November 19, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama

Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama

Stephen Sestanovich

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0307388301

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From a writer with long and high-level experience in the U.S. government, a startling and provocative assessment of America’s global dominance. Maximalist puts the history of our foreign policy in an unexpected new light, while drawing fresh, compelling lessons for the present and future.

When the United States has succeeded in the world, Stephen Sestanovich argues, it has done so not by staying the course but by having to change it—usually amid deep controversy and uncertainty. For decades, the United States has been a power like no other. Yet presidents and policy makers worry that they—and, even more, their predecessors—haven’t gotten things right. Other nations, they say to themselves, contribute little to meeting common challenges. International institutions work badly. An effective foreign policy costs too much. Public support is shaky. Even the greatest successes often didn’t feel that way at the time.      
Sestanovich explores the dramatic results of American global primacy built on these anxious foundations, recounting cycles of overcommitment and underperformance, highs of achievement and confidence followed by lows of doubt. We may think there was a time when America’s international role reflected bipartisan unity, policy continuity, and a unique ability to work with others, but Maximalist tells a different story—one of divided administrations and divisive decision making, of clashes with friends and allies, of regular attempts to set a new direction. Doing too much has always been followed by doing too little, and vice versa.

Maximalist unearths the backroom stories and personalities that bring American foreign policy to life. Who knew how hard Lyndon Johnson fought to stay out of the war in Vietnam—or how often Henry Kissinger ridiculed the idea of visiting China? Who remembers that George Bush Sr. found Ronald Reagan’s diplomacy too passive—or that Bush Jr. considered Bill Clinton’s too active? Leaders and scoundrels alike emerge from this retelling in sharper focus than ever before. Sestanovich finds lessons in the past that anticipate and clarify our chaotic present.

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reciprocated. Scowcroft thought Arab leaders would “end up in a compromise with Saddam.” “My worry,” Bush said, “is the lack of Saudi will, and that they might bug out.” The United States actually refused to send a high-level delegation to Riyadh for emergency consultations unless the Saudis agreed in advance to accept U.S troops. When Cheney arrived to seal the deal, he still doubted that the king would go through with it. The American ambassador warned him not to scare their hosts by talking

would be fully deployed only if unexpectedly stiff Iraqi resistance materialized, and only if he explicitly okayed it. To confuse the enemy, the operation would begin from what the planners called a “running start,” with fewer than 100,000 U.S. troops already in place and the rest still in transit to the war zone. Then, if things went well, the orders bringing the extra units to Iraq could be canceled (an option known as “off-ramps”). With colleagues, Rumsfeld was open about his views. He said he

enough to handle the risks created by diplomatic experimentation. The French and the Germans did not. The status quo might be unsatisfactory, but they preferred to live with it. Kennedy and his advisers were frustrated by this clash of perspectives, but they understood its meaning. Whether waging the Cold War more vigorously or trying to reduce its dangers, the United States, as Rostow put it, would find itself on a “relatively lonely stage.”26 EVEN MORE THAN in Europe, Kennedy and his team

however, mean that Lyndon Johnson was ready to accept it, and approving it did not mean he was ready to implement it. He told his aide Bill Moyers not to “assume that I am willing to go overboard on this—I ain’t.” Despite the urgings of his advisers, he did not settle quickly on a new course. The South Vietnamese government, he kept saying, was still too weak to help. Even after the massive bombing of an American officers’ billet in the heart of Saigon on Christmas Eve 1964—which, in addition to

China as ideological capitulation. In his memoirs, he observed that if only these critics had seen the notes he jotted down for his last formal meeting with Zhou in Beijing, they would “at least have felt reassured that I had not approached the Chinese naively.” In these notes, Nixon reminded himself to emphasize, in a very personal and direct way, my intense belief in our system and my belief that in peaceful competition it would prevail. I think we have gotten that across. I believe that it is

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