Media Center: ‘Maximalist’ by Stephen Sestanovich
WHO: Stephen Sestanovich
America in the World from Truman to Obama
WHEN: Published by Knopf February 12, 2014
WHERE: The author lives in Washington DC.
WHY: “A valuable and provocative interpretation of our diplomatic and military conduct.
“The recent revelations concerning spying on leaders of our allies by the NSA may have surprised many. However, in this survey of American foreign policy over the past seven decades, Sestanovich, a former diplomat and currently a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University, makes clear that all administrations have used ethically questionable tactics in the pursuit of broader strategic foreign-policy goals.
“But Sestanovich is more concerned with consistency than ethics in the conduct of our foreign policy. He asserts that between and even within administrations we have lurched from active (or overactive) involvement to retrenchment. After WWII, we understandably shrank our military and shrank from confrontation until forced into involvement by the Korean War. Similarly, the failures in Vietnam and Iraq have caused similar reluctance to intervene abroad.
“The result, Sestanovich maintains, is a dangerous uncertainty among both our allies and adversaries. What he views as retrenchment could be considered sensible restraint.” —Jay Freeman, BOOKLIST
“Incisive and provocative. Written by one of our country’s foremost scholars, Maximalist is rich with anecdotes and enlivened by little-known details about well-known events. Sestanovich has made a masterful contribution to the history of modern American diplomacy.” —Madeleine Albright
“This is one of the most important books ever written about U.S. foreign policy. It will immediately join George F. Kennan’s classic American Diplomacy as essential reading for all students of America’s behavior in the world. In fact, it should replace it. Sestanovich is a brilliant and insightful writer. His book couldn’t be more timely.” —Robert Kagan
From the beginning of the book: When George Marshall came to work on Monday morning, February 24, 1947, after a couple of days out of town, he had been secretary of state for barely a month. His deputy, Dean Acheson, quickly briefed him on a problem that had kept the department’s senior staff busy over the weekend. The U.S. government, Acheson felt, would soon be forced to make “the most major decision with which we have been faced since the war.”
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