Synopses & Reviews
September 11, 2001, distinguished Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis argues, was not the first time a surprise attack shattered American assumptions about national security and reshaped American grand strategy. We've been there before, and have responded each time by dramatically expanding our security responsibilities.
The pattern began in 1814, when the British attacked Washington, burning the White House and the Capitol. This early violation of homeland security gave rise to a strategy of unilateralism and preemption, best articulated by John Quincy Adams, aimed at maintaining strength beyond challenge throughout the North American continent. It remained in place for over a century. Only when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 did the inadequacies of this strategy become evident: as a consequence, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt devised a new grand strategy of cooperation with allies on an intercontinental scale to defeat authoritarianism. That strategy defined the American approach throughout World War II and the Cold War.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11, Gaddis writes, made it clear that this strategy was now insufficient to ensure American security. The Bush administration has, therefore, devised a new grand strategy whose foundations lie in the nineteenth-century tradition of unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony, projected this time on a global scale. How successful it will be in the face of twenty-first-century challenges is the question that confronts us. This provocative book, informed by the experiences of the past but focused on the present and the future, is one of the first attempts by a major scholar of grand strategy and international relations to provide an answer.
"The Bush administration fundamentally transformed American grand strategy in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The National Security Strategy published a bit over one year following those attacks laid bare the manner in which the U.S. would seek national security in times when surprise attack was possible and increasingly devastating. For historian John Lewis Gaddis, the strategy embodied in that document is not a product of an era posing unique threats to America. Rather, the primary concepts entailed in the Bush Doctrine preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony find precedence in the nineteenth-century strategy designed by John Quincy Adams after the British attack on Washington, D.C. on August 24, 1814. In this volume of interpretive history, Gaddis compares the strategies of three presidents (Adams, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George W. Bush) in response to surprise attack by examining the extent to which each adopted the means of preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony in order to ensure the physical security of the U.S. Gaddis's conclusions reveal an intriguing commonality of focus among those presidents who were forced to guide the nation in times of peril. This is not to say that all responded in the same manner (where FDR eschewed unilateralism, George W. Bush is far more amenable). Rather, that these themes have persisted over two centuries and have had a tremendous influence on American relations with the world during times of peace. This book is likely to engender an important discussion about the sources, principles, and effects of American foreign policy throughout the nation's history." Reviewed by Spencer D. Bakich, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"This compact, provocative history of an idea-in-action has the potential to alter the U.S.'s collective self-image." Publishers Weekly
"When he looks to the future, Gaddis raises more questions than he answers, but he raises the right ones....Throughout his essays, Gaddis employs a judicious tone and avoids categorical or simplistic answers." Jack F. Matlock, Jr., The New York Times Book Review
"Even Bush's staunchest opponents stand to be edified by Gaddis' impressive presentation." Booklist
"Gaddis presents an important discussion on America's response to September 11 in this extraordinarily thoughtful and challenging new book." Henry Kissinger
"Whatever the fates hold in store for President Bush, this little nugget of a book is destined for a long shelf life." Robert D. Kaplan
About the Author
John Lewis Gaddis is Robert A. Lovett Professor of History and Political Science at Yale University.
Table of Contents
1. A Morning at Yale
2. The Nineteenth Century
3. The Twentieth Century
4. The Twenty-First Century
5. An Evening at Yale