The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy

Stephen M. Walt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-374-28003-1
Walt (Taming American Power), a professor of international affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, decries the American foreign policy of “liberal hegemony” as an abject failure and advocates “offshore balancing” in this thought-provoking work. Walt argues that, since the end of the Cold War, the American foreign policy community—“a highly conformist, inbred professional caste” that has refused to see the error of its ways and is partly responsible for Donald Trump’s electoral victory—has sought ”to spread democracy, markets, and other liberal values around the world,” believing that it “is both essential for U.S. security and easy to do,” as well as “good for the rest of the world.” After several chapters describing how militarized attempts to spread liberty and market-based economies abroad failed during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, Walt considers President Trump. In his analysis, Trump has combined the worst aspects of liberal hegemony with his own poorly considered attempts to institute “purely transactional” relationships that “forc[e] others to bear the greatest burdens.” Offshore balancing, the alternative Walt proposes, would see the U.S. committing its military forces only when necessary to protect its vital interests and relying on diplomacy and other “soft power” options as its primary means of interacting with the world. This excellent analysis is cogent, accessible, and well-argued. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Release date: 10/16/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-30345-5
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-250-23481-0
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