A Council on Foreign Relations scholar examines the biggest geopolitical story of modern times: the birth, rise and continuing growth of Anglo-American power.
For the past 400 years, notwithstanding the continually renewed opposition from the rest of the world, the Anglo-Americans, with the British handing the baton to the United States, have emerged from every conflict more powerful. Meanwhile, they view themselves as virtuously defending and advancing liberty, protecting the weak, providing opportunity to the poor, introducing principles of democracy and creating more just societies, even as their enemies see only cruelty and greed and a ruthless plot against decency and morality. Mead (Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk, 2004, etc.) explains all this and more in his ingenious critique of the brilliantly successful methods and the occasional madness of the English-speaking peoples, from Cromwell to Reagan, Berkeley to Bush. Detailing first the common cultural heritage, he then demonstrates how they have dominated in warfare. He outlines the reasons for their global success (sea power has been the core geopolitical strategy) and analyzes the synthesis of historical experience and religious belief that accounts for their unique and powerful ideology. Finally, he explains why they have been so consistently wrong in believing that their mix of commerce, Christianity, the English language and democratic institutions would convert all opponents and put an end to all strife. He frankly assesses how things stand in the world and how they got this way. Yet, while generally approving of the Anglo-American enterprise, Mead avoids triumphalism. He correctly acknowledges and explains the resentments and fears of those unable or unwilling to play by the sometimes confusing and often frightening rules of the Anglo-American system. In less skillful hands, this thesis might have drowned in abstruse reasoning or academic jargon, but Mead enlivens the text with numerous amusing and illustrative anecdotes, artful literary allusions and helpful invocations of great historians and philosophers.
A remarkable piece of historical analysis bound to provoke discussion and argument in foreign-policy circles.