"THE AMERICAN WAY OF WAR: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril," by Eugene Jarecki, Free Press, 336 pages, $26

I am not sure Eugene Jarecki's book, "The American Way of War," was the best book to read during a very contentious election.

Then again, maybe it was the prefect book to read.

Jarecki's even-handed description of military history and how different presidents, from both parties, have helped transform America from its isolationist beginnings to a military superpower willing to actually wage a pre-emptive war (in Iraq). He admits that even the framers of the Constitution were at odds with each other, and sometimes themselves, about how involved the United States should be in foreign affairs.

But one thing they agreed on was that the executive branch, which was responsible to wage war, should not be the same branch to decide when the country needed to go to war.

Though very technical, Jarecki writes an interesting narrative of how, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the country's executive branch has grabbed more and more power and authority, even circumventing the legislative branch.

He shows the sad results of some of these executive decisions and how even when abuses or scandals are reported, the public never really gains much insight into the real problems. And sadly, he reveals how stirring up fear in the general population — real or imagined — allows those in power to suspend or ignore laws, treaties and even our much revered Constitution.

Reading the book was extremely informative and very compelling, especially the section on Dwight D. Eisenhower. It did, however, leave me with a little sad that even though our leaders know our history and understand our past mistakes, they will distort facts, tell lies, even break laws if they believe it serves their purposes.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com