AMERICA RIGHT OR WRONG: An Anatomy of American Nationalism

Anatol Lieven, Author . Oxford Univ. $30 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-516840-2

In this provocative and scholarly work, Lieven, senior associate at Washington's Carnegie Endowment, argues that normative American patriotism—an optimistic "civic creed" rooted in respect for America's institutions, individual freedoms and constitutional law—contains a monster in the basement: a jingoistic, militaristic, Jacksonian nationalism that sees America as the bearer of a messianic mission to lead a Manichean struggle against the savages. Since 9/11, the Bush administration and its Christian-fundamentalist "base" have invoked the nationalist tradition in waging the struggle against the "evil-doers." The result, Lieven argues, has been catastrophic for the war on terror. Rather than rally to America as the beacon of liberty, other nations (particular European and Muslim ones) feel repelled and threatened by the cavalier and unilateral superpower. Lieven's provocative final chapter argues that much of U.S. support for Israel is rooted not in the "civic creed" (e.g., support for a fellow liberal democracy) but in a nationalism that sees the Israelis as heroic cowboys and the Palestinians as savages who must be driven from their land, as Jackson did the Cherokees. Throughout, Lieven takes to task the American liberal intelligentsia for abandoning universalist principles in favor of ethnic chauvinism and nationalist fervor. Cogently argued, this is an important contribution to the discourse on national identity, the war on terror and the nature of political liberalism. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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