Probably the most profound geopolitical development of the Twentieth Century was the rise of America as the world’s preeminent power during and after World War II. We’re still living in what Henry Luce called the American Century some eighty years after the publisher proclaimed its inception. Historians have put forth various interpretations for how and why this happened: that America was always an irrepressible nation whose expansionist impulses presaged its hegemonic ambitions; that with all of its resources and power, the country had no choice but to embrace the challenge of global stability.
Now Stephen Wertheim, of the Quincy Institute and Columbia University, propounds a provocative new thesis: that the hegemonic temptation was the product of a coterie of strategic planners from the American foreign policy elite who crafted the notion and sold it to the country by distorting America’s distinct and “foundational” philosophy of internationalism.
Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy, by Stephen Wertheim, (Belknap Press: October 2020), 272 pages.
There’s some excellent history here as Wertheim traces the perceptions and recommendations of prominent thinkers struggling to keep up with a world in flux. No sooner would they craft a grand strategy for the future they foresaw than the perceived future would be washed away by powerful new developments. Ultimately they concluded that their options narrowed to a single vision: world primacy.
“Six years after global supremacy was all but inconceivable,” writes Wertheim, “it was now