Surprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis

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September 11, 2001, distinguished Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis argues, was not the first time a surprise attack shattered American assumptions about national security and reshaped American grand strategy. We've been there before, and have responded each time by dramatically expanding our security responsibilities.

The pattern began in 1814, when the British attacked Washington, burning the White House and the Capitol. This early violation of homeland security gave rise to a strategy of unilateralism and preemption, best articulated by John Quincy Adams, aimed at maintaining strength beyond challenge throughout the North American continent. It remained in place for over a century. Only when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 did the inadequacies of this strategy become evident: as a consequence, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt devised a new grand strategy of cooperation with allies on an intercontinental scale to defeat authoritarianism. That strategy defined the American approach throughout World War II and the Cold War.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11, Gaddis writes, made it clear that this strategy was now insufficient to ensure American security. The Bush administration has, therefore, devised a new grand strategy whose foundations lie in the nineteenth-century tradition of unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony, projected this time on a global scale. How successful it will be in the face of twenty-first-century challenges is the question that confronts us. This provocative book, informed by the experiences of the past but focused on the present and the future, is one of the first attempts by a major scholar of grand strategy and international relations to provide an answer.


About John Lewis Gaddis

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John Lewis Gaddis is Robert A. Lovett Professor of History and Political Science at Yale University.
Published March 23, 2004 by Harvard University Press. 150 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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In consequence, Gaddis recounts, John Quincy Adams developed a strategy of seeking control over the North American continent with minimal coercion, but through preemptive action where necessary.

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Project MUSE

As a further consequence, notes Gaddis, in "little more than a year and a half, the United States has exchanged its long-established reputation as the principal stabilizer of the international system for one as its chief destabilizer" (p.

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Project MUSE

Originally delivered as the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lectures at New York Public Library, the essays in this slim volume offer some historical perspective on American national security policy following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, which John Gaddis rightly calls "a national ...

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Project MUSE

In Surprise, Security, and the American Experience, John Lewis Gaddis compares the response of the Bush administration to the September 11th attacks with the responses to two earlier surprise attacks on the United States, the burning of the White House and Capitol by the British in 1814 and the J...

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