In the late 1960s, a remarkable protest movement against the Vietnam War arose, and — what is even more remarkable — in the early 1970s it succeeded in forcing an end to the war. In the pieces that Jonathan Schell wrote over a six-year period for "Notes and Comment" in The New Yorker, this movement found its most articulate, sustained, and eloquent expression. Here the arguments against the war — arguments that have maintained their cogency and power to this day — were set forth. The pieces are clearly reasoned, but they are not cool. They were written in the heat of the moment, with passion and conviction.
They show how the war abroad developed, step by step, into the systemic crisis at home that culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Long before the burglars were caught in the Watergate Hotel, these pieces were chronicling the threat to American liberty that was taking shape under the Nixon administration. In an afterword, Schell analyzes the long shadow of the war and of Watergate on our politics, describing how these events left the public in a state of ambivalence and confusion that has shaped both politics and policy to this day.
The publication of these pieces in The New Yorker was a journalistic phenomenon that had no counterpart at that time, and that gave life and meaning to the phrase "freedom of the press." Now, their first appearance in book form gives us a remarkable history of our times by one of our nation's most distinguished and original political thinkers.
Praise for Observing the Nixon Years:
"These pieces are as fierce as razor blades and as powerful as hammers. They are both a record of a terrible time in America and Jonathan Schell's use of that time to reaffirm the essential principles of American virtue." —Robert Heilbroner
"Jonathan Schell's brilliant essays and commentaries are indispensable for understanding our past and our future. No one writing about that critical period has provided as provocative and original a portrait. Having them availalbe in book form is more than a public service. They now form lasting pieces of our literature and history." —Haynes Johnson
"Jonathan Schell describes what he calls 'our self-created torments' with sensitivity and perspective. He is absolutely on target... a great book." —Senator Paul Simon
"There is terrible urgency for today's politics in Jonathan Schell's Observing the Nixon Years. He tells with memorable clarity and wisdom the damage this generation has suffered from political jingoism and abuse of the Constitution. —Ben H. Bagdikian
"'Controlled passion' is the phrase that comes to mind in reading Jonathan Schell's remarkable essays on Vietnam and Watergate. As one piece of work, our six tumultous years, '69-'75, come throbbingly alive. It is a stunning experience. —Studs Terkel