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

Farrar. Oct. 2018. 400p. notes. index. ISBN 9780374280031. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780374712464. POL SCI
OrangeReviewStarWalt (international affairs, Harvard Univ.; The Origins of Alliances; Revolution and War; Taming American Power) posits that the unique combination of wealth, power, and geography has led to American world dominance, but that U.S. foreign policy has frequently failed, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. The author faults an entrenched, self-serving, bipartisan foreign policy leadership promoting a broad "liberal hegemony" that does not improve American security. Using both economic and military means to advance disruptive American political ideals and market structures that do not always work in other countries generate both foreign and domestic opposition, which, Walt argues, limits U.S. options while increasing our costs and commitments (e.g., the expansion of NATO). He calls for a more realistic policy that stops exaggerating threats, minimizing costs, and overstating benefits (e.g., Afghanistan and Iraq Wars), with a return to a better balance of power.
VERDICT A scholarly yet accessible read. Anyone interested in American foreign policy will want to reflect on Walt's thesis.
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