In This Review

Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Agaiinst Global Terror
Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Agaiinst Global Terror
By Ian Shapiro
Princeton University Press, 2007, 208 pp

The Bush administration's post-9/11 national security strategy has come in for tremendous criticism, but opponents have had difficulty articulating a coherent alternative. Here is one. Shapiro, a Yale political theorist, offers a brilliant sketch of a new strategic vision that draws on Cold War-era containment ideas. At the heart of the Bush approach, he argues, is the belief that the emerging threats of outlaw states and terrorist networks require abandoning old strategies in favor of the unilateral and preventive use of force to overturn tyranny around the world. Shapiro finds this strategy deeply flawed: it exacerbates threats from abroad, squanders moral capital, and erodes democracy at home. Instead, he urges a doctrine of containment in the face of Islamic fundamentalism -- for the same reason George Kennan urged it in the face of Soviet communism: countries run by radical ideologues sow the seeds of their own destruction. In other words, the United States' enemies will fall on their own. As a result, containment does not require worldwide military supremacy or an agenda to remake the world; it assumes a particularistic understanding of U.S. interests and of the goal of protecting democracy and diversity within the free world. Still, it is not clear that containment alone is sufficient: even during the Cold War, the United States was not just containing; it was also reaching out and actively building a liberal international order.