The Foreign Service Journal, October 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2022 61 The Long Arc of U.S. Global Influence The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy: Weak Power, Great Power, Superpower, Hyperpower Michael Mandelbaum, Oxford University Press, 2022, $34.95/hardcover, e-book available, 624 pages. Reviewed by Joseph L. Novak Michael Mandelbaum’s The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy paints a portrait of U.S. international relations on an expansive canvas. Deftly presenting an innovative analytical framework, it divides American diplomatic history into well-defined eras marked by ascending degrees of global power. Although the subject matter is often intricate, Mandel- baum is consistently incisive and keeps the narrative moving. A longtime commentator on interna- tional affairs, Mandelbaum is a professor emeritus of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He has written numerous books, includ- ing The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth (2019), and co-authored That Used to Be Us (2011) withThomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times . The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy calls to mind classic works focused on U.S. foreign affairs, such as Samuel Flagg Bemis’ A Diplomatic History of the United States (1936) and Thomas A. Bai- ley’s A Diplomatic History of the Ameri- can People (1940). Mandelbaum’s book is distinguish- able from its seminal predecessors by its carefully crafted “four ages” structure and the fact that it updates the story of American diplomacy. Like texts by Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger, it also examines the role of “realist” versus “ide- alist” perspectives on global affairs. The author begins his chronicle by delving into American colonial history. He labels the 13 original colonies a “weak power” with “no effective military forces of their own and no political mechanism to coordinate their policies.” In the wake of the Revolutionary War, partisan squabbling and sectional strife plagued the new nation. Despite its internal strains, the United States vastly expanded its geographical scope via the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Treaty of Gua- dalupe Hidalgo (1848). “Great power” status was finally attained in 1865 via the sweeping Union victory in the Civil War. With the consolidation of its national authority, Washington joined the major European powers as a political and eco- nomic force on the global stage. The narrative flows into the 20th century with the United States fight- ing in two world wars and becoming a “superpower” in 1945. In this role, the United States competed against the Soviet Union, the rival superpower, until the latter imploded because of its own contradictions circa 1990. According to the author, the abrupt end of the Cold War inaugur- ated the “hyperpower” stage of U.S. foreign policy. This neologism was memorably deployed in 1998 by a French Foreign Minister who was frus- trated by American dominance. During this time frame, Mandelbaum contends, “The United States not only had no powerful rivals, but also effectively had no rivals at all.” While setting out its framework, The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy dex- terously interweaves examples of policy continuity that lace the respective eras together. Alexander Hamilton’s clash with Thomas Jefferson, for instance, over the extent of federal power spilled into foreign policy with long-lasting ramifications. As Mandelbaum convincingly argues, Hamilton’s championing of a “powerful state apparatus” dedicated to ensuring the national interest played a key role in shaping U.S. foreign affairs. Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon were two of several presidents whose international policies bore the distinct imprint of Hamiltonian-aligned realist thinking. At the same time, Jefferson’s anti- autocratic values served as a founda- According to the author, the abrupt end of the ColdWar inaugurated the “hyperpower” stage of U.S. foreign policy. BOOKS