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Book Review: Surprise, Security and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis

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With access to so much information these days, one would think that making sense of political and historical issues would be easy. In fact, just the opposite is happening for people outside the academic realm. It's all naturally confusing for some. After 9/11, Americans (and by extension the world) have returned to the debate of what America means. From celebrities to television hosts and satirists we are blasted from all angles and all sections of society offering their insights – and right to free speech. Unfortunately, we don't hear enough from historians to help us divide fact from fiction.

With his short (128-page) Surprise, Security and the American Experience, historian John Lewis Gaddis provides readers with an insightful and engaging account of how the American republic has dealt with security issues. By succinctly examining the 19th century (comparing and contrasting the Jefferson and Adams doctrines), and the 21st (the Bush doctrine), Gaddis provides a readable and enjoyable history lesson. He carefully navigates between the psychological aspects of present perceptions and how they help to shape history.

The book succeeds in putting into perspective the challenges that have been faced and will continue to be imposed upon the American union. Perhaps that fateful day was to remind Americans that their country is "the last best hope of earth," as Lincoln once observed. This may be interpreted as typical American hubris, but for Gaddis America's presence has been a positive force and he has no problem with the patriotism that was evident following the attacks.

It was, well, all perfectly normal. It revealed that the Union still believes in its ideals. A recommended read for those who care about such things.

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