The American Way of Strategy : U. S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life
Americans are unlikely to lose their cherished rights because of a military coup or a foreign conquest, writes Michael Lind. The more plausible and frightening scenario is one in which foreign danger forces Americans themselves to jettison their way of life, sacrificing liberty to ensuresecurity. To prevent this scenario from happening is the real purpose of American strategy.In The American Way of Strategy, Lind argues that the goal of U.S. foreign policy has always been the preservation of the American way of life--embodied in civilian government, checks and balances, a commercial economy, and individual freedom. Lind describes how successive Americanstatesmen--from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan--have pursued an American way of strategy that minimizes the dangers of empire and anarchy by two means: liberal internationalism and realism. At its best, theAmerican way of strategy is a well-thought-out and practical guide designed to preserve a peaceful and demilitarized world by preventing an international system dominated by imperial and militarist states and its disruption by anarchy. When American leaders have followed this path, they have leadour nation from success to success, and when they have deviated from it, the results have been disastrous.Framed in an engaging historical narrative, the book makes an important contribution to contemporary debates. The American Way of Strategy is certain to change the way that Americans understand U.S. foreign policy.
Since the first Gulf War, American foreign policy has undergone a dangerous shift against its tradition of preserving "the American way of life"--the civil liberties assured by a system of democratic republican liberalism--argues author and journalist Lind. The strategy has changed in style over time, from the "isolationism" of the first hundred years to 20th-century global alliances and "temporary alliance hegemony" against mounting empires. But keeping security costs down while "promoting a less dangerous international environment" has largely permitted the public to avoid trading liberty for security in moments of crisis, he argues. By contrast, the emergence of a post-Cold War bipartisan consensus around permanent U.S. global dominance (championed by neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney) is a perilous anomaly, says Lind (The Radical Center). His lucid if sometimes reductive focus on international strategy and power politics as a primary engine of history can obscure as much as it clarifies. But Lind's advocacy of a "concert of power" or shared primacy among several nations gains a persuasive momentum, exposing the folly of the current imperial strategy while forcefully examining the neglected role of foreign policy in the shaping of American politics and society. (Sept.)
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
July 29, 2008
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