In This Review

The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1900
The Wilsonian Century: U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1900
By Frank Ninkovich
University of Chicago Press, 1999, 330 pp

Ninkovich's last book, Modernity and Power, reinterpreted Wilson's thought and traced the shadows it cast on his successors. Building on that work, Ninkovich has now composed this brief and accessible survey of modern American foreign policy. Of course there are quibbles with his approach. He has little space to integrate the policies and plans of other countries into his American story. On more contemporary policy subjects, he too often succumbs to a rehash of conventional journalistic wisdom. That said, Ninkovich has also developed a powerful central idea that holds the narrative together. Wilsonian thought sees the world as a battleground of ideas for organizing society and focuses on critical tests that demonstrate which ideas can and should prevail. It is a worldview centered not on crusades but on credibility. That brilliant insight serves Ninkovich well, illuminating the older diplomatic stories on which he has a good grasp of the historical evidence. The result is an excellent text and a worthy guide for anyone who wants to step back and reflect on the big picture.