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Cornell University Press
The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series) / Edition 1

The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series) / Edition 1

by Christopher LayneChristopher Layne


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In a provocative book about American hegemony, Christopher Layne outlines his belief that U.S. foreign policy has been consistent in its aims for more than sixty years and that the current Bush administration clings to mid-twentieth-century tactics—to no good effect. What should the nation's grand strategy look like for the next several decades? The end of the cold war profoundly and permanently altered the international landscape, yet we have seen no parallel change in the aims and shape of U.S. foreign policy. The Peace of Illusions intervenes in the ongoing debate about American grand strategy and the costs and benefits of "American empire." Layne urges the desirability of a strategy he calls "offshore balancing": rather than wield power to dominate other states, the U.S. government should engage in diplomacy to balance large states against one another. The United States should intervene, Layne asserts, only when another state threatens, regionally or locally, to destroy the established balance. Drawing on extensive archival research, Layne traces the form and aims of U.S. foreign policy since 1940, examining alternatives foregone and identifying the strategic aims of different administrations. His offshore-balancing notion, if put into practice with the goal of extending the "American Century," would be a sea change in current strategy. Layne has much to say about present-day governmental decision making, which he examines from the perspectives of both international relations theory and American diplomatic history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801437137
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 06/28/2006
Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents


1. Theory, History, and U.S. Grand Strategy

2. World War II and the Foundations of American Global Hegemony

3. U.S. Grand Strategy and the Soviet Union, 1945-1953

4. The Open Door and American Hegemony in Western Europe

5. The Containment of Europe: American Hegemony and European Responses

6. Liberal Ideology and U.S. Grand Strategy

7. The End of the Unipolar Era

8. The Strategy of Offshore Balancing




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The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
chellinsky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though I may be biased having taken Christopher Layne's class on International Law in graduate school (where I learned there was no such thing as international law), I must admit that the book was both fascinating and insightful. Anyone that really wishes to understand how the Wilsonian ideology of liberalism has affected all aspects of American Foreign policy since WWI should read this book. Not only does Layne offer a straight-forward, often blunt analysis of American policy--often stating things as they are rather than how policymaker's rhetoric claim things are--he offers a vision of improvements needed in U.S. foreign policy.He argues that rather than seeking to maintain our role as global ("extra-regional") hegemon, the U.S. needs to focus on becoming an offshore balancer. Rather than fighting unnecessary wars on the periphery, policymakers should work on foster a multipolar emergence on the Eurasian continent freeing the U.S. from needing to safeguard states from potential wars fought in those areas. Until convinced otherwise, I am a huge fan of this plan. What purpose can U.S. hegemony serve in Eurasia? Is the threat to U.S. economic interests real given a great power rivalry elsewhere? When has the U.S. suffered because Europe was multipolar in the past?By deinvesting American forces from both sides of the Eurasian landmass, the U.S. can more effectively serve as both a balancer to any potential new hegemon in those areas and avoid costs associated with any internal rivalries in regions outside U.S. interests. Why do American policymakers insist that troops need to be maintained to protect Taiwan when it poses limited benefit to U.S. interests? Aren't we just asking for trouble (something the U.S. is notorious for doing--see the two World Wars)?To avoid unnecessary overstretch, avoid hegemony and become an off-shore balancer. Hopefully this book and classical realism begins to catch on in policymaking circles in the wake of the Iraq War to ensure less ideology and more morally rooted realism permeates decisions. Can you tell this book helped make me an unabashed interantional realist?