Politics, wrote Ambrose Bierce, is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. With a handful of each, publishers have pushed foreign policy books to the fore this season. Their blend of passion and profit motive has created the richest book environment the subject has seen in some time.

In the past, publishers have been slow to track foreign-policy events as they happened. But not this year. Unlike books that assess Afghanistan or offer tributes to 9/11, these fall titles aim not to dissect the past but to influence the present. They come to the market with ambition as sweeping as their ideological cast, seeking to matter both at the water cooler and the White House (and, of course, the cash register). And, perhaps most trickily, they seek to carry subjects ubiquitous in the media to deeper levels of insight without overwhelming their readers.

Capturing the full range of these books' missions is impossible. But as with policy itself, understanding both the extremes and the points between can be instructive. So we've aligned seven of these new foreign policy titles along a spectrum from doveish to hawkish. They won't all sell in big numbers and they won't all dramatically change the debate, but all should matter.