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Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 Paperback – May 15, 1998


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Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 + American Diplomacy: Sixtieth-Anniversary Expanded Edition (Walgreen Foundation Lectures) + Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395901324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395901328
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When the Cold War ended and left the United States without one clear, monolithic enemy or ideology to battle, a hint of confusion and indecisiveness entered U.S. foreign policy, revealing weaknesses in the American diplomatic tradition. However, According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter A. McDougall, this confusion was not a result of the Cold War, but rather made more visible by the absence of a looming conflict. Reaching back to 1776 to analyze the foreign policy decisions made during the U.S. progression to superpower, McDougall reveals the numerous paradoxes present in American foreign policy.

Beginning with the original intentions of the Founding Fathers and the various interpretations of those ideals over the years, he deconstructs the role of the U.S. in global affairs, questioning both the logic and motives of how the nation deals with friend and foe. One of McDougall's major contentions centers on efforts to affect other countries' policies and governments by projecting U.S. standards or choices on them. He is particularly concerned with what he views as an overextension of resources and wisdom, and the glaring hypocrisy such efforts reveal. He points to several examples of how time and energy was wasted trying to change those who were uninterested or unwilling. As McDougall points out lucidly and convincingly in Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter With the World Since 1776, one nation cannot cure the major ills of another, and the price of such an attempt is too great to risk. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McDougall renders a service here to students of diplomatic history and general readers alike. In a concise analysis of U.S. diplomatic history, he defines terms such as "isolationism," which are bandied about so casually in post-Cold War debates on U.S. foreign policy. Adapted from his lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, this supremely readable book is presented in conversational style. McDougall divides American diplomatic history into novel "Old Testament" and "New Testament" phases. The Old Testament, which centered on safeguarding liberty at home, extended from the Revolution to the 1890s; the New Testament, featuring crusades abroad, extends from the Spanish-American War to the present. Within the two phases, he identifies eight schools of thought that battle for supremacy today. The challenge for the future is to decide which intellectual currents in America's view of the world should be retained in crafting a new foreign policy. An important work; strongly recommended for all libraries.?James Holmes, Fletcher Sch. of Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I had to read this book for an undergraduate history course.
R. Taylor
Since America won the Cold War, there has been great confusion over what principles should guide our Foreign Policy.
Orrin C. Judd
It is a great read because McDougall writes clearly, concisely, and with a rare vividness for a scholar.
Craig Matteson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Since America won the Cold War, there has been great confusion over what principles should guide our Foreign Policy. The options range from the isolationism of Pat Buchanan to the interventionist nation-building of Bill Clinton. Anyone wishing to understand the ongoing arguments should read this terrific book. McDougall's compelling thesis is that there is a fundamental dichotomy in US Foreign Policy, with two competing doctrines each influenced by four different themes. There is the Promised Land (or Old Testament) impulse, which is based on four key traditions:
OLD TESTAMENT (Promised Land) Exceptionalism (focus on liberty at home, avoiding entangling alliances) Unilateralism (as opposed to isolationism) The American System (Monroe Doctrine) Expansionism (Manifest Destiny)
This was the prevailing approach to foreign policy--designed to protect America's liberty and independence from the outside world--until 1898 and the Spanish American War, at which point a New Testament gained ascendancy, likewise guided by four traditions:
NEW TESTAMENT (Crusader State) Progressive Imperialism Liberal Internationalism (Wilsonianism) Containment Global Meliorism (reforming other nations internal problems)
The adoption of the New Testament policy marked the triumph of the "do-gooder impulse" and represented America's desire to influence the rest of the world and try to make it a "better" place. Given this context, we can see that Buchanan and Clinton are representatives of two great historic trends in American thought; what remains is for us to decide between the two.
After presenting the historic development of each of the eight traditions, McDougall concludes with a chapter on whether each would serve us well now.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on January 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
To many observers, American foreign policy appears schizophrenic--an odd mix of high-minded idealism and crass realism. On one end, American hegemony has coincided with an unprecedented degree of geopolitical stability and material prosperity; on the other, America has started fights when none existed and has meddled where it did not belong. In other words, some see America as a beacon, others as a beast. It is little wonder that the exercise of American power, most lately in Iraq, has proven so controversial.
This ambivalence was well captured by Senator Fulbright who wrote that, "The inconstancy of American foreign policy is not an accident but an expression of two distinct sides of the American character. Both are characterized by a kind of moralism, but one is the morality of decent instincts tempered by the knowledge of human imperfection and the other is the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusader spirit." Walter McDougall, of the University of Pennsylvania, tries to cast light into these American contradictions by looking into the Old ("Promised Land") and New Testament ("Crusader State") of its foreign policy.
Mr. McDougall's purpose is to dispel certain myths surrounding American foreign policy and unify seemingly inconsistent traditions. The former goal is achieved through a meticulous reading of primary and secondary sources; for example, Mr. McDougall renames the hallowed principles of the Old Testament: Liberty for Exceptionalism, Unilateralism for Isolationism, Expansionism for Manifest Destiny, and the American System for the Monroe Doctrine. The New Testament is similarly described in four traditions: Progressive Imperialism, Wilsonianism, Containment, and Global Meliorism.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 4, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first saw Walter McDougall on the C-SPAN Booknotes show discussing this book in 1997. He impressed me so much that I went online and ordered it from Amazon instantly. It is a great read because McDougall writes clearly, concisely, and with a rare vividness for a scholar.

This is not a book of American History per se. It is a book about American's developing and changing doctrines of how to deal with the world beyond our borders. McDougall discusses eight doctrines with four under the "Old Testament" heading (when America was basically turned inward and worried only about the Western Hemisphere), and four under the "New Testament" (when America became a player on the world stage and, briefly, a colonial power).

Understanding these doctrines is essential to understanding America's changing place in the world. These doctrines conflict with each other and yet the all still echo through history to our present. This leads to some of the complexity in our present political relationships with the world and our own muddled sense of ourselves and our role in the world. Certainly, America has done some wonderful things for the world, but the wake of our great ship of state has also made navigation tough for some of the smaller barks trying to stay afloat in the storms of history.

This is a fine book and a great read. I encourage everyone, especially students and young people, to read it carefully and to consider seriously the arguments Prof. McDougall has put forth. You will be better off whether or not you end up agreeing with him.
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