Mandelbaum, Michael, The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010) ("The central task of American foreign policy, even as . . . economic challenges constrain it, is to preserve as many of the vital governmental services the United States supplies to the world as possible. The challenge for American policy in the second decade of the twenty-first century is to provide leadership on a shoestring--or at at least on a much reduced budget. There are to obvious strategies for doing so." "One is to discard some responsibilities, the better to sustain others. To govern is to choose, and in its capacity as the world's government the United States will have to choose for continuation the policies that make the most important contributions to its own and the world's well-being, while discontinuing other that, however worthy do less to promote American interest and a benign world order. The other strategy is to share the burden of furnishing global services with other countries." Id. at 62-63. "In the first decade of the twenty-first century, much of the world expressed . . . its disapproval of a series of American foreign policies, above all the war in Iraq. They generally considered such policies to be the result of the United States' having too much power. In the century's second decade the economic conditions in which the United States will have to operate will lead to what are all too likely to be far more disagreeable and globally damaging consequences of the United States' having too little power. One thing worse than an America that is too strong, the world will learn, is an America that is too weak." Id. at 194.).
Pfaff, William, The Bullet’s Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004) ("Whatever the sentimentality, or kitsch, of its popular manifestations, the chivalric code held that what an individual or a society could licitly do to another was limited by a morality linked to the essential values of Western civilization. The First World War ended this, replacing it with a nihilism that men subsequently reacted to through codes of individual transcendence and collective will on the one hand, and on the other hand by utopias based on historical fictions. The fundamental problem remains unresolved today, and in some respects worsened when the dominant liberal democratic state became the international military hegemon acting under the influence of a myth of national mission." Id. at 6. "It has been the American as well as a certain French intellectual fashion in recent years to assert that 'truth' is a text, and human history a textual construction. This nihilistic ontology has represented an intellectual attempt to dispense with the past and claim the power to do away with the constraints of reality. On the other hand, modern governments, led by the United States, increasingly act with the dimensions of virtual reality their own propaganda or ideology has created, so that such constructs as 'Asian Communism' (in the 1960s) or later, 'rogue states,' 'Islamic terrorism,' or indeed 'terrorism' itself, treated as an autonomous phenomenon, acquire a power over political imagination and discourse, and official decisions, that is infrequently questioned." Id. at 17. "To go to war is not proposed as a choice for mot people, but for some it is, and for them it ought to be an existential moral choice, an act of responsible decision contributing to the making of oneself into what one is to be. The issue should be considered a moral one involving discrimination among comparative evils and the perceived consequences, and the inevitable prudential problem of intentions, doing evil in the intention of doing good, an ancient problem." "In practice, escape, the taste for adventure, or a straightforward patriotism are decisive factors. The influence of the twilight of chivalry can be seen among young men who read too much, but that is a superficial rather than deep influence in that chivalry, as an individual influence, reflects in considerable measure a notion of how one should be seen to conduct oneself." Id. at 128-129. "A gap has opened between what is said about the future in conventional public discourse and what people actually expect. . . . The political debate and popular discourse at the same time are framed as if progress and rationality remain reliable assumptions, despite the empirical evidence to the contrary provided by the events of the twentieth century, and the collapse of the intellectual foundations for such a belief." Id. at 300. "Naive or desiccated versions of the theory of historical progress provide a vocabulary in which the declarations of governments are still phrased, editorials written, and a good deal of the routine work of the academy is conducted. The downfall of Communism in 1989 was greeted as having vindicated the liberal version of Western optimism. Little that has happened since would validate that view, even in the rich and lucky societies. The United State itself, since September 2001, has, however improbably, considered itself under constant and terrifying threat from Islamic militants, failed states and contagious anarchy, and by rogue nations armed (or not armed) with mass destruction weapons, Its policies still put forward sentimental confidence in the inevitability and benevolence of global democracy (in ignorance or indifference to Aristotle's observation that democracy is justified only because oligarchy and tyranny are worse). " "This secular utopianism is the common belief among Western elites. It is scarcely possible to talk about politics, not to speak of life, outside a progressive conceptual scheme. Yet the intellectually most powerful figures of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European political thought, including Tocqueville, Burke, Burckhardt, Acton, Niebuhr, Aron, Arendt, Kennan--all were hostile to the progressive view of history, aware of the precarious role reason plays in political affairs and of the corruption of power and vanity. The real American conservatives are those who are most anxious about the country's future." Id. at 301. "There is an antiutopian tradition of political thought largely neglected in our day. It demands that one look for solutions within, rather than without, in experienced reality rather than imagination about the future, while admitting and accepting the human implication in violence a part of our nature-- to be transcended. This is the tradition I defend. It follows from the classical injunction that the human obligation is to cultivate virtue, from which the virtue of society flows--an injunction of reason, as Aristotle held." "This is a formulation that would have been familiar to the educated person in the nineteenth century. It is remote from contemporary advanced society (although it survives in the values systems of many nonmodern social groups). A solid contemporary defense can be made for it, whether virtue is considered in private or pubic, philosophical or theological, terms. However, it would be mistaken to argue that virtue 'pays,' since it often does not do so other than in its contribution to the general quality of society." Id. at 310-311.).
Pfaff, William, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy (New York: Walker, 2010) ("The secular era has no divine reference, and frequently has constructed its substitute for that reference in the form of a synthetic religion whose god is the nation and people themselves. For that reason the modern political ideology has generally proven to be a project to control the world. The nature of an ideology is the purported discovery of the universal truth about society and history, implying a line of action necessary to conform to or exploit this discovery. A program is implied, and a national policy." "The United States has dramatically departed from the isolation of it colonial origins into the global arena to become the ideological expansionist military power it is today. Why and how this happened is important to understand, along with the historical and cultural circumstances that shaped this development. . . " Id. at 12-13. "In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, only a narrow North American elite was part of the Enlightenment intellectual upheaval, experiencing its influence in the same way as Western Europe. The intellectual life of the United States in the colonial and federal periods was dominated by religious influences, despite the contrary impression given by the profundity and elegance of h nation's founders' published debates on the institutions of the new republic and their philosophies of f government." Id. at 48. "It seems fair to say that most American churchgoers from the eighteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century (and by and large, the religiously disposed or questing unchurched as well) have been opposed to what most Europeans considered fundamental tenets of the Enlightenment." Id. at 54. "The common Western assumption about history is that it moves toward an intelligible conclusion, a belief derived from Western religious eschatology. The Enlightenment rejection of religion resulted in an effort to discover autonomous ethical 'rules' and a secular pattern in history, leading toward historicist theories . . . ." "In the case of the theory, common to liberal as well as many conservatives, of universal progress toward democracy, the presumption made is the seeming self-evident superiority of democracy makes it the natural end point of history. A foreign policy of military intervention to speed progress toward this inevitable outcome logically follows. Liberalism in its American sense nearly always sees the increasing complexity and interdependence of modern society, and the advance of technology, science, and human knowledge, as evidence of positive change in the moral (and political) nature of humans--an assumption for which there is no evidence . . . Id. at 86-87. "The United States, as the last-born offspring of the Enlightenment, is the nation perhaps more susceptible to the notion that men and women are all natural democrats waiting to be freed. . . ." "It is evident that democracy on the American model is not going to be made to prevail in the contemporary world. This leaves the American government and public with an irreconcilable contradiction between the chaotic international realities and stubbornly unresolvable wars they see around them, and the theory on which the government asserts that its acts, and in the service of which it now is is engaged in further strengthening its military foreign political services. Id. at 101.).