In This Review

Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan
Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan
By Henry R. Nau
Princeton University Press, 2013, 344 pp.

Nau is interesting, provocative, and sometimes convincing when he looks for signs of conservative internationalism through the long sweep of U.S. history. His description of that school of thought alone makes this book worth reading. Unlike realists, Nau argues, conservative internationalists accept the promotion of freedom as a legitimate goal of U.S. foreign policy. Unlike liberal internationalists, they believe that American power, rather than international institutions, offers the greatest hope for progress. They also believe in an aggressive combination of force and diplomacy to advance the American agenda worldwide, but they are less confident than either liberals or neoconservatives that a democratic utopia is just around the corner. This is a valuable way of thinking about U.S. foreign policy for a post-Bush, post-Obama future. It will be interesting to see if any 2016 Republican presidential candidates look to Nau’s ideas as a way to bridge the widening gaps within the GOP when it comes to foreign policy.