Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs

William Roe Polk, Author University of Chicago Press $27 (376p) ISBN 978-0-226-67329-5
Despite the undeniable relevance of the subject matter as proposed by the subtitle, this book is a disappointment. The author's credentials are impressive, including teaching at Harvard and the University of Chicago, as well as serving in the State Department under two administrations. Polk would have had a tighter, more cohesive argument had he limited himself to the last 50 years--or at least stayed in this century. He begins with the classic definition of diplomacy as ""The conduct of business between states by peaceful means,"" then spends many pages on hundreds of years of cultural anthropology, medical pathology and military history. Generally, the coverage is superficial and most would be familiar to any reasonably well-read person who did not sleep through their obligatory world civilization survey course in college. Toward the end, the real gist of foreign affairs is addressed, again for the most part superficially. Only in the final, truly relevant sections on international law and ethnic cleansing do Polk's capabilities become apparent. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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