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Mission Failure: America and the World in…
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Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era

by Michael Mandelbaum

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0190469471, Hardcover)

The end of the Cold War led to a dramatic and fundamental change in the foreign policy of the United States. In Mission Failure, Michael Mandelbaum, one of America's leading foreign-policy thinkers, provides an original, provocative, and definitive account of the ambitious but deeply flawed post-Cold War efforts to promote American values and American institutions throughout the world.

In the decades before the Cold War ended the United States, like virtually every other country throughout history, used its military power to defend against threats to important American international interests or to the American homeland itself. When the Cold War concluded, however, it embarked on military interventions in places where American interests were not at stake. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo had no strategic or economic importance for the United States, which intervened in all of them for purely humanitarian reasons. Each such intervention led to efforts to transform the local political and economic systems. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, launched in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, turned into similar missions of transformation. None of them achieved its aims.

Mission Failure describes and explains how such missions came to be central to America's post-Cold War foreign policy, even in relations with China and Russia in the early 1990s and in American diplomacy in the Middle East, and how they all failed. Mandelbaum shows how American efforts to bring peace, national unity, democracy, and free-market economies to poor, disorderly countries ran afoul of ethnic and sectarian loyalties and hatreds and foundered as well on the absence of the historical experiences and political habits, skills, and values that Western institutions require.

The history of American foreign policy in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall is, he writes, "the story of good, sometimes noble, and thoroughly American intentions coming up against the deeply embedded, often harsh, and profoundly un-American realities of places far from the United States. In this encounter the realities prevailed."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 25 Feb 2016 19:24:53 -0500)

"In Mission Failure, Mandelbaum argues that, in the past 25 years, U.S. foreign policy has undergone a significant shift. Historically, U.S. foreign policy was oriented primarily toward threat reduction, but the U.S. military has turned in recent years to missions that are largely humanitarian and socio-political. Mandelbaum argues that ideologically-driven foreign policy--that which seeks to reconstruct societies along Western lines--generally leads to mission failure"--"America's decision in 1991 to provide air defense to oppressed Kurds in Iraq after the Gulf War ushered in an entirely new era in American foreign policy. Until that moment, the United States had only used military power to defend against threats that its leaders thought would either weaken America's position in the world order or--in the worst case--threaten the homeland. But with this offer to the Kurds, the United States for the first time ever was now militarily involved in states that represented no threat, and with missions that were largely humanitarian and socio-political. After establishing the Kurdish no-fly zone, the US in quick succession intervened in Somalia, Haiti, and Kosovo. Even after 9/11, it decided that it had a duty to not just invade Iraq, but reconstruct Iraqi society along Western lines. In Mission Failure, the eminent scholar Michael Mandelbaum provides a comprehensive history of post-Cold War American foreign policy to show why this new approach was doomed to failure. Mandelbaum argues that all major foreign policy initiatives, both before and after September 11, 2001, had a basic feature in common: all were missions to transform other countries along Western lines, and all failed. This shift in policy did result in several positive effects, including a broad expansion of democracy and strong growth in the global economy. However, the U.S. had neither the capacity nor the will to change societies that were dramatically different from our own. Over two decades later, we can see the wreckage: a broken Iraq, a teetering Afghanistan, and a still-impoverished Haiti. Mandelbaum does not deny that American foreign policy has always had a strong ideological component. Instead, he argues that focusing solely on ideology at the expense of realism generally leads to mission failure"--… (more)

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