From Publishers Weekly
Despite its title, this insightful examination of the impact domestic politics has had on American foreign policy actually begins with the Spanish-American war. Zelizer (Taxing America
) traces changing attitudes toward foreign engagement through WWI, including Wilson's failed advocacy for the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, and arrives at the cold war era, his principle focus. His key themes are the competition between the Republican and Democratic parties for electoral advantage on issues related to international affairs and the expansion of executive authority that began with the Korean War in the Truman administration and continued intermittently through the George W. Bush era. The author emphasizes foreign policy throughout, devoting mere paragraphs to major domestic events like the Kennedy assassination and the contested presidential election of 2000. Zelizer's excellent analysis concludes with charting the rise and fall of conservative internationalism from Reagan to the election of Barack Obama, advancing a consistently thoughtful, complex and balanced argument about the decisive effect domestic politics has had on the evolution of the national security state. (Jan.)
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Written by a university professor, this history tracks the post–World War II electoral competition on foreign policy between the Democratic and Republican parties. Zelizer focuses on every national political campaign since 1946, outlining the two parties’ struggle (and that between factions within the parties) for advantage as an outgrowth of the constitutional tension between the Congress and the president for control of foreign affairs, pure partisanship, and each party’s intuition about voters’ attitudes toward the national-security apparatus. Favoring the Democrats in the 1940s, the electorate’s switch to Republicans in 1952, reversion to the Democrats in 1960, and general preference from 1968 to 2008 for Republican leadership on national security guide the author’s discussion. Foreign policy, as such, lies beyond the book’s scope; instead, it is the domestic ramifications of events overseas—such as the draft and war casualties—that characterize this detailed and evenhanded account. Covering election campaigns, election winners’ interpretation of the results, and votes on Capitol Hill, Zelizer makes the case to general-interest readers that American politics have never stopped at the water’s edge. --Gilbert Taylor