From one of our most brilliant and original writers on U.S. foreign policy, a stunning and timely book on the policy of the Bush administration and its current grand strategy for the world.
Mead begins by analyzing America's historical approach to the world--by no means perfect, but reasonably moral and reasonably practical on the whole. Then he examines the explosive foreign policy of the Bush administration and the uproar it has caused at home and abroad. Bush, according to Mead, is often strategically right but tactically at fault in his attempts to lead a divided nation--and a divided coalition of allies--in a dangerous struggle against ruthless enemies.
We see how the mass terror attacks of 2001 have changed the political and strategic problems of American foreign policy. Despair and decay in the Arab world now present America and its allies with an extraordinarily difficult challenge. The accelerating collapse of civilized life in broad reaches of Africa--and the looming disasters of a similar kind in Central Asia--threatens to create lawless, violent zones where terrorism can thrive, and weapons of mass destruction and biological and chemical weapons can proliferate.
We learn why key American alliances have frayed and why the Bush administration's pronouncements and actions have ignited the most acrimonious U.S. political battles over foreign policy since the Vietnam War. Mead closes with a rigorous assessment of both Bush and his critics, and describes the urgent steps the United States must take lest casualties in the war on terror mount and the war itself spin out of control. He proposes a new approach to the war that can rebuild domestic and international support for a tough antiterror policy, outlines a new initiative for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and recommends sweeping changes for reforming international institutions, including the United Nations Security Council.
Power, Terror, Peace, and War is a clear, concise guide to some of the most pressing issues before us, today and for the foreseeable future.
Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence, proposes a new strategic paradigm based on the premise that an unfettered global capitalism and a more aggressive American imperium are inevitable. Sometimes his terminology only muddles the conventional wisdom: for instance, he labels the neoconservatives' moralistic, interventionist foreign policy "Revival Wilsonianism," even though it rejects traditional Wilsonians' defining belief in binding international institutions. And he identifies Islamist militancy as "Arabian fascism," even though the movement advocates religious rather than ethnic solidarity. In other cases, Mead provides a useful framework, such as his contrast between the (Henry) "Fordist" bureaucratic welfare state of the 20th century and the new century's individualistic "millennial capitalism," whose roots he traces to a "Jacksonian" rebellion against the professional class that administered post�"New Deal American society. Also valuable is Mead's refinement of Joseph Nye's distinction between soft and hard power. Hard power, Mead says, ought to be further divided between "sharp" (military) and "sticky" (economic) power, while soft power comprises "sweet" (cultural) and "hegemonic" (the totality of America's agenda-setting power). These concepts help shape Mead's approach to the Bush doctrine. He supports its most controversial elements, unilateralism and pre-emptive war, but urges greater attention to the sticky, sweet and hegemonic aspects of American influence in the next stage of the war on terror. Mead's book demonstrates the value and difficulty of analyzing the "architecture of America's world policy" from such heights of abstraction before hindsight has clarified what is historically determined and what is contingent.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 13, 2005
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Excerpt from Power, Terror, Peace, and War by Walter Russell Mead
No Angel in Our Whirlwind
The concept of grand strategy comes to us from the German military writer Carl von Clausewitz. Tactics, said Clausewitz, was about winning battles; strategy was about winning campaigns and wars. Grand strategy was about deciding what wars to fight. Tactics was for generals and other officers; strategy was the business of the general military headquarters; and grand strategy was for ministers and kings.
Not anymore. Clausewitz's vision of leadership and strategy dates from the image Joseph Addison developed to describe military leadership in his 1705 poem "The Campaign," on the Duke of Marlborough's victory at the Battle of Blenheim. Addison depicts an organizational, professional heroism that reflected the new realities of the modern world. Leaders no longer showed their courage as Homeric heroes had done in personal combat, but in their cool-headed ability to shape gigantic events. As the Battle of Blenheim raged, Addison wrote that Marlborough:
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war:
In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the dreadful battle where to rage.
So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shaks a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.*
That may have been the way things worked at Blenheim and on the Prussian general staff, but it is not the way things work in America today. There is no angel in our whirlwind, no central guiding intelligence organizing American foreign policy into a coherent whole. Our civil society is larger, more dynamic, and more global in its reach than anything Clausewitz saw in Germany, and our officials are weaker than the elite that governed Germany in Bismarck and Clausewitz's day. Clausewitzian grand strategy requires long-term thinking; American officials are condemned by the realities of domestic politics to short-term thinking tied to election cycles and, for presidents, the two-term limit. Conventional Clausewitzian grand strategy also requires central direction. A Bismarck could ignore the German Reichstag and, with his thirty-eight years in power in first Prussia and then the Ger- man Empire, subordinate the bureaucracy to his will. No American president, much less secretary of state, ever gets this kind of power. Then there is Congress, a collection of whirlwinds in which angels are notably scarce, consisting of two houses each with its own set of rules, procedures, and powerful committees, and each jealous of its own powers and eager to check presidents and impose the (sometimes conflicting) visions of its power-
* Joseph Addison, "The Campaign," in The Works of the English Poets, with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, ed. Samuel Johnson (London: H. Baldwin, 1779), 23:51-67.
ful members and constituencies on American foreign policy.
The ever-shifting views of public opinion set and reset the boundaries of the possible for officeholders. When an American president is doing well in the polls, he can defy Congress and impose his will on the process; when the poll numbers fall, so does his power in Washington. As a result, American foreign policy reflects the vector of the impulses and interests, convictions and half-conscious biases of large numbers of people. It is a mall, not a boutique--a conglomeration of sometimes competing retailers offering a wide variety of products to a miscellaneous assemblage of consumers from every race and class rather than a single store with a focused strategy targeting a handful of carefully selected items for a narrow market. Nobody wants everything in the mall, and everybody thinks some of the merchandise on display is just awful, but most people can find something they like.
The foreign policy of the American government, however, is only one part of a much broader and more influential enterprise: the foreign policy of the American people. Billions of butterflies flap their wings to shape this mighty storm. There is the business world, including everything from corner grocery stores to giant corporations active across the entire surface of the globe with annual revenues larger than that of many member states of the United Nations. Those are the various types of media ranging from television networks to the blogosphere, and there are all the commentators, editors, owners, and reporters in the media, each pursuing a vision of how to see and shape American foreign policy.