America's Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy

America's Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy

America's Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy

America's Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy


America's Mission argues that the global strength and prestige of democracy today are due in large part to America's impact on international affairs. Tony Smith documents the extraordinary history of how American foreign policy has been used to try to promote democracy worldwide, an effort that enjoyed its greatest triumphs in the occupations of Japan and Germany but suffered huge setbacks in Latin America, Vietnam, and elsewhere. With new chapters and a new introduction and epilogue, this expanded edition also traces U. S. attempts to spread democracy more recently, under presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and assesses America's role in the Arab Spring.


When the first edition of this book was published, American foreign policy was experiencing one of its most triumphal moments: the recent collapse of the Soviet Union had apparently left the way clear for a new era of liberal internationalism. Not since the end of World War ii nearly fifty years earlier had the nation had such an opportunity to pursue one of its major foreign policy priorities: “to make the world safe for democracy,” in Woodrow Wilson’s words.

For nearly twenty years, the first edition of America’s Mission has been a go-to book for students who wanted to understand how the thread of democracy promotion had been woven into the fabric of American foreign policy over the past century, and how those efforts had fared. Much has changed since the publication of the first edition, however. the list of countries organizing their political lives democratically has grown substantially. the fall of the Soviet Union continues to have aftershocks, with “color revolutions” occurring in Serbia and Montenegro, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. At times, the United States has moved aggressively to help ensure democracy’s future, as in its forceful intervention in Haiti. and while the efforts to implant democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq have had markedly mixed results, we have seen the Arab Spring usher in a wave of popular uprisings that already point to at least somewhat more democratic futures for Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, with outcomes in greater doubt in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen.

There has been no end to the litany of ironies. George W. Bush’s second inaugural boldly sought to “proclaim liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof,” even as his foremost nation-building project was running aground. His successor, whose election embodied the hopes of literally hundreds of millions for the promises of freedom and redemption, has often seemed mired in the economic consequences of financial overreach. and yet … and yet, our faith in America’s mission still stirs us.

During this period, the Century Foundation has continued to examine America’s leadership role in promoting global peace and security. Most recently, those efforts have resulted in the publication of Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the 21st Century, edited by Jeffrey Laurenti, Morton H. Halperin, Peter Rundlet, and Spencer P. Boyer, and Morton H. Halperin and Michael Hochman Fuchs’s The Survival and the Success of Liberty: a Democracy Agenda for U.S. Foreign Policy.

We continue to believe that support for democracy as an integral part of the larger global struggle for the respect for human rights is one of the most important roles for our national foreign policy—and that coming to grips with the role of America and American values in a world of more diffuse power is one . . .

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