I have just discovered in the web of New Books Network Prof. Henry R. Nau’s discussion on his last book, Conservatism Internationalism… While I was listening his deeply sound, documented and experienced travelling around two centuries of U.S. foreign policy, I recovered from my archives, scanned and converted to PDF his course on International Organizations and Change at SIPA’s Columbia University, in New York, in the autumn of 1977. I was his only Spanish student in that course.
I guess I never told him personally how useful, enriching and formative for my international education was that course. Listening to him today, Dec 2, 2014, disembowelling with the same energy and thoughtfulness the past and present US failures and successes in the international arena and what can we expect in the foreseeable future, has been a blow of fresh air that I want to share with all of you. If my 1977 professor is still with such vitality, I have no right to feel tired.
byon November 28, 2014
[Cross-posted from New Books in World Affairs] The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have raised important questions about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy and how Americans can best exercise power abroad in the coming years. Commentators have not shied away from offering advice. Some defend the record of the George W. Bush administration and blame Barrack Obama’s “weakness” for the current disorder that wracks large sections of the Middle East. In their view, the United States must continue to carry out “unilateral” military campaigns when necessary to preempt “terrorist” threats and work to spread democratic government all over the world. It also needs to maintain unquestioned military superiority to deter the aggressive plans of countries like China, Russia, and Iran.
Many authors reject the general thrust of these arguments. For some, Americans need to focus more attention on implementing “a realistic” foreign policy that avoids “crusades for democracy” and protects genuine U.S. interests as the world becomes multipolar. No doubt influenced by authors who have either predicted or announced the arrival of a “post-American world,” others have implored U.S. policymakers to address important domestic problems like income inequality and strengthen international institutions designed to promote “global governance.” In a similar vein, a number of commentators have rejected any suggestion that George W. Bush’s policies represent a legitimate form of “Wilsonianism.” If Americans policymakers want to become the “true heirs” of Wilson, they need to strengthen “global governance” and work through the United Nations to gain the “legitimacy” needed when the exercise of military power abroad becomes unavoidable.
The political scientist Henry Nau (George Washington University) enters debates about the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in his new book Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Reagan, Truman, and Polk (Princeton University Press, 2013). Not one to shy away from controversy, Nau argues that authors have made a fundamental mistake when they offer advice to U.S. policymakers without reference to an important American foreign policy tradition that he defined as “conservative internationalism.” To help readers gain a better grasp of this approach, he includes detailed case studies that highlight the foreign policy successes of Thomas Jefferson, James Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. More than most realize, Nau contends, these Presidents combined the use of force and effective diplomacy in ways that expanded the boundaries of freedom and handled threats in ways that did not allow them to become more costly problems for their successors.
Although many critics will question the lessons that Nau draws from his Presidential case studies and analysis of events from 1991 to the present, they will be hard pressed to deny the relevance of his new book. He reminds readers that this “imperfect” world will not necessarily become a better place if the United States chooses to turn inward and fails to deal with the wide array of threats that could potentially undermine the contemporary global order. Nau also offers thought provoking insights on how the disciplined use of military power and “realistic” promotion of democratic government can serve U.S. interests quite well in the years ahead. Enjoy.
- Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan (Princeton University Press, 2013);
- Worldviews of Rising Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia (Oxford University Press, 2012), Co-editor and Contributor;
- Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas, (CQ Press, 2011; 3rd Edition);
- At Home Abroad: Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy (Cornell University Press, 2002), also published in Japanese by Yuhikaku Press, 2006;
- Trade and Security: US Policies at Cross-Purposes (American Enterprise Institute Press, 1995);
- The Myth of America’s Decline: Leading the World Economy into the 1990s (Oxford University Press, 1990; paperback with new preface, 1992), also published in Japanese by TBS Britannica, 1994; and
- National Politics and International Technology: Nuclear Reactor Development in Western Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).
Recent articles include:
- “Conservative Internationalism: The Old Foreign Policy ‘Schools’ Debate is Exhausted,” The American Interest, May/June 2014
- “Conservative Internationalism,” The National Review, September 30, 2013
- “The Best Diplomacy is Armed Diplomacy,” The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2013
- «The Jigsaw Puzzle & the Chessboard: The Making and Unmaking of Foreign Policy in the Age of Obama,» Commentary Magazine, May 2012.
- «Ideas Have Consequences: The Cold War and today,» International Politics, (July 2011);
- «No Alternative to ‘Isms’,» International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 55, Iss. 2, pp 487–491 (June 2011);
- «Obama’s Foreign Policy: The Swing Away from Bush» Policy Review, No. 160, April/May 2010;
- «No Enemies on the Right«, The National Interest, No. 78 (Winter 2004/05).