James Chace is the Paul W. Williams Professor of Government and Public Law at Bard College. He is the author of Acheson and, most recently, 1912: The Election That Changed the Country. He is now working on a biography of Lafayette. (October 2004)

Empire, Anyone?

Both Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and the Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis argue in their new books that recurring cycles of American history do much to explain George Bush’s plans to reform the world. Both historians discuss the precedents for the so-called Bush doctrine—preemptive war, unilateralism, and American hegemony. Schlesinger observes …

The Winning Hand

In 1932, Walter Lippmann famously remarked that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a “pleasant man who without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President.” Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was said to have described FDR, who had just paid him an unexpected visit on …

TR and the Road Not Taken

For an increasing number of American politicians, New York’s governor George Pataki and Arizona’s senator John McCain among them, Theodore Roosevelt is the hero president. Polls of American historians over the past decade have placed Roosevelt within the magic circle of great presidents, ranking after Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. People …

Tomorrow the World

Who can doubt that the United States is an imperial power? It is an informal one, to be sure, not colonial in the sense of using military forces and colonial administrators to run territory acquired by the imperial power but rather, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has observed, one “richly equipped …

War Without Risk?

David Halberstam’s account of the policies and the wars that preceded the conflict in Afghanistan brings into sharp perspective the painful lessons of the post–cold war decade. If generals are said to be prepared to fight the last war, one can only hope that they have learned from their mistakes …

The Age of Schlesinger

“History,” wrote the British historian C.V. Wedgwood, “is lived forwards but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was to know the beginning only.” Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s engrossing autobiography of his coming of age …

New World Disorder

Although the Clinton administration certainly doesn’t want to admit it, 1999 will mark the eleventh year of the Bush administration—at least as far as foreign policy is concerned. Bush, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft at first proclaimed that post-Reagan and post-cold war foreign policy would bring about, under US leadership, …

The Proconsul

“I was just a leg man,” John J. McCloy said. After serving as assistant secretary of war, president of the World Bank, high commissioner for Germany, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Ford Foundation, and the Chase Manhattan Bank, McCloy was named by Richard Rovere and John Kenneth …

Dithering in Nicaragua

On July 19, 1989, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution which drove the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle from the country, President Daniel Ortega Saavedra spoke from a podium a few hundred yards from the square that was renamed the Plaza de la Revolución after it was destroyed by …

Getting to Sack the General

For three short hours last February Panamanians celebrated in the streets. I drove through Panama City with a man who had been beaten and imprisoned under the current regime, and had been exiled for ten years in the Seventies by the government of General Torrijos. He was now flying the …

The End of the Affair?

I returned to Central America on the weekend that the five Central American presidents surprised the world—and themselves—by signing the Arias peace plan. The agreement reached in Guatemala on August 7, 1987, could be the beginning of the end of America’s affair with the contras—the fifteen thousand or so armed …

Deeper into the Mire

Toward Central America the United States has always asserted the prerogatives of a great power. The recent publication of a moving and comprehensive history of US involvement in Central America by Cornell’s distinguished diplomatic historian Walter LaFeber and the subsequent release of the Kissinger commission’s report on the region underscore …

The Endless War

In 1983 Central America is a land ravaged by a war without any foreseeable end. While the fighting could be moderated, if not ended, by negotiations, the major power involved in the region, the United States, shows no real disposition to negotiate. Instead, Washington has chosen a military approach to …

Getting Out of the Central American Maze

Central America is truly the terrain of Graham Greene, a place of lost hopes, betrayals, and, nonetheless, the possibility of some vaguely defined salvation. It is also a region that has suffered too often from the almost careless interventions of the United States. Washington has always assumed that since the …

Insolvent America

Our response to the oil crises, of the 1970s was dangerously reminiscent of our behavior during the Vietnam war. In both cases, we were profligate. Waging the Vietnam war to contain communist expansion, we expended lives and treasure and spread destruction in a region that was hardly vital to our …

Insolvent America

For some time now we Americans have had a double image of ourselves, as being both powerful and inadequate. Yet the characterization is more than an image; it is also true. We are powerful beyond the measure of any other nation in history and, as time passes, we are becoming …