From Publishers Weekly
America's profound ambivalence toward stewardship of the international system will be the "permanent quagmire" of the 21st century, argues Hirsh (a senior editor at Newsweek, which excerpted this book in its May 12 issue) in his timely contribution to recent literature on the U.S. role in the post-Cold War world. While America "the "oberpower" dominates the globe by exerting a combination of ideological influence and military and economic power, Hirsh says that successive administrations have failed to grasp the nation's historic mandate as orchestrator of the new world order. Having been a foreign correspondent from Kosovo to Afghanistan, Hirsh reports on the discordant policies of Clinton and Bush, while providing the lay reader with an overview of the conflicts and personalities that have shaped a lackluster U.S. foreign policy over the past decade. Unconventional threats like terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction render the U.S. vulnerable and necessitate, in the author's view, a multilateral approach. In Hirsh's perfect world, Clinton's Wilsonian idealism-marked by economic integration, democratization and multilateral cooperation-would coalesce with Bush's unilateralist view of overwhelming military power to forge a strong and principled American leadership. In the meantime, America must confront the pitfalls of "ideological blowback" caused by the spotty application of its own ideals abroad. Repairing the disconnect in U.S. foreign policy that backs autocratic regimes in places like the Middle East while failing to press democracy in the area, offers, Hirsh says, a good place to start.
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How is it that the same country that gave the world Woodrow Wilson's crusade for a League of Nations to guarantee peace has now also given us George Bush's dismissal of the United Nations as an irrelevance to the waging of war? A longtime diplomatic correspondent, Hirsch has watched closely as America has stumbled into being the only superpower to survive the cold war. The stumbling was apparent during the Clinton administration--which freely deployed the Wilsonian rhetoric of international idealism but botched its handling of the Kosovo crisis and recoiled from the horrors of Rwanda. But Hirsch expresses even deeper skepticism about the go-it-alone assertiveness of Bush conservatives. Our real national interest, Hirsch argues, lies in leading--not abandoning--the international community that the U.S. helped bring into existence. Only a full commitment to international organizations can limit the "ideological blowback" America has incubated by preaching self-determination and free enterprise while denying the claims of Third World separatists. An ideal primer for general readers trying to fathom the promise and peril of global politics. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved