The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life

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9780195308372: 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 ensure security. 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 American statesmen--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, the American 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 lead our 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.

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About the Author:


Michael Lind is the Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. Lind has been Assistant to the Director of the U.S. State Department's Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs and executive editor of The National Interest. He is the author most recently of What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America's Greatest President (2005). Lind has written several books of nonfiction, fiction and poetry, including The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (with Ted Halstead, 2001) and The Next American Nation (1995). He has been an editor or staff writer at The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine and the New Republic, and writes frequently for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He lives in Washington, D.C.

From The Washington Post:

Amid the chaos of Iraq, America is entering into a new period of intellectual ferment over its national security strategy. What are our goals and interests overseas? How should we pursue them? What sort of military do we need?

In a sense, we have come full circle: This country had a comparable debate three decades ago, spurred by Vietnam. One response, symbolized by Sen. George McGovern's famous 1972 slogan "Come Home America," was to try to reduce U.S. involvements and troop deployments overseas. An opposite school of thought, embraced by the rising young Ford administration officials Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, held that the United States should respond to Vietnam by rebuilding its military strength so that it could be used -- even for wars of choice -- to assert American preeminence in the world. Now that we have rediscovered the costs and limits of the use of force, it's again time to reevaluate how we deal with the world.

Michael Lind's The American Way of Strategy represents an early and thoughtful attempt to sketch a post-Iraq foreign policy. The virtue of Lind's book is its sweeping ambition. He writes in evident outrage over the policies of the Bush administration, but his book is not about the debacle in Iraq or how to respond to Islamist terrorism. It is not even about the renewed dispute between the great foreign policy traditions of realism (a la Henry Kissinger) and idealism (a la Woodrow Wilson). Instead, Lind, a fellow at the New America Foundation, scours history for tenets that have guided U.S. foreign policy in the past and that should be applied in the future. The result is uneven; Lind is sometimes brilliant and occasionally silly. But his ideas are insightful, and he provides a fresh perspective on a wide range of issues, from regime change to globalization.

Lind's central thesis is that the United States went astray after the end of the Cold War by seeking to dominate the world in a way that is both overly expensive and unnecessary. Historically, he asserts, the goal of U.S. strategy has been to preserve "the American way of life." This is a vague phrase, reminiscent of Fourth of July speeches; Lind turns out to mean not motherhood and apple pie but civil liberties, separation of powers and, more broadly, a free, educated citizenry and a prosperous middle class. He argues that our greatest security threat is not any particular country or foreign force but the prospect that, in overreacting to dangers such as al-Qaeda, we will destroy our way of life. He sketches several dour possibilities -- for example, a garrison state in which Americans hand over their freedoms in exchange for security, or a "castle society" in which the wealthy give up on government and instead buy private protection.

Lind argues that instead of trying to dominate the globe, the United States should wield its influence in a "concert of powers," including China, India, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. The single biggest failing of the book is that it doesn't explore this model of cooperation further or acknowledge that, in practice, things are not so simple. After all, the Clinton administration initially attempted to let European governments take the lead in stopping ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and was virtually begged by the Europeans to stop being so modest; the second-term Bush administration has tried intermittently to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions through a concert of powers, but so far without much success.

Lind interprets virtually everything the United States does overseas these days as an outgrowth of its eagerness to prevent the emergence of rival superpowers. In the most questionable section of the book, he views with utter cynicism America's attempt to stop North Korea's nuclear program. "U.S. fear of an independent Japan, more than the unlikely prospect that North Korean weapons would make their way into the hands of Muslim jihadist terrorists, was the major, if seldom acknowledged, reason for the repeated war scares in Washington over the prospect of North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons," he writes. War scares? In fact, the Bush administration has (fairly) been criticized for saying too little about North Korea's nuclear advances, in order to cover up for Washington's failure to stop them. Later on, when Lind describes what his concert of powers might do, one goal is preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So is it worthwhile to try to stop the North Korean nuclear program, or isn't it?

What makes Lind's views so unusual is that while denouncing the U.S. intervention in Iraq, he remains a defender of the Vietnam War. One of his previous books was entitled Vietnam: The Necessary War, and Lind here again defends the conflict, which cost some 58,000 American lives. "The stakes for the United States during the Cold War conflicts in Asia were far higher than the stakes in Kosovo or in Iraq," he explains. So Lind emerges as both a determined Cold War hawk and an equally passionate post-Cold War dove. It takes quite a bit of theorizing to explain how he arrived at these positions. His book is not always persuasive, but he deserves credit for some unconventional thinking.

Reviewed by James Mann
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Descrizione libro Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2006. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 ensure security. 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 American statesmen--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, the American 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 lead our 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. Codice libro della libreria FLT9780195308372

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Descrizione libro Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2006. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 ensure security. 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 American statesmen--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, the American 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 lead our 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. Codice libro della libreria FLT9780195308372

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