Liberty's Surest Guardian: Rebuilding Nations After War from the Founders to Obama

Overview

Liberty’s Surest Guardian traces America’s efforts at building nations from the country’s founding, illuminating what America has to offer failed states around the world today.

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Liberty's Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama

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Overview

Liberty’s Surest Guardian traces America’s efforts at building nations from the country’s founding, illuminating what America has to offer failed states around the world today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“’Nation-building can only work when the people own it.’ Jeremi Suri argues that the United States has too often forgotten this truth over the course of its nation-building history—including the American revolution and Reconstruction as well as efforts in the Philippines, Germany, Japan, and Vietnam—in which there have been both successes and failures. Suri draws lessons from all these efforts that are particularly valuable today, while making the provocative argument that as hard as we wish to deny it, nation-building is part of American DNA.”

—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Praise for Jeremi Suri's Henry Kissinger and the American Century

"This surely the best book yet published about Henry Kissinger..Suri actually makes an attempt to understand his subject in the appropriate historical context. I salute his scholarship. Invaluable insight." —Niall Ferguson, author of The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West

"This remarkable book is far more than a biography of Henry Kissinger. By probing Kissinger's personal background and intellectual formation as well as his often cunning and frequently controversial statecraft, Jeremi Suri brilliantly illuminates both the character of Kissinger the man and the nature of the turbulent and tension-racked age in which he lived and did so much—for better or worse—to shape."

—David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear

"This is a readable and provocative book that successfully explores the formation of its subject's worldview and rise to power. Suri is at his best when demonstrating the roots of Kissinger's distrust of mass democratic politics, his obsession with strong leaders, his emphasis on the limits of American power and his disdain for the 'insular self-righteousness' and 'utopianism' of reformers 'advocating a vision of global democracy'...[A] timely book."

—Eric Arnesen, Chicago Tribune

"Nobody will ever accuse Jeremi Suri of lacking style or insight. His study of Henry Kissinger's personality and place in history offers piercing originality—so much so that laying down Dallek for Suri feels rather like that moment in The Prince and the Showgirl when Laurence Olivier, after telling all and sundry that they have too little love in their life, meets his ex-mistress...and realizes that she has too much."

—David Frum, National Review

"The fact that even highly educated Americans are scarcely aware of this past has made it difficult for the United States to learn from its experiences. Suri hopes to correct this, and his brief historical sketches can be useful for policy makers and those who write about American foreign policy — if only to remind them that what Americans have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq has been done countless times by their predecessors in many other distant lands." –Robert Kagan, New York Times

"Suri’s core conclusion is sound: nation building is difficult, expensive, and unpleasant, and at best it can be only partially ­successful — but it is often unavoidable." ­– Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs

“The definitive one-volume historical account of Americans’ efforts to transform other societies.”–International Affairs

Robert Kagan
The United States military has been in the business of nation-building a long time. The fact that even highly educated Americans are scarcely aware of this past has made it difficult for the United States to learn from its experiences. Suri hopes to correct this, and his brief historical sketches can be useful for policy makers and those who write about American foreign policy—if only to remind them that what Americans have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq has been done countless times by their predecessors in many other distant lands.
—The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews

An impassioned apology for spreading American hegemony throughout the world.

Nation-building, writes Suri (History/Univ. of Wisconsin; Henry Kissinger and the American Century, 2007, etc.), is like parenting. In order to bolster good conduct and civilized behavior in unruly nascent states, theUnited States intercedes by offering military protection and financial assistance so that the fledglings can get on their feet and organize their own future. This is how Suri characterizes the definitive nation-building "projects" throughout American history: the founding of the Republic, Reconstruction of the recalcitrant Confederacy, wresting the Philippines from Spain at the turn of the 19th century, the Marshall Plan implemented to reconstruct Europe and Asia after World War II and the sticky interventions in Korea, Vietnam and finally Afghanistan. In this patriotic study, Suri traces the origins of American nation-building as propounded best by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in a unique synthesis of plurality and union. This "fusion of republicanism and empire" would not only justify U.S. expansion from coast to coast, but also intervention elsewhere in order to eliminate perceived threats to its stability and preserve world order. By virtue of comparison with previous successful nation-building projects such as Reconstruction and rebuilding Germany after World War II, the author faults the Bush administration's interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq as being too minimal, distracted, stingy and "part-time." The long-term commitment that Suri urges is not "a traditional empire of forceful repression," he insists, but more like a "visiting partner." Finding partners, assisting citizens and even working with corrupt leaders prove acceptable as long as the goal is "stability, unity and cooperation within a functioning set of state institutions." Unfortunately, the author neatly brushes off the rest of the world's profound resentment of American self-interest and messianic muscle-flexing.

A blithe historical evaluation that fails to reach the lofty level of Suri's previous book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439119136
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 7/17/2012
  • Pages: 358
  • Sales rank: 1,284,235
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeremi Suri is the author of three books, most recently Henry Kissinger and the American Century. A frequent contributor to national media, including Wired and The Boston Globe, he is a professor of history at the University of Austin, Texas, where he also makes his home. Visit Jeremi on his website JeremiSuri.net and his blog GlobalBrief.ca.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The American Nation-Building Creed 11

Chapter 2 Reconstruction After Civil War 47

Chapter 3 Reconstruction After Empire 82

Chapter 4 Reconstruction After Fascism 124

Chapter 5 Reconstruction After Communist Revolution 165

Chapter 6 Reconstruction After September 11 210

Conclusion: The Future of Nation-Building 266

Notes 285

Acknowledgments 339

Index 343

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