Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World

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9780415935364: Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World
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"God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."--Otto von Bismarck

America's response to the September 11 attacks spotlighted many of the country's longstanding goals on the world stage: to protect liberty at home, to secure America's economic interests, to spread democracy in totalitarian regimes and to vanquish the enemy utterly.

One of America's leading foreign policy thinkers, Walter Russell Mead, argues that these diverse, conflicting impulses have in fact been the key to the U.S.'s success in the world. In a sweeping new synthesis, Mead uncovers four distinct historical patterns in foreign policy, each exemplified by a towering figure from our past.

Wilsonians are moral missionaries, making the world safe for democracy by creating international watchdogs like the U.N. Hamiltonians likewise support international engagement, but their goal is to open foreign markets and expand the economy. Populist Jacksonians support a strong military, one that should be used rarely, but then with overwhelming force to bring the enemy to its knees. Jeffersonians, concerned primarily with liberty at home, are suspicious of both big military and large-scale international projects.

A striking new vision of America's place in the world, Special Providence transcends stale debates about realists vs. idealists and hawks vs. doves to provide a revolutionary, nuanced, historically-grounded view of American foreign policy.

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From the Back Cover:

"Mead is a clear and original thinker and an engaging writer, and these pages are filled with striking insights and pithy formulations. His analysis is richer, more interesting, more accurate than so many others."
--Aaron L. Friedberg, New York Times


"Mead is definitely on to something. He makes lots of good points and debunks a host of myths. And he provides a highly intelligent analysis of America's foreign policy, which is full of common sense and learning and is clear and readable to boot."
--The Economist

"Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World is a stunning achievement. At a time of crisis, Mead's book forces the reader to rethink the central ideas that have guided American foreign policy in the past and are likely to shape its future."
--James Chace

"Few people writing on U. S. foreign policy are as brilliant and original as Walter Russell Mead. In Special Providence he shatters old diplomatic theories and historical assumptions with a creative vengeance. The result is a brave, landmark study that cannot be ignored.
--Douglas Brinkley

"To understand U. S. foreign policy, it is necessary to understand the United States. Nobody understands either better than Walter Russell Mead. This book is destined to join the small list of classics that explain America to the world and to Americans themselves."
--Michael E. Lind

"In his ambitious and important new book, Walter Russell Mead offers a provocative and highly original way of looking at American foreign policy, one that moves far beyond the conventional wisdom of 'realists vs. idealists.' His insights linking the grand sweep of American history to our present world situation are particularly valuable. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in America's role in our increasingly complex world."
--Richard C. Holbrooke

"This ingenious and provocative account of American foreign policy's past is a splendid introduction to its future."
--Michael Mandelbaum

" This important book-high-spirited, eloquent, and imaginative-could well change the way we think about America's relations with the world."
--Ronald Steel

From the Inside Flap:

our leading experts on foreign policy, a full-scale reinterpretation of America’s dealings―from its earliest days―with the rest of the world.

It is Walter Russell Mead’s thesis that the United States, by any standard, has had a more successful foreign policy than any of the other great powers that we have faced―and faced down. Beginning as an isolated string of settlements at the edge of the known world, this country―in two centuries―drove the French and the Spanish out of North America; forced Britain, then the world’s greatest empire, to respect American interests; dominated coalitions that defeated German and Japanese bids for world power; replaced the tottering British Empire with a more flexible and dynamic global system built on American power; triumphed in the Cold War; and exported its language, culture, currency, and political values throughout the world.

Yet despite, and often because of, this success, both Americans a

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