In This Review

Security and Sacrifice: Isolation, Intervention, and American Foreign Policy
Security and Sacrifice: Isolation, Intervention, and American Foreign Policy
By Elliott Abrams
Hudson Institute, 1995, 150 pp

This compact and readable volume by a neoconservative who served in the Reagan administration articulates a post-Cold War foreign policy that attempts to strike a balance between Americans' "hopes for democracy and peace, and their fear of foreign commitments." Both the hopes and the fears, Abrams argues, are deeply rooted in America's historic experience, which he examines thoughtfully in the middle part of the book. The public, disdainful of realpolitik, demands a strong human rights policy but will support the sacrifice of American lives only if core security interests are at stake. Neither Bosnia nor Somalia qualifies under this standard, though in the former case Abrams believes, quite implausibly, that lifting the arms embargo would have brought about a settlement satisfactory to the Muslims without U.S. intervention. Abrams is skeptical of multilateralism, hostile to the United Nations and humanitarian intervention, and hawkish on proliferation, terrorism, and strategic defenses. Whatever one thinks of these stances, which run closely parallel to the outlook of the new Republican majority in Congress, aspects of Abrams' argument do not add up to a coherent whole. His call for a "hemispheric strategy" and his belief that outside the Western hemisphere "military intervention by the United States would in most circumstances be a grave mistake" seems difficult to square, in particular, with his sharp criticism of President Clinton for failing to fund adequately the defense budget, which rests, after all, on a "two war" strategy keyed to regional contingencies outside this hemisphere.