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The Arrogance of Power Paperback – January 23, 1967
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While we may want to see others enjoy the virtues of democracy and freedom (our humanitarianism) we tend to approach them with an air of superiority and an inability to see that there are many cultures in the world and that of the U.S. is only one.
How accurate Fulbright is when he says that unilateral aid, either military or economic, can evoke anger and resentment by those who, Americans feel, should be grateful and eager to receive what we have to give.
Fulbright asks Americans to reflect on the fact that ours is a profoundly conservative society which abhors radical change. Others in the world are impatient with the lack of change and can go to extremes that would never be considered in the United States. Fulbright sees this in the discomfort Americans have with revolutions, being good only if they follow the path of our own. Any route that differs from American experience is suspect.
Fulbright rightly sees the strength of American society in the freedom to dissent and laments the fear and approbrium that dissent often receives. Humility is definitely in order instead of loud boasting and self-righteous denunciations (heard any of that lately???)
Tocqueville said of American democracy..."the smallest reproach irritates its sensibility and the slightest joke that has any foundation in truth renders it indignant; from the forms of its language up to the solid virtues of its character, everything must be made the subject of encomium.Read more ›
It is a reflection on what we have become, and the choices we make for our future. There are two competing forces for the direction we take, what the author Senator J. William Fullbright calls two Americas: One is the America of Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson and the other is of Theodore Roosevelt and the Superpatriots. They are two distinct sides of the American character. The character of Lincoln is rooted in humanism and assumes that America's greatness is its recognition of its imperfections. The character of Roosevelt is rooted in American Exceptionalism, or what the senator refers to as an arrogance of power.
The dominant strand of the American fabric is the democratic humanist one. It is rooted in the principles of our Founding Fathers, humanism, tolerance and accommodation. The coexisting strand is that of Theodore Roosevelt's belief in America's superiority, or what Fullbright sees as intolerant Puritanism. It is the belief that America expresses its cultural superiority through its wealth and dominance, that superiority is measured in military might.
According to Senator Fullbright these forces of the American body politic have been at odds for years with the belief in America's superiority dominating foreign and domestic policy. This is the strand the senator contends must not prevail. This path follows previous empires that failed because rulers did not rule wisely or well.Read more ›
The author defines Arrogance of Power as "a psychological need that nations seem to have in order to prove that they are bigger, better, or stronger than other nations" and "the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission."
The Senator also was critical of wars justified by "vital national interest".
Senator Fulbright points out that domestic policy suffers when war becomes the focal point of American policy.
His warning about the side effects of pre-emptive war has proven accurate in current times.
One has to wonder how different things in America would have been had Senator Fulbright's ideas been pursued during the Viet Nam era.
This book is very much dated, but the Senator's views are timeless and he communicates those ideas very well. This is still an excellent book on foreign policy and it's definitely not a "dry read".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Another book I read long ago, and needed to replace since I gave it away. It was an eye opener and continues to shape my awareness of world conditions, alliances, and decision... Read morePublished 1 month ago by John R Outler
at first, one has the feeling that finally an American, Senator Fulbright, got it. But when one reads on, one soon see he also fell in to the trap of "American... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Robert
Just as relevant to U.S. foreign policy today as it was in the mid-1960s.Published 10 months ago by Ken Lampton
A beautifully reasoned exploration of the pitfalls over superpower overextension. It is utterly tragic that although written in 1966, with examples drawn from Vietnam, the... Read morePublished 15 months ago by defastov
The e-book is well formatted and worth my purchase.
Senator Fulbright published a book on his opinion. Taken at face value for a highly opinionated paper.
This is a solid book, which reiterates already known ideas and propounds a more responsible and isolationists policy for the US.Published on May 19, 2013 by Kimon Karras