American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security

American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security

by Richard K. Betts
     
 

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While American national security policy has grown more interventionist since the Cold War, Washington has also hoped to shape the world on the cheap. Misled by the stunning success against Iraq in 1991, administrations of both parties have pursued ambitious aims with limited force, committing the country's military frequently yet often hesitantly, with inconsistent

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Overview

While American national security policy has grown more interventionist since the Cold War, Washington has also hoped to shape the world on the cheap. Misled by the stunning success against Iraq in 1991, administrations of both parties have pursued ambitious aims with limited force, committing the country's military frequently yet often hesitantly, with inconsistent justification. These ventures have produced strategic confusion, unplanned entanglements, and indecisive results. This collection of essays by Richard K. Betts, a leading international politics scholar, investigates the use of American force since the end of the Cold War, suggesting guidelines for making it more selective and successful.

Betts brings his extensive knowledge of twentieth century American diplomatic and military history to bear on the full range of theory and practice in national security, surveying the Cold War roots of recent initiatives and arguing that U.S. policy has always been more unilateral than liberal theorists claim. He exposes mistakes made by humanitarian interventions and peace operations; reviews the issues raised by terrorism and the use of modern nuclear, biological, and cyber weapons; evaluates the case for preventive war, which almost always proves wrong; weighs the lessons learned from campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam; assesses the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia; quells concerns about civil-military relations; exposes anomalies within recent defense budgets; and confronts the practical barriers to effective strategy. Betts ultimately argues for greater caution and restraint, while encouraging more decisive action when force is required, and he recommends a more dispassionate assessment of national security interests, even in the face of global instability and unfamiliar threats.

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Editorial Reviews

American Conservative
a lucid and insightful guide to the use of armed force as an instrument of U.S. power.

Choice

This volume is instructive for policy makers and would be engaging and provocative in the classroom.... Recommeded.

Foreign Affairs - Lawrence D. Freedman
Betts combines serious thought, common sense, and deep historical knowledge, rather than simply applying abstract theories, and his conclusions are expressed in plain English

H-Diplo Roundtable - Scott A. Silverstone
American Force deserves to be widely read and debated.

Political Science Quarterly - Michael O'Hanlon
Richard Betts has written an extremely important book that is probably the best critique of the prevalent bipartisan thinking on post-Cold War foreign policy produced to date.... [Betts] has already written four or five classics in the field, and this book adds another to that remarkable list.

International Affairs - David Ryan
Betts provides a sobering and bluntly honest critique of US force. He does so through clear writing and argument.

H-War - Thomas Meagher
American Force is a well-reasoned and thoughtful critique of the current U.S. national security environment, one that policymakers should not ignore.

Survival
Richard K. Betts is an extraordinarily clear thinker and writer.

Lawrence J. Korb

In twelve detailed, well-written, and insightful chapters, American Force does a masterful job analyzing all of the important issues that have arisen during the conduct of post--World War II United States national security policy. This book is a must-read for policymakers and analysts trying to comprehend the current threats to U.S. security and develop effective and efficient responses to them.

Philip Zelikow

In this distillation of a career spent on careful study of America's use of military power, Richard K. Betts provides a good, strong dose of skepticism. A practical man, remarkably free of ideological cant, Betts has mixed a fine antidote to strategic conceits, a healthy and humbling aid to good judgment.

Stephen Walt

Richard K. Betts has long been one of America's smartest, sanest, and most knowledgeable scholars on national security affairs. American Force distills his considerable wisdom and offers incisive and clear-eyed analyses of the main security issues that United States leaders now face. If those who aspire to be commander-in-chief (and those who hope to advise him or her) could be required to read one book, this should be it.

Foreign Affairs
Betts combines serious thought, common sense, and deep historical knowledge, rather than simply applying abstract theories, and his conclusions are expressed in plain English

— Lawrence D. Freedman

Kirkus Reviews
Betts (Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security, 2009, etc.), the director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, surveys the landscape of American national security with a dispassionate and analytical eye. Placing current issues in their historical context, the author begins with the evolution of NATO from a mutual defense pact into a new political club and a means of extending American power into the "New Europe." The end of the Cold War freed America to use force "on behalf of the so-called international community," but too often its poorly conceived interventions prolonged suffering instead of relieving it. Betts criticizes a "profoundly confused" policy that "abetted slow-motion savagery" in Bosnia, for example, and recommends a set of standards by which to determine when military intervention for humanitarian purposes is likely to be a worthwhile option. The author also explores the nature of the changing threat from WMD, appropriate responses to terrorism and insurgency, serious concerns about the possibility of military conflict with China, appropriate levels of defense funding and whether the entire concept of strategy in military affairs has any meaning. "The expansive concept of national security carried over from the Cold War, when it was necessary, to the unipolar world, when it was tempting," writes Betts, who advocates for "less ambitious uses of force for world ordering in the near term, present concentration on forceful counterterrorism and nonforcible counterproliferation." While he recognizes the ongoing need for military force as a foreign-policy option, he cautions that America should avoid bluffs and either go all in or stay out. Betts does not shill for any particular ideology; he presents closely, sometimes densely reasoned arguments for his conclusions. Highly recommended for aficionados of foreign-policy and national-security issues.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231151238
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Series:
A Council on Foreign Relations Book Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
977,067
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Loch K. Johnson

Richard K. Betts offers fresh thinking about where America stands in the world in the early twenty-first century and how this nation can move forward most sensibly in the defense of its territory and global interests. In short, this is an outstanding effort. There is no other book quite like it.

Loch K. Johnson, University of Georgia

Stephen Walt
Richard K. Betts has long been one of America's smartest, sanest, and most knowledgeable scholars on national security affairs. American Force distills his considerable wisdom and offers incisive and clear-eyed analyses of the main security issues that United States leaders now face. If those who aspire to be commander-in-chief (and those who hope to advise him or her) could be required to read one book, this should be it.

Lawrence J. Korb
In twelve detailed, well-written, and insightful chapters, American Force does a masterful job analyzing all of the important issues that have arisen during the conduct of post–World War II United States national security policy. This book is a must-read for policymakers and analysts trying to comprehend the current threats to U.S. security and develop effective and efficient responses to them.

Philip Zelikow
In this distillation of a career spent on careful study of America's use of military power, Richard K. Betts provides a good, strong dose of skepticism. A practical man, remarkably free of ideological cant, Betts has mixed a fine antidote to strategic conceits, a healthy and humbling aid to good judgment.

Read More

Meet the Author

Richard K. Betts is director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of numerous books on military strategy, intelligence, and foreign policy, including Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security and Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crises. He has taught at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, is a former analyst at the Brookings Institution, and has served on the National Commission on Terrorism, the staffs of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the National Security Council, and the advisory panels for the director of Central Intelligence and State and Defense departments.

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