SOLVENCY: THE PRICE OF SURVIVAL: An Essay on American Foreign Policy by James Chace

SOLVENCY: THE PRICE OF SURVIVAL: An Essay on American Foreign Policy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After an opening chapter describing the decline of American world economic and political power, Foreign Affairs managing editor Chace observes that ""we now have to ask ourselves how we can conduct an intelligent foreign policy with our economic power seriously reduced, with no overriding domestic or foreign consensus, and no clear definition of our vital interests."" That's a big question for an ""essay,"" so it's not surprising that Chace doesn't get very far toward answering it. Resurrecting an old notion of Walter Lippmann's, Chace wants us to think about our place in the world from the point of view of ""solvency,"" which amounts simply to reaching out as far as our national resources allow. After World War II and through Vietnam, the US went way beyond these resources. As the only major industrialized nation with an intact economy, the US was able to exert its muscle and have pretty much what it wanted in terms of international monetary agreements and the like; but the power carried a duty too, and the US went about building up the economies of Europe and Japan, assuming major responsibility for the defense of the west, and spreading the wealth at home, too. We've reached the end of that line, but Chace's program for the future is hazy. Instead of building up massive defense structures of big weapons systems and seeing the hand of the Soviet Union behind every political event out in the world, Chace cautions that we need a prudent, strong defense keyed to conventional forces--he advocates a return of the draft--and a clearer sense of our ""vital interests,"" which amount to security for Europe and Japan, Israel, and oil (the last to be mitigated by decreased dependence on imported oil). These interests require not only selective exertions of power abroad, but greater cooperation with our allies, a cooperation that has not been forthcoming in all areas from either side. So in the debate over whether the US needs to build up its economic power or its military strength, Chace takes a centrist position; we need to do both in moderation. A moderate answer to a radical question, but responsible as far as it goes.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1981
Publisher: Random House