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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrogance of Power, July 1, 2010
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This review is from: The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris (Hardcover)
This book is a popular history rather than an academic study, but is well worth reading. Its focus is on the formulation and execution of U.S. Foreign Policies from the presidencies of Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. It also provides an interesting look at the intellectuals whose thinking influenced foreign policy development. Beinart's thesis is that U.S. Foreign Policy during this period was the product of three distinct ideological viewpoints: the power of rationality; the power of an unyielding stance; and the power of dominance. He argues that these viewpoints even when they began as flexible and altruistic programs were hardened into inflexible dogmas by a national arrogance generated by the perception of unlimited U.S. military and economic powers. In each case that he reviews, these inflexible dogmas not only failed to achieve the original policy's goals, but also trapped Presidents and their advisors in boxes of unrealistic expectations and ill-informed actions. The "Icarus Syndrome" of the book's title refers to the failure of foreign policy operations when `hubris' rather than reality informs policy formulation.
Many experts in the history of U.S. international relations and students of foreign policy could well quarrel with the details of this book since it does make rather sweeping conclusions on the role of national arrogance in formulating foreign policy. Yet it is easy to imagine that most readers will find Beinart's thesis a veritable cornucopia of food for thought.
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