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.
To a subject that usually generates more heat than light, Tony Smith, in this landmark study, brings cool analysis and illuminating insights.
Foreign Attachments is a thought-provoking and timely book, which deftly shows the interconnections between American pluralism and U.S. foreign relations. Smith explores the difficult question of whether or not there is an essential national interest removed from the vagaries of party and ethnic interests. His book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the conjucture of race, ethnicity, and foreign policy at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
In showing how ethnic groups influence, and often try to dictate, American foreign policy, and how the structure of American politics facilitates their access to and control of power, Smith raises a vital issue: how inevitable, indeed desirable, pluralism can be kept compatible with the preservation of national unity and citizenship, how national identity can continue to prevail over ethnic identity. This is an important contribution to the public philosophy of American politics.
Tony Smith's Foreign Attachments is an important and provocative book about central issues in American democracy. It should be one of the most talked-about books of the year, and will be required reading for anyone who wants to take part in the conversation.
Ethnic lobbies, while not new in American politics, have grown in influence since the end of the cold war, says Tony Smith...[Smith] agrees that ethnic groups have a right to organize to promote their values and interests...[but] ethnic groups have an obligation to recognize that national interests may conflict with their preferences...Throughout, Smith urges supporters of multiculturalism in foreign policy to be more 'self-critical' of how they talk about democratic citizenship.
- 208 pages
- 0-9/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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