The Review of John Lewis Gaddis’s Book Surprise, Security and the American Synthesis Essay
The Americans are inclined to discuss their country as the safest place in the world because their rights and freedoms are protected, and the necessary security is provided and guaranteed, and moreover, security is free.
This idea is reflected in the book Surprise, Security, and the American Experience written by John Lewis Gaddis who discusses it as the myth with references to the observed historical realities and actions performed by the U.S. authorities as to the reaction to threatening attacks about the question of security.
In his book, Gaddis provides evidence to state that free security valued by the Americans is the myth supported and developed in society.
According to Gaddis, during the 18th century, the principles of free security were stated, but the political and social issues of the period as well as the threats of the Soviet Union’s attacks and the aspects of the Cold War in the 20th century led to understanding of the fact that “security could never again be taken for granted as easily as it once had been” (Gaddis 8).
Even though the ideas of the United States’ opposition to the violent world and provided free security are associated with the Americans’ identity, the reaction of the Government to surprise attacks supports the opinion that security is not developed enough, and it is not free for the nation.
That is why, the United States’ reaction to surprise violent attacks connected with the Cold War issues or the problem of 11 September 2001 in the form of acts to improve national security strategies is discussed by Gaddis as the evidence to speak about the “national identity crisis” related to the problem of free security and perception of the concept (Gaddis 10).
The history of the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries supports the idea that the country was oriented to winning hegemony in the Western Hemisphere and globally. Gaddis states that different ideas and concepts were shared and followed by the presidents of the United States while developing effective strategies to realize the country’s drive for hegemony successfully.
Thus, John Quincy Adams focused on the ideas of non-equality, security, uniqueness, and predominance about to the United States to provide all the necessary conditions for stating the country’s distinctive position and influence in the Western Hemisphere.
Later, the U.S. presidents were oriented to the principles of preemption and unilateralism as the essential components of hegemony while following the political and ideological heritage of Adams (Gaddis 48).
According to Gaddis, the shift from the idea of hegemony in the Western Hemisphere to the global domination is correlated with the strategies used by President Roosevelt and the concentration on the concept of multilateralism instead of preemption and unilateralism (Gaddis 52-61).
The policies developed during the early years of the 20th century contributed to stating the hegemony of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, and the next step was the global hegemony based on the idea of consent. Gaddis pays attention to the fact that “the hegemony by consent the United States had won during the Cold War would simply become the post-Cold War international system” (Gaddis 77).
The author states that the United States achieved global hegemony when Bretton Woods developed the idea of consent in relations at the international arena and focused on completing the economic power (Gaddis 44).
The idea of unilateralism was supported by John Quincy Adams as the approach to preserve the country’s security because a range of events related to the United States’ interactions with foreign countries illustrated the fact that “the United States could not rely upon the goodwill of others to secure its safety” (Gaddis 22).
The author focuses on the opinion that the discussed strategy of unilateralism was useful during a rather long period because hegemony in the Western Hemisphere did not require the United States’ leaders to violate or reject the country’s isolative position about security and development.
As a result, the doctrine of unilateralism in combination with the focus on preemption as the proclamation of the United States’ political and ideological isolation, disconnection with the other countries, and independence reflected the principle of ‘aversion to entanglement’ followed by the U.S. leaders during a long period of time (Gaddis 22).
It was important for the country’s authorities to support the idea of free security and absolute independence.
However, Gaddis draws the readers’ attention to the fact that the events during the further historic periods demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the doctrine of unilateralism because it was essential to develop new strategies to cope with the surprise attacks, and the principles of unilateralism could not work effectively in the unique situation of focusing on the active interactions with the other countries in order to maintain the global hegemony and influence.
From this point, the ideals of unilateralism were followed strictly even after the focus on leadership of John Quincy Adams, but the used strategies were ineffective to overcome new security challenges.
Gaddis, John Lewis. Surprise, Security and the American Experience. USA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Print.
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