The recent revelations concerning spying on leaders of our allies by the NSA may have surprised many. However, in this survey of American foreign policy over the past seven decades, Sestanovich, a former diplomat and currently a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University, makes clear that all administrations have used ethically questionable tactics in the pursuit of broader strategic foreign-policy goals. But Sestanovich is more concerned with consistency than ethics in the conduct of our foreign policy. He asserts that between and even within administrations we have lurched from active (or overactive) involvement to retrenchment. After WWII, we understandably shrank our military and shrank from confrontation until forced into involvement by the Korean War. Similarly, the failures in Vietnam and Iraq have caused similar reluctance to intervene abroad. The result, Sestanovich maintains, is a dangerous uncertainty among both our allies and adversaries. What he views as retrenchment could be considered sensible restraint. Still, this is a valuable and provocative interpretation of our diplomatic and military conduct. --Jay Freeman
"In his engaging and richly anecdotal new book, Maximalist
, Stephen Sestanovich applies that understanding as a framework for reexamining post-World War II U.S. history to find the persistent truths and lessons that he believes can inform our understanding of the present. . . A scholar of the Soviet Union and a former U.S. diplomat who now teaches at Columbia University, Sestanovich shows that the ambitions of policymakers and the cycles of public opinion that drive them are inevitable and recurrent. He is at his best in describing the Johnson and Nixon administrations, capturing the infighting among those presidents and their senior advisers as they grappled with America’s role in the world."
—Marcus Brauchli, The Washington Post
“Incisive and provocative. Written by one of our country’s foremost scholars, Maximalist
is rich with anecdotes and enlivened by little-known details about well-known events. Sestanovich has made a masterful contribution to the history of modern American diplomacy.”
“This is one of the most important books ever written about U.S. foreign policy. It will immediately join George F. Kennan’s classic American Diplomacy
as essential reading for all students of America’s behavior in the world. In fact, it should replace it. Sestanovich is a brilliant and insightful writer. His book couldn’t be more timely.”
—Robert Kagan, author of The World America Made
is a nicely provocative and highly readable account of how presidents have used American power since World War II. It combines carefully researched history with advice that is very relevant to the situation of the United States today.”
—Joseph S. Nye, Jr., author of Soft Power
and Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era
"Americans routinely need to be reminded that our past was not as smooth and rosy as we like to remember it; Stephen Sestanovich provides a masterful and entertaining corrective. Maximalist is
beautifully written, with engaging anecdotes woven throughout. Most important, it
will change your view of Obama's foreign policy."
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation; Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University