The Foreign Service Journal, October 2022

62 OCTOBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL tion for future U.S. policies promoting representative government and human rights. Jeffersonian idealism, for example, had a far-reaching impact on President Woodrow Wilson who urged that the United States enter World War I to make the world “safe for democracy.” Citing Margaret MacMillan’s evoca- tive Paris 1919 (2002), the author relates how Wilson’s ideals largely failed to sway European leaders during the rancorous debates on the postwar terms of peace. Moreover, the U.S. Senate subsequently rejected the Treaty of Versailles and its collective security provisions despite Wil- son’s impassioned advocacy. Wilsonian liberal internationalism, however, went on to influence presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote: “If everything on earth were rational, nothing would happen.” Like the novelist, Mandel- baum highlights the dangers of compla- cency. He perceptively observes how “the unpredictable contingencies of human history” have sparked pronounced shifts in U.S. national security policy. Disparate events such as the shock- ing raid on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the unexpected invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 are stark reminders of the immense conse- quences of failures in intelligence and risk analysis. The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy also contains a cogent account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. The Kennedy administration, though surprised by the Soviet installation of nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba, didn’t panic. Instead, the administration metic- ulously calibrated its response, deciding on the “middle course” of imposing a naval blockade on Cuba. Working all diplomatic angles and inventing new ones, the administra- tion was ultimately able to convince the Kremlin to withdraw the missiles. Six decades later, the firm, clear-eyed U.S. response still serves as a model of how to manage a national security challenge. The author indicates that the age of American “hyperpower” ended in roughly 2015. He does not entirely show his cards as to what era he thinks the United States has entered into. That said, storm clouds are on the horizon. He places the spotlight on China’s and Rus- sia’s attempts to subvert the rules-based international order as the main source of the turbulence. Iran and North Korea are also flagged as disruptive forces. The book, as it happens, was pub- lished just after Vladimir Putin launched his assault on Ukraine in February 2022. In detailing the many crises faced by U.S. policymakers in past decades, The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy helps place the ongoing conflict in a broader context. Given its extensive detail and expert framing, it’s sure to remain rel- evant in the years to come, and foreign affairs professionals would be wise to use it as an essential reference. n Joseph L. Novak is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London and a retiree member of the American Foreign Service Association. A former lawyer, he served as a U.S. Foreign Service officer for 30 years. Wilsonian liberal internationalism, however, went on to influence presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.