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Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America Hardcover – May 23, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Smart Power is simply superb. In an age of imperial folly and militarized illusions, Ted Galen Carpenter has been a voice of reason and good sense. In this impressive collection of essays, he surveys the wreckage of the Bush era and illuminates the way ahead."
Author of The Limits of Power

"Like a good doctor, Ted Galen Carpenter has spent his whole career trying to cure America of its `foreign policy hypochondria.' Smart Power brings together some of his sharpest diagnoses of our unhealthy tendency to cleave to obsolete security commitments, add new ones willy-nilly, and muck about in intractable conflicts in which we have no real interest. Carpenter's essays constitute strong medicine, but that is precisely what our country needs in these fevered days!"
Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security
Decision-Making, Bush School of Government and Public Service
Texas A & M University

"This is a timely collection of Ted Galen Carpenter's timeless advice on America's foreign policy. Instead of claiming the impossible role of global security manager, America should recognize the limits of its interests and resources, he argues, and return home to fulfill freedom's opportunities."
Defense and Arms Control Studies
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute (May 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933995165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933995168
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,153,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jazz It Up Baby on September 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As David Gordon commented at the Ludwig von Mises Institute's website, Ted Galen Carpenter has given us, on the whole, an excellent and very useful book; but it contains a crucial flaw. The book, which collects essays and columns that Carpenter has written since 2002, offers a devastating criticism of the Bush administration's foreign policy. As Carpenter ably shows, Bush's foreign policy has failed dismally at protecting America's vital interests. Quite the contrary, Bush's meddling in matters that do not properly concern us, the bloody and costly Iraq war foremost among them, has weakened rather than enhanced our security position.

Unfortunately, Carpenter does not always follow the principles he expounds. He supports an interventionist scheme of his own: he not only supports Bush's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan but wishes to expand the struggle against al Qaeda to Pakistan.

Carpenter distinguishes sharply between vital interests and conditional or secondary interests, on the one hand, and peripheral interests and irrelevant matters on the other.

Vital interests are matters that have a direct, immediate, and substantial connection to America's physical survival, political independence, or domestic liberty. Thwarting threats to those interests warrants using whatever level of military force may be necessary if other efforts prove insufficient... Just below the level of vital interests lie conditional or secondary interests. In that category are geostrategic assets that are pertinent but not indispensable to preserving America's territorial integrity, independence, and domestic liberty... The lowest category of security concerns consists of peripheral interests.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. V. Pena on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ted Galen Carpenter has what most of the foreign policy establishment/elite woefully lacks: common sense. At the heart of Smart Power is a simple but powerful proposition: in the post-Cold War era and particularly in the wake of 9/11, U.S. security commitments and military interventions overseas are worse than unnecessary -- they are actually detrimental to U.S. security. Carpenter cogently makes the case that U.S. policy decisions and actions have consequences and all too often those consequences are counterproductive. This is a truth that policymakers and pundits refuse to recognize. So like Einstein's definition of insanity, they keep doing the same thing (Republicans and Democrats alike) and expect different results. Sadly -- even if they bother to read Smart Power -- this is likely to be the case in the next administration regardless of who wins the November presidential election.

There is also an irony (whether it was intended I don't know) on the cover of Smart Power, which portrays Uncle Sam playing chess. Yet chess is the old paradigm for U.S. foreign policy, exemplified by the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zbignew Brezinski. The prudent foreign policy that Carpenter prescribes requires discarding chess as a way to think about foreign policy. Indeed, part of the problem with the current state of U.S. foreign policy is that we are still playing chess.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Fountain on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Those in favor of our interventionist foreign policy have succeeded in virtually eliminating the idea that there might be another way for America to act in the world. Thanks to Ted Galen Carpenter, we now know that there is better way. Mr. Carpenter shows in this series of essays that there WERE people prescient enough to recognize the problems that invading Iraq would cause, yet these views were largely marginalized in the rush to war. He also points out other mistakes we are making that could provide similar disastrous results vis-a-vis Afghanistan, China, Russia, et. al.
Adoption of Mr. Carpenter's foreign policy views would lead us to a better national security status, at a substantially reduced cost to taxpayers. Those looking for an alternative to the current bipartisan groupthink that has yielded America-as-World-Policeman, would be wise to read this book.
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By Doug Bandow on December 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America belongs on President-elect Barack Obama's desk. Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute has put together a valuable collection of recent articles which are packed with facts, strongly argued, and easy to read.

Carpenter, the author or editor of some 18 books, is one of America's leading non-interventionists. He rightly points out that U.S. foreign policy is a failure. Carpenter writes: "Despite spending as much on the military as the rest of the world combined, Americans do not feel especially secure. And the United States has not enjoyed an era of peace despite the demise of the Soviet empire and the USSR itself."

He explains how the U.S. never seems to reconsider any alliance, no matter how antiquated. To the contrary, Washington keeps on handing out more security guarantees to countries even less relevant to American security. Finally, there is a disturbing tendency to intervene militarily in countries of little or no relevance to U.S. interests, leaving Americans stuck nation-building where no real country ever existed.

The costs of promiscuous intervention include sacrificing civil liberties here at home. He advocates a more restrained role abroad, lest America lose "the values and principles that make it worth defending."

All-in-all, it's a book that every member of the incoming national security team should read. Unfortunately, by choosing retreads from past administrations, President-elect Obama almost guarantees a repeat of America's history of failed foreign interventions.
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