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Magic and Mayhem: The ...
Derek Leebaert
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Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy from Korea to Afghanistan

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  31 ratings  ·  7 reviews

are the latest in a string of blunders that includes Vietnam and an unintended war with China from 1950 to ’53, those four fiascoes being just the worst moments in nearly a lifetime of false urgencies, intelligence failures, grandiose designs, and stereotyping of enemies and allies alike. America brought down the Soviet empire at the cold war’s most da
ebook, 352 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 13th 2010)
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Aug 24, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Cspan, Brian Lamb interview

This is a thoughtful, intelligent overview of the "magical thinking" and delusions, usually on the part of highly educated people, that got the U.S. into the series of disastrous wars from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Leebaert never goes too deep into the weeds; this is an easy read, but one informed by long experience in government and policy-making.

He leans heavily on the notion of "emergency men" (an idea actually borrowed from Jacob Burckhardt), the presidential advisers, think-tankers, aca
Lauren Albert
The argument here was more of less the same as the other book I recently reviewed, "The Icarus Syndrome" though this was shorter and less tedious. The elements of magical thinking he discusses are "Emergency Men" ("part of being an emergency man is wading into action with cheerful confidence, with that valor of ignorance"); the "Mystique of Management" ("believing that any problem can be methodically broken down to be triumphantly reassembled"); "Star Power" ("well-informed Americans starstruck ...more
I was wrong on the Iraq War. Well, perhaps that's too certain. If I believed in 2003 what I believe now, I think I would have come down against the war. Whether or not I was right or wrong would be besides the point; some of my views have evolved over those past eight years.

With that in mind, Leebaert's "Magic and Mayhem" was a good read for someone in my shoes. Leebaert's thesis is that Americans succumb to "magical thinking" when it comes to foreign policy, believing far more heavily in their
The American Conservative
'Derek Leebaert’s Magic and Mayhem seeks to explain how such experts get power and why their influence is so pernicious. Leebaert, a Georgetown University professor, derides the influence of “magical thinking” in foreign policy: “Shrewd, levelheaded people are so frequently bewitched into substituting passion, sloganeering, and haste for reflection, homework, and reasonable objectives.”'

Read the full review, "Worst and Brightest," on our website:
As what Leebart calls "magic men" (which sadly includes women) proliferate, his history and cautionary wisdom is most helpful.
Mikey Heiser
This book is for serious political science intellectuals. I found the book boring, and it has too many big fancy words.
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