American Empire Before the Fall. By Bruce Fein. Campaign for Liberty, 2010. Vii + 219 pages.
It is hardly news that George Bush’s Iraq War has been a disastrous failure and that Barack Obama, learning nothing from his predecessor, has renewed and expanded our crusade in Afghanistan. Criticisms of recent American policy have not been slow in coming, and Bruce Fein, in this excellent book, has given us one of the best of these. But he does more than this. He embeds his criticism of our current military misadventures within a full-scale account of the history of American foreign policy.
As Fein sees matters, our country began well. Washington and Jefferson rejected empire and instead sought to limit military action to the defense of the United States. Unfortunately, the lesser lights who assumed control of American foreign policy in the nineteenth century proved unequal to the task of upholding the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Fein sees an early portent of trouble in the Monroe Doctrine, which exceeds the bounds of strict self-defense. Matters really got out of hand with the Mexican War, clearly an imperialist venture; and since then our policy has abandoned restraint, culminating in the twentieth century with the pursuit of world mastery.