Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security—From World War II to the War on Terrorism

In This Review

Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security—From World War II to the War on Terrorism
By Julian E. Zelizer
Basic Books, 2009
592 pp. $35.00
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In this eminently readable book, Zelizer has provided an admirably balanced account of the politics of U.S. foreign policy that will be useful to teachers and students of the subject, as well as general readers with an interest in it. Although the complexity of the subject matter sometimes defeats the author's best efforts to keep the big themes in view, Arsenal of Democracy highlights the intricate interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy during the last 60 years. It gives structural realists much to chew on; Zelizer makes a powerful case that domestic political debates, rather than the international environment, have frequently shaped U.S. foreign policy on issues of great strategic importance. He also discusses the proper balance between the executive and legislative branches, whether Republicans or Democrats have the "security advantage," the proper size of the national security state, and the choice between unilateral and multilateral approaches to security. These are useful questions, and the book uses them to shape a powerful and rewarding study of U.S. foreign policy in modern times.