of 'Liberty's Surest Guardian'
Journal of American History, December 2012
This review is from Journal of American History 99(3):876 doi:10.1093/jahist/jas444 . Reviewers were: Micahel E. Latham
"This is an innovative, ambitious, and provocative
study. In a single volume, Jeremi Suri analyzes
the history of American nation building at
home and abroad. Relying on six examples from
the American Revolution through the U.S. invasions
of Afghanistan and Iraq, he attempts to
identify common patterns of failure and success
and to explain why the United States remains
so committed to creating an international order
based on pluralist principles..."
Proceedings Magazine, July 2012
PROCEEDINGS exists to give voice to those with ideas or thoughts concerning the nation's defense, and the interest in sharing them in an open forum. This is Volume 138/7 published July 2012. Reviewers were: Hans Johnson
"America’s grand strategy is nation-building. This is part of its past, present, and future, argues Dr. Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas in Liberty’s Surest Guardian . The goal of this strategy is the creation of peaceful nation-states. Suri analyzes the most enduring American nation-building projects: the country’s own founding, its South during Reconstruction, the Philippines, Germany, Vietnam, and Afghanistan/Iraq. He rejects any distinction between domestic and foreign nation-building, as both efforts involve the other. Each episode influences the subsequent ones, and studying them provides insights into the U.S. way of nation-building and what American expectations should be. His analysis also covers what is most difficult in such efforts: policy change. There are many reasons for resistance to changing policy, but such unwillingness often comes at great cost. Suri believes that sometimes the United States must simply end a conflict through negotiation and focus on reconstruction, however difficult that may be. He sees five critical lessons that he calls the five P’s: partners, process, problem-solving, purpose, and people..."
H-DIPLO on H-Net
H-DIPLO is the Diplomatic and International History discussion network of H-Net. They publish roundtable book reviews of recent publications.
This is Volume XIII No.23 published April 11, 2012. Reviewers were:
Thomas Maddux, Jerald A. Combs, Christopher J. Fettweis, Lewis Gould, Edwin Martini, and Chris Tudda.
Andrew Preston is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Cambridge, UK. Preston specializes in the history of American foreign relations, broadly defined, and examine the applications of American power abroad, primarily towards the nations and peoples of East and Southeast Asia since 1945.
"It is supremely ironic that while nation-building has been one of the most important
problems for US foreign policy-makers over the last century, it has received comparatively
little attention from historians. Political scientists and political economists have dominated
a field to which, one would think, historians would have a lot to contribute. Aside from a
mountain of literature on the failed nation-building project in South Vietnam, however,
the subject has received scant historical attention. Even more astonishingly, nobody has
thought to look at American nation-building efforts synthetically, across centuries of time
and literally a world of space.
Nobody, that is, until now. With Liberty's surest guardian, Jeremi Suri has written what
must be considered the definitive one-volume historical account of Americans' e&orts to
transform other societies. In between a tightly argued introduction and conclusion, which
tie everything together within a set of general observations and conclusions, Suri uses five
chapter-length case-studies, disparate in chronology and geography, to examine his topic:
reconstruction in the American South after the Civil War; the colonization of the Philippines;
post-Second World War Germany; Vietnam in the 40's and 50's; and Afghanistan
More... download 2-page review from International Affairs 88:2, March 2012
Walter Russell Mead
Walter Russell Mead is a Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations studying the evolving global economy and its implications for American society and foreign policy. Mead is a Senior Contributing Editor to Worth magazine, a contributing editor at the opinion section to the Los Angeles Times, an author, and frequent contributor to other leading newspapers and magazines.
"...Suri’s core conclusion is sound: nation building is difficult, expensive, and unpleasant, and at best it can be only partially successful -- but it is often unavoidable."
Robert Kagan is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World From Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century.”
"The fact that even highly educated Americans are scarcely aware of this past has made it difficult for the United States to learn from its experiences. Suri hopes to correct this, and his brief historical sketches can be useful for policy makers and those who write about American foreign policy — if only to remind them that what Americans have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq has been done countless times by their predecessors in many other distant lands."
Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
"Nation-building can only work when the people own it." Jeremi Suri argues that the United States has too often forgotten this truth over the course of its nation-building history--including the American revolution and Reconstruction as well as efforts in the Philippines, Germany, Japan, and Vietnam--in which there have been both successes and failures. Suri draws lessons from all these efforts that are particularly valuable today, while making the provocative argument that as hard as we wish to deny it, nation-building is part of American DNA.