In This Review

The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power
The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power
By Jakub J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell
Princeton University Press, 2016, 240 pp

The Unquiet Frontier is a useful and thoughtful contribution to the most important debate in U.S. foreign policy and will be read with great care by President Barack Obama’s supporters and critics alike. Grygiel and Mitchell make the case that the revisionist powers of China, Iran, and Russia have been probing the most exposed and vulnerable points in the United States’ system of alliances and that the next U.S. president will face much more dangerous challenges unless he or she takes strong action to reassert American power. Supporters of the Obama administration’s approach hope that a reasoned and conciliatory U.S. response will promote the emergence of a stable order that requires less U.S. effort to uphold. Grygiel and Mitchell counter that far from settling into a cooperative new order, those revisionist powers will choose escalation, requiring the United States to run greater risks and incur larger costs to defend the existing world system. At the moment, Obama’s supporters are on the defensive; if the trend of rising instability persists through January 2017, expect the next U.S. administration to look long and hard at the ideas put forward in this book.