John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2004), 150 pp., $18.95
Owen Harries, Benign or Imperial? (Adelaide, Australia: ABC Books), 138 pp.
Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies (New York: Free Press, 2004), 304 pp., $27.
Walter Russell Mead, Power, Terror, Peace, and War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 226 pp., $19.95.
David Frum and Richard Perle, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2003), 284 pp., $26.95.
These days, American foreign policy analysis revolves around two vast and far-reaching surprises. On the morning of December 25, 1991, the United States was one superpower in a two-superpower world; by day's end, as the Soviet Union dissolved, it became the sole survivor. At dawn, September 11, 2001, America was arguably the most secure of nations. By noon, it appeared among the most vulnerable. The first was an unalloyed American victory. The second was an unalloyed American defeat.
The American people reacted to these disturbances in most revealing ways. They declined the invitation to empire offered by sole superpower status after they elected Bill Clinton in 1992, a man not only inexperienced in foreign policy but also fairly promising to ignore it ("It's the economy, stupid!"). They remained oblivious to dangers from abroad, electing at the end of the decade the equally inexperienced George W. Bush, after a ferocious campaign dominated by domestic issues.
Neither Bush's initial plans for his presidency nor American complacency survived 9/11. The United States has now pledged, through the War on Terror, to rehabilitate Afghanistan and Iraq as democracies and to transform the Middle East, among other things. The Bush Administration has compared this campaign to change the world with America's historic efforts in post-1945 Europe and Japan.