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Book Review: Foreign Policy, by Michael H. Hunt

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I have chosen to review the Book, Ideology and US. Foreign Policy, by Michael H. Hunt. The reason why I have selected this text, is primarily because it emphasises assiduously (good word but do you know its meaning?) the relationship between the United States’ Ideological motives and its Foreign Policy and the correlation between Ideology and US. Foreign Policy, a complex one. Incidentally,( don’t like this word just start with ) the term Ideology should be defined, in the words of Michel H. Hunt, it is, “an interrelated set of convictions or assumptions that reduces the complexities of a particular slice of reality to easily comprehensible terms and suggests appropriate ways of dealing with that reality”.

Ideology can be a destructive tool in the hands of a Nation that cannot distinguish between an Imperialistic foreign policy and a humanitarian Foreign policy. Hunt argues, to great effect, that Ideology is the core driving force behind Foreign Policy, he describes Foreign Policy as being a “Slippery subject” ( page number?) and inevitably after the book’s conclusion, one can deduce (your word? Understand might be better) it’s complications, but also it’s appeal.

In the first chapter Michael H. Hunt puts forward three main reasons, why Ideology is the driving force behind Foreign Policy, firstly that the United States is a “Nation of Greatness” [1], secondly, that Foreign Policy is largely a racial and culture based ideology, finally the United States’ Ideological stance on Revolutions throughout the course of its history. Naturally ( Instead of “naturally” start with “Hunt argues” these three reasons are what constitute the United States’ intervention in foreign affairs and are rooted in its Ideological outlook which was influenced by the Declaration of Independence and more specifically, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”, which Hunt quotes from in the second chapter, “We have it in our power to begin the world again”.

He also discusses the two most prominent Historians on the subject of Foreign Policy, whose works are considered the best on the topic, George Kennan and William Appleman Williams. Since there have been many critiques, Hunt’s analysis of the two writers is not groundbreaking, but Hunt does give a more balanced outlook on the two works, specifically “The Tragedy of American diplomacy”, by Williams, which is seen ( by who?) as the inferior of the two works. Hunt, in his brief analysis of “the Tragedy of American Diplomacy”, accentuates that William’s “narrow conception of Ideology colliding with his sensitivity to historical complexity…raises legitimate doubts about his prescription for policy change” [2], this viewpoint which inherently criticises Williams’ viewpoint on Ideology in relation to Foreign Policy, is convincing and intriguing to the reader, Hunt’s critique of both works in the first chapter as well as a discussion with about the term Ideology is one of the book’s strengths. (Should you not be referring to what Hunt thinks of Keenan otherwise only one book is mentioned) Hunt dedicates a chapter to each of the three core reasons, whilst emphasising the complications Historians have with evaluating Foreign Policy.

The second chapter, “Visions of National greatness”, begins with Hunt discussing Thomas Paine’s rise to prominence, and his role, through his pamphlet, “Common Sense” on the ideological core-impetus, for which the Nation was built on. Paine, later reflected on the pamphlet, saying that he wrote it to help Men “to be free”, [1] and yet from the basis of the Declaration of Independence and “Common Sense”, the United States’ Imperialistic policy dictated the antithesis of the word “Free”. ( any examples?) Hunt, then goes on to converse about the transformation of America from a nation governed by few to the most powerful nation in the World as well as a growth of population. Hunt argues that by McKinley’s presidency, Foreign Policy had become “Nationalistic”, a Nation of Greatness had been achieved but at the cost of the US becoming, yet another Imperial power. Hunt’s next two chapters (Which chapters?) focus on the underlying theme of Race as a means to extradite Foreign Policy, and Revolutions which have had an impact on the American outlook on the World.

Hunt argues that the American’s growing self belief that all other races are subservient to them, stems from their European ancestors, whose views they had thus inherited, essentially “Americans used race to build protective walls against the threatening strangeness of other people”. One example of Racial dogma was that of the view on Latinos, from an American viewpoint, their animosity towards this “inferior race” was commonplace throughout America, “This belief in Latin American inferiority proved lasting, though ambivalence toward spreading democracy did not” [2], the grounds for their hatred, the Spanish, who were seen as “superstitious, obstinate, lazy, cowardly” [3]. The aggressive policy which the US adopted in its foreign policy in the 20th century was vindicated because most people in the States held this view on racial superiority.

Hunt’s arguments are sound,( Is this your opinion or someone else’s?) as they firmly establish in the context of the period, why the United States viewed race as a precursor for it’s justification of foreign intervention, Revolution, whilst notably a lesser reason as to why Ideology forms the basis for Foreign policy Hunt still focuses on it’s underlying rationale..( why a lesser reason who says so? May be best just to say In chapter? Hunt focuses on revolution and that because ) the United States was born out of Revolution, they had a firm stance on the positivity of rebellion, and their support was unanimous for what they deemed as pertinent (your word?) if a country was in turmoil. However, with the growth of Communism,( dates?) Americans were fearful of an inner rebellion, which would ultimately cause upheaval.

Americans started to view Revolution negatively ( when?) and, thus to stop revolution, sanctions were made on Immigrants coming into the country, from a country that was seen as the land of liberty, the United States became inhospitable to those it deemed reactionary. Hunt concludes that Revolution formed a basis for “policymakers” polarising outlook on foreign policy at the turn of the Twentieth Century and that it broadened the United States outlook on its Foreign Policy.

To consider the book from an Historiography point of view, Hunt first wrote his book in 1988 following a time when President Reagan’s foreign policy had been compromised by the revelations of the Iran-Contra affair, whereby funds from the sale of arms to Iran had been diverted to Nicaraguan Contra rebels. The two leading Historians on Foreign Policy, Kennan and Williams both wrote their books in the 1950’s, and thus their viewpoint is notably more prominent for the Cold War period in which they lived.Needs more on historiography here Hunt’s view on William’s historical analytical viewpoint on Foreign Policy is fairly critical, although he does praise it for bringing a more “sophisticated and self-conscious understanding of ideology”, he also accentuates that his work “suffers from an interpretive ambiguity that deserves attention for the limitations it reveals”. Hunt does however criticise Kennan, “Kennan’s handling of foreign-policy disqualifies him as a guide to lead current policy critics out of the interpretive morass”, current policy dictates that ideological factors have benefited foreign policy through an archetype of policies, however thirty years ago; it seems that this was not so clear.

From a critical point of view, “Ideology and US. Foreign Policy has its Strengths; Hunt’s first chapter on the basis for Ideology is a effective precursor ( is this your word) for the Book’s later chapters, easing the reader into the complexities of the subject. Hunt’s arguments are well thought out and presented in a effective manner, compared to Williams, “tragedy of American Diplomacy”, which critics say, he “distorted historical evidence”. There is no doubt that Hunt feels strongly about his viewpoint., The Weaknesses,( Can you quote anyone or have no foreign policy books been written since Hunts?) which far under weigh the strengths, are the limited study on religion in the scheme of things, Religion is a important part in Ideology and more importantly Foreign Policy, the absence of this, although it doesn’t affect the overall reading, it does show it’s limitations. The other main weakness is its conclusion, the last chapter, the contemporary Dilemma, in which he asserts an alternative Foreign policy for United States, suggesting that the United States withdraw from its Imperialistic policy and instead focus on political and social factors at home. Whilst one cannot belittle the audacity ( is this your word) of his declaration, it comes across as a plea for isolationism and the disputation ( your word?) that you cannot liberate a nation whilst concurrently sustaining liberty in the United States is to my mind hypocritical when he has spent the last 200 pages arguing Ideology is the main motive for foreign intervention only to juxtapose ( is this your word) it in his conclusion.

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