Defense and Foreign Policy
A Defense and Foreign Policy Reading List
Prepared by Christopher Preble
Read These First
- Peace, War, and Liberty: Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy by Christopher A. Preble (Libertarianism.org Press, 2019)
Traces the history of U.S. foreign policy from the American Founding to the present, examining the ideas that have animated it, asking whether America’s policy choices have made the world safer and freer, and considering the impact of those choices on freedom at home.
- Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover) by John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, and A. Trevor Thrall (Cato Institute, 2019)
Considers the roots of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, and explores how he failed to reorient America’s approach to the world in a productive direction. Offers recommendations for how Trump’s successors could implement a foreign policy of restraint, based on diplomacy, peaceful cultural exchange, and military non‐intervention.
Grand Strategy and Restraint
- US Grand Strategy in the 21st Century: The Case for Restraint Edited by A. Trevor Thrall and Benjamin Friedman (Routledge, 2018)
An edited volume that makes the positive case for a more restrained foreign policy and challenges the notion that U.S. national security requires a massive military and frequent military intervention around the world.
- The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy by Stephen Walt (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018)
Dissects America’s recent foreign policy follies and explains why it has been plagued by disasters like the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Concludes by detailing a proven formula for renewed success.
- Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy by Barry R. Posen (Cornell University Press, 2016)
A highly readable argument for a grand strategy of restraint that includes a reticence to use force and is based on narrow conceptions of security interests.
- “Come Home America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation” by Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, and Harvey M. Sapolsky, International Security, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Spring 1997)
Argues that the highest priorities of American foreign policy—protecting U.S. national security and promoting America’s prosperity—are best achieved by a policy of restraint.
- The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free by Christopher A. Preble (Cornell University Press, 2009)
Advocates a military posture consistent with a foreign policy of noninterventionism and strategic independence.
On War and the State
- Psychology of a Superpower: Security and Dominance in U.S. Foreign Policy by Christopher Fettweis (Columbia University Press, 2018)
Investigates how the idea of being number one affects the decision making of America’s foreign‐policy elite and tells of the risks and opportunities of the global position of the United States.
- Twilight of the Titans: Great Power Decline and Retrenchment by Paul K. MacDonald and Joseph M. Parent (Cornell University Press, 2018)
A comprehensive rethinking of power transition and hegemonic war theories and a different approach to the policy problems that declining states face.
- Republic in Peril: American Empire and the Liberal Tradition by David C. Hendrickson (Oxford University Press, 2017)
Critiques U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War and shows that the militarization of U.S. foreign policy is deeply at odds with the purposes and principles of the American experiment.
- The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew J. Bacevich (Oxford University Press, 2005)
A critical review of the U.S. preoccupation with military power and an explanation of how political and intellectual elites have nurtured the emphasis on force.
- War and the Rise of the State by Bruce D. Porter (Free Press, 2002)
A sweeping historical survey that documents how war has contributed to the rise of the state.
- Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs (Oxford University Press, 1987)
Analyzes the cumulative growth of government control that occurs during war or economic depression.
On American Foreign Policy
- “A World Imagined: Nostalgia and Liberal Order” by Patrick Porter, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 843, June 5, 2018
Explains how the dream of a unitary, integrated global system organized around liberalism is ahistorical, and the false nostalgia surrounding that dream makes it harder to consider measures that are needed to adapt to change.
- “Adapting to American Decline” by Christopher Preble, New York Times, April 21, 2018
A concise argument for transitioning from a grand strategy of Primacy to one of Restraint.
- “Our Foreign Policy Choices” Edited by Christopher Preble, Emma Ashford, and Travis Evans, Cato Institute White Paper, July 18, 2016
An edited volume that proposes restraint‐oriented policies for U.S. policymakers to address many of world’s most pressing issues.
- Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America’s Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes by Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent (Cato Institute, 2015)
Creates a strategy for conducting an effective U.S. foreign policy without betraying fundamental American values.
- “Status, Prestige, Activism and the Illusion of American Decline” by John Glaser, The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2018
Calms fears over concerns of American decline and explains how those misguided fears lead to counterproductive policy decisions.
- Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World by Ian Bremmer (Portfolio, 2016)
Lays out three options for how America should use its superpower status: “Independent America,” “Moneyball America,” and “Indispensable America.”
- The Global Village Myth: Distance, War, and the Limits of Power by Patrick Porter (Georgetown University Press, 2015)
Shows that technology expands rather than shrinks strategic space and offers an alternative outlook to lead policymakers toward more sensible responses—and a wiser, more sustainable grand strategy.
- Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776 by Walter McDougall (Houghton Mifflin, 1998)
A brief history of American foreign policy that describes several schools of thought that struggle for political dominance today.
Notable Speeches from American Leaders
- “Farewell Address to the Nation” by Dwight D. Eisenhower (1961)
A prescient warning on the dangers of a pervasive and ubiquitous “Military‐Industrial Complex.”
- “Address Delivered at the Request of the Committee for Arrangements for Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence” by John Quincy Adams (1821)
Encourages America to celebrate the spread of liberty across the world but warns of the perils of going in search of “monsters to destroy.”
- “Farewell Address to the Nation” by George Washington (1796)
Our first president’s definitive statement on the need to avoid entangling alliances.
On Specific Policy Issues
- “Ineffective, Immoral, Politically Convenient: America’s Overreliance on Economic Sanctions and What to Do about It” by Richard Hanania, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 884, February 18, 2020
American sanctions target around two dozen countries, with some states experiencing what amounts to near total economic embargoes.
- “Avoiding a Korean Calamity: Why Resolving the Dispute with Pyongyang Requires Keeping the Peace” by Doug Bandow, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 840, April 26, 2018
Details the numerous dangers of a conflict between the United States and North Korea.
- “Risky Business: The Role of Arms Sales in U.S. Foreign Policy” by A. Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 836, March 13, 2018
A risk assessment of U.S. arms sales policy.
- “Unforced Error: The Risks of Confrontation with Iran” by Emma Ashford and John Glaser, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 822, October 9, 2017
Supports the merits of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and explains how, while imperfect, it is preferable to the alternatives.
- “A Balanced Threat Assessment of China’s South China Sea Policy” by Benjamin Herscovitch, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 820, August 28, 2017
Finds that political leaders and experts exaggerate the dangers of China’s South China Sea policy.
- “Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror” by A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 814, June 26, 2017
Advocates an end to America’s “Global War on Terror.”
- America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History by Andrew Bacevich (Random House, 2016)
Explains how America’s many conflicts in the Greater Middle East, from Beirut to Iraq and Afghanistan, are all part of a larger decades‐long war.
- “Not‐So‐Smart Sanctions” by Emma Ashford, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2016
An assessment of U.S. sanction regimes as a foreign policy tool against Russia.
- “Millennials and U.S. Foreign Policy: The Next Generation’s Attitudes toward Foreign Policy and War (and Why They Matter)” by A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner, Cato Institute White Paper, June 16, 2015
Details how different generational cohorts of Americans view U.S. foreign policy.
- A Dangerous World? Threat Perception and U.S. National Security Edited by Christopher Preble and John Mueller (Cato Institute, 2014)
An edited volume that brings perspective to the level of threat posed to U.S. national security from various issues.
- The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power by Gene Healy (Cato Institute, 2008)
Demonstrates why the president’s role needs to return to its properly defined constitutional limits.
- Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats by Daryl G. Press (Cornell University Press, 2007)
Examines the notion that backing down during a crisis reduces a country’s future credibility.