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Critical Book Review for “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy”

by Suleman

The prominent scholar William Appleman Williams concluded in this classic 1959 thesis that, through good motives, American foreign policy was deficient because it felt that the world’s people and their democracy would provide all the answers. Williams did not dispute this, but argued that the supervisors responsible for this strategy are primarily responsible for the many shortcomings in American international relations. The US foreign policy was simply fundamentally criticised. He firmly opposed the U.S. counterrevolutionary pattern and saw it as a clear unjustified conviction of liberal capitalism. For Williams, almost every American assumes that their domestic success depends primarily on an ever-increasing economic growth abroad, not only maintained, but even. “He therefore indicated that seeking some sort of” open door, “especially for revolutions, was the only way out for the US (Williams 1-5).

He claimed that, on three distinct grounds that had not modified, American diplomacy had its foundation and, as such, had retained a sort of truth and significance. The first presumption was that America has a compassionate spirit to help overcome their predicaments with the struggling nations. Second, self-determination was highly promoted by America. As such, America saw and culture as one with the ability to have its own priorities as well as aims: the goals and objectives of any country must pursue by those structures of they feel were better adapted and most suitable for them. The third assumption, though, is somehow suspicious; it believes that other nations are unwilling to fix their own issues until they follow the formula used by Americans. Williams claims that the third assumption not only dirties American motives in foreign affairs amid the positive will of the first two theories, it also clearly reveals American hidden greed (Williams 15-27).

Critical Book Review for “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy”

Williams firmly disagreed with the claim that the economic influence of America was a product of activities being unintentionally transferred. He credits it to market trends that have arisen as a consequence of the “individual free business economy.” He claims that it is this pattern that has often dictated the foreign policy of America. And William sees the Truman administration as completely liable for the rise of the ‘iron curtain’ in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. He claims that the US exploited its economic forces to extend its “open-door approach” to Eastern Europe directly after the war. Moreover, in an effort to regulate the atomic monopoly, the president sought to alter the nature of politics in Soviet Union-controlled regions. Williams discusses the main function of international powers in defining the fate of the United States (Williams 57-63).

To illustrate his arguments on the strengths and weaknesses of the diplomacy, Williams gives a good example of their relationship with Cuba. As an American protectorate and not a territory of Spain, Americans were the first to refer to the kind of success Cuba realised in its alliance with America. There was modernization, for example, as well as increased development of sugar. One of the strongest chances for democratic government has also been given. Despite the obvious gains, though, America tended to benefit more. As it fully controlled the sugar industry, America ruled over the economic life of the island, and to maintain the status quo, America frustrated any attempts by Cuba to properly alter its “one-crop economy.” According to Williams, this is the primary factor that made the Cubans resort to revolution (Williams 106-108). For Williams, therefore, the US exerted some sort of superiority over Cuba, and it did so not only quite vigorously, but almost incessantly. The dominance of the US over Cuba was a strong sign that the ideal of dominance in America was not maintained. America has scarcely promoted Cuba’s self-determination and, at the same time, has purposely refused to modernise the Cuban economy. sHowever, this dominant relationship only functioned to bring together different Cuban groups with a sole reason of realizing their important societal ideals and changes. And when America refused the interests of the Cuban coalition, it not only strengthened their resolve but also made the radicalism on the island more popular. This invited American antagonism, which in turn attracted some form of militant response against their presence in Cuba. Despite its rule over Cuba for six decades, Cubans still found strength in their coming together, and staged a strong a militant social revolution aimed at putting in place that better Cuban society which had been promised by the American diplomacy from the 19th century (Williams 110-123).

William’s work is very incisive and powerful, but contains evident flaws. In describing the American foreign policy, he tends to dwell so much on economic factors. In addition, his attempt to assess who was responsible for the Cold War also seems very weak, especially when he links it to the generosity extended to Russia. However, his arguments that despite America’s insistence on self-determination had been negated by their ignorance of the same, sounds a bit wise. Americans have all the rights to prevail on other nations to adopt their system of democracy, but have no right to force their system on other countries. This book is contains a deep examination of American foreign policy, and it is especially satisfactory in assessing both the successes and failures attached to America’s actions. However, I still find the work faulty when Williams characterizes American leaders as those who have some kind of benevolent bad attitude towards colonialism, especially when smaller nations are affected. His argument that Americans believed they were helping mankind by discouraging exportation of goods, but encouraging the exportation of American values, and that their only tragic flaw was the policies, is kind of misplaced. While critiquing the American diplomacy, Williams risks being labeled a defender of selfish American ideals. However, by discrediting his work merely because of this, one stands to make a big mistake. America is just like many other countries, at least historically. The desire for more power corrupts and may make a nation to unconsciously disregard humanity. America just did the same.

The work is presented in a systematic order, as it traces American foreign policy from 1898 up to 1961. It does not need a reader to get the author’s ideas, and consequently utilize the same information to relate to the contemporary American society, especially with reference to the countries such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The work relatively relies on published secondary sources, especially those that address American foreign policy over time, and those on international diplomacy across centuries. I would recommend this book to other readers, especially those who believe that the increasing anti-American sentiments currently witnessed all over the world are merely due to envy for American success and prosperity.

Work Cited
  • Williams, William A. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. New York: Delta. 1959. Print.

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