How a Half-Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America's Security
On Sale: April 17, 2008
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For nearly eight years, the American people have struggled
to understand George W. Bushâ€™s approach to the world. Many
analysts, lacking a frame of reference, have simply dubbed
it revolutionary. But in U.S. Vs. Them, J. Peter Scoblic
provocatively argues that the best way to understand Bushâ€™s
foreign policy is to recognize that it is not radical, but
rather the most recent expression of conservatism, an often
misunderstood ideology whose national security instincts
are rooted in Americaâ€™s eighteenth-century view of itself
and whose modern form has percolated for more than a half
century, reaching full strength in the wake of the
September 11, 2001, attacks.
Scoblic persuasively shows that the foreign policy of the
American Right has been stuck for decades on a binary
setting that allows it to see the world only in terms of us
versus them or good versus evil. During the Cold War, that
approach fostered an unwillingness to negotiate with the
Soviet Union, a distrust of apolitical intelligence, and an
insistence on military dominanceâ€” even as the advent of
nuclear weapons rendered the traditional notion of victory
in war obsolete. Today, what conservatives often present as
moral clarity is in fact nothing more than a continued
failure to recognize that American security depends on our
ability to think outside our bordersâ€”to stop seeing the
United States in unavoidable opposition to the rest of the
Tracing the history of Cold War conservatism from its
development by William F. Buckley to its manifestation in
Barry Goldwater through its implementation by Ronald Reagan
and its culmination in the Bush administration, Scoblic
weaves an intellectual history that reveals how the Rightâ€™s
belligerence, intransigence, and disinclination for
diplomacy not only brought us to the brink of nuclear war
with the Soviet Union, but also failed to meet the grave
post-9/11 challenges posed by Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and
especially by the most serious danger that looms before us:
that of nuclear terrorism. Whatâ€™s more, although the Bush
administration is nearing its end, conservatism is
certainly not, as this yearâ€™s Republican presidential
candidates clearly demonstrated.
U.S. Vs. Them is a revealing and sometimes alarming
analysis, but in diagnosing the origins of Bushâ€™s foreign
policy, it illuminates the path to renewed American
leadership in the twenty-first century.
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