Cover: Shields of the Republic: The Triumph and Peril of America’s Alliances, from Harvard University PressCover: Shields of the Republic in HARDCOVER

Shields of the Republic

The Triumph and Peril of America’s Alliances

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Product Details


$27.95 • £22.95 • €25.00

ISBN 9780674982956

Publication Date: 06/09/2020


288 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

5 illus., 1 map, 2 tables


Is America’s alliance system so quietly effective that politicians and voters fail to appreciate its importance in delivering the security they take for granted?

For the first century and a half of its existence, the United States had just one alliance—a valuable but highly controversial military arrangement with France. Largely out of deference to George Washington’s warnings against the dangers of “entangling alliances,” subsequent American presidents did not consider entering another alliance for 150 years. Then everything suddenly changed. Between 1948 and 1955, US leaders extended defensive security guarantees to twenty-three countries in Europe and Asia. Seventy years later, the United States had allied with thirty-seven.

In Shields of the Republic, Mira Rapp-Hooper stresses the remarkable success of these alliances. The first protected the young country during its revolutionary birth and early vulnerability. During the Cold War, a grand strategy focused on allied defense and deterrence maintained the balance of power. The world wasn’t always peaceful, but the United States upheld its national security even as the country was newly exposed to ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons that nullified its geographic and technological advantages. Remarkably, it did this at reasonable material and political cost.

Today the alliance system is threatened from without and within. China and Russia seek to break America’s alliances through conflict and nonmilitary erosion. Meanwhile US politicians and voters are increasingly skeptical of alliances’ costs and benefits and assert that we are safer without them. But what if the alliance system is a victim of its own success? Rapp-Hooper argues that we take our safety for granted, having forgotten what alliances do to protect us. The alliance system may be past due for a post–Cold War overhaul, but it remains critical to national security.

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