1018 The Journal of American History December 2007 model of honesty and intelligence in the inves- ernization theory”—to export its vision of de- tigation of the human world” (p. 215). mocracy and free markets. “Regime change,” Hunt observes, “might sound new,” but it re- Ellen Fitzpatrick flects “an interventionist impulse directed at University of New Hampshire the periphery that was quite old—and that Durham, New Hampshire still could lead to grim consequences” (p. 281). Moreover, because it sees the world “starkly di- The American Ascendancy: How the United vided along clear ideological lines” (p. 275), States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance. the Bush administration’s policy is very much By Michael H. Hunt. (Chapel Hill: Univer- in the Cold War mold. The administration’s sity of North Carolina Press, 2007. 404 pp. overarching aim—“a global transformation on $34.95, isbn 978-0-8078-3090-1.) U.S. terms and the simultaneous elimination of powers that might obstruct this sweeping Michael H. Hunt’s The American Ascendancy U.S. project”—is merely the replay of “a story is a masterly overview of America’s rise to its line from a century earlier” (p. 279). current status as the sole superpower in a uni- Like its twentieth-century predecessors, the polar world. Given this outstanding book’s Bush administration believes that its foreign breadth—both its temporal scope and the policy ambitions—the perpetuation of Ameri- issues covered—a brief review cannot do it can predominance—are attainable. Hunt pro- justice. The American Ascendancy is especially vides a salutary reminder that there are many important because of Hunt’s discussion of the factors that may well converge to undermine United States’ current foreign policy predica- America’s present hegemony: a growing gap ment. It is a welcome counterweight to the between the external ambitions of the U.S. for- fashionable view that the George W. Bush eign policy elite and the American public’s pol- administration has broken radically from icy preferences; latent threats to the economic America’s twentieth-century foreign policy foundations on which U.S. preponderance is traditions. based; resistance abroad to America’s neolib- The Cold War’s end revivified Wilsonian - eral agenda; and the diminishing legitimacy ism in the guise of a neoliberal triumphalism. that others accord to America’s leadership of And 9/11 enabled neoconservatives espousing the international system. Hunt points out that the militant strand of Wilsonianism to seize America’s present overwhelmingly powerful control of U.S. foreign policy. The neoconser - position “may hide from observers the essen- vatives believed that the United States was “the tial fragility of that position” (p. 315). There repository of universal values” and that it had is already mounting evidence that the era of “a historical national obligation to battle for U.S. hegemony is drawing to a close and that those values around the globe” (p. 251). Un- Americans should not “assume eternal what is der the intellectual influence of the neocon - in fact perishable” (ibid.). The next great U.S. servatives, the Bush administration adopted foreign policy debate will be over what role the a crusading foreign policy based on “building United States should play in a world that is an unrivaled military force and wielding it as no longer unipolar. Hunt’s excellent book is an the prime instrument advancing U.S. goals” important first salvo in that debate. (ibid.). Indeed, the Bush administration’s post- 9/11 policies—in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Christopher Layne so-called war on terror—were intended as “the Texas A&M University first steps toward what all neoliberals took as College Station, Texas the ultimate goal of political and economic freedom” (p. 270). Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person As Hunt shows, however, there is nothing in the American Past. Ed. by Wilfred M. Mc- new here. During the Cold War, the United Clay. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. x, 506 States repeatedly intervened militarily in the pp. Paper, $25.00, isbn 978-0-8028-6311-9.) Third World to clamp down on revolutionary nationalism and—under the banner of “mod- In 1952 Lewis Mumford argued that the
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 1, 2007
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