Friday, February 09, 2007

BOOK REPORT: “Dangerous Nation” by Robert Kagan

Robert Kagan’s “Dangerous Nation” is a very interesting and valuable book. It challenges the conventional wisdom that America’s foreign policy since the Revolutionary War has been essentially isolationist in character steeped in realpolitick and self-interest. Instead, he makes a compelling case that the United States has deep idealistic tendencies and more often than not has been driven by those ideological factors rather than cold-blooded realism.

The book is the first of two volumes. It ends right after the declaration of war on Spain in April 1898. The run up to that war is extensively covered while the Mexican War fifty years prior gets short shrift. Go figure.

What I found most fascinating about the book is the complete pollution of practically all of the United States’ institutions by the issue of slavery. This book focuses on foreign policy and the grotesque distortions that slavery imposed on our nation’s early foreign policy but I was struck by the total subsuming of the Democratic Party in the issue prior, during and even after the Civil War.

I look forward to the second part. Let’s hope it comes sooner than the 10 years Kagan says he spent writing this book.

No comments: