Kristian Skrede Gleditsch
University of Essex & PRIO
Against explanations of US foreign policy that assert underlying grand strategies, this book argues that US foreign policy is incoherent, since actors with different goals tend to be influential in different areas and time periods, with special interest looming large. For example, US business first lobbies for expanding trade with China, while the military-industrial complex subsequently lobbies for containing the power of a rising China. The largest US troop deployment in 2019 remained in Japan and Germany, reflecting decisions after WWII, with little adjusting to current operations or strategic concerns. Leaders respond to short-term public opinion, but the mass public has limited influence on long-term policy, as foreign policy tends to be less salient, shrouded by complexity and secrecy, and thus easily influenced and dominated by concentrated interests. Hanania provides a wealth of useful material on how a public choice perspective helps account for the US as a 'rogue superpower', with an inconsistent relationship to international rules, the shifting decisions and justifications for actions in the war on terror and military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the widespread adoption of sanctions in spite of the limited evidence for their political effectiveness. This book is an important contribution to foreign policy analysis, highlighting how the problems raised in theories of social choice and collective action can undermine rationality and the prospects for democratic control, and hopefully not limited by the ridiculously high list price (£130 hardback, £35 eBook).