Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bartholomew Sparrow's "The Strategist"

Bartholomew Sparrow is a professor in the department of government at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches American political development. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, and has been awarded the Leonard D. White and the Franklin L. Burdette Pi Sigma Alpha awards from the American Political Science Association. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.

Sparrow applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[Gen. Alexander] Haig was running “the day-to-day operations,” [NSC staff member William L.] Stearman observed, and making the most of his decisions. And everyone in the White House “more or less assumed this was the case,” he added. Special prosecutor Leon Jaworski called Haig the nation’s “thirty-seventh-and-a-half president,” in light of his role in the period before Nixon’s resignation.
These first sentences from the top of page 99 indicate several things, it seems to me. One is that the book discusses Brent Scowcroft’s colleagues at some length. The rest of page 99 details Haig and Scowcroft’s distinct relationship, given that they’d been classmates at West Point (‘47) and were at once familiar with and somewhat wary of the other. The book similarly sketches the personalities of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, the two Bush presidents, Henry Kissinger, and Condoleezza Rice, among others, and explains how each interacted with Scowcroft and how those relationships developed.

Page 99 also suggests just how much an administration’s success depends on group dynamics. Scowcroft and Haig’s relationship was of no small consequence to the fate of US foreign policy over the last months of the Nixon administration. Kissinger’s relationships with Haig and Scowcroft likewise mattered for the purposes of policymaking. Neither can these relationships be viewed in isolation from the other. Scowcroft may have been caught in a difficult position between Nixon and Kissinger, for instance, but the fact that he got along well with both men also made him highly effective as the deputy national advisor. Later, President George Bush was able to form a very tight-knit and effective foreign policy team comprised of the president, Secretary of State James A. Baker, and Scowcroft as well as Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, deputy national security advisor Robert Gates.

The attention to Watergate on page 99 further reveals that the book also attends to important domestic politics. Whether in his roles as national security advisor, member of a presidential commission, or Air Force colonel in the Pentagon, Scowcroft had to take domestic interests and US institutions into account, just as he had to consider particular foreign interests and international factors.

A fourth is that the book is written in an accessible and engaging style. I wanted to be able to hold the attention of anyone interested in national security policy and the changes in US foreign policy from the last third of the Cold War up to the early 2010s or in Scowcroft’s own remarkable career.
Learn more about The Strategist at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Strategist.

--Marshal Zeringue