Sands of Empire : Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition
In Sands of Empire, veteran political journalist and award-winning author Robert W. Merry examines the misguided concepts that have fueled American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. The emergence in the George W. Bush administration of America as Crusader State, bent on remaking the world in its preferred image, is dangerous and self-defeating, he points out. Moreover, these grand-scale flights of interventionism, regime change, and the use of pre-emptive armed force are without precedent in American history.
Merry offers a spirited description of a powerful political core whose ideas have replaced conservative reservations about utopian visions -- these neocons who "embrace a brave new world in which American exceptionalism holds sway," imagining that others around the globe can be made to abandon their cultures in favor of our ideals. He traces the strains of Wilsonism that have now merged into an adventurous and hazardous foreign policy, particularly as described by William Kristol, Francis Fukuyama, Max Boot, and Paul Wolfowitz, among others. He examines the challenge of Samuel Huntington's supposition that the clash of civilizations defines present and future world conflict. And he rejects the notion of The New York Times's Thomas L. Friedman that America is not only the world's role model for globally integrated free-market capitalism, but that it has a responsibility to foster, support, and sustain globalization worldwide.
From the first president Bush to Clinton to the second Bush presidency, the United States has compromised its global leadership, endangered its security, and failed to meet the standard of justified intervention, Merry suggests. The country must reset its global strategies to protect its interests and the West's, to maintain stability in strategic areas, and to fight radical threats, with arms if necessary. For anything less than these necessities, American blood should remain in American veins.
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Simon & Schuster
June 05, 2005
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Excerpt from Sands of Empire by Robert W. Merry
In 1910, a starry-eyed British economist named Norman Angell published a book called The Great Illusion, positing the notion that war among the industrial nations had become essentially obsolete. "How," he asked, "can modern life, with its overpowering proportion of industrial activities and its infinitesimal proportion of military, keep alive the instincts associated with war as against those developed by peace " The book was an instant smash, translated into eleven languages and stirring something of a cult following throughout Europe. "By impressive examples and incontrovertible argument," wrote Barbara Tuchman in her narrative history The Guns of August, "Angell showed that in the present financial and economic interdependence of nations, the victor would suffer equally with the vanquished; therefore war had become unprofitable; therefore no nation would be so foolish as to start one."
At major universities throughout Britain, study groups of Angell acolytes sprang up. Viscount Esher, friend and confidant of the king, traveled widely to spread the gospel that "new economic factors clearly prove the inanity of aggressive wars." Such wars, he suggested, would spread "commercial disaster, financial ruin and individual suffering" on such a scale that the very thought of them would unleash powerful "restraining influences." Thus, as he told one military audience, the interlacing of nations had rendered war "every day more difficult and improbable."
In recounting all this, Tuchman barely conceals her contempt for Angell and Esher, which seems understandable given the carnage unleashed upon the European continent just four years after Angell's volume began its massive flow through bookstores. And yet there's something remarkably durable about the Angell thesis. In 1930, a year when the memory of World War I's rivers of blood must have been vivid in European minds, the king of England gave him a knighthood. Three years later he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his earnest agitations for world tranquillity. And in 1999, nearly ninety years after The Great Illusion appeared, a prominent New York Times columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, pronounced Angell's thesis to be "actually right," although he leavened his endorsement with a bow to Thucydides' observations about the causes of war.
All this poses a question: to what can we attribute the durability of Angell's discredited thesis and its reemergence after nearly a century filled with global conflict The answer lies in the convergence of two developments of significance to Western thought -- one distant and occurring over centuries, the other recent and bursting forth with stunning rapidity. The recent development was the West's Cold War victory over the Soviet Union in 1989 after nearly a half century of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. The distant development was the emergence of that seminal Western concept, the Idea of Progress.