At last, a historian tells the truth about America's role in the world-refuting the lies of anti-American propagandists.Left-wing critics-both at home and abroad-relish blasting our country for being the world's sole superpower, or even an "imperialist" power.But as acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander shows in How America Got It Right, these criticisms are completely off the mark. Alexander reveals how the United States has done and continues to do exactly the right thing in military and foreign affairs. As the world's dominant political force and military power, he says, we are the only nation that will actually go into the world and strike down evil. And we must not shirk that responsibility-especially because we cannot rely on our so-called allies to defend our freedoms. Alexander tells the dramatic and sometimes surprising story of how, from the American Revolution to the War on Terror, America's core principles and ideals have shaped our march to economic, military, and political supremacy.
In this polemical, sometimes informative overview of U.S. military and diplomatic history from the French and Indian Wars to the war in Iraq, westward expansion was inevitable; the Mexican War was wise; slavery "did deflect and distort the dream," but the Civil War need not have been fought (though it did professionalize the army). After WWI "the United States took over responsibility from Britain for governing the world's oceans"; this expanded navy turned out to be crucial for winning WWII. Almost all nonexperts will learn something from Alexander's (How Wars Are Won) brisk and detailed accounts of 20th-century battles and diplomatic controversies, and his expertise on postwar China and Korea provides support for surprising arguments. As he approaches the present day, however, he sounds less sure than merely cocksure: "the United States had to go into Iraq," he writes, because "it set out to neutralize terrorism and tyrants." Readers who already think so will enjoy the book. Agent, Agnes Birnbaum with Bleecker Street Associates. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 04, 2005
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Excerpt from How America Got It Right by Bevin Alexander
Imagine, if you will, the sense of awe that seized the first settlers at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1620, and at the other landings along the coast of North America in the early decades of the seventeenth century. Here were little English communities hacking out perch sites on the very edge of an unknown land. These pioneers thought they would find in America something resembling the tame, limited, surmountable horizons of England. But they discovered that this new world was absolutely different. The scale was vaster than anything they had encountered before. An immense, almost unbroken forest extended into distances beyond their comprehension. Rivers, greater, wilder, and more magnificent than the grandest stream in Britain, poured out of the continent--the Connecticut, the Hudson, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, the Potomac, the James, the Roanoke, the Cape Fear, the Savannah, and many others. The settlers saw that the land drained by these rivers must be vast, that half a dozen Englands could easily be fitted in along the coast. As the decades went by, they ventured up the rivers to find the headwaters, confident that the highlands where the rivers arose would mark the limit of this new land, and only the huge South Sea lay beyond. But when they finally reached the great chain of mountains called the Appalachians and gazed out from its heights, they were utterly confounded--before them an even more boundless, more astonishing land stretched out to seeming infinity toward the setting sun.
This was the moment when the American character was formed. Whatever limits of class and status that the settlers had brought with them from Britain would fall away to insignificance in this prodigious land. When astute individuals looked toward the limitless frontier that they now knew would beckon continuously on the western horizon, they realized that no king, no aristocracy, however selfish, could crush them. At any time they could cross this frontier and put all of Europe's restraints behind them. This had immense and overwhelming effects throughout the colonies. Americans, whether they crossed the frontier or not, were destined to be forever free.
A sense of democracy and equality spread among the people. The seeds of a future republic were sown. Long before Thomas Jefferson articulated it in the Declaration of Independence, Americans recognized their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But something else came along with the discovery of the illimitable frontier. Americans began to see that they had the opportunity to create a country of a wholly different order of magnitude and of a wholly different concept from even the richest countries of Europe. This new land could not only span an entire continent but could also achieve unbelievable wealth and strength. A new aspiration formed--to build on this marvelous, rich, fortunate continent the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, and to people this nation with men and women who were not only prosperous but also free and happy.
It was a vision unparalleled in history. It was not an ambition for empire. It was not a scheme to subdue other peoples. It was rather a desire for a single people sharing alike in the wealth and blessings of the land, and in the freedom of a society without classes and castes. As the colonies grew and more and more people flooded into it, this dream took on a reality and a certitude that led straight to the American Revolution and beyond.