In This Review

America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism
America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism
By Anatol Lieven
Oxford University Press, 2004, 288 pp

"I don't hate America, I regret it!" Sigmund Freud once said. "A mistake; a gigantic mistake, it is true, but a mistake none the less." This more or less is where Lieven comes out in his intelligent and often provocative new book. He makes all the usual criticisms of America's "red state," religious, and populist nationalist culture, but he has it in for the "blue states" as well. "The American Creed"--the tolerant liberal internationalism that informs the generally secular civic faith of nonfundamentalist, non-Darwin-bashing Americans--strikes Lieven as a dangerous form of messianic universalism. Since September 11, in his view, a perverse synthesis between these two unappealing ideologies has shaped the U.S. response to Islamist terrorism: the outraged populist, Jacksonian nationalism of the masses has fused with Wilsonian messianism to provide support for George W. Bush and his neoconservative henchmen. Lieven is pessimistic: these failings are likely to drive us to our doom. But although these are interesting (if not completely original) insights, one awaits Lieven's explanation of why a state with such a deeply dysfunctional culture has succeeded so brilliantly on the international stage for so long.