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Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America

About the Book

The United States confronts a host of foreign policy problems in the 21st century, yet the Republic’s security strategy is increasingly muddled and counterproductive. The litany of misplaced priorities and policy failures grows ever larger.

More than five years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, American forces remain mired in an expensive nation‐​building mission in Iraq. Washington’s goal of making Iraq a united, secular, democratic model that would transform the political environment of the Middle East looks today like a fool’s errand. Instead, the U.S. invasion of Iraq destabilized that country and removed the principal regional strategic counterweight to Iran, greatly strengthening Tehran’s power and influence. Equally unfortunate, the prolonged U.S. occupation of Iraq has served as the perfect recruiting poster for al‐​Qaeda.

Disagreements over Iraq policy as well as other matters have soured Washington’s relations with its long‐​time European allies. NATO, the centerpiece of Washington’s transatlantic policy for nearly six decades, is foundering in Afghanistan and displays a growing lack of cohesion and relevance. Tensions between the United States and Russia are on the rise as authoritarianism has reemerged in that country and Moscow resists Washington’s assertive policies, especially the ongoing expansion of NATO into traditional Russian spheres of influence and the repeated displays of contempt for Russian interests in the Balkans and other regions.

American policymakers grapple with the prospect of new and volatile nuclear powers, most notably North Korea and Iran. It remains to be seen whether Washington’s strategy of using multilateral negotiations involving North Korea’s neighbors to induce Pyongyang to end its quest for nuclear weapons will succeed. The more hardline strategy of imposing economic sanctions and considering the use of military force is clearly not working with regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Other problems, such as the Taiwan issue, are just clouds on the horizon at present, but they have the potential to cause serious trouble in the coming years. The Taiwan problem highlights the danger inherent in Washington’s habit of making ill‐​advised security commitments to small, vulnerable client states that are not crucial to America’s own security and well being. In the case of Taiwan, such an obligation could lead to armed confrontation between the United States and China.

Even the war on terror looks increasingly murky and problematic. The once decisive victory in Afghanistan has eroded as al‐​Qaeda and its Taliban allies have made a resurgence, and Washington’s strategy seems adrift.

Ted Galen Carpenter examines these and other foreign policy challenges that America confronts in the 21st century and diagnoses what is wrong with Washington’s current approach. Throughout these essays, he outlines an alternative strategy that would protect America’s security while avoiding unnecessary and unrewarding military adventures.

About the Author

TED GALEN CARPENTER is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., and the author of eight books and more than 350 articles and policy studies. Dr. Carpenter is also a contributing editor to the National Interest and serves on the editorial boards of Mediterranean Quarterly and the Journal of Strategic Studies.

What Others Have Said

Smart Power is simply superb. In an age of imperial folly and militarized illusions, Ted Galen Carpenter has been a voice of reason and good sense. In this impressive collection of essays, he surveys the wreckage of the Bush era and illuminates the way ahead.”
Author of The Limits of Power

“Like a good doctor,Ted Galen Carpenter has spent his whole career trying to cure America of its ‘foreign policy hypochondria.’ Smart Power brings together some of his sharpest diagnoses of our unhealthy tendency to cleave to obsolete security commitments, add new ones willy‐​nilly, and muck about in intractable conflicts in which we have no real interest. Carpenter’s essays constitute strong medicine, but that is precisely what our country needs in these fevered days!”
Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision‐​Making, Bush School of Government and Public Service Texas A & M University

“This is a timely collection of Ted Galen Carpenter’s timeless advice on America’s foreign policy. Instead of claiming the impossible role of global security manager, America should recognize the limits of its interests and resources, he argues, and return home to fulfill freedom’s opportunities.”
Defense and Arms Control Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“I try to have read enough to have a pretty good grasp of the situation before I call Ted Carpenter for a comment or an insight into some international development, but he almost always tells me something I didn’t know or offers a way to think about it that I hadn’t considered. His wide‐​ranging knowledge and curiosity are bolstered by a commendable zeal for human liberty. This book demonstrates how often he has been right over the years, usually in the face of conventional wisdom.””
Senior Editorial Writer, Orange County Register

“These crisp, intelligent essays further confirm Ted Galen Carpenter’s deserved reputation for thoughtful dissection of and prescriptions for complex foreign policy and defense challenges. His views are principled and consistent throughout. Even more, they pass the test of time and are as relevant today as when they first appeared. Dr. Carpenter continues to demonstrate a sagacity that transcends mere caution. America would be stronger if policymakers paid heed.”