The National Security Interests of the United States, 1759 to the Present
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 A pithy yet accessible history of how the US has interacted with other nations, with advice for the future. Former arms-negotiator and undersecretary of state Rostow (Law and Public Affairs/Yale; Peace in the Balance, 1972, etc.) speaks to both the past and current realities of diplomacy. After offering a lucid discussion of war, the state system, and the quest for peace, he launches into a chronological narrative that's rich in details and well-developed characters (e.g., French premier Georges Clemenceau explaining the need for the vengeful Versailles Treaty on the basis of his ``personal and non-transferrable'' responsibility, and faulting Woodrow Wilson's ignorance of a world ``where it was good form to shoot a democrat''). But Rostow is also a highly conventional commentator, a cold warrior who never deeply questions the American psyche and position as inherently insular and untempered because of the nation's physical isolation and lack of powerful neighbors. While he argues for continued active American involvement in world affairs--not primarily to spread freedom and democracy, but to keep the peace--he evinces no real understanding that glasnost has created a substantially changed global agenda. Rostow fails to discuss the 1990 invasion of Panama in any detail, and his enthusiasm for the Gulf War ignores the diplomatic, legal, and ethical issues explored in Ramsey Clark's The Fire This Time (1992). Well informed, but burdened by Rostow's cold-war past and probably not a good bet to head Bill Clinton's reading list.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-300-05700-8
Page count: 383pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993