Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World

In This Review

Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World

By Philip H. Gordon
Times Books, 2007
224 pp. $24.00

The Bush administration's framing of the United States' post-9/11 national security challenge as a "war on terror" has profoundly influenced the nation's worldview and twenty-first-century grand strategy. In this small, profoundly sensible book, Gordon questions the entire intellectual edifice of the "war on terror" and offers an alternative strategy of containment and engagement. Like others, Gordon argues that the language of war evokes the wrong strategic imagery, mischaracterizing the nature of the enemy, the causes of terrorism, and what the appropriate tools of the struggle are. Gordon proposes that if the conflict must be called a war, the United States should be fighting a very different one, recognizing that "victory is more likely to be achieved by maintaining America's strength, cohesion, and appeal than by destroying its enemies through the force of arms." Gordon suggests that Washington should borrow insights from its Cold War-era struggle with Soviet communism. This means patiently managing threats, preserving the values of U.S. society, and winning over friends and allies. Gordon wants to rebuild U.S. credibility and appeal as a global leader, tackle the hard problem of energy dependence, and shift emphasis in the Middle East from Iraq to building a wider regional coalition to pursue peace between Israel and the Palestinians and to adopting a containment-plus-overtures approach to Iran. A glimmer of the United States' next grand strategy appears in these pages.

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