The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy [NOOK Book]

Overview

"For years there has been little or no critical reexamination of how and why the ultimately successful postwar American policy of 'patient but firm and vigilant containment of Soviet expansionist tendencies...and pressure against the free institutions of the western world' (as George Kennan formulated it at the time) has over six decades turned into a vast project for ending tyranny in the world. We defend this position by making the claim that the United States possesses an exceptional status among nations that confers upon it special
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The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy

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Overview

"For years there has been little or no critical reexamination of how and why the ultimately successful postwar American policy of 'patient but firm and vigilant containment of Soviet expansionist tendencies...and pressure against the free institutions of the western world' (as George Kennan formulated it at the time) has over six decades turned into a vast project for ending tyranny in the world. We defend this position by making the claim that the United States possesses an exceptional status among nations that confers upon it special international responsibilities, and exceptional privileges in meeting those responsibilities. This is where the problem lies. It has become somewhat of a national heresy to suggest the U.S. does not have a unique moral status and role to play in the history of nations and therefore in the affairs of the contemporary world. In fact it does not."

Cogently, thoughtfully, powerfully, William Pfaff--whose columns and commentary over the past 40-odd years have given him the widest international influence of any American commentator--lays out the historical roots behind the American exceptionalism that has animated our politics and foreign relations for decades, and makes clear why it is flawed and bound to fail. Those roots lie in the secularization of western society brought about by the Enlightenment. "My proposition in this book is that the United States' spearation from 1800 to 1941 from the common history of the west has disqualified it from the mandate it has assumed as the society that embodies the future"...and in many ways is responsible for the impasse in which it finds itself at the end of the disastrous events of the last 8 years. "It has failed to learn from experience because it lacks the indispensable experience Europeans have acquired of modern ideological folly and national tragedy."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In an age of charlatans and poseurs, William Pfaff has long stood for realism and sobriety. With its penetrating critique of the secular utopianism that perverts American statecraft, The Irony of Manifest Destiny affirms his standing as our wisest critic of U.S. foreign policy.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power and WashingtonRules: America’s Path to Permanent War

“Eleanor Roosevelt once said that wishful thinking was America’s ‘besetting sin.’ In an era of seemingly permanent war, when the doctrine of American exceptionalism and the manifest destiny of the United States reigns virtually unchallenged in Washington, William Pfaff’s lucid, dismayed commentary on the follies of such triumphalism has been an island of reason in the imperial sea. If his prescriptions, which hearken back to the America of foreign policy commonsense—that is, to George Kennan rather than George W. Bush, and, alas Barack Obama too—had been followed, the United States and the world would be in a far, far better situation. As things stand, though, Pfaff’s clarity and rigor at least offer posterity a way of understanding what actually happened, and why, when national power and national blindness combined to lead the United States down the path of utopian nationalism and in the process become both a danger to the world and to itself.”—David Rieff, author of At The Point of a Gun 

“Anyone fortunate enough to have read the International Herald Tribune over the last several decades knows William Pfaff as the thoughtful and original American heir to George Kennan’s sober Niebuhurian realism. Now, in his brilliant new essay on American foreign policy, Pfaff has applied his prudent realist vision to deconstructing the “tragedy” of America’s global interventionism. In the name of what he calls “secular  utopianism,” Pfaff sees in America’s increasingly imperialist foreign policy a residue of Enlightenment exceptionalism – America as a beacon of liberty and democracy’s global “keeper.” He shows persuasively why al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism are less perilous than we think, why our interventions in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan are successors to the futility of Vietnam, and why – despite his new spirit of multilateralism – President Obama is caught up in overseas policies likely to fail.  This is a book by an American looking from the outside in that needs to be read by every political leader and thinker caught on the inside looking out – most of all by President Obama, who celebrates Niebuhr in theory but seems caught up in the insidious practices of Dick Cheney and George Bush, Jr.”—Benjamin R. Barber, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos, author, Consumed and Jihad vs. McWorld

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802719676
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/23/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 162,800
  • File size: 491 KB

Meet the Author

William Pfaff is the author of 8 books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history. They include Barbarian Sentiments: America in the New Century, which was a finalist for the 1989 National Book Award, and which Ronald Steel called "a work of moral passion and striking insight by America's best foreign-affairs columnist." The late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. said "William Pfaff is Walter Lippmann's authentic heir. Like Lippmann, he places the rush of events in historical and cultural perspective and writes about them with lucidity and grace." For 25 years, Pfaff wrote a column for the International Herald Tribune, and his essays and articles have appeared widely, in the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Harper's, and Foreign Affairs. He lives in Paris.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2015

    Pfaff addresses issues and raises questions that every American

    Pfaff addresses issues and raises questions that every American should consider. In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, the author challenges many of the justifications and assumptions made since the end of WW II regarding America's actions in the field of foreign affairs, particularly military actions and their justifications.                                                  

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    Posted July 14, 2011

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    Posted April 8, 2011

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