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Ostensibly a primer for the novice in international affairs, this is actually a highly sophisticated, witty, and readable manual which could enlighten a State Department veteran. It attempts to spell out rules for making that part of our foreign policy which can be developed by rational calculation more reasonable. Essentially Fisher argues that the goal of any foreign policy is to make other governments take certain steps (e.g. making North Vietnam negotiate); hence our efforts should be directed toward making these steps attractive from their viewpoint. Unfortunately, our attention usually focuses on other ends: on moralistically ""declaring our position"" (and leaving it up to them to decide what to do about it); or on threatening or punishing without considering whether this will really achieve the desired objective. The negative results such tactics have produced are demonstrated in the author's insightful survey of our handling of Vietnam, Cuba, and the Pueblo incident. Fisher, a Harvard Law School professor, briefly investigates some of the reasons why our government does not act rationally, pointing to the problems of formulating sensible policies within the overheated political atmosphere of the State Department. He takes to task critics of the government for employing the same futile approaches as the policymakers: pronouncing, threatening, etc. His pragmatism and his value-free cool may provoke attack from those who would like to revamp the American government, rather than merely to make it more effective in pursuit of its business. But within its sphere, this book is excellent. The Robert Osborne illustrations will no doubt underline Fisher's ironic manner, but they should not fool anyone about his serious purpose.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1969
Publisher: Harper & Row