The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris

The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris

Peter Beinart

Language: English

Pages: 543

ISBN: 0061456462

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“Why do we succumb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.” — Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World

“Peter Beinart has written a vivid, empathetic, and convincing history of the men and ideas that have shaped the ambitions of American foreign policy during the last century—a story in which human fallibility and idealism flow together. The story continues, of course, and so his book is not only timely; it is indispensible.” — Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

Peter Beinart, one of the nation’s leading political writers, offers a provocative and strikingly original account of American hubris throughout history—and how we learn from the tragedies that result.

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everyone ate a good breakfast. What’s more, it became painfully obvious that left-wing tyrannies hadn’t been providing good breakfasts anyway; in former communist bastions like China and Vietnam, ex-revolutionaries began scrambling to lure investment from the capitalist West. The impact on liberals was profound. The more human rights spread in the poor world, the easier it was to unequivocally condemn those regimes that still denied them. If South Africa was embracing liberal democracy, what was

raged on. The democracy escalator, it turned out, was not progressing ever upward. Not in the Arab world, where people kept electing medievalists, sectarians, and thugs. Not in theocratic Iran, which was exploiting Iraq’s weakness to challenge American dominance of the Persian Gulf. Not in Latin America, where Hugo Chávez’s illiberal, anti-American populism was metastasizing across the continent. Not in Russia, which under Vladimir Putin was marching brazenly down the escalator toward autocracy

http://www.weeklystandard.com/check.asp?idArticle=11457&r=elzif; Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “The ‘Adults’ Make a Mess,” Weekly Standard, May 14, 2001, http://www.weeklystandard.com/check.asp?idArticle=583&r=oglxj. keeping the United States out of a Pacific war: Bob Woodward, State of Denial (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 33. might well prompt Beijing to strike: Solomon, Paul D. Wolfowitz, 48; Graham, By His Own Rules, 679; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic

many lovers, even his ill-fated wife, all admitted that beneath the high-achieving, high-living exterior lurked a man they didn’t really know at all. Politically, Forrestal was a realist of sorts. He certainly saw the world as a tough and irrational place. But for Kennan, Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Lippmann, the recognition that the world was tough and irrational represented a reaction against Wilson’s messianic fervor, a kind of anti-ideology. Forrestal, by contrast, invested toughness with an

refused to let them watch him play tennis, which he considered effete. For his part, Kennedy encouraged journalists to report that he played touch football (so long as they explained that in the Kennedy clan, touch football was quite savage), but he avoided being photographed playing golf, which was Ike’s soft, grandfatherly game. On one occasion, Jack even screamed at a New York Herald Tribune reporter who had revealed that the reason he campaigned without an overcoat in New Hampshire and

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