American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy

American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy

by Andrew J. Bacevich
     
 

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"Andrew Bacevich reconsiders the assumptions and purposes governing the exercise of American global power. Examining the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton - as well as George W. Bush's first year in office - he demolishes the view that the United States has failed to devise a replacement for containment as a basis for foreign policy. He finds instead…  See more details below

Overview

"Andrew Bacevich reconsiders the assumptions and purposes governing the exercise of American global power. Examining the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton - as well as George W. Bush's first year in office - he demolishes the view that the United States has failed to devise a replacement for containment as a basis for foreign policy. He finds instead that successive post-Cold War administrations have adhered to a well-defined "strategy of openness." Motivated by the imperative of economic expansionism, that strategy aims to foster an open and integrated international order, thereby perpetuating the undisputed primacy of the world's sole remaining superpower. Moreover, openness is not a new strategy, but has been an abiding preoccupation of policymakers as far back as Woodrow Wilson." "Though based on expectations that eliminating barriers to the movement of trade, capital, and ideas nurtures not only affluence but also democracy, the aggressive pursuit of openness has met considerable resistance. To overcome that resistance, U.S. policymakers have with increasing frequency resorted to force, and military power has emerged as never before as the preferred instrument of American statecraft, resulting in the progressive militarization of U.S. foreign policy." Neither indictment nor celebration, American Empire sees the drive for openness for what it is - a breathtakingly ambitious project aimed at establishing a global imperium. Large questions remain about that project's feasibility and about the human, financial and moral costs that it will entail. By penetrating the illusions obscuring the reality of U.S. policy this book marks an essential first step toward finding the answers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This small book's analysis of America's foreign policy in the post-Cold War era is unfortunately being eclipsed by current events. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, interprets America as the new Rome: committed to maintaining and expanding an empire acquired by design, not accident. He argues persuasively that the foreign policies of Clinton and Bush 41 reflected an essential continuity because all three administrations had essentially the same view of America's vital interests and how best to secure them. They accepted an American mission as the guardian of history, responsible for changing the world by making it more open and more integrated. They accepted an American global leadership, manifested by maintaining preeminence in the world's strategically significant regions. They accepted the necessity of permanent global military supremacy. While Bacevich finds no purpose is served by denying the empire, the important thing is that America behave wisely. Doing so, he argues, demands foresight, consistency and self-awareness. Bacevich derives his view from two long-neglected intellectual figures: Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams. Between them they developed the insight that American well-being depends on the effective functioning of a global economy, and simultaneous global adherence to certain behavior. Harmony of conviction and consistency of purpose has characterized overt American strategy from the days of Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman, and Bacevich asserts that the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations maintained an empire built less on coercion than on persuasion. When something more is necessary, "gunboats and Gurkhas" suffice-e.g., cruise missiles and similar long-range precision weapons systems, used in cooperation with local forces enhanced by American expertise and material. That does not seem to describe the war the U.S. is preparing for now. (Nov. 15) Forecast: The trope of American empire is a familiar one by now, and the fact that this book was completed before Bush 43's shift in foreign policy toward preemptive action and possible full-scale occupation should limit its usefulness to its historical analyses. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This systematic, well-argued work reprises the classic Jeffersonian approach to American foreign policy. The core Jeffersonian concerns are all here: America's activist global policy is primarily driven by corporate interests; it undercuts democracy at home and abroad; it involves ruinous expenditures; and it increases the risks to national security. These ideas, of course, are not new, having been brought forward at virtually every juncture in American foreign policy from the wars of the French Revolution in the 1790s to the aftermath of September 11. But Bacevich does more than just restate a venerable set of beliefs. By contrasting the foreign policies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton against the ideas of the "Jeffersonian" historians Charles Beard and William Appleton Williams, Bacevich subjects the records of Bush and Clinton to a scorching critique. At the same time, he examines the two historians' strengths and weaknesses to explain why they were both celebrated and frustrated in their respective eras — and largely (if unjustly) forgotten soon after. As Bacevich notes, Beard and Williams were right about all kinds of things, but both were dead wrong about the central foreign policy questions of the day. Beard (like Pat Buchanan) thought World War II an unnecessary war, brought on by Franklin Roosevelt's imperial scheming. And neither Williams' revisionist history of the Cold War nor his sympathy for communism has held up well. Arguing that two drivers who ended up in such spectacular crashes had better road maps than anybody else is a tough but not impossible job, and Bacevich pulls it off reasonably well. He ends this thoughtful book by noting that the question is nolonger whether the United States should become an imperial power, but what kind of empire it should be. Although Beard and Williams would resist being drawn into this debate, Bacevich is right to insist that their views will greatly enrich it.
Boston Globe

[A] straightforward "critical interpretation of American statecraft in the 1990s"...he is straightforward, too, in establishing where he stands on the political spectrum about US foreign policy...Bacevich insists that there are no differences in the key assumptions governing the foreign policy of the administrations of Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II—and this will certainly be the subject of passionate debate...Bacevich's argument persuades...by means of engaging prose as well as the compelling and relentless accumulation of detail...Bring[s] badly needed [perspective] to troubled times.
— James A. Miller

The Guardian

For everyone there's Andrew Bacevich's American Empire, an intelligent, elegantly written, highly convincing polemic that demonstrates how the motor of US foreign policy since independence has been the need to guarantee economic growth.
— Dominick Donald

Across the Board

Andrew Bacevich's remarkably clear, cool-headed, and enlightening book is an expression of the United States' unadmitted imperial primacy. It's as bracing as a plunge into a clear mountain lake after exposure to the soporific internationalist conventional wisdom...Bacevich performs an invaluable service by restoring missing historical context and perspective to today's shallow, hand-wringing discussion of Sept. 11...Bacevich's brave, intelligent book restores our vocabulary to debate anew the United States' purpose in the world.
— Richard J. Whalen

Washington Monthly

To say that Andrew Bacevich's American Empire is a truly realistic work of realism is therefore to declare it not only a very good book, but also a pretty rare one. The author, a distinguished former soldier, combines a tough-minded approach to the uses of military force with a grasp of American history that is both extremely knowledgeable and exceptionally clear-sighted. This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the background to U.S. world hegemony at the start of the 21st century; and it is also a most valuable warning about the dangers into which the pursuit and maintenance of this hegemony may lead America.
— Anatol Levin

Political Studies Review

American Empire is an immensely thoughtful book. Its reflections go beyond the narrow realm of U.S. security policy and demonstrate a deep understanding of American history and culture.
— David Hastings Dunn

Walter A. McDougall
I have long suspected our nation's triumphs and trials owed much to the American genius for solipsism and self-deception. Bacevich has convinced me of it by holding up a mirror to self-styled idealists and realists alike. Read all the books you want about the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world, just be sure American Empire is one of them.
Michael S. Sherry
This deeply informed, impressive polemical book is precisely what Americans, in and outside of the academy, needed before 9/11 and need now even more. Crisp, lively, biting prose will help them enjoy it. Among its many themes are hubris, hegemony, and the fatuousness of claims by the American military that they can now achieve 'transparency' in war-making.
Ronald Steel
The United States could not possibly have an empire, Americans think. But we do. And with verve and telling insight Andrew Bacevich shows how it works and what it means.
Boston Globe - James A. Miller
[A] straightforward "critical interpretation of American statecraft in the 1990s"...he is straightforward, too, in establishing where he stands on the political spectrum about US foreign policy...Bacevich insists that there are no differences in the key assumptions governing the foreign policy of the administrations of Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II--and this will certainly be the subject of passionate debate...Bacevich's argument persuades...by means of engaging prose as well as the compelling and relentless accumulation of detail...Bring[s] badly needed [perspective] to troubled times.
The Guardian - Dominick Donald
For everyone there's Andrew Bacevich's American Empire, an intelligent, elegantly written, highly convincing polemic that demonstrates how the motor of US foreign policy since independence has been the need to guarantee economic growth.
Across the Board - Richard J. Whalen
Andrew Bacevich's remarkably clear, cool-headed, and enlightening book is an expression of the United States' unadmitted imperial primacy. It's as bracing as a plunge into a clear mountain lake after exposure to the soporific internationalist conventional wisdom...Bacevich performs an invaluable service by restoring missing historical context and perspective to today's shallow, hand-wringing discussion of Sept. 11...Bacevich's brave, intelligent book restores our vocabulary to debate anew the United States' purpose in the world.
Washington Monthly - Anatol Levin
To say that Andrew Bacevich's American Empire is a truly realistic work of realism is therefore to declare it not only a very good book, but also a pretty rare one. The author, a distinguished former soldier, combines a tough-minded approach to the uses of military force with a grasp of American history that is both extremely knowledgeable and exceptionally clear-sighted. This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the background to U.S. world hegemony at the start of the 21st century; and it is also a most valuable warning about the dangers into which the pursuit and maintenance of this hegemony may lead America.
Political Studies Review - David Hastings Dunn
American Empire is an immensely thoughtful book. Its reflections go beyond the narrow realm of U.S. security policy and demonstrate a deep understanding of American history and culture.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674009400
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
11/28/2002
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.76(h) x 0.98(d)

What People are saying about this

Ronald Steel
The United States could not possibly have an empire, Americans think. But we do. And with verve and telling insight Andrew Bacevich shows how it works and what it means.
Ronald Steel, author of Temptations of a Superpower: America's Foreign Policy after the Cold War
The United States could not possibly have an empire, Americans think. But we do. And with verve and telling insight Andrew Bacevich shows how it works and what it means.
Michael S. Sherry
This deeply informed, impressive polemical book is precisely what Americans, in and outside of the academy, needed before 9/11 and need now even more. Crisp, lively, biting prose will help them enjoy it. Among its many themes are hubris, hegemony, and the fatuousness of claims by the American military that they can now achieve 'transparency' in war-making.
Michael S. Sherry, Northwestern University
Walter A. McDougall
I have long suspected our nation's triumphs and trials owed much to the American genius for solipsism and self-deception. Bacevich has convinced me of it by holding up a mirror to self-styled idealists and realists alike. Read all the books you want about the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world, just be sure American Empire is one of them.
Walter A. McDougall, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, University of Pennsylvania

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Meet the Author

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University.

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