Bomb Power by Garry Wills
The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

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From Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills, a groundbreaking examination of how the atomic bomb profoundly altered the nature of American democracy and has left us in a state of war alert ever since.

In Bomb Power, Garry Wills reveals how the atomic bomb transformed our nation down to its deepest constitutional roots-by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state-in ways still felt today. A masterful reckoning from one of America's preeminent historians, Bomb Power draws a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush.

The invention of the atomic bomb was a triumph of official secrecy and military discipline-the project was covertly funded at the behest of the president and, despite its massive scale, never discovered by Congress or the press. This concealment was perhaps to be expected in wartime, but Wills persuasively argues that the Manhattan Project then became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era. The wartime emergency put in place during World War II extended into the Cold War and finally the war on terror, leaving us in a state of continuous war alert for sixty-eight years and counting.

The bomb forever changed the institution of the presidency since only the president controls "the button" and, by extension, the fate of the world. Wills underscores how radical a break this was from the division of powers established by our founding fathers and how it in turn has enfeebled Congress and the courts. The bomb also placed new emphasis on the president's military role, creating a cult around the commander in chief. The tendency of modern presidents to flaunt military airs, Wills points out, is entirely a postbomb phenomenon. Finally, the Manhattan Project inspired the vast secretive apparatus of the national security state, including intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA, which remain largely unaccountable to Congress and the American people.

Wills recounts how, following World War II, presidential power increased decade by decade until reaching its stunning apogee with the Bush administration. Both provocative and illuminating, Bomb Power casts the history of the postwar period in a new light and sounds an alarm about the continued threat to our Constitution.

About Garry Wills

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GARRY WILLS has written many acclaimed works and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. He is professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University and lives in Evanston, Illinois.
Published January 25, 2011 by Penguin Books. 291 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Bomb Power

Bookmarks Magazine

Although most recognized Wills's left-leaning tendencies, only the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette accused Wills of bias.

Jan 24 2010 | Read Full Review of Bomb Power: The Modern Presid...


In this book, his initial thesis is that our modern National Security State arose out of the Manhattan Project, and the aftermath of dropping the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War.

Mar 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Bomb Power: The Modern Presid...


Stern Warning: President Obama admonished Republicans on Monday over their refusal to raise the debt ceiling, telling reporters during the last news conference of his first presidential term that the GOP’s negotiating stance is endangering the U.S. economy.

Jan 14 2013 | Read Full Review of Bomb Power: The Modern Presid...


Just two years after declaring, “there is no justification” for taxing corporate income, Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that same period.

May 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Bomb Power: The Modern Presid...

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