Recommendations to get into US Foreign Policy by Doctor Jeffrey Michaels, IEN Senior Fellow at IBEI.

Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World
Charles A. Kupchan
Oxford University Press

In his 1796 farewell address, President George Washington urged the young nation to “avoid permanent alliances with foreign nations”. Later, isolationism became one of the most influential political trends in American history. From the founding era until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States steered clear of strategic commitments abroad, making only brief detours during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Since 1941, the United States has adopted a much more interventionist approach to changing the world.

Kupchan traces a path from isolationism to the ideology of American exceptionalism.

The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy
Stephen M Walt
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc

New York Times bestselling author Stephen M. Walt dissects the errors and shortcomings of recent US foreign policy, explaining why it has been affected by disasters such as the “perpetual wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan and outlining what can be done about this.

In 1992, the United States was at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were confident that there would be a new era of peace and prosperity. Twenty-five years later, these hopes have been dashed. Relations with Russia and China have worsened, the European Union is oscillating, nationalism and populism are on the rise, and the United States is caught up in costly and futile wars that have wasted billions of dollars and undermined its influence around the world.

From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role
Fareed Zakaria
Princeton Paperbacks

If rich nations usually become great powers, how can we explain the foreign inactivity of the United States at the end of the 19th century? The USA was the wealthiest country in the world in 1885. Nevertheless, it was a minor power in the military, political and diplomatic spheres. To explain this discrepancy, Zakaria considers a large variety of cases between 1865 and 1908 when the United States considered expanding its influence in places as wide-spread as Canada, the Dominican Republic and Iceland. The president and his administration tried to increase the country’s political influence abroad, but the USA was an unusual power: a strong nation with a weak state. It was not until the end of the century, when the power passed from the states to the federal government, that the leaders in Washington were able to mobilize the nation’s resources for international influence.

Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938
Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley
Penguin Random House

Since it appeared for the first time in 1971, Rise to Globalism has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The ninth edition of this classic has been updated to include George W. Bush’s administration. It offers a summarized yet informative view of the evolution of US foreign policy from 1938 to the present day, focusing on key events such as World War II, the Missile Crisis, Vietnam and 9/11. It examines from the Iran-Contra affair to the rise of international terrorism. The authors analyze, in light of the enormous global power of the United States, how American economic aggression, racism, and the fear of communism have shaped the evolution of the nation’s foreign policy.

Destined for War: can America and China escape Thucydides’ Trap?
Graham Allison
Scribe UK

When a growing power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war. In this rigorous analysis, Harvard scholar Graham Allison examines the phenomenon known as the Thucydides’ Trap, which is currently being played out between the world’s two largest superpowers: the United States and China.

By means of strange historical parallels, the book shows how close we are to the unthinkable. While asserting that war is avoidable, Allison also reveals how clashes between powers have kept the peace in the past and what painful measures international leaders can and must take to avoid disaster.

Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
Dana Priest and William M. Arkin
Little, Brown and Company

The top secret world that the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has become so huge, so heavy and so secret that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people occupy it or exactly how many agencies duplicate work in different places. The result is that the system established to keep the United States safe may be putting it at greater risk.
An investigation by award-winning reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin.

White House Years
Henry Alfred Kissinger
Little, Brown US

Kissinger recalls his first four years as national security advisor, discusses his participation in the formulation of the Nixon Doctrine, reveals his views on the Vietnam War, and offers important insights into his relationship with Nixon.

The First Resort Of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century
Richard T. Arndt
Potomac Books, Inc.

Over the past five decades, US cultural diplomacy programs have faded due to politics and historical events that have put cultural diplomacy second to public relations campaigns, now known as “public diplomacy”. With anti-Americanism on the rise around the world, cultural diplomacy should become an immediate priority, but politicians continue to ignore this relatively cheap and ancient tool for fostering understanding between nations. Richard Arndt investigates the history of American cultural diplomacy to demonstrate its valuable contributions in the past and make a plea to revitalize it for the future.

Color of Empire, the: Race and American Foreign Relations (Issues in the History of American Foreign Relations)
Michael L. Krenn
Potomac Books Inc

At first glance, it may seem difficult to accept that race and racism play a key role, either consciously or subconsciously, in policy-making. But leaders are products of their upbringing and times, and even some of the most highly educated presidents and secretaries of state in the United States have been slave owners, segregationists or fanatics. Michael Krenn demonstrates how race has functioned as a powerful justification for US actions abroad and had a considerable influence on their form, direction and intensity.

This is an excellent introduction to the topic for both students and general readers.

From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776
George C. Herring

Award-winning and critically acclaimed, George C. Herring uses foreign relations as a lens to explain the history of the rise of the United States from thirteen disparate colonies scattered along the Atlantic seaboard to becoming a superpower.
This is a story of surprising successes and tragic failures captured in a thrilling narrative. Statesmen like Benjamin Franklin, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman and Dean Acheson played key roles in the American rise to world power. But the expansion of America as a nation also owes much to adventurers and explorers, sea captains, merchants and manufacturers, missionaries and diplomats who discovered new territories, developed new trade routes, and established and defended the nation’s interests in foreign lands.