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Book Review and Interview with the Cheneys - EXCEPTIONAL: Why the World Needs a Powerful America

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

The title of this book, Exceptional, applies to its authors, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. From Presidents Franklin Roosevelt through George W. Bush America remained the world’s premier power, triumphing during WW II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror. The Cheney’s take readers on a historical journey while pointing out how President Obama’s policies have weakened this nation. Below is a Q/A with the Cheneys.

Liz Cheney explained to, “The point of our book is to say America is an exceptional nation.  We have been since our founding and are today, but for different reasons. After America’s founding we became a model for freedom in the world and from the time of WWII we became the defender of that freedom. The fact that we have a President that is embarking on dangerous policies does not mean we are not exceptional.  Rather it means he does not recognize the unique role we must play in the world. We need a president that truly believes we are freedom’s defender.”

The book is separated into three parts.  The authors first give a short history of America’s foreign policy and the unique role played as the world’s protector of freedom.  The authors add flavor by using quotes from past Presidents.  They show how Presidents knew that weakness invites aggression.  They write about President Roosevelt who in 1940 convinced a war weary and isolationist leaning country to join WWII because America has an obligation as "the defender of freedom" and “the arsenal of democracy." And in 1962, Kennedy said, “The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.”

Throughout the first part they show that both Democratic and Republican Presidents believed in a bi-partisan approach that recognized America’s prominence in the world.  Vice-President Cheney commented, “I don’t think Theodore Roosevelt would recognize Barack Obama in terms of his policy.  Looking at the Democratic Party from Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy, all shared in the consensus view that we had to be strong and the leader of the free world.  I don’t think they would associate themselves with Barack Obama’s policies. This is a guy who wanted to go to Japan and apologize for what we did in WW II at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harry Truman’s decision to use the bomb was crucial in reducing loss of life or we would have had to invade Japan. He is trying to rewrite our history through his apologies of what his American predecessors did. It comes down to an issue of leadership.  As we quote in the book, President Ronald Reagan said, ‘It is up to us in our time to choose, and choose wisely, between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.’”

Part II explains how President Obama’s policies have made America less safe, citing ISIS, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.  This part is especially relevant since they speak about the Iranian nuclear deal.  They write, “The president has tried to sell this bad deal by claiming that there is no alternative, save war. In fact, this agreement makes war more, not less, likely… In addition to accelerating the spread of nuclear weapons across the Middle East, it will provide the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which even the Obama administration admits likely will be used to fund terror." The Cheney’s also criticize what they see as inadequate verifications for inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, the removal of restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and the lifting of sanctions against the regime, which they believe will help Iran fund terror.

Liz Cheney commented about the above quote, “President Obama believes the US is a maligned force in the world, a force for ill.  He tries to do anything possible to minimize our impact in the world and to limit our engagement/involvement. Look at the Iranian nuclear deal that will basically give the Iranians a path for a nuclear arsenal.”  The Vice-president added, “He has taken us down a very dangerous road by making a deal with Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism.”

Part III is the most interesting part of the book.  The Cheney’s make recommendations on how to use America’s power against its enemies.  This path restores America as the world’s leader that includes rebuilding the military, negotiating with our adversaries out of a position of strength, and working closely with our allies. 

The authors advocate the need for a robust military.  The Vice-President stated to, “My dad and an awful lot of Americans served in WWII.  They look back on their service with pride.  Today President Obama has sent a tremendous signal to friends and adversaries of weakness and our inability to influence events in the world.  For example, when America withdrew from the Middle East the Iranians, ISIS, and Russia, all our adversaries, filled the void.  He has decimated our military capabilities in the face of rising threats. I can’t think of a time in history, in our history, when we’ve seen such rising threats: ISIS in the Middle East, creator of a caliphate, China on the march in the South China Sea, Putin in Europe, we see threats rise, yet the President is consciously and obviously doing whatever he can to reduce our military capabilities. The military has been very sadly neglected, especially in the strategic systems. The damage to the defense department will take years to be built up.  What really bugs me is Barack Obama has taken away a future President’s ability to play defender.  I remember after Desert Storm one of the first things I did was call Ronald Reagan and thank him for having a magnificent military force that helped us to wrap things up in a very short order.  Now we will have future President’s that will look back and tear their hair out because of the damage done to the military. But I am hopeful because of all the good candidates on the Republican side.  A number of them have been very clear about their understanding of what it will take to return American power and influence across the globe.”

Exceptional: Why The World Needs A Powerful America is a must read.  Unlike many authors the Cheney’s actually make clear and concise recommendations of what future Presidents need to accomplish.  Through the historical journey readers will understand why the authors criticism of the current President is valid.  They make the excellent point that to safeguard America, Presidents must “speak softly, but carry a big stick.”  As they said in the book, “Without our armed forces, there would be no liberty.  They are the ultimate guarantor and protector of our freedoms.”