At Home Abroad

At Home Abroad

Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy
Henry R. Nau, Richard C. Leone
The United States has never felt at home abroad. The reason for this unease, even after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is not frequent threats to American security. It is America's identity. The United States, its citizens believe, is a different country, a New World of divided institutions and individualistic markets surviving in an Old World of nationalistic governments and statist economies. In this Old World, the United States finds no comfort and alternately tries to withdraw from it and reform it. America cycles between ambitious internationalist efforts to impose democracy and world order, and more nationalist appeals to trim multilateral commitments and demand that the European and Japanese allies do more.

In At Home Abroad, Henry R. Nau explains that America is still unique but no longer so very different. All the industrial great powers in western Europe (and, arguably, also Japan) are now strong liberal democracies. A powerful and peaceful new world exists beyond America's borders and anchors America's identity, easing its discomfort and ending the cycle of withdrawal and reform.

Nau draws on constructivist and realist perspectives to show how relative national identities interact with relative national power to define U.S. national interests. He provides fresh insights for U.S. grand strategy toward various countries.

In Europe, the identity and power perspective advocates U.S. support for both NATO expansion to consolidate democratic identities in eastern Europe and concurrent, but separate, great-power cooperation with Russia in the United Nations. In Asia, this perspective recommends a shift of U.S. strategy from bilateralism to concentric multilateralism, starting with an emerging democratic security community among the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Taiwan, and progressively widening this community to include reforming ASEAN states and, if it democratizes, China. In the developing world, Nau's approach calls for balancing U.S. moral (identity) and material (power) commitments, avoiding military intervention for purely moral reasons, as in Somalia, but undertaking such intervention when material threats are immediate, as in Afghanistan, or material and moral stakes coincide, as in Kosovo.