In This Review

The American Approach to Foreign Affairs: An Uncertain Tradition
The American Approach to Foreign Affairs: An Uncertain Tradition
By Roger S. Whitcomb
Praeger, 1998, 149 pp.

This thoughtful survey of the American foreign policy tradition largely recapitulates the realist critiques of Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, and Reinhold Niebuhr. In taking aim at America's sanctimonious moralism, inveterate legalism, and tendency to demonize enemies while exaggerating its own exceptional qualities, the author is certainly not bereft of inviting targets to bear out his thesis. At the same time, his critique often seems exaggerated. One doubts that "few other countries have ever been more poorly prepared for the give-and-take of coalition diplomacy than America" or that "the idea of toughing it out, of treading water, of buying time is utterly incomprehensible for the American mind." The American tradition is marked by characteristic delusions, yet is also sublime. Carried by human beings, and therefore deeply flawed, it bears all the same a rich inheritance. Americans are to look to it as much for the correction of the nation's diplomatic follies as for their source.