In This Review

What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy
What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy
By H. W. Brands
Cambridge University Press, 1998, 336 pp

This book examines the outlook of some of the most provocative twentieth-century American thinkers on U.S. Foreign policy. Early chapters summarize the grand and often acute prophecies of Brooks Adams, the outlook of the young Walter Lippmann, the delusions of Lincoln Stephens (who managed to find inspiration in both Lenin and Mussolini), and the "open door at home" championed by Charles Beard. Later chapters focus on the Cold War debates of realists, revisionists, nuclear strategists, and neoconservatives. The narrative displays the characteristic wit and lively style of the author, a historian at Texas A & M and the extraordinarily prolific author of 11 other books. The focus on intellectuals as opposed to public officials lends a certain imbalance to the work, and it is also somewhat artificial to shoehorn these diverse thinkers, many of them quite eccentric and curmudgeonly, into two camps of "exemplarists" and "vindicators." Still, anyone interested in the intellectual history of American foreign policy -- or at least what intellectuals said about American foreign policy -- will profit from this fair-minded account.