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America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder Hardcover – November 18, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 166 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An exceptionally intelligent, well-written book filled with interesting data and analysis that's well worth reading—and I don't even agree with most of it. Stephens [is] fast becoming the most influential conservative writer on foreign policy. So read it to your delight, or to hone your best arguments against it.”
—Fareed Zakaria, Fareed Zakaria GPS
 
“An important book for your well-being.”
—Bill O’Reilly, The O’Reilly Factor


“This book is the Wall Street Journal columnist at his best: substantive, historically informed, and with the kind of cutting style that helped him earn his Pulitzer Prize two years ago.”
—The Weekly Standard

“Bret Stephens has written not just a good book on American foreign policy. He has written an important book….Anyone even minimally conversant with human nature and history — and Mr. Stephens is far more than that — understands exactly the dangers that are caused by an American Retreat and the lethal global disorder it makes inevitable.”
—The American Spectator

"With a command of American history, a mastery of big foreign policy ideas, and a supple grasp of the conundrums of current events, Stephens shows that the dichotomy between domestic and international responsibilities is facile. For the world’s sole superpower, international affairs inevitably impinge on our economy and our security. Defending our principles abroad advances our interests at home.”
PETER BERKOWITZ, RealClearPolitics

“Given the U.S.’s recently renewed commitments in the Middle East, Stephens’s clear, convincing apologia for American power will make especially timely reading for American foreign policy’s skeptics and opponents.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A provocative, carefully reasoned argument, anathema to politicians as disparate as Barack Obama and Rand Paul.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Although you can read the 288 pages of this well-researched, well-written, and passionately argued book over a weekend, its message will stay with you for years . . . . [Stephens] argues—with impeccable logic, a dizzying array of well-sourced quotations, and reliable statistics—that if the United States continues to retreat from its position as the world’s policeman, disaster will strike both the world and the United States sooner rather than later.”
ANDREW ROBERTS, Commentary magazine

“Wise counsel for a constructive, tough-minded, and sensible foreign policy. Read and learn.”

GEORGE SHULTZ, U.S. Secretary of State, 1982–1989


“At a time when the president of the United States explicitly renounces the role of ‘global policeman’ and a remarkable proportion of Americans—conservatives and liberals alike—seem irresistibly drawn to isolationism in all but name, Bret Stephens has written a shrewd, sharp, and shamelessly unfashionable defense of American power as a force for good in the world. He makes it clear why now, even more than in the past, the supposed benefits of Uncle Sam’s retreat will swiftly be eclipsed by the very real costs of advancing terrorism and authoritarianism.”

NIALL FERGUSON, Laurence A. Tisch Professor, Harvard University; author of The Great Degeneration and Civilization


“Bret Stephens has produced a powerful and exceptionally literate rebuttal of America’s neoisolationists and a practical prescription for America’s reemergence as the world’s essential good cop, maintaining global order without seeking to remake the world in our own image. Americans ignore his message at their own peril.”

KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter, editor, and publisher; author of On Saudi Arabia


“Bret Stephens takes on the urgent question of America’s role in the world at a time of crises and upheavals. Writing trenchantly, he argues that the United States is drifting into a dangerous ‘retreat doctrine.’ The result will be global disorder from which the United States will not escape. While engaging seriously with the arguments of those with whom he disagrees, Stephens also depicts a frighteningly realistic scenario of such disorder just five years hence. America in Retreat will stir vigorous debate—and stimulate sober thought.”

DANIEL YERGIN, author of The Quest and the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Prize


“Bret Stephens has the guts to make the case—and make it brilliantly—for why Americans need America to be the world’s policeman (or at least the world’s police chief when we can get allies to join our force). This book is worth buying even if you read only chapter 9 in which Stephens foresees the chilling disorder in the world if America does not reassert its global leadership. That should be effective shock treatment for the isolationists in both parties as we think about the world we want to leave our children and grandchildren.”

JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1989–2013

About the Author

BRET STEPHENS, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is the foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal. He was previously the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post. He was raised in Mexico City, educated at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, and lives with his family in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel (November 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591846625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591846628
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As an experienced traveller and an educated person I was tempted to give America in 'Retreat' a miss. BUT, the reviews, both positive and negative, got me interested; I regularly read Mr Stephens column in the journal so the reviewer who made the complaint about the 9/22 paraphrasing of the man about to subvert our constitution must clearly not appreciate and intellectual writer from the WSJ.

Anyway, the book is pretty simple. there is no fire and brimstone and not too much of the blame game: Indeed, both parties get a dig. What sets the book apart from a lot of other right/left wing scaremongering is simply the fact that it is relevant to our future and factually accurate and not really revisionist. Furthermore, it carefully but simply diffuses a lot of the dogma of the 'yes we can' golfer who refuses to acknowledge that he has not done such a good job.

Brett looks at the global issues and relates them to our past and our present and weaves a subtle narrative that at least gets you thinking. He neither tells us what is best or what to do but he round his book off nicely with his proscribed path and it her that the reader must think. So having a book where you don't feel your being brainwashed but are part of the discussion is actually quite refreshing.

He may not have all the answers but he certainly tries to identify the question of our future status, and why this still can be America's century. Somebody has to be number 1 and the world is a safer place when it is America.

Good on you Mr Stephens.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Book has nice flow and lays out the problems of isolationism from a historic and current perspective. I had been an advocate of America fixing it's own problems before addressing the world but have slowly moved in the other direction. The world will intrude if you ignore it and often in a worse way than if America were involved in world affairs. The book does a very good job of pointing out the dangers and temptation of isolationism.
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Bret Stephens is the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, arguably the nation’s most liberal newspaper. I read his column regularly so I was gratified that he published a book on America’s role (or lack of one) in world affairs. Mr. Stephens is a gifted writer and his book is both informative and thought provoking. I don’t agree completely with his premise that the United States cannot afford to shirk its “responsibility” to remain the world’s moral, political and military champion. And I reject outright his proposed solution, that America must assume the role of “world cop” in order to keep tyrants and despots at bay lest their local mischief grow into a threatening international crisis.

Stephens presents a cogent history of America’s isolationist tendencies and how such behavior often leads to negative consequences. He goes into considerable detail laying out a compelling case that we are now revisiting scenarios that played out in the 1930s—and most Americans over the age of 35 know that didn’t end well. I agree. We differ strongly on how the United States should use its power and influence to manage an increasingly fractious world. Stephens proposes that the United States become something like a world cop using the “broken windows” theory of law enforcement. Here, in my opinion, Mr. Stephens’ liberal upbringing, education, and lack of military experience lead him astray.

Soldiers are not, and should never be, policemen. There is a vast gulf between cops working within a framework of laws and soldiers who, until recent times, operate in a much looser environment that includes state-sanctioned killing. Stephens offers the Syrian civil war as an example of where the United States should have stepped in to stop the misery and slaughter.
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Bret Stephens has the rare gift of taking an extraordinarily complex, emotionally charged topic, breaking it down into components and examining it rationally. In this terrific book, he takes on the whole notion of America in self-imposed retreat from the world stage and the attendant national angst associated with it. While a cautionary tale, it also provides an optimism based in America's history and core values. For those who despair that America is in irreversible decline, this is a book you need to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Should America walk the beat as the world’s policeman?

Many Americans on both sides of the political aisle think not. For example, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, flatly states, “We should not be the world’s policeman.” Similarly, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, avers: “America’s mission should always be to keep the peace, not police the world.” After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the sentiment is understandable.

Understandable, Bret Stephens argues in his new book, America in Retreat—but still dangerous. “No great power can treat foreign policy as a spectator sport and hope to remain a great power,” he writes. “A world in which the leading liberal-democratic nation does not assume its role as world policeman will become a world in which dictatorships contend, or unite, to fill the breach. Americans seeking a return to an isolationist garden of Eden—alone and undisturbed in the world, knowing neither good nor evil—will soon find themselves living within shooting range of global pandemonium.”

To be the world’s policeman, Stephens quickly qualifies, “is not to say we need to be its priest; preaching the gospel of the American way.” Nor does America need to be “the world’s martyr.” “Police work isn’t altruism,” he explains. “It is done from necessity and self-interest. It is done because it has be done and there’s no one else to do it, and because the benefits of doing it accrue not only to those we protect but also, indeed mainly, to ourselves.”

Stephens draws on a famous 1982 essay in The Atlantic Monthly to explain what it would mean for America to police the world. That essay, “Broken Windows,” attempted to understand “the nature of communal order, the way it is maintained, and the ways in which order turns into disorder.
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