College Quarterly
Fall 2003 - Volume 6 Number 1
Notes Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Clyde Prestowitz
New York: Basic Books, 2003

Reviewed by Howard A. Doughty

Like many of the books that blast the Bush administration for its litany of sins: "unilateralism, insensitivity to the needs of allies, excessive support for Israel, contempt for international institutions, imperial pretensions, overvaluation of military power, and neglect for "soft power" in all its many forms," Rogue Nation is among the most effective. Prestowitz is an excellent writer, a perceptive interpreter and a wonderful teacher to those willing to take the time to go beyond slogans and picket sign rhetoric. Even right-wing critics have admitted that it is "perhaps the best guide available to the arguments of those who would be happier with a humbler and more cautious Bush administration."

Like few of the volumes that offer scalding rebukes to American decision-makers, Prestowitz, even more than Bacevitz before him, speaks from a conservative position. He is especially blunt on the issues of Taiwan and Israel and murmurs menacingly, "Don’t even get me started on Cuba." His concern is that in these cases, US government perceptions and US foreign policy are distorted by dedicated lobbies that turn American pragmatism into campaigns that are contrary to the real interests of the USA, to say nothing of international peace and justice. US support for Israeli settlements, for example, will "catalyze violence and lead to brutal reprisal that will bring more global disdain for the United States. And the peace that all sides desperately want will only recede."

To Prestowitz, the villain of the piece is "neo-conservatism," that singular synthesis of corporate economics and reactionary social policy that increasingly supports the business, political and social leaders of the new right throughout North America. That such people call themselves conservative is, he believes, an abomination. Advocating what sounds strikingly like what Canadians might call "red toryism," he asks us to understand that "the imperial project is not conservatism at all but radicalism, egotism and adventurism articulated in the stirring rhetoric of traditional patriotism." Its blatant promotion of US corporate interests linked directly or indirectly to top administration leaders, its military and civilian ineptitude in the role of occupying power, its bloated government and mammoth costs are, he says, "neither conservatism nor liberalism but simple irresponsibility."

One might have hoped that a lesson could have been learned a generation ago, when high technology went to war in south-east Asia and was defeated by little armies in "black pajamas." This time, the stakes are higher.

Howard A. Doughty, Book Review Editor


• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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