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From the New York Times-bestselling author Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions dissects the faults and foibles of recent American foreign policy--explaining why it has been plagued by disasters like the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done to fix it. In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were From the New York Times-bestselling author Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions dissects the faults and foibles of recent American foreign policy--explaining why it has been plagued by disasters like the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done to fix it. In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were confident that a new era of peace and prosperity was at hand. Twenty-five years later, those hopes have been dashed. Relations with Russia and China have soured, the European Union is wobbling, nationalism and populism are on the rise, and the United States is stuck in costly and pointless wars that have squandered trillions of dollars and undermined its influence around the world. The root of this dismal record, Walt argues, is the American foreign policy establishment's stubborn commitment to a strategy of "liberal hegemony." Since the end of the Cold War, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to use U.S. power to spread democracy, open markets, and other liberal values into every nook and cranny of the planet. This strategy was doomed to fail, but its proponents in the foreign policy elite were never held accountable and kept repeating the same mistakes. Donald Trump won the presidency promising to end the misguided policies of the foreign policy "Blob" and to pursue a wiser approach. But his erratic and impulsive style of governing, combined with a deeply flawed understanding of world politics, are making a bad situation worse. The best alternative, Walt argues, is a return to the realist strategy of "offshore balancing," which eschews regime change, nation-building, and other forms of global social engineering. The American people would surely welcome a more restrained foreign policy, one that allowed greater attention to problems here at home. This long-overdue shift will require abandoning the futile quest for liberal hegemony and building a foreign policy establishment with a more realistic view of American power. Clear-eyed, candid, and elegantly written, Stephen M. Walt's The Hell of Good Intentions offers both a compelling diagnosis of America's recent foreign policy follies and a proven formula for renewed success.


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From the New York Times-bestselling author Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions dissects the faults and foibles of recent American foreign policy--explaining why it has been plagued by disasters like the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done to fix it. In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were From the New York Times-bestselling author Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions dissects the faults and foibles of recent American foreign policy--explaining why it has been plagued by disasters like the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done to fix it. In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were confident that a new era of peace and prosperity was at hand. Twenty-five years later, those hopes have been dashed. Relations with Russia and China have soured, the European Union is wobbling, nationalism and populism are on the rise, and the United States is stuck in costly and pointless wars that have squandered trillions of dollars and undermined its influence around the world. The root of this dismal record, Walt argues, is the American foreign policy establishment's stubborn commitment to a strategy of "liberal hegemony." Since the end of the Cold War, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to use U.S. power to spread democracy, open markets, and other liberal values into every nook and cranny of the planet. This strategy was doomed to fail, but its proponents in the foreign policy elite were never held accountable and kept repeating the same mistakes. Donald Trump won the presidency promising to end the misguided policies of the foreign policy "Blob" and to pursue a wiser approach. But his erratic and impulsive style of governing, combined with a deeply flawed understanding of world politics, are making a bad situation worse. The best alternative, Walt argues, is a return to the realist strategy of "offshore balancing," which eschews regime change, nation-building, and other forms of global social engineering. The American people would surely welcome a more restrained foreign policy, one that allowed greater attention to problems here at home. This long-overdue shift will require abandoning the futile quest for liberal hegemony and building a foreign policy establishment with a more realistic view of American power. Clear-eyed, candid, and elegantly written, Stephen M. Walt's The Hell of Good Intentions offers both a compelling diagnosis of America's recent foreign policy follies and a proven formula for renewed success.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    A thoroughly iconoclastic book about America's disastrous post-Cold War foreign policy establishment. Walt is a "realist" when it comes to international relations and is opposed to the strategy of liberal hegemony that the United States has been pursuing over the past several decades. The demand that other states be liberal and emulate American values, for their own good, has created many disasters and fed an intolerantly Manichean view of the world. Walt is what you could call a principled real A thoroughly iconoclastic book about America's disastrous post-Cold War foreign policy establishment. Walt is a "realist" when it comes to international relations and is opposed to the strategy of liberal hegemony that the United States has been pursuing over the past several decades. The demand that other states be liberal and emulate American values, for their own good, has created many disasters and fed an intolerantly Manichean view of the world. Walt is what you could call a principled realist, so he does not totally discount the merits of the liberal viewpoint or disdain any sort of morality being involved in policymaking. Instead he makes a very thorough case that liberal hegemony has been a disaster practically and morally, both for Americans and for those who have supposedly been the recipients of their twin gifts of democracy and liberalism. The book documents a long list of crimes and errors, as many other similar books do. But what really makes it worthwhile is that rather than simply highlighting problems, Walt has some reasonable solutions as well. Instead of trying to impose liberalism on the rest of the world he calls for a return to the strategy of "offshore balancing.” This effectively means that the United States must live and let others live, and should focus its foreign policy mainly on making sure that no other potentially threatening international hegemon consolidates itself abroad. The U.S. should not engage in military-led social engineering projects (see: "regime change") nor should it go out in search of monsters to slay. Instead it should identify a few key regions where its interests need to be protected and ensure that no other major power consolidates there that could threaten it. This can be done by arming local states to resist an aggressive would-be hegemon, using leverage like sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and only when absolutely necessary getting involved militarily. Walt is not totally against intervening to stop mass killings in any circumstance, but would greatly circumscribe the scenarios when that would be done. He is absolutely not interested in the chimerical goal of forcing other states to become liberal or threatening them with destruction if they fail to do so. His proposal is a modest, reasonable and achievable strategy - much more so than the messianic, crusading liberalism that has caused so much harm over the past few decades. In the 19th and early 20th centuries when the United States became a great power it pursued this same strategy of offshore balancing. This is precisely why it only became involved in the world wars when it seemed like a German power was consolidating itself in Europe and might one day emerge as a threat to America itself. Today, China is a mirror image of the coldly realistic foreign policy that America once had. It is patiently building its domestic strength while cautiously choosing when and where to get involved abroad. Meanwhile the United States is looking very much like the unwieldy, flailing empires of Europe, with its footprint in dozens of countries around the world and an infrastructure that is increasingly incapable of fulfilling its grand global ambitions. The rise of China might actually force America back into a realistic position that entails offshore balancing, if its institutions are not too hidebound and corrupt to respond. Walt issues a scathing denunciation of the DC foreign policy class, which, aside from a few outsiders, is totally committed to a failed foreign policy vision and seems to have almost zero meritocratic controls. Refreshingly, he names names and calls out specific institutions and interest groups that have obviously been involved in subverting rational policymaking. He is realistic about the prospects of change, however. What is needed is the creation of a counter-elite that can deconstruct the existing stranglehold of liberal hegemonic views in DC and slowly steer the ship of state back towards a sensible, sustainable and rational foreign policy. If its successful, it'll probably also end up being a more moral one than the blood-spattered liberal establishment has shown itself to be.

  2. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    The message of Stephen Walt's book is that ever since the end of the Cold War the United States has pursued a foreign policy which promotes liberal democracy globally. What we've been doing for 30 years is seeking to use American power to spread the traditional liberal principles of our democracy, meaning our way of government, our pursuit of individual freedoms, and a market-based economy. It's thought that what's good for the U. S. is good for the rest of the world and that the U. S. is the "i The message of Stephen Walt's book is that ever since the end of the Cold War the United States has pursued a foreign policy which promotes liberal democracy globally. What we've been doing for 30 years is seeking to use American power to spread the traditional liberal principles of our democracy, meaning our way of government, our pursuit of individual freedoms, and a market-based economy. It's thought that what's good for the U. S. is good for the rest of the world and that the U. S. is the "indispensable nation" best able to spread these ideas and to bring others into these systems and alliances promising peace and prosperity. But, he argues that the strategy has failed, that it's poisoned relations with many nations, embroiled us in wasteful and extended wars, encouraged allies to take advantage of us, and led adversaries to block our initiatives. Our proselytizing democracy to the world didn't make the U. S. safer or stronger. Nor did it make the world we intended; some parts of the world are more chaotic, and indicators show there are fewer democratic institutions and less democratic governance today than in the 1990s. All this is laid out in 6 chapters explaining why the grand strategy was flawed and why it's failed, the role of think tanks and media and their influence on the foreign service community. There's also an analysis of the Trump administration, which is essentially a repudiation of liberal hegemony, and why it's also failing. The final chapter is Walt's solution, which is a return to offshore balancing. It calls for a much less active role in the world, particularly in projecting power. Instead of trying to make every other country in America's image, we need to focus on our position in the global balance of power and ways of preventing other nations from threatening our interests. Walt claims that 3 regions matter to the U. S. strategically and have the potential to threaten us in the event a rival state is rising as a potential hegemon: Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf. The rise of a dominant state in any of those regions should draw an obstructive response from the U. S. I found his argument for this shift in thinking (which isn't really a shift) convincing. He spends considerable time covering America's foreign policy history and demonstrating that offshore balancing--that is, letting regions solve their own problems unless the rise of a hegemon seems eminent, as Germany in the 2 world wars of the previous century--was how we built a powerful America and established our own Western Hemisphere hegemony by 1900. He writes that a return to offshore balancing would be a return to diplomacy and a turn away from military power. I needed the convincing of that final chapter. I'd feared Walt's arguments would descend to the level of polemic, and I think in some areas he does. He can be strident and exhausting with his agenda. The last chapter smoothed some of the edges of his attack on those he blames, the administrations of Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump. (Actually, he believes the American electorate saw the foreign policy problems he describes and that the election of Trump was a direct reaction and indication of a desire for change, but that the inexperience and incompetencies of the current administration have made matters worse.) In this final chapter he diagrams a way out while at the same time writing that our achieving a new foreign policy direction may not be as onerous as previously thought. Though he does admit the ideas of the liberal hegemony philosophy are imbedded in our foreign policy service and will have to be overcome.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This book is essential reading for anybody interested in US foreign policy and is written well enough to engage both the casual reader and well-informed graduate students. Walt's criticism of the foreign-policy making community in Washington DC as insular and resistant to challenges to conventional wisdom is supported with strong evidence and a compelling narrative. Walt's take on foreign policy is a refreshing divergence from recent books written by Eliot Cohen and Kurt Campbell, to cite two fo This book is essential reading for anybody interested in US foreign policy and is written well enough to engage both the casual reader and well-informed graduate students. Walt's criticism of the foreign-policy making community in Washington DC as insular and resistant to challenges to conventional wisdom is supported with strong evidence and a compelling narrative. Walt's take on foreign policy is a refreshing divergence from recent books written by Eliot Cohen and Kurt Campbell, to cite two former policy makers mentioned in this book, that make the centrist case for US engagement abroad without fully addressing alternatives. Walt rightly acknowledges that nearly all of those in the foreign policy community believe they are truly supporting the US national interest and many of them are highly qualified and the right people to do the job. His view is not necessarily that these people should be denied important positions in the future, but that they should be more open to new ideas and more welcoming of those with different points of view. However, there are several weaknesses to this book that readers should be aware of. In Walt's criticism of those in foreign policy he often does not distinguish between the highly skilled and qualified, such as Robert Gates and James Clapper, and those that should never have been given their high-level positions in the first place, much less the opportunity to repeat tragic mistakes, such as General Tommy Franks, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, and others. He also could have done a better job of highlighting contrarian views. It is fine to mention Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, but their writing and reporting hardly holds the rigor and insight of somebody like Micah Zenko, also highlighted as a foreign policy contrarian thinker. Mentioning Greenwald and Scahill, even if their legitimate contrarian views lack the substance of somebody like Zenko, without providing additional background does the reader a disservice. Walt's criticism of James Clapper for lying to Congress, which Clapper acknowledged and apologized for on the record and more than adequately explains in his memoir, and of the intelligence community are weak points of an otherwise well-informed criticism of foreign policy. The challenge of saying that the intelligence community failed to predict specific events mischaracterizes the capabilities and role of intelligence. Unfortunately, because of classification issues, there is no way for anybody to actually know what the intelligence community predicted and whether or not sound analysis was ignored by policy makers. Regarding the Arab Spring or the Russian invasion of Crimea, Walt simply cannot know if one or several analysts predicted these events and how their analysis was taken within the intelligence community. A more nuanced criticism of the intelligence community, perhaps by pointing to non-governmental thinkers who accurately predicted events based on information the intelligence community would have been aware of, would have actually bolstered the criticism of the foreign policy elite who either ignored the assessments of intelligence analysts or failed to challenge them to think of more alternative scenarios, even if one cannot tell which was the case. Walt also makes one mistake made by the conventional foreign-policy thinkers he criticizes of assuming that the US can achieve all its foreign policy goals. Multiple administrations have been criticized for failing to secure peace in Israel or to denuclearize North Korea, but these goals were never realistic in the first place. Walt is absolutely right that the US should consider alternative views, such as adjusting its position on complete denuclearization of North Korea (at least in the short term), but does not go so far as to explore the problem of unrealistic goals and the agency of other important actors in the international system who have the power and a strong interest in preventing the US from achieving its maximal positions. One last problem is that Walt sometimes overstates his criticism of different parts of the foreign policy community. To take the example of think tanks, there are certainly some that are heavily influenced by corporate and and state donors, and others that maintain a high standard if independent thinking despite taking such donations. Walt could have done a better job highlighting this spectrum so as to challenge the reader to consider this ethical question for themselves when reading think tank, and other, reports. These flaws are minor compared to the importance of this book at capturing several important criticisms of US foreign policy, but the reader should be aware of them. Walt was certainly aware of several of these shortcomings and does an adequate job of acknowledging that his criticism does not apply to all foreign policy thinkers or all think tanks.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Denton

    The thesis of this book is that the post-Cold War foreign policy of the United States of America has been a disaster and its enduring appeal and continuing application is due to an entrenched and protected self-interested foreign policy elite that dominates domestic discourse. Walt identifies their failed foreign policy as liberal hegemony which he defines as an overly ambitious foreign policy seeking to influence nations to adopt a suite of liberal reforms - democracy, market economics, propert The thesis of this book is that the post-Cold War foreign policy of the United States of America has been a disaster and its enduring appeal and continuing application is due to an entrenched and protected self-interested foreign policy elite that dominates domestic discourse. Walt identifies their failed foreign policy as liberal hegemony which he defines as an overly ambitious foreign policy seeking to influence nations to adopt a suite of liberal reforms - democracy, market economics, property rights, etc. - often through diplomacy but increasingly through threats and military force. It's a persuasive argument and Walt marshals the familiar failures of the policy: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, NATO expansion (leading to an increasingly paranoid and bellicose Russia), the numerous adventures in Central America, as well as many others. These policies all lead to America being less secure and less prosperous. Equally persuasive is Walt's argument for why, despite such obvious failures, liberal hegemony remains the dominant foreign policy of the United States. It remains because America's foreign policy elite won't let it die. They're able to sell their vision largely by means of threat inflation, benefit exaggeration, and cost minimization. Further, they avoid accountability because they are a tightly knit community and the unparalleled riches and security of the United States affords them a robust bufferzone of failure. Walt concludes his book with a short chapter on his preferred foreign policy: offshore balancing. A policy of offshore balancing calls for a restrained commitment to large-scale social engineering abroad, a commitment to maintaining a minimal military footprint in foreign countries (outside of a few strategic zones), and an emphasis on diplomacy in international relations while allowing local powers to balance any potential antagonistic foreign hegemons. I've only read a few books on foreign policy and have hardly given it any thought so obviously I can't comment on the wisdom of Walt's arguments but they do make intuitive sense to me and I'd like to see us move more towards his vision.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick Lloyd

    I generally like Walt's approach to foreign policy, so perhaps I'm being a bit generous here with the rating of four stars. The book is an interesting explanation of a chronically underexplored world view: Realism as US Foreign Policy/Grand Strategy. Walt goes through great (sometimes excruciating) detail documenting the various reasons why Realism is not the accepted consensus of "the Blob", and why he thinks it would produce much greater results for the country than the dominant Liberal Hegemo I generally like Walt's approach to foreign policy, so perhaps I'm being a bit generous here with the rating of four stars. The book is an interesting explanation of a chronically underexplored world view: Realism as US Foreign Policy/Grand Strategy. Walt goes through great (sometimes excruciating) detail documenting the various reasons why Realism is not the accepted consensus of "the Blob", and why he thinks it would produce much greater results for the country than the dominant Liberal Hegemony followed by both both sides of the political spectrum. While I'm generally sympathetic to this point of view, my main issue with him here is in consistency. He argues the traditional Realist line that offshore balancing against rival powers (such as China) would make the US safer because it would prevent them from consolidating power in their region and using it to encroach on US hegemony. Asian allies, such as Japan and India, should be bolstered, Walt argues, in order to balance against China's rise. Why, then, does he pivot to arguing that the expansion of NATO (which was essentially offshore balancing against Russia) was seen as a threat to Russia and directly caused the Ukraine crisis and the current state of heightened tension between Russia and the West? If we agree that offshore balancing would be the best China policy (which I do), then why is it not also the best Russia policy? Walt's failure to adequately address the issue is the book's main shortfall.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kent

    Deep State Radio podcast member Rosa Brooks wrote in her blurb for Professor Walt's book that it will "wake you up, shake you up, and leave you smarter...Members of the US foreign policy establishment won't like this book. They should read it anyway." Ms. Brooks was spot-on with her assessment. The foreign policy establishment won't like it because Professor Walt takes it to task and essentially rips it to pieces over the space of 254 pages. I even found myself angry at Professor Walt's complain Deep State Radio podcast member Rosa Brooks wrote in her blurb for Professor Walt's book that it will "wake you up, shake you up, and leave you smarter...Members of the US foreign policy establishment won't like this book. They should read it anyway." Ms. Brooks was spot-on with her assessment. The foreign policy establishment won't like it because Professor Walt takes it to task and essentially rips it to pieces over the space of 254 pages. I even found myself angry at Professor Walt's complaints, settling of scores, and his feelings of being ignored. However...the more I read, the more I found myself agreeing with Professor Walt's assessment of the our current foreign policy establishment and it's results since the end of the First Gulf War. Unfortunately, I think the problem with the book is that while it's long on its complaints, it's quite short on solutions (covered over less than 40 pages). While I can agree with the conclusions Professor Walt reaches, more pages devoted to the proposed solutions commensurate with the pages devoted to detailing the failures would have been appreciated.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Blevins

    I did a lot of skimming in this thoughtful book. So, I'm a bit uneasy about stating my position, but here it is. Walt suggests a move away from our long-time US practice of "liberal hegemony" toward a practice of "offshore balancing". First, don't assume you know what is being referred to until you read Walt's definitions. It seems to me that Walt is suggesting that we (the USA) move to a global engagement model based on the practice of preventing other countries from becoming hegemons through a I did a lot of skimming in this thoughtful book. So, I'm a bit uneasy about stating my position, but here it is. Walt suggests a move away from our long-time US practice of "liberal hegemony" toward a practice of "offshore balancing". First, don't assume you know what is being referred to until you read Walt's definitions. It seems to me that Walt is suggesting that we (the USA) move to a global engagement model based on the practice of preventing other countries from becoming hegemons through a variety of practices which he outlines. By doing this, and avoiding direct conflict, we can reduce our foreign investment costs, and reallocate these funds to domestic infrastructure needs (which I totally agree I would like to do). The concern I have is that I can't see other nations accepting this practice by the USA (or any other nation) in the long term. Isn't every country going to want its "fair share" of global resources, human rights, and quality of life? Hence, offshore balancing may be a step in the correct direction but it is short-sighted in my own view.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel C.

    A lucid and thorough indictment of the failure of modern U.S. foreign policy and of the utterly self-serving and corrupt establishment (the Blob, as Ben Rhodes famously described it) that has enabled it for so long. After the cold war, U.S. adopted a strategy of "liberal hegemony", intent on promoting the adoption of the American political and economic system throughout the world. This is the logic behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the near constant agitation for war with Iran. The re A lucid and thorough indictment of the failure of modern U.S. foreign policy and of the utterly self-serving and corrupt establishment (the Blob, as Ben Rhodes famously described it) that has enabled it for so long. After the cold war, U.S. adopted a strategy of "liberal hegemony", intent on promoting the adoption of the American political and economic system throughout the world. This is the logic behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the near constant agitation for war with Iran. The reasoning that says if only we invest enough lives and resources in remaking the region in our image, our problems could be solved. Walt expertly critiques this approach, describing how it has failed us, and is built on faulty premises. The book ruthlessly names names. The fifth chapter in particular ("Is Anyone Accountable?") is enough to induce a rage aneurysm. Over and over the Blob promotes those that are demonstrably wrong, as long as they flatter the powerful and conform to the consensus, and punishes those expressing unpopular, but ultimately correct analyses. I wasn't completely unaware of this. Many who worked to sell the Iraq war are still around, having failed upwards in the intervening time, while its critics have been marginalized, but to hear it laid out as Walt does is bewildering. This is just one manifestation of the Blob protecting itself. In the sixth chapter we see how Trump, who ran on vague, inarticulate skepticism of the foreign policy consensus, was quickly absorbed into the Blob, and is now just a more explicitly cruel version of what we've had for decades. Obama also had a degree of skepticism, and was thoroughly admonished by liberals and conservatives alike for his reluctance to arbitrarily bomb Syria, or for abstaining from a UN votes on Israel-Palestine, for example. What's mildly frustrating is the framing of the book in describing the grand strategy of liberal hegemony as "well-intentioned". What does it mean for a grand strategy to be well-intentioned? Weren't most of history's great monsters acting on some conception of what they thought was best for their people? It's hardly any consolation if those doing the ethnic cleansing really, truly believe their own rhetoric. As scathing as the critique in this book is, I found odd the repeated assurances that the people who have failed repeatedly, in exactly the ways others had predicted, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths are basically good guys, just a little misguided. Walt's proposes an alternative grand strategy called "offshore balancing". Essentially avoiding open-ended commitments while working to preserve a balance of power, as to prevent any rival regional hegemonic force from developing. He makes a convincing case that this would be less bad than the Blob consensus, but he doesn't really grapple with moral questions. Do the lives on non-Americans matter? Is scheming to oust democratically elected leaders, as was done in Chile, Iran, and numerous other places an acceptable application of offshore balancing? Was arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq war a prudent move to preserve the balance of power? Liberal hegemony superficially engages with morality, expressing selective outrage at human rights abuses when useful, but Walt's realist perspective doesn't seem to at all, which was disappointing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Probably now the definitive text for both making the case against liberal hegemony in foreign policy as well as making the case for a more defensive realist offshore balancing. My full review can be found here: https://geotrickster.com/2018/11/17/t... Probably now the definitive text for both making the case against liberal hegemony in foreign policy as well as making the case for a more defensive realist offshore balancing. My full review can be found here: https://geotrickster.com/2018/11/17/t...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    I have read writings of this author for many years. This book is great. He is clear, he has foundations for each assertion, argument and conclusion. This is a masterful work on US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, including numerous errors of policy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Danny Cooper

    Walt throughly outlines the disastrous record of US foreign policy since the fall of the Soviet Union and makes a compelling argument for a shift in US grand strategy going forward.

  12. 4 out of 5

    William Gallo

    Walt argues that since the Cold War ended the US has tried to do too much in too many places, that it has consistently failed, and that it hasn’t acknowledged when it was wrong. Basically, Walt is opposed to US global hegemony. And he rejects the notion that the only thing keeping the world from sliding into chaos is a global US military presence. Instead of trying to preserve US global dominance, he argues Washington should adopt a strategy of “offshore balancing,” which would greatly limit its Walt argues that since the Cold War ended the US has tried to do too much in too many places, that it has consistently failed, and that it hasn’t acknowledged when it was wrong. Basically, Walt is opposed to US global hegemony. And he rejects the notion that the only thing keeping the world from sliding into chaos is a global US military presence. Instead of trying to preserve US global dominance, he argues Washington should adopt a strategy of “offshore balancing,” which would greatly limit its intervention overseas. He acknowledges this strategy would have shortcomings. For example, the standard for using military force would be so high that the US would very often not intervene to prevent humanitarian catastrophes. But he argues the benefits from “offshore balancing” would outweigh the drawbacks, and would allow the US to instead spend more money on domestic programs such as healthcare and education. His critiques of Donald Trump were notable. While Walt largely agrees with Trump’s criticism of the US foreign policy establishment, he argues Trump has failed to follow through, or even to try to follow through, on most of his foreign policy-related campaign promises. Trump’s defense policy, Walt argues, is basically the status quo, but with more bombs and more money. Walt says it never was realistic to expect Trump to enact major changes to US foreign policy, given that he is more entertainer than statesman and has shown little interest in learning about world affairs or carrying out a coherent foreign policy across the whole of US government. US foreign policy will almost certainly not change anytime soon, Walt says, unless anti-interventionists form a well-funded political movement that places respectable anti-war voices in the mainstream political debate.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    I agree with this book, mostly. He's a respected member of the political science elite and a foreign policy writer that was assigned back when I took college classes on the subject. This is a book form of a lecture he gave to members of the institutions he's criticizing, and it's narrated by the author, both of which are positives for me. It's a strong argument that we as a nation discuss foreign policy weakly when we do it all. We don't follow deeper narratives and lack information on the true I agree with this book, mostly. He's a respected member of the political science elite and a foreign policy writer that was assigned back when I took college classes on the subject. This is a book form of a lecture he gave to members of the institutions he's criticizing, and it's narrated by the author, both of which are positives for me. It's a strong argument that we as a nation discuss foreign policy weakly when we do it all. We don't follow deeper narratives and lack information on the true situation in foreign countries. We also don't discuss the failures and the people who have continuously been disastrously wrong are the ones who keep getting promoted. He is talking about the elected policy makers, the appointed policy wonks and the journalists writing editorials and opinion pieces. The most obvious of the points he makes are about the Iraq war, lies about WMDs and expensive continued involvement. He also denigrates the attempt to impose liberal democracies abroad. It's not that liberal democracies are bad, or that we shouldn't encourage them, but that they can not be brought about from outside forces and pressures. They require institutions and trust which have to come from the citizens themselves - not something even the largest military in the world can impose. He quotes and discusses people at all levels of government and how they are looking in the wrong direction. I found a James Comey comment about how in 2015 Islamic terrorism was the number one threat they were looking at interesting, because perhaps this explains how foreign election influences and cybersecurity issues were so badly missed. He pragmatically attacks both Republicans and Democrats pointing out the similarity in the ways they have handled foreign policy - and he points out how that was to Trump's advantage. He's not pro-Trump, but he sees Trump as a result of these same failures and the lack of accountability or diversity in the positions of the candidates. He argues for an older political concept of strategic balancing - supporting locals and allowing them to push agendas rather than stepping in unitarily or militarily. I don't agree with everything he says, but I think it's worth reading for the coverage and discussion on recent foreign policy. The single thing I think I most disagreed with was "globalization might increase the risks from terrorism, cyber warfare and infectious diseases somewhat but these dangers remain modest compared to other threats. In any case projecting US power into more places was not an effective way to deal with them". I agree that US power projection, as currently implemented, is not the way to deal with these threats, but I do believe that infectious diseases are amongst the greatest threats and cyber warfare is more crucial than he believes. I may not like the American emphasis on the economy, but it's more vulnerable to cyber warfare than anything else. Similarly, infectious diseases may not benefit our enemies but they could reasonably kill more people than a world war. So, that's a thing that makes me wonder just what he thinks the threats are, but perhaps that's a discussion for his next book. Read as an audiobook through the Libby App and SF Public Library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    A panoramic view of the foreign policy community in the United States and its role in shaping the direction of our country in international affairs in the post Cold War; specifically through the last three administrations: Clinton, Bush and Obama. The author makes a good case for the all players: academicians, media, career diplomats/advisers operating under the same belief system which he names liberal hegemony guiding their actions in the same direction, thus the failed foreign policy decision A panoramic view of the foreign policy community in the United States and its role in shaping the direction of our country in international affairs in the post Cold War; specifically through the last three administrations: Clinton, Bush and Obama. The author makes a good case for the all players: academicians, media, career diplomats/advisers operating under the same belief system which he names liberal hegemony guiding their actions in the same direction, thus the failed foreign policy decisions are repeated because the same values are upheld throughout all three administrations. (Ironically he gives Trump credit for his attempts to move away from this mold even though he ultimately cannot sustain it and reverts to the "common" ground secondary to his personality traits and inability to appoint people of merit in key positions which I now learn is not unique and has been done before.) He makes the case that the United States squandered it's prime opportunity to scale back on armament developments when the Cold War had been won and the United States no longer had a rival to arm against. By continuing to dispense our armies throughout the globe in the name of making democracies everywhere, we presented ourselves to many as a threat and they in turn felt the need to "defend" in anyway they could. Thus the proliferation of nuclear development and the striving to become nuclear capable among those who had no such inclinations earlier. The author analyzes the backgrounds of those who have become our "thinking" heads as well as those who have come to be considered our foreign policy "experts" made worse by the selections of our current president but, in reality, not that different from what history shows for those who have gone before. Outside the United States the average tenure for diplomats is seventeen years! Ours come into office with not only no expertise in their area of assignment but no government experience as well making the likelihood of their effectiveness close to nil over the long run. It is made worse but their being no accountability in place for those who make mistakes and those who err are, in fact, even promoted on further up the ladder. Those who attempt to speak truth to the common consensus are many times punished for their efforts thus the plight of whistle blowers.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Mosman

    Walt postulates the current "foreign policy community" is on the wrong track and supports policies that continue those who work in the community, spending for favorite programs and always an "America First" posture. He points to the number of troops and weapons the US keeps in play all around the world. He believes we are losing lives and treasure fighting wars we are not winning. This points to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Walt believes US foreign policy should follow Overshore Balancing: Walt postulates the current "foreign policy community" is on the wrong track and supports policies that continue those who work in the community, spending for favorite programs and always an "America First" posture. He points to the number of troops and weapons the US keeps in play all around the world. He believes we are losing lives and treasure fighting wars we are not winning. This points to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Walt believes US foreign policy should follow Overshore Balancing: "Offshore balancing is a strategic concept used in realist analysis in international relations. It describes a strategy in which a great power uses favored regional powers to check the rise of potentially-hostile powers." (Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offshor...). Interesting theory worth examining.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ron Peters

    In the preface to this book Walt says he was invited to give a presentation to the State Department on Why U.S. Foreign Policy Keeps Failing, and “it occurred to me afterward that my remarks might form the basis for a short book.” In fact, it probably should have stayed as a power point presentation with a few accompanying notes. As a book, it is over-written, and it may be four times longer than it needs to be. The basic material is good, though, and some chapters – one on how no one in the for In the preface to this book Walt says he was invited to give a presentation to the State Department on Why U.S. Foreign Policy Keeps Failing, and “it occurred to me afterward that my remarks might form the basis for a short book.” In fact, it probably should have stayed as a power point presentation with a few accompanying notes. As a book, it is over-written, and it may be four times longer than it needs to be. The basic material is good, though, and some chapters – one on how no one in the foreign policy community is ever held accountable for failure, and another on the foreign policy escapades of The Donald – are readable, enlightening and entertaining. I really picked it up for the last chapter, “A Better Way,” which describes the grand strategy of Offshore Balancing – how it was originally used by Britain, how it was used by the U.S. over most of the last century, and why it would be better to turn back to this approach and to drop the current grand strategy of liberal hegemony. If you want the short version, read just the Introduction and the last chapter; that would do in a pinch. If you want a bit more, also read the concluding paragraphs of each of the other chapters. Better still, maybe Walt will email you his power point presentation! 😊

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shane Hawk

    Excellent treatise on American foreign policy post-1993. Walt is not afraid to name names here. Very refreshing take as a whole. Recommended to all who wonder why our elite foreign policy apparatus continues to thrive despite three decades of blatant mistakes and ham-fisted approaches. It “fails upward.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Riah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4 stars up until the final chapter, where Walt presents his alternative to the current US foreign policy of liberal hegemony and I am left feeling gloomy. My main gripe is that, to my untrained eye, his solution (offshore balancing) sometimes looks a lot like liberal hegemony, a strategy which he considers to be a total failure. As one example, both he and one of his chief critics take credit for success in the Cold War — Walt claims it was offshore balancing that won the day for the US and his c 4 stars up until the final chapter, where Walt presents his alternative to the current US foreign policy of liberal hegemony and I am left feeling gloomy. My main gripe is that, to my untrained eye, his solution (offshore balancing) sometimes looks a lot like liberal hegemony, a strategy which he considers to be a total failure. As one example, both he and one of his chief critics take credit for success in the Cold War — Walt claims it was offshore balancing that won the day for the US and his critic claims it was liberal hegemony. Maybe in reality, it was a bit of both, and there aren’t always clear lines between different “flavours” of foreign policy. Still, this is extra depressing after you’ve followed him through six chapters of all the problems with current US foreign policy (much of which I agree with), since I am now sad about the apparent lack of light at the end of this tunnel.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rodger

    This book makes an argument very similar to the one John Mearsheimer makes in his new book, as both blame the pursuit of "liberal hegemony" or "liberal primacy" for post-Cold War American foreign policy failures. They are especially critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), but they also criticize US foreign policymakers for threatening domestic civil liberties, violating human rights around the world, etc. Mearsheimer's book was published by an academic press and is laden wi This book makes an argument very similar to the one John Mearsheimer makes in his new book, as both blame the pursuit of "liberal hegemony" or "liberal primacy" for post-Cold War American foreign policy failures. They are especially critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), but they also criticize US foreign policymakers for threatening domestic civil liberties, violating human rights around the world, etc. Mearsheimer's book was published by an academic press and is laden with much more "political science" theory (and jargon), while Walt's book includes a good deal more policy discussion and somewhat anecdotal overviews of recent events, personnel, and processes. Walt ends up recommending a grand strategy of "offshore balancing" while Mearsheimer recommends "restraint." These are similar (and perhaps compatible) grand strategies. I'm sympathetic to many of Walt's arguments. US foreign policy (USFP) elites have clearly and repeatedly inflated threats to justify new weapons systems and favored wars or military interventions. The Iraq war was an unmitigated disaster. The pursuit of US primacy has been disastrous. However, the idea that the US has practiced liberal hegemony for nearly 30 years is somewhat ridiculous. Though I'm not an international relations liberal, it seems obvious to me that their perspective has not been hegemonic over post-Cold War USFP. Most IR scholars, including liberals, opposed the Iraq war. Liberals have also critiqued a plethora of dubious US practices that Walt mentions (and criticizes), including the events at Abu Ghraib, rendition, water-boarding (and other alleged torture), widespread domestic surveillance, drone strike assassinations, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, IR liberals embrace the virtues (and necessity) of international organizations -- and strongly criticize American unilateralism in the post-Cold War world. One of their main criticisms of the Iraq war was the lack of UN support. IR liberals have lambasted USFP-makers for failing to sign on to the ICC, CEDAW, Law of the Sea, etc. for withdrawing commitments to the climate change treaties (from Kyoto to Paris), and rejecting various arms control accords (CTBT, ABM Treaty, INF Treaty, Iran nuclear deal, bioweapons compliance protocol, etc). Next, some serious IR work has argued that the Iraq war was a realist, and not a liberal, war. Deudney and Ikenberry, for example, argued in Survival that the Iraq war was about US primacy -- not liberal primacy, but straight up pursuit of relative US POWER. Cramer and Duggan have likewise argued that the war was about US primacy. Walt does not directly address this more nuanced literature or argument, but repeated inserts the modifier “liberal” when discussing US dominance (though mostly using hegemony, rather than primacy). At the beginning of the post-Cold War era, the prominent mainstream journal International Security ran a series of articles debating the value of primacy. The realist scholar Samuel Huntington memorably defended a grand strategy of primacy based on POWER and INTERESTS, not on principle. Those are traditional realist concerns. While Huntington did mention the fact that America could pursue its values if it was sufficiently powerful, he also rejected the liberal idea (from Fukuyama) that the world was at the end of history and that liberalism had prevailed. He instead embraced the realist idea that competition and struggle for power are tragically ingrained inevitabilities in the international system. American foreign policy makers may well have pursued primacy after the Cold War ended, but this was primarily a realist idea, not a liberal idea. Even Walt’s scholarship would suggest good reasons to see the Iraq war as a realist war. A neorealist IR theorist, Walt first became well-known in IR for arguing that states balance threats, not power. This explained why the US and its NATO/western allies had significantly more power than did the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. Without Walt's friendly amendment, realist theory, which predicted that states should balance power and not bandwagon with the powerful, seemed to fail to explain the alignments that actually existed in international politics. Given Walt’s understanding of how states respond to threats, it does not make sense to blame the Afghan and Iraq wars on liberal hegemony. The US acted in response to the 9/11 attacks and perceived threat of WMD in Iraq. While the threats were inflated, the logic (and sales pitch to the US population) was clearly based on this threat. And while George W. Bush eventually starting talking about the importance of spreading democracy, this was mostly AFTER the US had failed to find significant WMD programs in Iraq. The real kickoff to this line of thinking was the 2005 second inaugural address. In the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war, the US leveraged the threat of the Bush Doctrine to disarm Libya of its WMD programs. Libya recognized US fear of rogue states that pursued WMD and were ostensibly linked to terrorism. Mearsheimer has argued that the US, during the Cold War, employed "liberal rhetoric" to sell realist ideas. I don't know why he and Walt do not recognize that idea when quoting seemingly liberal words from USFP-makers during the past 30 years. I suppose if Walt and Mearsheimer are right, then the US actually used what I have interpreted as realist rhetoric about Iraq threats to sell liberal ideas in the case of Iraq. Count me skeptical. Real liberals would not have embraced martial law in Iraq, though that was declared in Iraq in 2004. And again in 2007.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Interesting book on the failings of current U.S. foreign policies. The presidents since Clinton have been using the same foreign policies with the same bad results. The next to last chapter talks about Trump's first year and how he tried to make changes to foreign policies but was pulled back into the same policies by the foreign policy elite and his own poor choices. This is a good book and offers the alternate option of offshore balancing as a foreign policy since our current policy of liberal Interesting book on the failings of current U.S. foreign policies. The presidents since Clinton have been using the same foreign policies with the same bad results. The next to last chapter talks about Trump's first year and how he tried to make changes to foreign policies but was pulled back into the same policies by the foreign policy elite and his own poor choices. This is a good book and offers the alternate option of offshore balancing as a foreign policy since our current policy of liberal hegemony does not seem to be working.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    While I don't always agree with realist scholars like Walt or Mearsheimer, their arguments are always worth wrestling with. Even though I would consider myself a sort of part liberal institutionalist part offshore balancer (and maybe a soft realist-yes I know this is pretentious), I largely agreed with this book. Walt argues that the foreign policy establishment, broadly defined, has been committed to a grand strategy of liberal hegemony since the end of the Cold War. Under this paradigm, The Uni While I don't always agree with realist scholars like Walt or Mearsheimer, their arguments are always worth wrestling with. Even though I would consider myself a sort of part liberal institutionalist part offshore balancer (and maybe a soft realist-yes I know this is pretentious), I largely agreed with this book. Walt argues that the foreign policy establishment, broadly defined, has been committed to a grand strategy of liberal hegemony since the end of the Cold War. Under this paradigm, The United States has sought to spread both its power and influence over key strategic regions and also its values and ideology, esp democracy. Walt believes that this is simply an out-of-control and unnecessary strategy that has gotten us into disasters like Iraq and kept us over-extended and distracted with global crusading while provoking more opposition from countries like Russia, China, and a variety of others. Walt believes that the absence of superpower competition in the aftermath of the CW should have led the US to downsize militarily and reduce its commitments abroad. Instead, those commitments broadened and deepened, from the expansion of NATO to the occupation of several countries. This is one of the better versions of a category of most realist critics who attack all of post-911 foreign policy as overly idealistic, expansionist, and poorly executed. Walt shows that the FP establishment, writ large, is committed to liberal hegemony and U.S. leadership, including an on-shore military presence around the world and a massive military in general. He points out the obvious conflict of interest here: the bigger USFP is, the more that the FP establishment can get in terms of relevance and funding. This isn't the entirety of his explanation, but he shows how repeated failures since 1990 have not led to any accountability or lesson-learning in the establishment, other than obvious lessons like no more ground invasions of Middle Eastern countries. Still, I think Walt and other realists lump together Clinton and Obama with Bush and the neocons too much. Clinton's foreign policy record was spotty, had one big success (Bosnia and Kosovo), but lacked a major disaster. Obama's FP, moreover, was largely about cleaning up the problems leftover from Bush. It was a mistake to surge in Afghanistan and to jump on-board with regime change in Libya, but neither of these problems come anywhere close to Bush's disastrous mishandling of Iraq and Afghanistan. So I still think the Bush administration was uniquely destructive in this sense in terms of its running roughshod over treaties and institutions, its unilateralism, its brutality (torture, indefinite detention), and the utterly self-inflicted wound of the Iraq invasion. These administrations have have reasoned from assumptions (although there are major differences between neocons and liberal internationalists that Walt somewhat elides), they didn't carry out those tenets all that similarly. Walt has a very interesting take on Trump's first 2 years. Trump dissented from the FP establishment and liberal hegemony-he denigrated alliances, trade deals, treaties, etc. Trump was sort of an experiment: could the arrival of an ignorant and iconoclastic president shift the US away from liberal hegemony? The answer: no, in large part because Trump was too dumb, disorganized, and unfocused to carry out this kind of shift. You could sort of treat this as a victory of the FP establishment, but I think that overlooks the very real differences within that establishment over things like, say, the Iran Deal. Walt isn't making some kind of conspiratorial deep state argument but a rather sensible point about how bureaucracies tend to coalesce around certain missions that are hard to get them to budge from. This is a great book to pair with John Mearsheimer's The Great Delusion, which does the more theoretical work about why liberal hegemony won't succeed. It also features a succinct explanation of offshore balancing as a sensible foreign policy. Walt is more about the practical failures of this policy, and I think he's about 90% right. Occasionally, he commits the academic's sin of not appreciating that policy-makers often have to choose between terrible options, but overall he is fair-minded. Definitely worth reading for foreign policy scholars across the board.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    First, this is an excellent book. But I don’t intend to write a detailed review, but more like some random thoughts. I read some of his writings before, such as The Israel lobby and US foreign policy, and felt the author is coolheaded, and has a clear and realistic view on US foreign policy. The Iraq War was something I was totally against before it was even started, I seriously thought that I would not end well. Little did I suspect that the premises were all fake and the end was even worse tha First, this is an excellent book. But I don’t intend to write a detailed review, but more like some random thoughts. I read some of his writings before, such as The Israel lobby and US foreign policy, and felt the author is coolheaded, and has a clear and realistic view on US foreign policy. The Iraq War was something I was totally against before it was even started, I seriously thought that I would not end well. Little did I suspect that the premises were all fake and the end was even worse than I expected. About Middle East peace process: US has never been an impartial mediator, this largely explained why not much has happened. There was a good opportunity in the ‘90s, but it’s gone with the assassination of Rabin. When two parties have a huge imbalance in power, it’s vital for the stronger side not trying to impose its will on the other side, it has to be willing to accept results short of his complete demand. On WMD, it’s pretty ironic that what happened to Iraq and Libya made it almost impossible to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Similar logic applied to NATO expansion. It seems US doesn’t care about what promises it made, as long as it can get away, it would do it. A related issue was the so-called Shock Therapy in ‘90s. Regular Russians had reasons to wonder if those guys intended to just destroy the Russian economy. On the relationships with Iran, one has to wonder if US and UK had not overthrown the Iranian government in early ‘50s, what the situation would have been? Regarding why the foreign policy community has a very narrow range of opinions and why regular people are not happy about it, what Mr. Walt described is definitely true, but I want to go deeper about the second question. The author mentioned the economics side briefly, but I would argue this is the real reason the people are not happy. It’s hard to miss the sharp contrast between their economic conditions and the foreign policy elites’ grand plan abroad. After the turmoil of ‘70s, the neoliberal economics (with the bend to libertarian ideology) started to take hold after long hiatus), as exemplified by Thatcher and Reagan. And shareholder value became the only measure of a company’s performance. This and other factors (such as money’s outsized influence in politics) have brought the widening economic gap and shrinking of the middle class. When the Great Recession brought misery to a big chunk of the population, I hoped that the crisis would be put into good use. Unfortunately, to my deep disappointment, that never happened. One observer mentioned aptly: there were two types of leaders. One type can accept the limitations of conventional politics and try to work with available legislative and interest-group coalitions--the politics of the currently possible. Or the leader can take his case to the people, define the old order as the obstacle to what reform demands and create whole new possibilities--the politics of the aspirational. Despite his exceptional gifts as a leader and the disgrace of the old power structure, for the most part Obama has chosen the conventional path. At that time, the war (and foreign policy) was low on the agenda, so it’s not surprising at all the same policy (with different emphasis) was pursued. As the author mentioned, the geopolitical position of US makes it easy for US leaders to make blunders w/o suffering serious political consequences. On the flip side, these elites lack any trace of humbleness in dealing with other countries. There are other deeper issues, such as assumptions taken for granted, however, they may not be right after all. Maybe more on this at another time. I had high hope during the Great Recession that US still had the ability of self-correction. If the Iraq debacle and the economic crisis were not enough, I wonder what will be enough. The development since then made me seriously doubt if that ability has been permanently lost.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    Harvard international affairs scholar Stephen M. Walt is critical of the U.S. "foreign policy elite" in his book "The Hell of Good Intentions". I had trouble maintaining focus and interest, and didn't find the book to be an easy read, nor particularly helpful. I went through the book too quickly and failed to put the effort needed to retain the full message. This is more a reflection on my skill and efforts as a reader than on Walt's skill and efforts as a writer. I gather the message he tried Harvard international affairs scholar Stephen M. Walt is critical of the U.S. "foreign policy elite" in his book "The Hell of Good Intentions". I had trouble maintaining focus and interest, and didn't find the book to be an easy read, nor particularly helpful. I went through the book too quickly and failed to put the effort needed to retain the full message. This is more a reflection on my skill and efforts as a reader than on Walt's skill and efforts as a writer. I gather the message he tried to deliver is that we continue to b e over-extended, and pick the wrong battles to fight, which in many cases only made things worse. For example, trying to aid eastern Europe energized Russia, which has been increasing its foreign power influence, as evidenced by seizing Crimea, confronting Ukraine, conduct cyber attacks in Estonia, and their interfere in our elections as well as in other countries. I believe he'd suggest that we need to change our focus, put our efforts chiefly where our interests are strongest.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Locke

    My first (audio)book on foreign policy. Walt looks at the foreign policy establishment and its, perhaps surprisingly, bi-partisan worldview of "liberal hegemony." He condemns the foreign policy establishment by examining their failures in a number of places across the last fifty years. He advocates for a policy position called "offshore balancing," which seeks to get strategically involved in key parts of the world, often without obvious military intervention. He prefers this than liberal hegemo My first (audio)book on foreign policy. Walt looks at the foreign policy establishment and its, perhaps surprisingly, bi-partisan worldview of "liberal hegemony." He condemns the foreign policy establishment by examining their failures in a number of places across the last fifty years. He advocates for a policy position called "offshore balancing," which seeks to get strategically involved in key parts of the world, often without obvious military intervention. He prefers this than liberal hegemony, where the U.S. gets involved in everything under the sun. Oddly enough, when Trump was initially elected, Walt thought there may be hope to build new policy norms. Predictably, he was disappointed and though Trump has a different approach, the results of intervention have been largely the same. The book was a helpful introduction to the field ... maybe a tad too long.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Conquest

    I'd read anything with Stephen Walt or John Mearsheimer attached and they have coincidentally each released a book in late 2018 dealing with the same concept of 'liberal hegemony' as a failed model of US foreign policy. While giving the names of the people and organizations responsible, you really get a vision of the foreign policy elite in the United States as similar to the worst kind of HR department; existing solely to sustain and enlarge itself with zero culpability regarding the resulting I'd read anything with Stephen Walt or John Mearsheimer attached and they have coincidentally each released a book in late 2018 dealing with the same concept of 'liberal hegemony' as a failed model of US foreign policy. While giving the names of the people and organizations responsible, you really get a vision of the foreign policy elite in the United States as similar to the worst kind of HR department; existing solely to sustain and enlarge itself with zero culpability regarding the resulting death/destruction. The most humane solution would appear be to gathering every member of CFR, AEI, CSIS, CAP, and Heritage in the same location and then nuking it from orbit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    It probably could have been 50 or so pages shorter, but Walt's arguments are well thought out and very in-depth. His assessment of the flaws with American foreign policy are pretty much spot-on in my opinion, although I think he could have been more balanced by highlighting a few more of its successes and focusing as much on health & scientific cooperative ventures as he did on military operations. His proposed solutions sound as good as any I've heard. It probably could have been 50 or so pages shorter, but Walt's arguments are well thought out and very in-depth. His assessment of the flaws with American foreign policy are pretty much spot-on in my opinion, although I think he could have been more balanced by highlighting a few more of its successes and focusing as much on health & scientific cooperative ventures as he did on military operations. His proposed solutions sound as good as any I've heard.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris S.

    An interesting discussion of American foreign policy. It did a good job explaining how both major political parties are often like two sides of the same coin when it comes to foreign policy, especially military intervention. It suggests possible alternatives to the course the U.S. is currently steering.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Loren Shultz

    A bit hard to follow but seemed to make sense and was exceptionally informative pairing US actions with results. "Hard to follow" probably because of my lack of foreign policy awareness. Frequent use of the term "liberal hegemony" was confusing until it became clear it wasn't based on political philosophy. A good companion read for "Blowback".

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo

    Walt magnificently depicts the failing grand strategy that has guided the American Foreign Policy since the end of the Cold War. This book provides an in-depth analysis of the reasons why the US keeps so attached to such a foreign policy and provides an alternative grand strategy based on offshore balancing. This book is a great guide to better understand and deal with American Foreign Policy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I’ve finally finished this book! It was a pretty dense read, but Walt makes a convincing argument for his position and thoroughly backs up his points with sources. It also helped me learn more about post-Cold War American history, since that’s pretty recent but I haven’t had the opportunity to learn much about it.

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