Blame the Foreigner

The Endangered American Dream: How to Stop the United States from Becoming a Third World Country and How to Win the Geo-Economic Struggle for Industrial Supremacy

by Edward N. Luttwak
Simon and Schuster, 365 pp., $24.00

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of its empire are the source of all sorts of changes in the West. To take an important example, defense-related industries have lost a good chunk of their market, with further shrinkage to come. One sober estimate suggests that a million jobs have already disappeared in defense industries between 1987 and 1992 and another 1.5 to 2 million are likely to go by 1997. Firms that have led their lives in the military-industrial complex do not find it easy to convert to post–cold war activities. This is partly because the general economic environment is far from helpful right now, but also partly because they find it hard to shed old habits of management and production that worked well in the old circumstances but do not fit the new civilian market.

A similar problem, on a considerably smaller scale, faces the military-intellectual complex. Scholars, policy analysts, and writers who used to concentrate on issues of high military strategy or matters of geo-political diplomacy or on questions of arms control also find their market contracting. They too feel the need to convert to some form of post–cold war activity. They too need to change entrenched habits (of thought this time, not management). Intellectual capacity may be just as hard to transfer from one line of production to another as industrial capacity.

Mr. Luttwak is just such a case. For twenty-five years he has written serious books on such topics as the grand strategy of the Roman Empire (1976) and the Soviet Union (1983), and volumes of essays on military questions. He has been a consultant to the secretary of defense, the National Security Council, and the State Department. And he is the author of an interesting how-to-do-it book called Coup d’Etat, reviewed at length in these pages. Any military electronics firm in an analogous position would find related products more promising than a shift to specialty foods or ladies’ ready-to-wear. In the same way Mr. Luttwak has chosen to cultivate a field he calls geo-economics.

The promises of geo-economics are made pretty clear in Luttwak’s book. He apparently wants to expand Clausewitz’s famous aphorism that war is the continuation of politics by other means to the sharper proposition that trade is the continuation of warfare by other means. He certainly allows little or no room for the possibility that trade between nations can sometimes be mutually beneficial, as is generally thought to have been the case in the quarter-century after the end of the World War II. The vocabulary of geo-economics could be described as alarmist and the tone is generally truculent. The subtitle of the book gives the right impression of the contents. Even that is just a warm-up. The last chapter of the book begins this way.

In geo-economics, as in war, offensive weapons dominate. Of these, research and development force-fed with government support and taxpayers’ money is the most important. Just as in war …

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Letters

Endangered American Dream’ March 24, 1994