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Foreign Attachments

Foreign Attachments

The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy

Tony Smith

ISBN 9780674015876

Publication date: 02/15/2005

Who speaks for America in world affairs? In this insightful new book, Tony Smith finds that, often, the answer is interest groups, including ethnic ones. This seems natural in a country defined by ethnic and cultural diversity and a democratic political system. And yet, should not the nation's foreign policy be based on more general interests? On American national interests?

In exploring this question, Smith ranges over the history of ethnic group involvement in foreign affairs; he notes the openness of our political system to interest groups; and he investigates the relationship between multiculturalism and U.S. foreign policy. The book has three major propositions. First, ethnic groups play a larger role in the formulation of American foreign policy than is widely recognized. Second, the negative consequences of ethnic group involvement today outweigh the benefits this activism at times confers on America in world affairs. And third, the tensions of a pluralist democracy are particularly apparent in the making of foreign policy, where the self-interested demands of a host of domestic actors raise an enduring problem of democratic citizenship--the need to reconcile general and particular interests.


  • With the end of the Cold War, the United States has lost the one overwhelming objective that dominated its foreign policy for more than four decades, and is left as the only superpower. As a result, foreign policy is up for grabs. Ethnic groups, and also economic interests, have moved in to capture and suborn American power to serve their own purposes. But are their purposes American purposes? Who speaks for America? Smith argues that in this situation of no overriding national priorities, American foreign policy is increasingly susceptible to the undue influence of ethnic interests. This is a politically and intellectually important thesis, and Smith sets it forth in an extremely well-argued and well-written book.

    —Samuel P. Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order


  • Tony Smith is Cornelia M. Jackson Professor of Political Science at Tufts University.

Book Details

  • 208 pages
  • 0-9/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press