The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War

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9780742562981: The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War

The long-standing, but unresolved debate of the virtues and values of multilateralism vs. unilateralism in American foreign policy is critically important in today's complicated world. To understand the history of each approach is to understand their opportunities and challenges for the future. The Best Laid Plans answers two central questions. First, why did the United States embrace the principles and practices of liberal multilateralism during World War II? Second, why did it cling to this vision of world order despite the outbreak of the Cold War in the late 1940s, as the "One World" that had been anticipated by U.S. postwar planners split into two rival global camps?

The book contends that neither the U.S. turn to liberal multilateralism nor the persistence of this orientation during the Cold War can be attributed solely or even primarily to the global power structure or crude considerations of material self interest. Rather, Stewart Patrick argues that a combination of enduring identity commitments and new ideas, based on the lessons of recent, cataclysmic events, shaped the policy preferences of American central decision-makers in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Although the book is steeped in history, its conclusions have tremendous relevance for the contemporary era, when the United States once again finds itself at the apex of world power, and debates are rife about the role of multilateral cooperation in the realization of U.S. foreign policy objectives.

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About the Author:

Stewart Patrick is senior fellow and director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the coeditor of Multilateralism an U.S. Foreign Policy: Ambivalent Engagement (2002) and Good Intentions: Pledges of Aid for Post-Conflict Recovery (2000).

Review:

Patrick provides a compelling and nuanced account of the evolution of liberal internationalism in the United States. He uncovers how interests, ideas, and America's liberal identity came together to fashion a multilateral brand of global engagement, shedding important light on where U.S. grand strategy has come from and where it may be headed. (Charles A. Kupchan, Georgetown University; Council on Foreign Relations; author of The End of the American Era)

Stewart Patrick has added an important piece to the continuing puzzle of why the U.S., which enjoyed a dominant strategic position in 1945, chose an overarching strategy of multilateralism. He shows how the values that undergird America's national identity and changing strategic assumptions among the foreign policy elite helped move the country from isolationism to a genuine and pervasive commitment to institutionalized decision-making. At a time when our strategic assumptions are once again being challenged by the new threats of the 21st century, Best Laid Plans charts our recent past in ways that offer a valuable guide to the future. (Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University)

In this beautifully written account of the genesis of the post-1945 world order, Patrick traces the celebrated efforts of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations to turn victory in World War II into an open and stable international system. . . .The result is an eloquent reminder that a great deal of what the United States did in fighting the Cold War was done in the West, among allies. (Foreign Affairs)

A timely and important book, which shows convincingly how and why the twenty-first century quest for a viable global order is linked inextricably with the ongoing political struggle for the heart and soul of America itself. (John Gerard Ruggie, Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University, and Special Representative of UN Secretary General for Busin)

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