REPUBLIC IN PERIL by David C. Hendrickson


American Empire and the Betrayal of the Liberal Tradition
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A call for the United States to return to its traditional foreign policy based on "neutrality, non-intervention, and non-entanglement."

Foreign policy scholar Hendrickson (History/Colorado Coll.; Union, Nation, or Empire: The American Debate over International Relations, 1789-1941, 2009, etc.) bemoans the nation's departure from the classic liberal principles that guided its foreign policy before 1945, and he delivers a blistering critique of the results. While conceding that collective action was necessary in the 1930s, the author considers that doctrine today as "a standing temptation to intervention throughout the globe" under a variety of pretexts. Combined with the expectation of unchallenged American military supremacy and a surveillance regime enabled by new technologies, current policies have eroded personal liberty while delivering neither peace nor security but rather a state of permanent crisis. Hendrickson calls out government pretensions to be enforcing a global rules-based order as self-serving nonsense, and he rejects a characterization of earlier policies as isolationist, contending that they would actually foster more trade and honest engagement with other countries than our current approach involving expansive alliances, foreign bases, electronic spying, and economic sanctions. Far better, he asserts, to return to a policy that fully respects the sovereignty of all other nations and stays out of involvement in their internal affairs. While the author makes telling points and raises uncomfortable questions, his translation of principles into recommended action proves more disturbing. He appears to support an effective withdrawal from other great powers' spheres of influence, abandoning the Baltic republics and Taiwan to the mercy of their great neighbors, and he would leave South Korea to defend itself against Pyongyang. Justifying his positions on Korea and the Middle East even leads him into disingenuous misrepresentations; in his zeal to argue against interventions, he appears far too eager to make needless excuses for vile dictators.

Despite flaws, this is an incisive critique of American policy from the standpoint of an earlier era but with troubling implications in the unlikely event that it actually gains traction in Washington, D.C.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-19-066038-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017


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