The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance

The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance

The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance

The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance

Synopsis

What road did Americans travel to reach their current global preeminence? Taking the long historical view, Hunt demonstrates that wealth, confidence, and leadership were key elements to America's ascent. In an analytic narrative that illuminates the past rather than indulges in political triumphalism, he provides crucial insights into the country's problematic place in the world today. Hunt charts America's rise to global power from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to a culminating multilayered dominance achieved in the mid-twentieth century. He examines how the United States remade great power relations, fashioned limits for the third world, and shaped our current international economic and cultural order. Hunt concludes by addressing current issues, such as how durable American power really is and what options remain for America's future.

Excerpt

In April 1950 President Harry Truman's advisers told him that Americans had arrived at “the ascendancy of their strength.” This memorable phrase, from which this book takes its title, registered long-nurtured national ambitions that had been finally realized, and it foreshadowed the widening exercise of U.S. power that would outlast the Cold War and carry over into the new century. The “fact” of ascendancy is today only too obvious. The United States now occupies a global position of unusual, arguably unprecedented dominance—what is often fashionably described as hegemony or empire.

For many Americans over the last decade or so, this dominance has inspired a sense of triumph and dreams of global influence. It has also given rise to anxiety and soul searching as the country has spun through a dizzying set of changes since the end of the Cold War and especially since September 11, 2001. The most recent of developments—the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the worldwide “war on terrorism”—have ignited a critical reaction abroad and sharp disagreements at home. What is the surest path to U.S. security? How tightly should Washington bind itself to allies and to international institutions and conventions? Do U.S. actions betray the country's own vaunted standards or stain its international reputation? Is U.S. power on the decline or can it significantly reshape the world?

History has occupied a problematic place in the intense, even feverish discussion of these questions. Popular commentators, policymakers, and the broader informed public have made relatively little use of the past to frame the issues of the day even though history offers precisely the kind of steadying insights needed at a time of confusion and disorientation. To the extent that commentators do invoke history, it is perfunctory, dated, or tendentious. While historians of foreign relations, culture, and economy have much to say one way or another about aspects of the U.S. rise to ascendancy, they have done little to construct overarching narratives that trace the steps carrying the United States to its current dominance while also taking into account the dramatic developments over the last decade and a half in the U.S. relationship to the broader world. The sad truth is that their work is largely irrelevant to . . .

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