreign policy establishment are no longer doing the job of keeping foreign policy rational and informed. Instead, hungry to coin the next Big Idea, they are in the business of advancing simplistic, glib mythologies. The result is that Americans are often presented with a fantasy world of nightmare scenarios rather than with explanations that lead to rational choices. Taking to task such well-known figures as Noam Chomsky and Jeffrey Sachs, Clarke and Halper argue for a revival of integrity within America's foreign policy elite so that America's standing in our world can be restored. A book that pulls no punches, "The Silence of the Rational Centre" is both a penetrating diagnosis and a stirring call to reform in what is possibly the most important area of American political life.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465011414
ISBN-10: 0465011411
Format: Hardback
(236mm x 156mm x 25mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 1-Mar-2007
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - The Silence of the Rational Center by Stefan Halper

US Kirkus Review » When the Big Idea dominates, nuance and discussion go out the door. So write former State Department official Halper and British diplomat Clarke in this study of recent international affairs.The "rational center," that populous body of experts on everything under the sun, has given way to a coterie of people who, in politics and the media, serve as talking heads on any point. Thus, argue Halper and Clarke, Paul Krugman as economist is one thing; Paul Krugman as columnist opining on all manner of subjects "is striking a dangerous bargain that jeopardizes his standing as an expert." Ditto Noam Chomsky; ditto Samuel Huntington (whose "clash of civilizations" began life as a question mark and became a lucrative slogan); ditto an army of pundits on left and right. In the place of rational discussion by the rational center - essential in matters of foreign policy - has come the dominance of the Big Idea, the soundbite-friendly notion that, say, Vietnam is a domino that, once fallen, will take other dominoes down with it. "Islamofascism," for instance, was coined in 1990 to describe certain authoritarian governments in the Middle East, with a very specific meaning, rather than the Bush administration's all-purpose "derogatory term for fundamentalist terrorism." One Big Idea the Bushies are pushing, the authors note, is that America is a "nation at war," which relieves them of legal niceties such as habeas corpus. "Foreign affairs really do require expert knowledge and first-hand experience," they write, "without it one is often left to fill in the blanks with total conjecture" - as, dangerously, the administration is now doing with China, since there are few China hands left and sloganeering about either a competitive hegemony in Asia or the world's biggest market is all that is left.Useful, though the notion of the rational center itself makes a rather Big Idea. Policy wonks, have at it. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Stefan Halper

Stefan Halper is a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and a Senior Fellow of the Centre of International Studies. He served as a White House and State Department in the Ford, Nixon and Reagan administrations. Jonathan Clarke is a research Fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington DC, and a former career diplomat in the British Diplomatic Service. Together, Halper and Clarke are the authors of America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order.

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