The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest

by Walter A. McDougall


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A fierce critique of civil religion as the taproot of America’s bid for global hegemony

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Walter A. McDougall argues powerfully that a pervasive but radically changing faith that “God is on our side” has inspired U.S. foreign policy ever since 1776. The first comprehensive study of the role played by civil religion in U.S. foreign relations over the entire course of the country’s history, McDougall’s book explores the deeply infused religious rhetoric that has sustained and driven an otherwise secular republic through peace, war, and global interventions for more than two hundred years. From the Founding Fathers and the crusade for independence to the Monroe Doctrine, through World Wars I and II and the decades-long Cold War campaign against “godless Communism,” this coruscating polemic reveals the unacknowledged but freely exercised dogmas of civil religion that bind together a “God blessed” America, sustaining the nation in its pursuit of an ever elusive global destiny.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300244533
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,285,453
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Walter A. McDougall is professor of history and the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous books include the 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winner The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition xi

Introduction: 9/11 in Parallax Vision 1

1 Why the Bush Blunders? 7

2 Why the Imperial Overstretch? 17

3 Why the American Heresies? 25

Washington's World: The Civil Church Expectant 33

4 A Divine-Right Republic in the Family of Nations 39

5 Washington's Farewell Address 46

6 Thomas Jefferson and the Utopian Temptation 53

7 John Quincy Adams and the Problem of Neighborhood 60

8 Manifest Destiny 71

9 European Revolutions and American Civil War 80

10 The Gilded Age: Last Years of Orthodoxy 90

Wilson's World: The Civil Church Militant 101

11 Cuba Libre! 107

12 The Progressive Social Gospel 117

13 Benevolent Assimilation 125

14 Twentieth-Century Trends 130

15 Wilson's War 141

16 Wilson's Peace 154

Roosevelt's World: The Civil Church Agonistes 167

17 Modern Explosions 173

18 The Progressive Republican Denouement 182

19 Roosevelt the Isolationist 191

20 Roosevelt the Interventionist 200

21 World War II: The Great Masquerade 212

22 Roosevelt the Failed High Priest 224

Kennedy's World: The Civil Church Triumphant 237

23 The Cradles of Cold War Theology 245

24 High Priestly Prayers 259

25 Impossible Dreams 274

26 Age of Aquarius 291

27 A Purgatory in Time 305

28 The Power of Words 321

Obama's World? The Global Civil Religion Aborts 339

Bibliographical Essay 359

Acknowledgments 381

Index 383

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