AMERICAN UMPIRE by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman


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A reasoned argument for the universally appealing power of American ideals over imperial might.

Cobbs Hoffman (Foreign Relations/San Diego State Univ.; Broken Promises, 2011, etc.) makes a systematic case against American imperialism in favor of its assumption of the role of world arbitrator. The notion of empire had been devalued since the Peace of Westphalia brought an end to the Thirty Years’ War in 1643 and established for the first time a notion of sovereign states, equal and free from international control. From this moment also flowed the preference for arbitration over violent dispute. The United States, as a nation of citizens truly able to “begin the world over again,” as Thomas Paine described, enshrined in its very founding the three trends of democratic capitalism already being legitimized the world over yet taken to new heights here: access, in terms of opportunity for all; arbitration, or the use of diplomacy and sanctions over violence; and transparency, as being proven more useful in economic and political dealings than secrecy. Moving chronologically, Cobbs Hoffman reveals how America first had to heal its own internal conflict between federal and state authority inherent in the Constitution, nicely handled by Alexander Hamilton yet challenged and ultimately resolved in a bitter Civil War, so that at last the country could “pioneer the new norms of international relations of which Enlightenment thinkers had long dreamed”—most notably, in the implementation of the doctrines by presidents Monroe, Wilson and Truman.

A useful, cogent examination of why, despite some folly and ill judgment, America continues to be the one country the world looks to when in crisis or need of support.

Pub Date: March 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0674055476
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2013


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