In This Review

Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy
Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy
By Tony Smith
Harvard University Press, 2000, 190 pp.

Smith argues that well-organized ethnic groups wield disproportionate influence over U.S. foreign policy. Without the Cold War to drive issues and define differences, international affairs are increasingly left to the attentions of voters who care about them most. Here, Smith's subject moves to the foreground. Against the American motto E pluribus unum (out of many, one), Smith bluntly declares that "ethnic activists often seem to forget or obscure this unum in their effort to aid their kinfolk abroad." While celebrating pluralism and multicultural input, he thoughtfully works through the reasons why Americans should be troubled when citizens organize to advocate foreign interests. These activists not only claim primacy in determining what should happen in "their" region but work closely with foreign governments to defeat the U.S. policies that they dislike. That said, Washington officials and members of Congress are ultimately accountable for determining the national interest. If they have become too timid in doing so, that failure deserves more attention than the behavior of zealots. This book leaves the job of explaining Congress to others.