Synopses & Reviews
Commentators frequently call the United States an empire: occasionally a benign empire, sometimes an empire in denial, and often a destructive empire. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman asserts instead that, because of its unusual federal structure, America has performed the role of umpire since 1776, compelling adherence to rules that gradually earned collective approval.
This provocative reinterpretation traces America's role in the world from the days of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to the present. Cobbs Hoffman argues that the United States has been the pivot of a transformation that began outside its borders and before its founding, in which nation-states replaced the empires that had dominated history. The "Western" values that America is often accused of imposing were, in fact, the result of this global shift. American Umpire explores the rise of three values--access to opportunity, arbitration of disputes, and transparency in government and business--and finds that the United States is distinctive not in its embrace of these practices but in its willingness to persuade and even coerce others to comply. But America's leadership is problematic as well as potent. The nation has both upheld and violated the rules. Taking sides in explosive disputes imposes significant financial and psychic costs. By definition, umpires cannot win.
American Umpire offers a powerful new framework for reassessing the country's role over the past 250 years. Amid urgent questions about future choices, this book asks who, if not the United States, might enforce these new rules of world order?
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Commentators call the United States an empire: occasionally a benign empire, sometimes an empire in denial, often a destructive empire. In American Umpire Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman asserts instead that America has performed the role of umpire since 1776, compelling adherence to rules that gradually earned broad approval, and violating them as well.
About the Author
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman is Dwight E. Stanford Professor of American Foreign Relations at San Diego State University and a National Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.