The American Way of Strategy: U.S. Foreign Policy and The American Way of Life by Michael Lind opens with a quote from Woodrow Wilson:
You know how impossible it is, in short, to have a free nation if it is a military nation and under military orders.
In his new book, Lind looks at the paradox caused by sacrificing liberty to ensure security. He argues that U.S. foreign policy must reflect a desire for a peaceful and demilitarized world which allows for liberty to flourish. We wanted to know more about this thesis, so we asked Michael Lind some questions, check it out below.
OUP: What is “the American way of strategy”?
Michael Lind: The American way of strategy is my term for the mainstream tradition of U.S. foreign policy. Summed up in a sentence, it is this: The purpose of the American way of strategy is to defend the American way of life by means that do not endanger the American way of life. This may seem straightforward, but underlying it is a complex understanding of why we need a safe and secure world beyond our borders if we are to maintain our democratic republic.
OUP: In addition to discussing current foreign policy, you have several chapters on American history. Do you think that it can teach us lessons for today?
Lind: Drawing historical parallels—say, between Saddam Hussein and Hitler, or between the “war on terror” and the Cold War or World War II—can be misleading and dangerous. What I look for in American history is not particular precedents, but a set of basic ideas about the relationship between American national security and our liberal, democratic, constitutional system. These two subjects are usually discussed in isolation from each other, but in the thinking of American statesmen from Alexander Hamilton to Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman they were linked.
OUP: In writing The American Way of Strategy, were you surprised by anything you learned?
Lind: Yes. I began with the assumption that I’d defend the Truman-Kennedy-Johnson approach to the Cold War, but I concluded that the approach of Eisenhower and Nixon made more sense. And I think readers will be as surprised as I was to discover that the Mexican War of 1846-48 had a lot to do with the rivalry of Britain and the U.S. in North America, while naval rivalry between Germany and the U.S. provided the context for the Spanish-American War and the Philippine war beginning in 1898.
OUP: You dedicate the book to the memory of the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, why?
Lind: Senator Moynihan was a mentor and friend of mine, whose views and example have profoundly influenced me. His passionate interest in defending liberal internationalism led to my interest in the subject—and in particular to Woodrow Wilson’s conviction that the U.S. could not remain a liberal democratic republic if it were alone and outgunned in a world dominated by hostile powers.
OUP: What inspired you to write the book?
Lind: As a result of the war in Iraq, Americans are beginning to question our basic strategy for the first time since the end of the Cold War two decades ago. Until recently the debate was chiefly about tactics: should we invade Iraq or not? What is the best way to defeat al-Qaida? But now there is more public discussion of first principles: What should be the goals of the U.S. in the world? What should our global strategy be? The American Way of Strategy is my contribution to this long overdue debate.