American Umpire

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman. Harvard Univ., $35 (432p) ISBN 978-0-674-05547-6
In this bold revision of the history of American foreign policy, Stanford historian Hoffman upends the notion that the U.S. was ever an empire, arguing instead that democratic capitalism, in which the people are sovereign and individuals own and generate wealth, essentially sells (and is selling) itself. She begins her discussion of America as global umpire by exploring the forces that prompted a shift in the 17th and 18th centuries toward an empire-free world order, before moving chronologically through nearly 240 years of American international relations, crises, wars, and resolutions. During that time, Hoffman asserts that the benefits of democratic capitalism (e.g., “access to opportunity, arbitration of disputes, and transparency in government and business”) have allowed America, and then the world, to flourish. Yet as the United States’ stake in global affairs has grown greater, the country has been impelled to take on the “Burden of Preemptive Intervention,” a modus operandi that has defined our global dealings since WWII. Though some might argue that such nomenclature is merely a euphemism for a modern imperialist agenda, Hoffman suggests that having an umpire is usually better than not having one at all, especially when the result is the most “functional” form of government the world has seen—so far. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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