A foreign policy insider parses American diplomatic theories and practices overseas.
Crowley served as assistant secretary of state under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His sweeping, densely packed account of American-centric diplomacy and warfare could have served as a defense of the motivations and actions of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Refreshingly, the author mostly puts his partisan loyalties aside as he informs readers, in clear prose, how the government has been trying to find a balance between the U.S. as a global police officer and as a more modest presence. Crowley is careful to tailor his remarks appropriately for each cataclysmic shift in foreign policy—e.g., the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, and the many upheavals and unpredictable paradigms in the last decade. The author explains how President George W. Bush started out sensibly to wage a war against terrorists on American soil but then became so distracted by alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that reasonable reactions went out the window. By the time Obama inherited the mess, applying American military might more judiciously had become problematic given the fierce battles within Islamic states to oppose the U.S. and its objectives. Crowley delineates how and why Obama could not successfully end war in Iraq yet somehow managed to reach a modicum of success with Iran, especially with regard to nuclear weapons. Battles against the constantly shifting al-Qaida proved more or less futile and helped give rise to the even more elusive Islamic State group. Toward the end of the book, Crowley discusses American humanitarian interventions in Libya and Syria, our renewed attention to the relationship with China, efforts to avoid another Cold War with Russia, and how to evaluate the importance of Afghanistan to American interests. Crowley also confidently assesses how domestic electoral politics (think Trump vs. Clinton) influences foreign policy.
A useful handbook for understanding the current status of the U.S. in global affairs.