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Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century

The United States is not a preternaturally inward-looking nation, and isolation is not the natural disposition of Americans. The real question is not whether Americans are prone to isolation or engagement, but how their engagement with the world has evolved, how events have conspired to make the United States toward world power, and how these developments have been guided by political leadership. Indeed, the great debates on foreign affairs in American history have not been about whether to have debates on foreign affairs; they have been between and among the competing visions of American influence in the world.

In Architects of Power, Philip Terzian examines two public figures in the 20th century who personify, in their lives, careers and public philosophies, the rise of the United States of America to global leadership: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Terzian reveals how both men recognized and acted on the global threats of their time and questions whether America can rise to the same challenges today. Denied access to a clear vision of the past, our knowledge of the present and perspective on the future may be dangerously myopic. Without a window into the stricken world that Roosevelt inhabited, and Eisenhower understood, we are less likely to see the perils and challenges of the world we have inherited.

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Reviews of

Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century


Because all ages manipulate the past to suit their needs, these two presidents, who governed at the height of American supremacy, have had their legacies to some degree distorted of late, at a time when the elite is apologetic about American dominance and frankly doubts its prospects. In Architects of Power, a short, elegant and incisive study, Philip Terzian, the literary editor of The Weekly Standard, sets out to write a corrective …. Putting Roosevelt and Eisenhower together is itself a deft device.
–Robert D. Kaplan, author


Delivering a magisterial account of Franklin Roosevelt’s and Dwight Eisenhower’s roles in World War II, situated within their separate lives and presidencies, may seem an outright impossibility in the space of 100 pages. Yet it is what Philip Terzian has done in Architects of Power. This brief volume will do more to correct current misperceptions than anything since Roosevelt became simply the polio victim who launched the New Deal, and Eisenhower the reluctant, anti-war soldier who inveighed against the military-industrial complex on his way out of office. Terzian has no time for any of this—and neither, after this brief tour de force, should any reader …. Terzian possesses a capacity for aphoristic compression almost Johnsonian in its elegance …. There are endless pleasures in this book. One is the remarkable command of an enormous sweep of history, which allows Terzian confidently to agree with or toss aside the very-hard-won theories of previous historians.
–Saul Rosenberg, New York Sun


"[Philip] Terzian has produced a scintillating analysis of two political polar opposites, FDR and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and proved both men played critical roles in transforming America into a global superpower .... Long story short, 'Architects of Power' is going to rewrite the history books in a dramatic fashion. The old tall tales of FDR as a socialist New Dealer who wanted to tear apart the American fabric, and Eisenhower as a simple-minded army general who barely understood politics, have come to an end. Thanks to Terzian, these men now share a common goal most Americans will admire: the desire to make their country the greatest power the world has ever seen."
–The Christian Science Monitor


Terzian, literary editor of the Weekly Standard, describes the impact of Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower on the dramatic transformation of the United States from a relatively quiet secondary position in the world to its current “hyperpower” status. Though vastly different in upbringing and early experiences, Roosevelt and Eisenhower shared, says Terzian, a firm belief in American resources and American capabilities. Each managed to direct his personal ambition toward projecting and protecting the best interests of his country and, through intelligence, ability, and charm, provided leadership to a world in need of fresh ideas and firm responses. Roosevelt understood that American prosperity depended not only on American security but on the security of the world as a whole, and Eisenhower grasped the fact that calm analysis of various crises and a meaningful doctrine of peace through strength would ensure the continuation of that security. This regrettably too brief essay makes its point that the 20th century was indeed “the American century” and that America’s rise to leadership, even with the flaws inherent in that leadership, has produced great benefits for the global community.
–Publishers Weekly


A well-argued, engagingly written, and highly thought-provoking book … In witty and perceptive compressed biographies of the two presidents, Terzian … shows how superficially dissimilar [Roosevelt and Eisenhower] were, yet how much their rejection of isolationism overlapped.
–Andrew Roberts, Commentary


Philip Terzian takes strands of biographical and historical fact from which many assume all enlightenment and import have long since been wrung and weaves from these a strikingly original, wholly elucidating tapestry.
–Shawn Macomber, The Washington Times


I dare you to put down this pithy little book once you have started it. And how often can that be said about books dealing with matters of state? At a moment when blather about the American imperium has reached epidemic proportions, it’s refreshing to find such a lucid and persuasive account of how American “engagement with the world has evolved.”
–John Wilson, Christianity Today


Loyal readers of these pages fondly remember [Philip] Terzian’s tart and elegant writing from his days as editorial page editor … of the Journal …. Terzian delivers fewer stiletto wounds than usual in this remarkably brief account … of a very broad topic: the development of American foreign policy in the 20th century. But the writing is as graceful as always, the details bright and fascinating, the argument sound.
–Edward Achorn, The Providence Journal


Don’t judge Philip Terzian’s Architects of Power by its cover—or by the fact that just 127 pages, including bibliography and index, separate its front and back covers. There’s a lot to ponder in this accessible, thoughtful book.
–Alan Wallace, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Though my old friend is decidedly right of center, his fairness and rigorous scholarship have crafted a portrait of the two presidents that reveals zero ideology.
–H. Brandt Ayers, The Anniston Star

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