In This Review

On Foreign Policy: Unfinished Business
On Foreign Policy: Unfinished Business
By Alexander L. George
Paradigm, 2006, 144 pp

In this tiny gem of a book, one of the great scholars of U.S. foreign policy reflects on unresolved puzzles and controversies encountered over a half-century-long career. George is well known for his work on ideology and presidential decision-making. In these essays, he grapples with scholarly "unfinished business" related to understanding the interplay of interests, values, and democracy in the conduct of foreign policy. One essay explores the sources of stable domestic support for a president's policy agenda -- what George calls "policy legitimacy." He argues that durable domestic support requires that the intellectual premises of foreign policies resonate with the normative and cognitive expectations of the public. Franklin Roosevelt's evolving plans for postwar peace and Richard Nixon's detente are offered as cases that show the constraining effects of policy legitimacy. In another essay, George contends that scholars do not know enough about the different types of peace that can prevail between states. He distinguishes between "precarious peace," in which deterrence plays the dominant role in preventing hostilities, and "stable peace," in which the threat of force disappears altogether; understanding how states move from precarious to stable peace is one of the great unfinished research agendas. George is most fascinating in his essay on judgment in decision-making, in which he identifies at what moments scholarly knowledge is critical. The ideas George grapples with are old, but the insights he offers are remarkably fresh.