Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State
Garry Wills. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. 278 pp. $27.95
Reviewed by Bernard I. Finel
Garry Wills' provocative Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State raises a number of compelling questions. But in his eagerness to tie together a multitude of threads, including civil-military relations, the militarization of foreign policy, government secrecy, and civil liberties, Wills develops a monocausal and linear argument that does not do justice to the complexity of the issues he seeks to explore.
Wills' thesis is straightforward. The abuses of President George W. Bush's administration are a direct consequence of how the atomic bomb was developed and the mechanisms implemented to govern its use. Wills traces the roots of Bush's unilateralism, militarism, and willingness to ignore domestic legal constraints to the Manhattan Project, a militarized program that drafted resources from across the nation and functioned with little oversight. There are three fundamental problems with his argument.