Category Archives: History & Political Science

Celebrating James Baldwin

Today, on what would have been James Baldwin’s 93rd birthday, we’re celebrating by sharing an excerpt from A Political Companion to James Baldwin edited by Susan J. McWilliams (forthcoming November 2017). In this selection, eminent scholar Eddie S. Glaude Jr. explores why contemporary activists follow Baldwin in a radical cultivation of democratic individuality in the service of racial justice.


James Baldwin and Black Lives Matter

By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.9780813169910

I want to think about Black Lives Matter in a different register, one that connects this complex movement with the extraordinary insights of James Baldwin. My reflections were triggered by citations of Baldwin by protesters (and serve as kind of run-up to a more extensive engagement with his disturbing book on the Atlanta child murders, The Evidence of Things Not Seen).[1] To put it bluntly, Jimmy is everywhere. People, especially young people, seem to be reaching for him as way of accounting for the latest disaster—the latest national panic around race—that has defined this country since its beginnings. In fact, when I think about the protests and the damning precarity of black life in this country, Baldwin’s words come to mind: “America sometimes resembles . . . an exceedingly monotonous minstrel show; the same dances, same music, same jokes. One has done (or been) the show so long that one can do it in one’s sleep.”[2] To be sure, there is something familiar and wholly unprecedented in our current moment. No wonder activists are reaching for Baldwin.

My thoughts are preliminary; they are inchoate. They reflect my efforts to think about Baldwin as a kind of exemplar of a perfectionist tradition that takes shape under the conditions of domination. I want to suggest that Black Lives Matter refracts this tradition in particularly interesting ways. Of course, against the backdrop of events in Ferguson and Baltimore and the deaths of so many black women and men at the hands of the police, the assertion that black lives matter takes on added significance. We utter the words in the context of life-and-death circumstances—at least some of us do—circumstances that seem to be a constant feature of what it means to be black in this country.

[ . . . ]

In no way do we live in a society like apartheid South Africa (that would be an example at the extreme), but we do live in a country where black people confront every day the reality that we are less valued; it is experienced, as Clarissa Hayward argues, in the very built environment of this nation—in our neighborhoods, where we go to school, and the places we work.[3] The data are crystal clear. African Americans suffer chronic double-digit unemployment. We lead the nation in rates of heart disease and HIV/AIDS. African Americans make up nearly 1 million of the 2.4 million Americans in prison. When we think about the differences between whites and blacks in high school graduation rates, among those with college degrees, mortality rates, in access to health care, in levels of wealth, differences in salaries with the same level of education, in the percentage of children in poverty, we can see, independent of individual acts of racism, that white Americans, particularly those with money, matter more than others.[4]

We ought to understand the Black Lives Matter movement as a rejection of this belief. More to the point, we ought to understand it as a rejection of the belief that white lives are presumed more valuable than black lives. Because, it is that belief—the view that animates so much of the mess that has undermined democratic life in this country—that limits our ability to reach for higher excellences (and I mean this for both black and white Americans).

I use the language of excellences purposefully. I want to think about the Black Lives Matter movement in the tradition of what I call black democratic perfectionism: that is, a radical cultivation of democratic individuality in the service of racial justice. Within the Black Lives Matter movement, we find an insistence on the expansiveness of black life—at the forefront of the protests are black members of the LGTBQ community, the working black poor, and others challenging the state as well as narrow conceptions of black political leadership and action—all in the name of a robust form of black individuality (and I don’t mean some facile bourgeois idea of individualism consistent with the political rationality of neoliberalism—although it is certainly susceptible to it).[5]

My model for this view is James Baldwin. In his essay “The Uses of the Blues,” Baldwin clearly states what he takes to be the “Negro Problem”:

I’m talking about what happens to you if, having barely escaped suicide, or death, or madness, or yourself, you watch your children growing up and no matter what you do, no matter what you do, you are powerless, you are really powerless, against the force of the world that is out to tell your child that he has no right to be alive. And no amount of liberal jargon, and no amount of talk about how well and how far we have progressed, does anything to soften or to point out any solution to this dilemma. In every generation, ever since Negroes have been here, every Negro mother and father has had to face that child and try to create in that child some way of surviving this particular world, some way to make the child who will be despised not despise himself. I don’t know what the “the Negro Problem” means to white people, but this is what it means to Negroes.[6]

Here Baldwin foregrounds the idea of white supremacy that I put forward earlier: that the fact of growing up, of coming of age, in a place that denies you standing distorts one’s sense of self and disfigures one’s character. It arrests one’s capacities, and, in that light, it is with great effort and risk that one takes up the task of self-creation in such a world.

This is what Baldwin tries to convey to William Buckley and the young students at Cambridge in 1965. Here Baldwin insists on a sense of perspective: how the question of who we are gets handled, managed, and pursued under adverse conditions matters. It matters if one bears the brunt of the police baton and if one does not, if one is a descendant of slaves or of slaveholders. Both may be inheritors of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call upon us, but the difference matters greatly. As Baldwin writes, “To persuade black boys and girls, as we have for so many generations, that their lives are worth less than other lives, and that they can live only on terms dictated to them by other people, by people who despise them, is worse than a crime; it is the sin against the Holy Ghost.”[7] This is, and it must be said without concern for hurt feelings or guilt, undeniably white supremacy.

Baldwin makes explicit the primal scene of instruction: it is a context in which black people are seen as disposable. This scene, in all of its messiness, casts in relief what Stanley Cavell calls Emersonian perfectionism.[8] For Emerson, we have the task before us to ascend to higher forms of excellences. But this task isn’t rooted in some fixed destination or some final resting place of perfection (the spiral stairs going upward—taking each step and leaving others behind). That final resting place, however, differs for each person. Life’s journey consists of better and more excellent versions of who we take ourselves to be. Each experience of significance calls us to a higher sense of ourselves and requires the abandonment of older versions. Jeffrey Stout puts it best: “The higher self congeals out of the highest intimations of excellence you can intuit from where you stand. Excellence and sacred value are the kinds of goodness that matter most for living well.”[9]

But the daunting challenge of seeking a higher self in a world that denies one standing gives new meaning to W. E. B. Du Bois’s cry of “two unreconciled strivings.”[10] For African Americans, as Langston Hughes said, life ain’t been no crystal stair.[11] To embrace perfectionism across the proverbial tracks, then, requires something more fundamental; it requires a confrontation with what Baldwin calls reality. For Baldwin, reality is a denotative term for whatever happens in experience: the doings and sufferings of people transacting with environments that result in joys and suffering, even though white people are seen as more valuable than others.[12]

Baldwin asserts a form of perfectionism in such an environment, and that assertion requires an unflinching encounter with the ugliness of who we are and a rejection of comforting illusions that hide the lie and all of the rot underneath the American Idea. Here our moral and ethical senses are profoundly distorted, and any robust idea of the public good is obscured. As Baldwin put it: “What is most terrible is that American white men are not prepared to believe my version of the story, to believe that it happened. In order to avoid believing that, they have set up in themselves a fantastic system of evasions, denials, and justifications, which system is about to destroy their grasp of reality, which is another way of saying their moral sense.”[13] This adds another layer of complexity to the context of the black democratic perfectionism he commends. It is not just white supremacy—the fact that life as it is in this country says over and over again to the black child of fifteen and to the black woman of forty that you are less then (and it says this in every possible way)—it is also the maddening fact that the country denies what it has done and continues to do to black people, a kind of willful ignorance. As if Baltimore or Ferguson is somehow a surprise just as Harlem and Watts and Detroit were shocking some fifty years ago. That innocence is the crime, as Baldwin noted, and it corroborates what he mercilessly described as the monstrous quality of this place: “There is something monstrous about never having been hurt, never having been made to bleed, never having lost anything, never having gained anything because life is beautiful, and in order to keep it beautiful you’re going to stay just the way you are and you’re not going to test your theory against all the possibilities outside. America is like that. The failure on our part to accept the reality of pain, of anguish, of ambiguity, of death has turned us into a very peculiar and sometimes monstrous people.”[14] The reality of white supremacy and its repeated evasion or outright denial makes the idea of abandoning older versions of ourselves damn near impossible. We seem to be comfortable right where we are—permanently docked in the station.

But for black folk, especially those who languish in the shadows of America’s ghettos, to stay right where we are means to surrender to death. So, Baldwin’s insistence on reaching for higher forms of excellence under captive conditions demands an unflinching encounter with the uses and abuses of the past. As he says in “The White Man’s Guilt”:

History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more human and more liberating.[15]

Such an approach to history requires a black self, in particular, that isn’t reducible to sociology as Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray described it—the flat statistics and stereotypes that trap Americans in the farce that is race relations.

I am not talking about the version of the story that trades in the Willie Hortons, Bigger Thomases, the welfare queens, the thugs of the world—those black people who are natively criminal or, because of their woeful circumstances, destined to be criminal. I am not talking about that. Instead, black democratic perfectionism requires a self with a rich and complex interiority, what William James refers to in The Varieties of Religious Experience as a two-storied self—an interior that has been, whether we want to admit it or not, terribly wounded by the inescapability of what Toni Morrison describes as a nastiness that will dirty you on the inside.[16]

[ . . . ]

Baldwin commends perfectionism in the context of a system of domination that denies black selves any standing. He also insists on a vibrant and complex black interiority in a world that reduces us to flat, predictable characters and narrates its history to corroborate such descriptions. Both are bound up, constrained by, an idea of history that corroborates the lie that some people matter more than others. But, again, this is not some bourgeois preoccupation, some private affair with no public consequence. Black democratic perfectionism has radical implication for the order of things. As Baldwin puts it, “When a black man, whose destiny and identity have always been controlled by others, decides and states that he will control his own destiny and rejects the identity given to him by others, he is talking revolution.”[17]

Baldwin’s witness entailed aspirational claims about what kind of society we hoped to live in and what kind of persons we aspired to be as well as claims, rooted in care, about the historical depth of where we now stand (that is, about the enduring legacy of white supremacy that deforms self-formation and about the history of struggle that constitutes the backdrop of current efforts). His democratic perfectionism is situated in the histories of black life in particular and American life more generally—stories that narrate the litany of events and the chorus of black voices struggling for freedom and resisting the arbitrary use of power. These histories carry with them an ethical ought: that the struggle and sacrifices of so many require of those who are its immediate beneficiaries a commitment to treating one’s fellows justly and to ensuring a society where all can flourish—a society in which all of us can reach for higher excellences.

Invocations of that history can spur or constrain; they can serve as “wind beneath our wings” in the context of creative engagement with the present, or they can limit the range of actions to a stale, ossified set of practices that purportedly best represent our efforts. Baldwin’s democratic perfectionism commends the former. He insists that we look the facts of our experience squarely in the face and challenge directly the idea that white people matter more and upend a world comfortable with the senseless death of black people.[18]

To my mind, Black Lives Matter, at its best, works in this register. Young people all around the country are challenging the underlying assumptions of white supremacy. They are putting their bodies on the line, disturbing the peace, and “asking hard questions and taking very rude positions.” This is what our moment requires. Turning our backs on the status quo and demanding a revolution of value. But it also requires that we abandon older versions of ourselves. That we break loose from stale models of black political engagement and confining ideas of black community and obligation. We can no longer suffer from what I want to call catalepsis: that political condition characterized by rigidity and fixity of posture; it is that which arrests the perfectionist impulse; it paralyzes us, keeps us where we currently are, allows for a black political class to exploit that fixed position in the name of progress, and desensitizes us to the pain and terror of what it means to be black in this country. We remain trapped.

But these young folk are daring to break free (with all of the complications that daring and risk entail). They are asserting the uniqueness and distinctiveness of their own voices. In short, they are daring to be—and that, if I understand Baldwin, is a revolutionary act in this country. As he put the point in a short piece written in 1959 titled “A Word from Writer Directly to Reader”: “What the times demand, and in an unprecedented fashion, is that one be—not seem—outrageous, independent, anarchical. That one be thoroughly disciplined—as a means of being spontaneous. That one resist at whatever cost the fearful pressures placed on one to lie about one’s experience.”[19] To my mind, Black Lives Matter, at its best, enacts this formulation courageously and, to take a phrase from Henry James, “at the pitch of passion.”[20]

Notes

[1] James Baldwin, The Evidence of Things Not Seen (New York: Holt, Reinhart, 1985).

[2] James Baldwin, “Black Power,” in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, ed. Randall Kenan (New York: Pantheon, 2010), 81.

[3] Clarissa Rile Hayward, How Americans Make Race: Stories, Institutions, Spaces (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

[4] I am mindful of arguments like William Buckley’s and other conservatives that attribute much of this state of affairs to the pathologies of black people. In his debate with James Baldwin at Cambridge in 1965, Buckley mobilizes this argument in response to Baldwin by citing Nathan Glazer. Here Buckley shifts the blame, after citing the progress that Baldwin himself represents, onto shoulders of black people. Baldwin’s eyes were ablaze upon hearing this “nonsense.” But Baldwin answers this argument clearly in his essay “The Uses of the Blues” (which first appeared in Playboy in January 1964).

The fact that Harry Belafonte makes as much money as, let’s say, Frank Sinatra, doesn’t really mean anything in this context. Frank can still get a house anywhere, and Harry can’t. . . . [W]hen we talk about what we call “the negro problem” we are simply evolving means of avoiding the facts of this life. Because in order to face the facts of a life like Billie’s [Holiday] or, for that matter, a life like mine, one has got to—the white American has got to—accept the fact that what he thinks he is, he is not. He has to give up, he has to surrender his image of himself and apparently this is the last thing white Americans are prepared to do.

See “The Uses of the Blues,” in The Cross of Redemption, ed. Kenan, 60–61. Well, Buckley is clear about this. In fact, he says if it comes down to America’s precious ideals, then they “will fight the issue.”

[5] Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone, 2015).

[6] Baldwin, The Cross of Redemption, ed. Kenan, 60.

[7] Ibid., 84.

[8] See Stanley Cavell’s Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

[9] Jeffrey Stout and Ron Kuipers, “Excellence and the Emersonian Perfectionist: An Interview with Jeffrey Stout, Part 1,” in The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture (September 1, 2009), http://theotherjournal.com/2009/09/01/excellence-and-the-emersonian-perfectionist-an-interview-with-jeffrey-stout-part-i/.

[10] W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), 7.

[11] Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son,” in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes: Works for Children and Young Adults: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Writing, ed. Dianne Johnson (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), 81.

[12] The connection to Emerson is strong. In the beginning of “As Much Truth as One Can Bear” (1962), Baldwin strikes an Emersonian note, recalling the beginning of Nature, as he seeks to open space for young writers who write in the shadow of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and Faulkner. I was particular struck by this formulation. It gives one a sense of the different stakes in Baldwin’s perfectionism: “We live in a country in which words are mostly used to cover the sleeper, not to wake him up; and therefore, it seems to me, the adulation so cruelly proffered our elders has nothing to do with their achievement—which I repeat was mighty—but has to do with our impulse to look back on what we now imagine to have been a happier time. It is an adulation which has panic at the root” (The Cross of Redemption, ed. Kenan, 29).

[13] Ibid., 77.

[14] Ibid., 64.

[15] James Baldwin, “The White Man’s Guilt,” in James Baldwin: The Collected Essays: Volume 2 (New York: Library of America, 1998), 722–23. This echoes Baldwin’s point about God in The Fire Next Time (New York: Vintage, 1962). If the concept doesn’t make us larger, freer, and more loving—in short, more humane and more liberating—then it’s time we got rid of him.

[16] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (New York: Modern Library, 1902).

[17] Baldwin, The Cross of Redemption, ed. Kenan, 81. How might we think of Philip Petit’s notion of freedom as nondomination in light of Baldwin’s position? Petit argues that freedom ought to be understood “as the absence of subjection to the will of others.” He limits this, however, to social, political, and economic questions/concerns. But subjection can happen, and Baldwin insists on this point, at the level of historical memory—how our refusal to confront the past or willingness to disremember that past can do the work of domination much more efficiently, or at least less brutally, than the coercive arm of the state. That refusal to remember, as you recall, results in a startling fact: that white folks are as unfree, if not more so, than black folks. They’re stuck.

[18] This is the connective tissue of the tradition I am trying to outline here. As Ms. Ella Baker said so powerfully, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” This is the direct challenge to white supremacy as I have defined it. It is the ground upon which Black Lives Matter acquires meaning. So it is not about asserting our value; it is about rejecting the belief that snuffs out the ability of others to reach for higher selves.

[19] Baldwin, The Cross of Redemption, ed. Kenan, 8.

[20] Henry James, The Art of Criticism: Henry James on the Theory and Practice of Fiction, ed. William Veeder and Susan M. Griffin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 235. In The Cross of Redemption, Baldwin writes, “I am aiming at what Henry James called ‘perception at the pitch of passion’” (49).


Excerpted from A Political Companion to James Baldwin edited by Susan J. McWilliams, forthcoming from the University Press of Kentucky in November 2017.

UPK Author Selected for the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff’s 2017 Reading List

Layout 1University Press of Kentucky author Brian D. Laslie’s book, The Air Force Way of War: U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam, has been selected for the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff’s 2017 reading list. The list of ten military titles was personally selected by Sir Stephen Hillier, the Chief of the Air Staff. Explaining the purpose of the list, he stated, “Reading makes us better informed, more self-aware, and better equipped to meet the vast array of leadership and conceptual challenges that face our service and country.” Upon learning of his book’s inclusion, Laslie commented, “I am nothing short of overwhelmed and humbled.”

Layout 1In The Air Force Way of War, Laslie examines the revolution in pilot instruction in the US Air Force brought about after Vietnam. The program, named Red Flag, was dubbed “realistic” because it prepared pilots for real-life situations better than the simple cockpit simulations of the past. Students also gained proficiency on primary and secondary missions instead of superficially training for numerous possible scenarios. In addition to discussing the program’s methods, Laslie analyzes the way its graduates actually functioned in combat during the 1980s and 90s in Grenada, Panama, Libya, and Iraq. Military historians have traditionally emphasized the primacy of technological developments during this period and have overlooked the vital importance of advances in training, but Laslie’s unprecedented study of Red Flag addresses this oversight through its examination of this seminal program.

Commenting on the book, Hiller said, The Air Force Way of War “puts into proper perspective the achievements of those far-sighted and determined US airmen who in the 1970s and 1980s grasped the lessons of the Vietnam War and built the solid foundations on which air power became supremely effective during Operation Desert Storm and ever since.”

After the publication of The Air Force Way of War, Laslie agreed to edit a new book series for University Press of Kentucky—Aviation and Airpower. Each volume will bring together leading historians and emerging scholarship in the fields of military aviation and air power history. The series will be a broad-based look at aerial battles, air warfare, and campaigns from the First World War through modern air operations, along with works on the heritage, technology, and culture particular to the air arm, including biographies of leading figures. The series will cover the US Air Force, Army, and Naval aviation, but also other world powers and their approaches to the history and study of the air arm.

Brian D. Laslie is deputy command historian at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) as well as an adjunct professor at the United States Air Force Academy. His forthcoming book, Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force, will be published this October.

New Releases: Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace series

For those headed to Arlington this week for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) annual meeting, swing by our booth; say hello to our representative, Melissa Hammer; and browse a few of these great new titles!

Click here to view all titles in the Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace series.

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Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow
Confidential Diplomacy and Détente
Richard A. Moss
Foreword by Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)

“Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow will become an instant classic. For all of the books that mention the back channels—Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s most important foreign policy tools—this is the first to exhaustively mine the archives to explain their origin, how they were used, and to what end. Lucidly written and superbly researched, future works on Nixon foreign policy will have no choice but to consult this essential work. It is a must read to understand the era.”—Luke Nichter, author of Richard Nixon and Europe: The Reshaping of the Postwar Atlantic World

Most Americans consider détente to be among the Nixon administration’s most significant foreign policy successes. The diplomatic back channel that national security advisor Henry Kissinger established with Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin became the most important method of achieving this thaw in the Cold War. Kissinger praised back channels for preventing leaks and streamlining communications. These methods, however, were widely criticized by State Department officials and by an American press and public weary of executive branch prevarication and secrecy.

Richard A. Moss’s penetrating study documents and analyzes US-Soviet back channels from Nixon’s inauguration through what has widely been heralded as the apex of détente, the May 1972 Moscow Summit. He traces the evolution of confidential-channel diplomacy and examines major flashpoints, including the 1970 crisis over Cienfuegos, Cuba, the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), US dealings with China, deescalating tensions in Berlin, and the Vietnam War.

Employing newly declassified documents, the complete record of the Kissinger-Dobrynin channel—jointly compiled, translated, annotated, and published by the US State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry— as well as the Nixon tapes, Moss reveals the behind-the-scenes deliberations of Nixon, his advisers, and their Soviet counterparts. Although much has been written about détente, this is the first scholarly study that comprehensively assesses the central role of confidential diplomacy in shaping America’s foreign policy during this critical era.


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Foreign Policy at the Periphery
The Shifting Margins of US International Relations since World War II
Edited by Bevan Sewell and Maria Ryan

“Even after the United States became a global superpower, some regions of the world remained peripheral to American interests. What set these areas apart? And why did the U.S. eventually become drawn into their affairs? In this smart collection of original essays, an all-star lineup of historians answers these questions, and more, and uncovers the powerful dynamics that have shaped America’s rise to globalism.”—Andrew Preston, Cambridge University

As American interests assumed global proportions after 1945, policy makers were faced with the challenge of prioritizing various regions and determining the extent to which the United States was prepared to defend and support them. Superpowers and developing nations soon became inextricably linked, and the decolonization of states such as Vietnam, India, and Egypt assumed a central role in the ideological struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. As the twentieth century came to an end, many of the challenges of the Cold War became even more complex as the Soviet Union collapsed and new threats arose.

Featuring original essays by leading scholars, Foreign Policy at the Periphery examines relationships among new nations and the United States from the end of the Second World War through the global war on terror. Rather than reassessing familiar flashpoints of US foreign policy, the contributors explore neglected but significant developments such as the efforts of evangelical missionaries in the Congo, the 1958 stabilization agreement with Argentina, Henry Kissinger’s policies toward Latin America during the 1970s, and the financing of terrorism in Libya via petrodollars. Blending new, internationalist approaches to diplomatic history with newly released archival materials, this book brings together diverse strands of scholarship to address compelling issues in modern world history.


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Reagan and the World
Leadership and National Security, 1981-1989
Edited by Bradley Lynn Coleman and Kyle Longley
Foreword by Jack Matlock Jr.

“Coleman and Longley have assembled a terrific line-up of contributors, and both are accomplished scholars whose reputations and skills enhance this valuable contribution to understanding a contested presidency.”—Richard H. Immerman, author of Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz

Throughout his presidency, Ronald Reagan sought “peace through strength” during an era of historic change. In the decades since, pundits and scholars have argued over the president’s legacy: some consider Reagan a charismatic and consummate leader who renewed American strength and defeated communism. To others he was an ambitious and dangerous warmonger whose presidency was plagued with mismanagement, misconduct, and foreign policy failures. The recent declassification of Reagan administration records and the availability of new Soviet documents has created an opportunity for more nuanced, complex, and compelling analyses of this pivotal period in international affairs.

In Reagan and the World, leading scholars and national security professionals offer fresh interpretations of the fortieth president’s influence on American foreign policy. This collection addresses Reagan’s management of the US national security establishment as well as the influence of Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and others in the administration and Congress. The contributors present in-depth explorations of US-Soviet relations and American policy toward Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. This balanced and sophisticated examination reveals the complexity of Reagan’s foreign policy, clarifies the importance of other international actors of the period, and provides new perspectives on the final decade of the Cold War.


9780813169057US Presidential Elections
Candidates, Campaigns, and Global Politics from FDR to Bill Clinton
Edited by Andrew Johnstone and Andrew Priest

“This book is part of an important trend in examining the connection between domestic policies and foreign policy. Its chapters will have enduring relevance.”—Elizabeth N. Saunders, author of Leaders at War: How Presidents Shape Military Interventions

While domestic issues loom large in voters’ minds during American presidential elections, matters of foreign policy have consistently shaped candidates and their campaigns. From the start of World War II through the collapse of the Soviet Union, presidential hopefuls needed to be perceived as credible global leaders in order to win elections—regardless of the situation at home—and voter behavior depended heavily on whether the nation was at war or peace. Yet there is little written about the importance of foreign policy in US presidential elections or the impact of electoral issues on the formation of foreign policy.

In US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy, a team of international scholars examines how the relationship between foreign policy and electoral politics evolved through the latter half of the twentieth century. Covering all presidential elections from 1940 to 1992—from debates over American entry into World War II to the aftermath of the Cold War—the contributors correct the conventional wisdom that domestic issues and the economy are always definitive. Together they demonstrate that, while international concerns were more important in some campaigns than others, foreign policy always matters and is often decisive. This illuminating commentary fills a significant gap in the literature on presidential and electoral politics, emphasizing that candidates’ positions on global issues have a palpable impact on American foreign policy.


Other great books in the series:

Remembering Doolittle’s Raiders 75 Years Later

On this date 75 years ago, eighty American airmen aboard sixteen B-25B medium bombers launched an attack against the Japanese Home Islands. Despite a series of technical challenges, the raiders, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, managed to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bomb military targets in cities across Japan. Forced to ditch or crash along the coast of China, all but three of the eighty men survived the mission, although eight of those were captured by the Japanese.

This attack­­—the first of its kind—did relatively little material damage, but proved that Japanese cities were within the reach of the American war machine and vulnerable to aerial bombardment. It boosted the morale of an American public left reeling by Pearl Harbor, and was an important turning point in the Pacific War.

The remarkable story of Doolittle’s Raiders is a legendary chapter in the annals of military aviation history. The University Press of Kentucky is now seeking manuscripts for a new Aviation and Airpower series dedicated to such stories.

In this new series, edited by Brian D. Laslie, each volume will bring together leading historians and emerging scholarship in the fields of military aviation and air power history. The series seeks a broad-based look at aerial battles, air warfare, and campaigns from the First World War through modern air operations, but also seeks works on the heritage, technology, and culture particular to the air arm. Biographies of leading figures are also sought. This series seeks to cover the American Air Force, Army, and Naval aviation, but also other world powers and their approaches to the history and study of the air arm.

Brian D. Laslie is Deputy Command Historian at NORAD and US Northern Command as well as an adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is author of The Air Force Way of War: U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam, chosen for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s professional reading list in 2016, and Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force.

Email Inquiries: Melissa Hammer

AirPowerAnnouncement

Get Crafted at The Market this Weekend

 

Where can you find some of your favorite Kentucky/Regional books, fine arts and crafts, live music, specialty food, and much, much more? The 35th annual Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2017 will be held April 22-23 at the Lexington Convention Center. Stop Mommy Goose final front coverREV.inddby our booth #102 to check out some of our new titles, and meet Mike Norris, who’ll be signing copies of Mommy Goose, from 12 – 2 pm on Saturday, April 22.

More than 200 exhibitors will be on hand at the event, which was chosen as the No. 1 Fair & Festival by readers of AmericanStyle Magazine four years in a row, and also named a top 10 event by the Kentucky Tourism Council and a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Here’s a sampling of some of our new releases that will be available at our booth during Kentucky Crafted:

 

Great War Reads

One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Four days later, Congress voted in favor of a war declaration and the U.S. formally entered the First World War. In honor of the centennial, we’re featuring some of our favorite releases about WWI, both before the U.S. entrance and after, on the home front and on the western front.


My Life before the World War, 1860–1917: A Memoirpershing4.indd

Few American military figures are more revered than General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing (1860–1948), who is most famous for leading the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The only soldier besides George Washington to be promoted to the highest rank in the U.S. Army (General of the Armies), Pershing was a mentor to the generation of generals who led America’s forces during the Second World War.

Though Pershing published a two-volume memoir, My Experiences in the World War, and has been the subject of numerous biographies, few know that he spent many years drafting a memoir of his experiences prior to the First World War. In My Life Before the World War, 1860–1917, John T. Greenwood rescues this vital resource from obscurity, making Pershing’s valuable insights into key events in history widely available for the first time.

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york.final.inddAlvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne

Alvin C. York (1887–1964)—devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I—is one of America’s most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper’s Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France—a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war’s end, the media glorified York’s bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier’s legacy.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York’s youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history.

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The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World Warchristmas_truce_final.indd

In ate December 1914, German and British soldiers on the western front initiated a series of impromptu, unofficial ceasefires. Enlisted men across No Man’s Land abandoned their trenches and crossed enemy lines to sing carols, share food and cigarettes, and even play a little soccer. Collectively known as the Christmas Truce, these fleeting moments of peace occupy a mythical place in remembrances of World War I. Yet new accounts suggest that the heartwarming tale ingrained in the popular imagination bears little resemblance to the truth.

In this detailed study, Terri Blom Crocker provides the first comprehensive analysis of both scholarly and popular portrayals of the Christmas Truce from 1914 to present. From books by influential historians to the Oscar-nominated French film Joyeux Noel (2006), this new examination shows how a variety of works have both explored and enshrined this outbreak of peace amid overwhelming violence. The vast majority of these accounts depict the soldiers as acting in defiance of their superiors. Crocker, however, analyzes official accounts as well as private letters that reveal widespread support among officers for the détentes. Furthermore, she finds that truce participants describe the temporary ceasefires not as rebellions by disaffected troops but as acts of humanity and survival by professional soldiers deeply committed to their respective causes.

The Christmas Truce studies these ceasefires within the wider war, demonstrating how generations of scholars have promoted interpretations that ignored the nuanced perspectives of the many soldiers who fought. Crocker’s groundbreaking, meticulously researched work challenges conventional analyses and sheds new light on the history and popular mythology of the War to End All Wars.

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9780813168012Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front

From five thousand children marching in a parade, singing, “Johnnie get your hoe, Mary dig your row,” to communities banding together to observe Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, Kentuckians were loyal supporters of their country during the First World War. Kentucky had one of the lowest rates of draft dodging in the nation, and the state increased its coal production by 50 percent during the war years. Overwhelmingly, the people of the Commonwealth set aside partisan interests and worked together to help the nation achieve victory in Europe.

David J. Bettez provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great War on Bluegrass society, politics, economy, and culture, contextualizing the state’s involvement within the national experience. His exhaustively researched study examines the Kentucky Council of Defense—which sponsored local war-effort activities—military mobilization and preparation, opposition and dissent, and the role of religion and higher education in shaping the state’s response to the war. It also describes the efforts of Kentuckians who served abroad in military and civilian capacities, and postwar memorialization of their contributions.

Kentucky and the Great War
 explores the impact of the conflict on women’s suffrage, child labor, and African American life. In particular, Bettez investigates how black citizens were urged to support a war to make the world “safe for democracy” even as their civil rights and freedoms were violated in the Jim Crow South. This engaging and timely social history offers new perspectives on an overlooked aspect of World War I.

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Lossberg’s War: The World War I Memoirs of a German Chief of Staffuntitled

General Fritz von Lossberg (1868–1942) directed virtually all the major German defensive battles on the Western Front during the First World War. Hailed as “the Lion of the Defensive,” he was an extremely influential military tactician and, unlike many other operations officers of his era, was quick to grasp the changes wrought by technology.

Now available for the first time in English, Lossberg’s memoir explains how he developed, tested, and implemented his central principles—flexibility, decentralized control, and counterattack—which were based on a need to adapt to shifting conditions on the battlefield. Lossberg first put his theory of elastic defense combined with defense-in-depth into practice during the Battle of Arras (April–May 1917), where it succeeded. At the Battle of Passchendaele (June–November 1917), his achievements on the field proved the feasibility of his strategy of employing a thinly manned front line that minimized the number of soldiers exposed to artillery fire. Lossberg’s tactical modernizations have become essential components of army doctrine, and Lossberg’s War: The World War I Memoirs of A German Chief of Staff will take readers inside the mind of one of the most significant military innovators of the twentieth century.

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More books about military history can be found in our American Warriors  and Battles and Campaigns series

7 Reads For President’s Day

Today marks George Washington’s 285th birthday and the celebration of President’s Day. In observation of the holiday, we’re sharing some of our favorite books about the presidency.


9780813122694Washington on Washington

For most Americans, George Washington is more of a legend than a man—a face on our currency or an austere figure standing in a rowboat crossing the icy Delaware River. He was equally revered in his own time. At the helm of a country born of idealism and revolution, Washington reluctantly played the role of demigod that the new nation required—a role reconciling the rhetoric of democracy with the ritual of monarchy.

Washington on Washington offers a fresh and human perspective on this enigmatic figure in American history. Drawing on diary entries, journals, letters, and authentic interviews, Paul M. Zall presents the autobiography that Washington never lived to write, revealing new insights into his character, both personal and political.

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Jefferson on Jefferson9780813122359

A new and more complex portrait of Thomas Jefferson, as told by Jefferson himself. Not trusting biographers with his story and frustrated by his friends’ failure to justify his role in the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote his autobiography on his own terms at the age of seventy-seven. The resulting book ends, well before his death, with his return from France at the age of forty-six. Asked for additional details concerning his life, Jefferson often claimed to have a “decayed memory.” Fortunately, this shrewd politician, philosopher, architect, inventor, farmer, and scientist penned nearly eighteen thousand letters in his lifetime, saving almost every scrap he wrote.

In Jefferson on Jefferson, Paul Zall returns to original manuscripts and correspondence for a new view of the statesman’s life. He extends the story where Jefferson left off, weaving excerpts from other writings—notes, rough drafts, and private correspondence—with passages from the original autobiography. Jefferson reveals his grief over the death of his daughter, details his hotly contested election against John Adams (decided by the House of Representatives), expresses his thoughts on religion, and tells of life at Monticello.

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9780813109411Truman and the Democratic Party

What best defines a Democrat in the American political arena—idealistic reformer or pragmatic politician? Harry Truman adopted both roles and in so doing defined the nature of his presidency.

Truman and the Democratic Party is the first book to deal exclusively with the president’s relationship with the Democratic party and his status as party leader. Sean J. Savage addresses Truman’s twin roles of party regular and liberal reformer, examining the tension that arose from this duality and the consequences of that tension for Truman’s political career.

Drawing on personal interview with former Truman administration members and party officials and on archival materials—most notably papers of the Democratic National Committee at the Harry S. Truman Library—Savage has produced a fresh perspective that is both shrewd and insightful. This book offers historians and political scientists a new way of looking at the Truman administration and its impact on key public policies.

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The Enduring Reagan9780813134475

A former Sunday school teacher and Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan was an unlikely candidate for president. His charisma, conviction, and leadership earned him the governorship of California, from which he launched his successful bid to become the fortieth president of the United States in 1980. Reagan’s political legacy continues to be the standard by which all conservatives are judged. In The Enduring Reagan, editor Charles W. Dunn brings together eight prominent scholars to examine the political career and legacy of Ronald Reagan. This anthology offers a bold reassessment of the Reagan years and the impact they had on the United States and the world.

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9780813134024The Presidency in the Twenty-first Century

As the most prominent figure of the U.S. government, the president is under constant scrutiny from both his colleagues and the American people. Questions about the proper role of the president have been especially prevalent in the media during the current economic crisis. The Presidency in the Twenty-first Century explores the growth of presidential power, investigating its social, political, and economic impact on America’s present and future.

Editor Charles W. Dunn and a team of the nation’s leading political scientists examine a variety of topics, from the link between campaigning and governing to trends in presidential communication with the public. The book discusses the role of the presidency in a government designed to require cooperation with Congress and how this relationship is further complicated by the expectations of the public. Several contributors take a closer look at the Obama administration in light of President George W. Bush’s emphasis on the unitary executive, a governing style that continues to be highly controversial. Dunn and his contributors provide readers with a thorough analysis of a rapidly changing political role, provoking important questions about the future of America’s political system.

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The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections9780813109268

An intriguing phenomenon in American electoral politics is the loss of seats by the president’s party in midterm congressional elections. Between 1862 and 1990, the president’s party lost seats in the House of Representatives in 32 of the 33 midterm elections. In his new study, James Campbell examines explanations for these midterm losses and explores how presidential elections influence congressional elections.

After reviewing the two major theories of midterm electoral change-the “surge and decline” theory and the theory of midterms as referenda on presidential performance Campbell draws upon each to propose and test a new theory. He asserts that in the years of presidential elections congressmen ride presidential coattails into office, while in midterm elections such candidates are stranded. An additional factor is the strength of the presidential vote, which influences the number of seats that are won, only to be lost later.

Including both election returns and survey data, The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections offers a fresh perspective on congressional elections, voting behavior, Congress, and the presidency.

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9780813126609The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell

What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? The Art of Command illustrates that great leaders become great through a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure’s strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history.

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To explore more titles about the American Presidency, visit our website.