Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World

Charles A. Kupchan. Oxford Univ, $29.95 (456p) ISBN 978-0-19-939302-2
Kupchan (The End of the American Era), a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, offers an erudite and evenhanded study of the isolationist impulse in American foreign policy. Beginning with President George Washington’s 1796 farewell address advising the nation to steer clear of foreign entanglements, the idea of maintaining American independence served the country well during its economic ascent, according to Kupchan. He links “isolationist logic” to the notion of American exceptionalism and explains how the subjugation of Native Americans and the seizure of lands from Mexico in the 19th century was seen not as expansionism, but as the fulfillment of America’s “messianic mission.” Despite U.S. involvement in WWI, isolationism only fell out of favor after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Kupchan writes, and the U.S. has since overextended itself in foreign wars and alliances, sowing discord at home and abroad. Talk of “America First” has reemerged in the Trump era, but Kupchan disagrees with those who want to pull the U.S. out of “major strategic positions around the world,” arguing instead for “selective engagement and judicious retrenchment.” He marshals a wealth of evidence to support his arguments and ranges confidently across more than 200 years of American history. Policy makers and foreign affairs scholars will want to take note. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/31/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-19-939325-1
Ebook - 978-0-19-939324-4
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