Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk

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9781400042371: Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk

From one of our most brilliant and original writers on U.S. foreign policy, a stunning and timely book on the policy of the Bush administration and its current grand strategy for the world.

Mead begins by analyzing America’s historical approach to the world—by no means perfect, but reasonably moral and reasonably practical on the whole. Then he examines the explosive foreign policy of the Bush administration and the uproar it has caused at home and abroad. Bush, according to Mead, is often strategically right but tactically at fault in his attempts to lead a divided nation—and a divided coalition of allies—in a dangerous struggle against ruthless enemies.

We see how the mass terror attacks of 2001 have changed the political and strategic problems of American foreign policy. Despair and decay in the Arab world now present America and its allies with an extraordinarily difficult challenge. The accelerating collapse of civilized life in broad reaches of Africa—and the looming disasters of a similar kind in Central Asia—threatens to create lawless, violent zones where terrorism can thrive, and weapons of mass destruction and biological and chemical weapons can proliferate.

We learn why key American alliances have frayed and why the Bush administration’s pronouncements and actions have ignited the most acrimonious U.S. political battles over foreign policy since the Vietnam War. Mead closes with a rigorous assessment of both Bush and his critics, and describes the urgent steps the United States must take lest casualties in the war on terror mount and the war itself spin out of control. He proposes a new approach to the war that can rebuild domestic and international support for a tough antiterror policy, outlines a new initiative for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and recommends sweeping changes for reforming international institutions, including the United Nations Security Council.

Power, Terror, Peace, and War is a clear, concise guide to some of the most pressing issues before us, today and for the foreseeable future.

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Review:

Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, offers an historical examination of U.S. foreign policy and the way it has become so complicated, divisive, and fraught with unintended consequences that it is beyond the control of any one group or ideology. Looking back at the 20th century in an attempt to identify a grand strategy for the future, he declares the years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attacks of September 11, 2001 to be "lost years" in which a difficult global shift began to take shape. He identifies this transition as the beginning of a shift from a "Fordian" (as in Henry Ford) system of mass production and mass consumption to a more dynamic "millennial capitalism" in which the free market is changing to benefit more people around the world, particularly those in developing countries. Mead also looks closely at how the Bush administration has reacted to the September 11 attacks and the threat of further terrorism, offering both thoughtful praise and sharp criticism in nearly equal measure. (The book is worth reading for these incisive comments alone.) In explaining the distinctions between "sharp" (military), "sticky" (economic), and "sweet" (cultural) power as tools for shaping the world, he makes clear that he believes the U.S. should be shaping the world—ideally by example and shared values, but also through military force and economic coercion when necessary. A strong "advocate of the American project," Mead remains optimistic about the future and predicts that the U.S. will be successful in spreading economic and political freedom far and wide, including regions that will offer great resistance to such changes. At times the narrative gets bogged down in potentially confusing academic terminology, but overall the book is filled with thought-provoking ideas and intriguing details about the role and limitations of U.S. influence and what it bodes for the rest of the world. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of Mortal Splendor and Special Providence, which won the Lionel Gelber Award for best book on international affairs in English for the year 2002. He is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times; has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker; and is a regular reviewer of books on the United States for Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mead also lectures regularly on American foreign policy. He lives in New York City.

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