Congressional Quarterly leads readers through two major tunnels of U.S. foreign policy, which he calls "the Idea of Progress&#"/>

SANDS OF EMPIRE: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition

Robert W. Merry, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6667-3

The president and publisher of Congressional Quarterly leads readers through two major tunnels of U.S. foreign policy, which he calls "the Idea of Progress" (aka "the End of History") and the "Cyclical View of History." "Progress" purports that Western liberal democracy is the best and final form of government. "Cyclic," on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of each individual civilization's culture combined with the innate irrationality of human nature, and says, à la Spengler, Toynbee and (more recently) Samuel P. Huntington, that any drive to impose one civilization's values upon another is likely to end in disaster. Elucidations of the latter philosophy, with which Merry sympathizes, are among the book's most passionate passages. Merry argues that the cyclical view is often and unwisely overlooked, while the persistent (and, he says, false) idea of progress continues to be widely regarded. He explains how progress disastrously guided the Bush administration's planning and forays in Iraq, and just as easily provided the rationale for failed U.S. humanitarian incursions in Somalia and the Balkans. Merry's succinct, provocative analysis of U.S. responses to world events isn't groundbreaking, but it is well articulated and deeply felt. Agent, Flip Brophy. (June 8)

Reviewed on: 04/25/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
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