An indictment of America's neglect of its global web of alliances.
American postwar foreign policy has been based on building regional clusters of allies, small or midsize powers located near a maritime choke point or critical land corridor. Grygiel (Advanced International Studies/Johns Hopkins Univ.; Great Powers and Geopolitical Change, 2006) and policy analyst Mitchell assert that recently, "the view has begun to take root in the United States that these sprawling alliances are a liability—either because of the costs they impose…or because of the perils of entrapment in conflicts involving faraway disputes….But these view are wrong—and dangerous." The authors contend that the active maintenance of these alliances is the most dependable and cost-effective way to uphold a global order that supports our ability to sustain economic growth and prosperity through international trade. In particular, they deplore the recent apparent deprioritization of alliances in favor of seeking grand bargains with other rising powers, criticizing complacent rhetoric and attitudes that characterize friendly and competitor states alike as "partners." Perhaps most usefully, the authors place into a coherent context the "probing" activities of Russia, Iran, and China—provocative acts launched on the fringes of American influence to test the extent of our resolve—and then describe how our responses or lack thereof are influencing the national security policies of borderland states, often to our long-term disadvantage. Grygiel and Mitchell advocate a rebuilding and reorganization of our alliances in forms appropriate to each of the three presently critical arenas. The authors' viewpoint is well-argued and incisive; they do, however, review it very thoroughly, sometimes to the point of tedious repetition, and their prose is often dense and wonkish.
At a time when American foreign policy often seems adrift, the authors' vigorous advocacy of a renewed clear-headed engagement with allies is a bracing contribution to discussions of this ongoing conundrum.