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****Rogue Nation

American Unilaterlaism and the Failure of Good Intentions

by Clyde Prestowitz

Reviewed June 30, 2003.
Basic Books, 2003. 328 pages.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #1, Political Nonfiction

Like Of Paradise and Power, by Robert Kagan, Rogue Nation attempts to show Americans how other people in the world see our actions.  Unlike Robert Kagan, Clyde Prestowitz does not confine his scope to attitudes in Europe and America, but covers the whole world.  He also deals less in theory and more in details.

Let me quote the author’s opening paragraph:  “The title of this book is purposely provocative.  So let me hasten to emphasize that I in no way mean to equate the United States with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or any other brutal, dictatorial regime.  Indeed, I have always preferred to think of my country as the ‘citty upon a hill,’ if sometimes a bit more cloudy than shining.  No, what troubles me, and has inspired my title, is that increasingly large numbers of people abroad, including many longtime friends of America, are beginning to see us, if not exactly like Saddam or other brutes, certainly as, in the words of Webster’s dictionary, ‘no longer. . . belonging, not controllable or answerable, and with an unpredictable disposition.’”

He continues, “My purpose in this book is to try to explain to baffled and hurt Americans why the world seems to be turning against them, and also to show foreigners how they frequently misinterpret America’s good intentions.  While I will be giving a sober view of America, I do not aim to bash it.”

Clyde Prestowitz is not some liberal seeking only to tear down the current administration.  He comes from a conservative background, having worked as part of the Regan administration.  He is also a Christian and makes a final appeal in the last chapter of the book to fellow Christians.  His biggest qualification to write this is that he has spent years of his life overseas, in many different parts of the world.  He seems to understand the way people from different cultures view the United States, and very capably explains those views to his readers.

This book is long on specifics, discussing specific world hot spots, specific treaties that we negotiated and then refused to sign, and specific obligations that we agreed to and then have not carried out.  He believes that our motives are good, but shows how it often doesn’t look that way to other countries.  He talks about principles that we claim to believe in and then only apply where it suits us.

The book also talks about how America’s influence has spread so that our choices affect everyone on the planet.  He makes a strong case that we need to consider these effects much more deeply, and he concludes with several specific suggestions for changes that we should make.

I found the scope of his research impressive.  He does make a compelling case.  I hope that our leaders will listen to his ideas.  This book helps explain why the world might not think that we are always the Good Guys we want to be.


Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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