The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series) / Edition 1

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In a provocative book about American hegemony, Christopher Layne outlines his belief that U.S. foreign policy has been consistent in its aims for more than sixty years and that the current Bush administration clings to mid-twentieth-century tactics—to no good effect. What should the nation's grand strategy look like for the next several decades? The end of the cold war profoundly and permanently altered the international landscape, yet we have seen no parallel change in the aims and shape of U.S. foreign policy. The Peace of Illusions intervenes in the ongoing debate about American grand strategy and the costs and benefits of "American empire." Layne urges the desirability of a strategy he calls "offshore balancing": rather than wield power to dominate other states, the U.S. government should engage in diplomacy to balance large states against one another. The United States should intervene, Layne asserts, only when another state threatens, regionally or locally, to destroy the established balance. Drawing on extensive archival research, Layne traces the form and aims of U.S. foreign policy since 1940, examining alternatives foregone and identifying the strategic aims of different administrations. His offshore-balancing notion, if put into practice with the goal of extending the "American Century," would be a sea change in current strategy. Layne has much to say about present-day governmental decision making, which he examines from the perspectives of both international relations theory and American diplomatic history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Editor's Choice—Christopher Layne's 'The Peace of Illusion,' the most penetrating, intellectually daring work I've read on post-Cold War foreign policy."—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2009

"The Peace of Illusions is the clearest and most sophisticated argument for a radical alternative to the last sixty years of grand-strategy orthodoxy. It also signals a significant fluidity of ideological labels in the new debates on the direction of U.S. policy, itself a symptom of the widespread disorientation among American intellectuals on the world-political role of their state. In that sense, Layne's book can also be read as a product of the crisis in American realist thought, which its unorthodox conclusions may serve to deepen."—Peter Gowan, New Left Review, September/October 2006

"For over a decade, through a series of influential articles, Layne has been the leading advocate within the academy of an entirely new and much more detached foreign policy strategy he calls 'offshore balancing.' In The Peace of Illusions, he puts his argument in book form, addressing conceptual as well as historical and policy issues. . . . It combines deep historical reading with rigorous theory-building and bold policy prescriptions. It is undoubtedly the most serious scholarly argument in many years for a U.S. policy of strategic disengagement, and should be considered required reading for students of international relations."—Colin Dueck, Perspectives on Politics, March 2007

"The Peace of Illusions is an excellent analysis of U.S. grand strategy since World War II that demonstrates the continuity of President Bush's foreign policy with the past. It provides a critique of the U.S. quest for hegemony over the past 60 years and proposes a policy of offshore balancing to protect American interests."—David F. Schmitz, Journal of American History, June 2007

"In Layne's telling, confronting the war-weakened Soviet Union was almost an afterthought. Stalin, he claims, actually wanted to persue detente with the United States and was only dissuaded when the Marshall Plan revealed U.S. intentions to force open Eastern Europe and achieve hegemony on the continent. Layne unconvincingly asserts that Harry Truman could have struck a deal with Stalin to set up Germany as an independant state, thereby reestablishing a balence of power in Eurasia and allowing the United States to withdraw across the Atlantic."—Jack Snyder, Foreign Affairs

"As an historical study and theoretical analysis, The Peace of Illusions succeeds in demonstrating that America's extraregional hegemony is not driven by security considerations but by economic and political interests and by a powerful ideology. U.S. global military power provided the United States with the opportunity and means to seek hegemony in Western Europe and other parts of Eurasia. But the real motivations that animated the hegemonic grand strategy are found at the domestic level. . . . Layne's ideas are an intellectual breath of fresh air. . . . As an offshore balancer, the United States could maximize its relative power effortlessly by standing on the sidelines while other great powers enter into security competition with each other."—Leon Hadar, The American Conservative, June 5, 2006

"Anyone who believes U.S. foreign policy has been mainly defensive since World War II, or thinks that this policy became transformed after the 9/11 attacks, should read this superb analysis of the Bush administration's diplomacy, the central roots of which run back nearly a century to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. With a sure grasp of both the historical facts and the theories that have driven the U.S. quest for global hegemony, Christopher Layne has made a masterful contribution to the intensifying post-Iraq-invasion debate over the course Americans are taking in their foreign policies."—Walter LaFeber, Tisch University Professor, Cornell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801437137
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents


1. Theory, History, and U.S. Grand Strategy

2. World War II and the Foundations of American Global Hegemony

3. U.S. Grand Strategy and the Soviet Union, 1945-1953

4. The Open Door and American Hegemony in Western Europe

5. The Containment of Europe: American Hegemony and European Responses

6. Liberal Ideology and U.S. Grand Strategy

7. The End of the Unipolar Era

8. The Strategy of Offshore Balancing




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