Mark Lagon, research associate at the American Enterprise Institute (a position he got, he tells us, thanks to Jeane Kirkpatrick), is not interested in how smart, innovative, appropriate, or successful the Reagan doctrine was in dealing with communism in the Third World. Rather, he writes, "the purpose of this analysis of the origins of the Reagan doctrine is to test the usefulness of the explanatory theory of structural realism." In other words, he uses this case to prove a theory, rather than studying the case in depth or judging its results. His major sources are interviews with Reagan administration officials involved in foreign policy. His question to them was: Who thought this up? His question to himself was: Which better explains the Reagan doctrine, a "realist" theory or an "elite beliefs" theory? His answer to this not very interesting question is that both are necessary.
Like most dissertations turned into books, this one is written in a jargon that obfuscates rather than illuminates and takes far too many words to say the simplest things. Consider: "Structural realism here refers to the contemporary generation of realist explanatory theories focusing on states as actors pursuing t heir national interest in an international system characterized by formal anarchy (a lack of an overarching supranational authority) and an evolving systemic equilibrium (a balance of power)."
I can think of no reason anyone other than a political science graduate student would want to read this book.