AMERICA IN RETREAT BY BRET STEPHENS, PENGUIN, 2014

Penguin presents Wall Street Journal’s recent book America in Retreat as a brilliant book that will elevate foreign policy in the national conversation. Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Stephens makes a powerful case for American intervention abroad. Excerpts below:

In December 2011 the last American soldier left Iraq. “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq,” boasted President Obama. He was proved devastatingly wrong less than three years later as jihadists seized the Iraqi city of Mosul. The event cast another dark shadow over the future of global order—a shadow, which, Bret Stephens argues, we ignore at our peril.

America in Retreat identifies a profound crisis on the global horizon. As Americans seek to withdraw from the world to tend to domestic problems, America’s adversaries spy opportunity. Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to restore the glory of the czarist empire go effectively unchecked, as do China’s attempts to expand its maritime claims in the South China Sea, as do Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear capabilities. Civil war in Syria displaces millions throughout the Middle East while turbocharging the forces of radical Islam. Long-time allies such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, doubting the credibility of American security guarantees, are tempted to freelance their foreign policy, irrespective of U.S. interests.

In a terrifying chapter imagining the world of 2019, Stephens shows what could lie in store if Americans continue on their current course. Yet we are not doomed to this future. Stephens makes a passionate rejoinder to those who argue that America is in decline, a process that is often beyond the reach of political cures. Instead, we are in retreat—the result of faulty, but reversible, policy choices.

Comment: The United States is not in decline but since 2012 it has been in retreat. In the 2014 elections the American electorate had enough and the GOP will be in charge from 2015. Stephens has pointed the way to a forward policy needed by the United States. An aggressive Russia and expansionist China are high on the agenda of Congress. Terrorism in the Middle East is a challenge. The American military needs strengthening. The USAF must acquire at least 200 Long Range Strike-Bombers to replace aging B-1s and B-52s.

Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz wrote in RealClearPolitics lauding Stephens command of American history, the author’s mastery of grand strategy and grasp of current events. Defending American principles abroad advances American interests at home.

Important are also the views on the book of Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University, an expert on civilizational analysis:

At a time when the president of the United States explicitly renounces the role of ‘global policeman’ and a remarkable proportion of Americans—conservatives and liberals alike—seem irresistibly drawn to isolationism in all but name, Bret Stephens has written a shrewd, sharp, and shamelessly unfashionable defense of American power as a force for good in the world. He makes it clear why now, even more than in the past, the supposed benefits of Uncle Sam’s retreat will swiftly be eclipsed by the very real costs of advancing terrorism and authoritarianism.

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