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The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Way of Life Hardcover – October 2, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Since the first Gulf War, American foreign policy has undergone a dangerous shift against its tradition of preserving "the American way of life"—the civil liberties assured by a system of democratic republican liberalism—argues author and journalist Lind. The strategy has changed in style over time, from the "isolationism" of the first hundred years to 20th-century global alliances and "temporary alliance hegemony" against mounting empires. But keeping security costs down while "promoting a less dangerous international environment" has largely permitted the public to avoid trading liberty for security in moments of crisis, he argues. By contrast, the emergence of a post–Cold War bipartisan consensus around permanent U.S. global dominance (championed by neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney) is a perilous anomaly, says Lind (The Radical Center). His lucid if sometimes reductive focus on international strategy and power politics as a primary engine of history can obscure as much as it clarifies. But Lind's advocacy of a "concert of power" or shared primacy among several nations gains a persuasive momentum, exposing the folly of the current imperial strategy while forcefully examining the neglected role of foreign policy in the shaping of American politics and society. (Sept.)
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"Michael Lind's The American Way of Strategy represents an early and thoughtful attempt to sketch a post-Iraq foreign policy. The virtue of Lind's book is its sweeping ambition. He writes in evident outrage over the policies of the Bush administration, but his book is not about the debacle in Iraq or how to respond to Islamist terrorism. It is not even about the renewed dispute between the great foreign policy traditions of realism (a la Henry Kissinger) and idealism (a la Woodrow Wilson). Instead, Lind, a fellow at the New America Foundation, scours history for tenets that have guided U.S. foreign policy in the past and that should be applied in the future."--Washington Post Book World
"a shrewd and plausible critique of the drift of policy since the cold war."--The New York Times
"Lind's encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. history and extraordinary grasp of the intellectual history of U.S. politics qualify him to write with great authority and insight about the development of American grand strategy from the Washington administration to the present day, and this generally level-headed and balanced book will significantly enhance Linds reputation in foreign policy circles."--Foreign Affairs
"In this important defense of liberal internationalism, Michael Lind reminds us that the greatest threat to the American way of life is that Americans jettison their democratic republican government and society in search of security in a garrison state. He wisely argues that democracy is best promoted by example, not by force, and that a world safe for democracy need not be a democratic world." -- Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University and author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
"It is an intriguing thesis: American strategy is, and always has been, to prevent the rise of a hegemon sufficiently powerful to require us to sacrifice our liberty to preserve our country. Thus, Michael Lind could not be more timely in his caution against those today who would casually suspend our Constitutional liberties, our 'American way of life,' in the name of a war on terrorism." --Gary Hart, United States Senator (Retired)
"Lind deftly explores the intimate connection between America's political culture and its foreign policy, mapping out the consequences at home and abroad. This book offers a unique perspective on America's engagement with the world--and then goes on not only to diagnose why America has of late gone off course, but also to prescribe an intelligent and considered remedy." --Charles A. Kupchan, author of The End of the American Era
"In the 21st century, the United States must strive to make its position of primacy acceptable to the rest of the world, while preserving the domestic freedoms and economic vitality that are central to the American way of life.To do that, it must avoid the twin temptations of either global empire or isolationist withdrawal, while keeping our commitments and our resources in balance. In this incisive new book, Michael Lind shows why America's traditional strategy of 'liberal realism' is still the best blueprint for preserving both our national security and our essential liberties. It is a book whose message could not be more timely." --Stephen Walt, author of Taming American Power
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Top Customer Reviews
Lind's summary of early US foreign policy is very good, his WWI, interwar & WWII is pretty good, and his Cold War is excellent, but after that the book falls apart in a hurry. The closer he gets to the present day, the more antique it all seems. All about unitary states, not a non-state actor to be found, and all the concern is with forging anti-hegemonic networks of power to prevent rising great states from dominating the globe (really, if there is a Russia-China-US alliance, who are we balancing?). The book seems to take place on a Risk board; It just didn't seem to grapple with the really sticky issues of today. And the chapter on economic globalisation was exceedingly weak. Seriously, skip that part.
Lind is very very fluent at Realism, but much shakier at holding up the Liberal Internationalism side of his thesis, I feel. Now, Liberal Internationalism often gets smeared as inherently wobbly, so Lind's added handicap doesn't help the case. But some of his prescriptions are just flagrantly DOA. A world where the US will forge separate alliances with all major powers in all areas, elevate Russia and China to the relative detriment of Japanese and German security-clients, shrug at Taiwan and So Korea being retaken, nationalize & protect the bejeesus out of all defense-related industry and act as the materiel supplier while other nations somehow eagerly provide all the boots on the ground? ...Really? There's surely something to be said for thinking outside the box, but in terms of real political plausibility, I'm not sure Lind really knows where the box is.
All in all I liked the first third and the last chapter, everything else was not so great. You can do much better for a Realism / Liberal Internationalism hybrid by reading Steve Walt and Anne-Marie Slaughter back-to-back & calling it a day.
Strategy consists of choosing the enemy, the theater of war, the victory conditions and the means to be used in attaining them. For example, we declare war on Japan (1941), plan to fight the war in the Pacific, will achieve victory by occupying their capital and we will use all the tools in the tool box, no holds barred.
After that the strategist's job is done and it becomes a matter of logistics and operations, goals and objectives, the where-when-how of warfare. Continuing the above, island-hopping was our operational method and we used amphibious assault as the means, gradually working into range of the home islands.
Once operations are underway, tactics become important, better weaponry, use of terrain, deception, ambush, etc. Our tactics in the Pacific included use of overwhelming force on isolated garrisons, attaining air and naval superiority, terror-bombing.
Whew! But what if we are at peace? War gives one the luxury of having something concrete to work towards, namely victory. What are the goals to shoot for during times of (relative) peace?
Answering this question is at the heart of the book and the author does well. He weaves together the Preamble to the Constitution, document NSC-68 and some good words from D.D. Eisenhower to produce the idea: The American way of peacetime strategy seeks -- or should seek -- to preserve our way of life which features respect for human rights and individual liberty along with low taxes if you please.
This is a valuable insight that deserves consideration and even application. Would you say the recent activities of the NSA are in step with the above? The Patriot Act? How about the Affordable Care Act? I don't know why but I suspect America is somehow behind the recent fall in oil prices in an attempt to ruin President Putin by destroying the Russian economy. Does this fantasy of mine fit the definition?
Anyway I recommend the book. Like others I found it better in the early chapters, less so later, but still very very good in that it puts forward coherently a new (to me) idea.