Pride and Prejudice
The American way of making war—and repenting for it afterward
The Icarus Syndrome:
A History of American Hubris
by Peter Beinart
$27.99 List Price
Reading America's destiny in the entrails of its foreign-policy doctrines and wars is no job for amateurs. But in The Icarus Syndrome, Peter Beinart—a Yale-to-Oxford-to-Beltway wunderkind who flew too close to the sun of liberal-hawk glory while he edited the New Republic during the Iraq war—pirouettes to keep his wings from melting and lands safely, bringing us an essay in history that's insightful, if also a little self-serving.
When he tells you that Colin Powell judged Paul Wolfowitz's grand plan for Iraq "the kind of militarily ludicrous suggestion you got from people who had spent their twenties in think tanks, not foxholes," Beinart knows he's writing about himself and the large cohort of liberal hawks and Vulcan mini-cons who helped stampede America into Iraq. But he doesn't describe his own trajectory explicitly, and wisely so; the only time he comes close, in the introduction, the account (of a penitential lunch with Arthur Schlesinger Jr.) is so self-servingly self-flagellating that it rings false.
His ambitious survey of varieties of American foreign-policy hubris since World War I hints often at having been undertaken partly to help him outgrow his own past heroes, mentors, and political pals—to grow up, really, and fly better next time. He calls a chapter "Fathers and Sons," and the book follows "generational envy" through many iterations. He revisits FDR's worship of his distant cousin Teddy and the overconfidence of Beinart's childhood heroes JFK and Schlesinger that their Camelot would surpass Eisenhower's "politics of fatigue." On the right, Beinart