The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris

The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris

by Peter Beinart
     
 

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“Why do we succumb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.” — Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World

“Peter

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Overview

“Why do we succumb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.” — Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World

“Peter Beinart has written a vivid, empathetic, and convincing history of the men and ideas that have shaped the ambitions of American foreign policy during the last century—a story in which human fallibility and idealism flow together. The story continues, of course, and so his book is not only timely; it is indispensible.” — Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

Peter Beinart, one of the nation’s leading political writers, offers a provocative and strikingly original account of American hubris throughout history—and how we learn from the tragedies that result.

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Editorial Reviews

Carlos Lozada
…an insightful and enjoyable…account of the ideas and individuals that have animated America's global ambitions over the past century…If anything, [Beinart's] account underscores how many of the best-known and most respected intellectuals either despaired at their lack of influence, watched their ideas get twisted beyond recognition or found themselves abandoned precisely at the moment when their insights could have mattered most. The Icarus Syndrome should be required reading for all [George] Kennan wannabes and aspiring Washington wonks. Its lesson: Abandon hope all ye who theorize here.
—The Washington Post
Leslie H. Gelb
…a highly readable and useful hundred-year account of American ventures abroad that can serve as a path to understanding past failures and uncovering why policy renewal is now proving so elusive…[Beinart's] thesis is not new, but it is indefatigably rendered: America's shortcomings flow entirely from hubris or overconfidence, much as the mythical Icarus perished because he flew too near the sun.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A century of unwise American military adventures is probed in this perceptive study of foreign policy over-reach. Daily Beast and Time contributor Beinart (The Good Fight) highlights three examples of Washington's overconfidence: Woodrow Wilson's “hubris of reason”: the belief that reason, not force, could govern the world; the Kennedy-Johnson administrations' “hubris of toughness” during the Vietnam War; and George W. Bush's “hubris of dominance” in launching the Iraq War. In each case, Beinart finds a dangerous confluence of misleading experience and untethered ideology; the Iraq War, he contends, was fostered both by a 12-year string of easy military triumphs from Panama to Afghanistan, and a belief that America can impose democracy by force. (The book continues the author's ongoing apology for his early support of the Iraq War.) Beinart's analyses are consistently lucid and provocative—e.g., he calls Ronald Reagan “a dove in hawk's feathers,” and his final conclusion is that “Obama will need to... decouple American optimism from the project of American global mastery.” The book amounts to a brief for moderation, good sense, humility, and looking before leaping—virtues that merit Beinart's spirited, cogent defense. (June)
The Economist
“Impressive. . . . Mr Beinart has produced an original and ambitious study.”
Newsweek
“A rollicking history. . . . Beinart is a wonderful storyteller. There’s not much that he leaves out of The Icarus Syndrome. (It’s exactly the book I wish I’d had when I was teaching American foreign policy.)”
Jane Mayer
“Energetically researched and entertainingly written, Peter Beinart’s The Icarus Syndrome is both a fascinating intellectual history and an important coming-of-age parable about his generation’s hard-learned lesson in the limits of American power.”
Geoffrey Wheatcroft
The Icarus Syndrome is a readable survey of ‘America in the world’ over the past hundred years. Nothing is more chilling than Beinart’s catalog of the continuous, wrong-headed invocation of ‘Munich’ and ‘appeasement.’”
The Los Angeles Times
“A brilliant new book about the pendulum swings of U.S. foreign policy between excessive ambition and excessive retrenchment.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
“Beinart possesses the analytical skills of a seasoned historian. . . . He’s a smart, reasoned political analyst who doesn’t resort to hyperbole and hysteria when making a point. . . The result is a book that’s generally enlightening.”
The Boston Globe
“Informative and engaging. . . . Beinart’s book tackles a great deal of material in an approachable, yet never simplistic, way. . . . The Icarus Syndrome is a valuable addition to the public debate about the United States’s ever evolving role in the world.”
The Washington Post
“Powerful. . . . An insightful and enjoyable account of the ideas and individuals that have animated America’s global ambitions over the past century. . . . Required reading.”
Walter Russell Mead
“With this book Beinart vindicates his standing as one of the major thinkers of his generation on the United States’ world role.”
Fareed Zakaria
“Why do we succomb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.”
Steve Coll
“Peter Beinart has written a vivid, empathetic, and convincing history of the men and ideas that have shaped the ambitions of American foreign policy during the last century—a story in which human fallibility and idealism flow together. Beinart’s book is not only timely; it is indispensible.”
Jon Meacham
The Icarus Syndrome does what works of history and journalism do at their very best: use the past to illuminate, in often stark and surprising ways, the challenges of the present. This is an important book.”
Paul Kennedy
“Beinart’s The Icarus Syndrome is very much a book with a message: a cautionary message to avoid hubris and to recognize the messy reality of world politics.”
Sean Wilentz
The Icarus Syndrome is a confident and contentious history of more than a century of American foreign policy and its recurring tragic flaws.”
George Packer
“Beinart is at his most illuminating when he lingers on forgotten episodes that reveal how difficult it is to understand the implications of any event at any given moment—the extent to which everyone is a prisoner of past failure or past success.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061998034
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
985,864
File size:
1 MB

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What People are saying about this

Leslie H. Gelb
“A highly readable and useful hundred-year account of American ventures abroad that can serve as a path to understanding the past failures and uncovering why policy renewal is now proving so elusive. . . . Beinart usefully grapples with the practical impediments to making good policy.”
Fareed Zakaria
“Why do we succomb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.”
Walter Russell Mead
“With this book Beinart vindicates his standing as one of the major thinkers of his generation on the United States’ world role.”
Paul Kennedy
“Beinart’s The Icarus Syndrome is very much a book with a message: a cautionary message to avoid hubris and to recognize the messy reality of world politics.”
Jon Meacham
The Icarus Syndrome does what works of history and journalism do at their very best: use the past to illuminate, in often stark and surprising ways, the challenges of the present. This is an important book.”
Sean Wilentz
The Icarus Syndrome is a confident and contentious history of more than a century of American foreign policy and its recurring tragic flaws.”
Steve Coll
“Peter Beinart has written a vivid, empathetic, and convincing history of the men and ideas that have shaped the ambitions of American foreign policy during the last century—a story in which human fallibility and idealism flow together. Beinart’s book is not only timely; it is indispensible.”
George Packer
“Beinart is at his most illuminating when he lingers on forgotten episodes that reveal how difficult it is to understand the implications of any event at any given moment—the extent to which everyone is a prisoner of past failure or past success.”

Read More

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