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Men of Iron

- Abstract

In significant ways, we still live in the post-9/11 era. Islamic extremists plot against the United States, national-security policy dominates public debate, and foreign leaders wag their fingers at the American president. Yet while overseas threats and much of George W. Bush’s response to them are still with us, the war on terror in 2013 does not feel like it did in 2003. Why?

The answer can be found on nearly every page of Peter Baker’s splendid Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House. The George W. Bush presidency was absorbed by the threat of real-world evil in a way that now—only five years into another administration—seems irretrievably remote. Three days after 9/11, as Baker recalls, Bush spoke at Washington National Cathedral: “Our responsibility to history is already clear,” he said, “to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” If this was hyperbole, it was just barely so. Baker’s accomplishment is in evenly relating both the perils and the triumphs that came from mobilizing American power in service of such a grand mission. Indeed, that this book cannot be used as a partisan weapon is almost as foreign as Bush’s black-and-white response to terrorism.

About the Author

Abe Greenwald is senior editor of Commentary