In This Review

The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism

The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism
By Joshua Muravchik
261 pp, AEI Press, 1996

A spirited polemic that urges the United States not to succumb to "the isolationist temptation." Muravchik, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, insists that the exercise of American power remains crucial in the making of a more peaceful and democratic world. The author sharply criticizes the West's response to the Bosnian conflict and regards the Dayton accords as unjust (although he never gets around to describing the lineaments of a just settlement). Muravchik usefully characterizes the new "great debate" as one between Washingtonians and Wilsonians, with the latter group giving far more attention than the former to "milieu goals." Wilsonians like Muravchik "are willing to travel much further along the chain of contingency to confront problems whose effect on us might be indirect or several steps removed." Critics of globalism will not want to join the author out along the distant reaches of the chain; opponents of unilateralism will wonder how leadership can be exercised over allies whose views are listened to only when they conform to those of the United States; skeptics of the aggressive promotion of democracy and human rights will worry about the consequences of doing so in regions, like East Asia, where such a posture seems likely to be counterproductive or destabilizing.