Originally published over half a decade ago, Anatol Lieven'sAmerica Right or Wronghas become a classic analysis of the special character of American nationalism. As he demonstrated, America's foreign policy response to the 9/11 attacks flowed directly from a nationalistic tradition that was two centuries in the making. Within that nationalism, Lieven identified two strands. The first was the ""American thesis,"" a civic nationalism based on the democratic values of what has been called the ""American Creed."" These values are held to be universal, and anyone can become an American by adopting them. The other tradition, the ""American antithesis"" is a populist and often chauvinist nationalism, which tends to see America as a closed national culture and civilization threatened by a hostile and barbarous outside world. Much has changed since 9/11. The American public has turned inward in the wake of the Great Recession, but interestingly, Lieven's fundamental analysis of American nationalism remains powerful and convincing. In this expanded new edition, he includes and in-depth analysis of the domestic component of both the American creed and the American antithesis.
In this provocative and scholarly work, Lieven, senior associate at Washington's Carnegie Endowment, argues that normative American patriotism-an optimistic "civic creed" rooted in respect for America's institutions, individual freedoms and constitutional law-contains a monster in the basement: a jingoistic, militaristic, Jacksonian nationalism that sees America as the bearer of a messianic mission to lead a Manichean struggle against the savages. Since 9/11, the Bush administration and its Christian-fundamentalist "base" have invoked the nationalist tradition in waging the struggle against the "evil-doers." The result, Lieven argues, has been catastrophic for the war on terror. Rather than rally to America as the beacon of liberty, other nations (particular European and Muslim ones) feel repelled and threatened by the cavalier and unilateral superpower. Lieven's provocative final chapter argues that much of U.S. support for Israel is rooted not in the "civic creed" (e.g., support for a fellow liberal democracy) but in a nationalism that sees the Israelis as heroic cowboys and the Palestinians as savages who must be driven from their land, as Jackson did the Cherokees. Throughout, Lieven takes to task the American liberal intelligentsia for abandoning universalist principles in favor of ethnic chauvinism and nationalist fervor. Cogently argued, this is an important contribution to the discourse on national identity, the war on terror and the nature of political liberalism. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Oxford University Press
September 25, 2012
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