Loveman, Brian. No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776

By Alam, Mohammed Badrul | Journal of Third World Studies, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Loveman, Brian. No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776


Alam, Mohammed Badrul, Journal of Third World Studies


Loveman, Brian. No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. 539 pp.

No Higher Law is a comprehensive account of U.S. diplomatic history from 1776 to the present detailing how, in spite of lofty ideals of the founding fathers and emphasis on American Exceptionalism and Splendid Isolationism, the US was more into territorial expansion, global dominance and sheer militarism. Instead of being a partner and a facilitator, for the most part, US policy makers and different administrations had resorted to display of hard power and gun boat diplomacy under the garb of defending the national interests.

From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the campaign against piracy in the Caribbean islands in the 1820s, America's first treaty protectorate regime in Columbia in 1846 to the conduct of US foreign policy in World War I and II and US proclamation of Global War on Terror in the aftermath of 9/11, Brian Loveman has sketched a realist view of US diplomatic forays as carried out by various presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama. In a speech made at the beginning of his second term, Bill Clinton had declared, "When our mutual security interests are threatened, we will, as America always has, use diplomacy when we can, but use force if we must. We will act with others when we can, but alone when we must." (p. 1)

Although change has been discernible on occasions in the conduct of American foreign policy such as the Good Neighbor Policy and during the Carter Administration, No Higher Law, provides continuity in terms of ingrained beliefs, entrenched institutions and ground practices marked by compulsions of US domestic politics. Manifest Destiny did not mean benevolence and rather was couched under the cloak of unilateralism which was commonly understood as autonomy, aversion to permanent alliances and armed neutrality as the cornerstone of American policy particularly after World War II. it is a conjecture that US hegemonic intentions also coincided with its high profile in economic, technological and military industrial spheres. From the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 to the Reagan Doctrine of 1985, the United States adopted politics ranging from geo-strategic to geo-economics.

One of the highlights of Loveman's book is how US foreign policy establishment focused its attention toward Latin American and inter-American relations. Although, as the author rightly surmises, the United States made sincere efforts in bolstering the Western Hemisphere as a bastion of Republican institution flanked with democracy, liberalism and secularism, one can also plausibly argue that this policy emphasis had lot to do with America's perennial territorial aspirations, commercial exploitation and security imperatives. United States had to contend with European nations who wanted to derail American hegemony in the Western hemisphere by exposing vulnerabilities in US policy toward Latin America.

Fearful of being accused as 'soft on communism' by Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his associates, and in view of the changing domestic mood, often the party in power at the White House had to re-orient its policies towards the communist world. …

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