Security First


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For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy

Amitai Etzioni

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The need for drastic change in American foreign policy is clear, argues Etzioni, and he proposes an approach that is both pragmatic and morally sound

“Rarely have more profound changes in American foreign policy been called for than today,” begins Amitai Etzioni in the preface to this book. Yet Etzioni’s concern is not to lay blame for past mistakes but to address the future: What can now be done to improve U.S. relations with the rest of the world? What should American policies be toward recently liberated countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, or rogue states like North Korea and Iran? When should the United States undertake humanitarian intervention abroad? What must be done to protect America from nuclear terrorism? The author asserts that providing basic security must be the first priority in all foreign policy considerations, even ahead of efforts to democratize. He sets out essential guidelines for a foreign policy that makes sense in the real world, builds on moral principles, and creates the possibility of establishing positive relationships with Muslim nations and all others. Etzioni has considered the issues deeply and for many years. His conclusions fall into no neat categories—neither “liberal” nor “conservative”—for he is guided not by ideology but by empirical evidence and moral deliberation. His proposal rings with the sound of reason, and this important book belongs on the reading list of every concerned leader, policy maker, and voter in America.

Amitai Etzioni is a Professor of International Relations at the George Washington University. Among his books are From Empire to Community, Political Unification Revisited, Winning Without War, and The Common Good. He served as a Senior Aid to the White House and as President of the American Sociological Association. He taught at Columbia, Harvard, and Berkeley. He was listed as one of the top 100 American intellectuals in Richard Posner’s book Public Intellectuals.

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"Etzioni's argument is a breath of fresh air in the current debate. Compared to most of his colleagues on the left, he is both more hard-headed about security and more understanding of the critical role of religion and moral culture in maintaining social order without violence. This book is a must read."—Henry Nau, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

"Etzioni offers a far ranging alternative perspective for the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Security First offers to be an outstanding and important work."—James J. Wirtz, Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School

"After foreign policy disasters from Rwanda to 9-11 to the Iraq War, alternatives to realist, liberal, and neoconservative shibboleths are desperately needed. Learned but accessible, sweeping yet detailed, Security First offers a distinctive approach that can help America forge a new path."—Clifford Bob, author of The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism, Winner of the 2007 International Studies Best Book Award

"An important, must-read book for the rising leadership in the United States, as it prepares for the crucial 2008 elections, a time for a change from the status quo, and for America’s friends around the world."—Shuja Nawaz, former Division Chief, International Monetary Fund, former Director, International Atomic Energy Agency, and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the War Within

"Amitai Etzioni's . . . thoughtful book was clearly written as a policy position for the 2008 Presidential hopefuls. To his credit, he prescribes a new, forward-looking American foreign policy for all 18 candidates from both parties. . . . There's a new world order, Mr. Etzioni attests, but in it, the United States is not as mighty as it currently believes it is. His argument, cleverly posed in domestic political terms, suggests that by invading Muslim countries in particular, the U.S. is losing the 'world's swing voters'—moderate Muslims. . . . Security First finishes with Mr. Etzioni's most cogent argument: that the biggest threat America faces is neither Iran nor North Korea, but rather Russia and Pakistan. He's not afraid of the government of Vladimir Putin of Perves Musharraf, but rather of the instability of these countries and their inability to protect nuclear materials that could be acquired by terrorists."—Matthew Cole, New York Observer

"Given the present debate in the US on withdrawal from Iraq, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the continuing determination of the Bush government to foster democracy in the region, this is an important and timely book . . . valuable not least because of the hard lessons now being learnt in Iraq. . . . Etzioni reminds us that even the most powerful nations need to be humble, realistic and rigorously selective in choosing their foreign policy goals. Eliminating all risk is impossible. We must concentrate on mitigating the most serious ones"—John Bruton, Irish Independent

"An excellent book. . . . Security First argues that the U.S. should give first priority to exporting security, not democracy. A smart, ethical rejoinder to the neocons."—Jonathan Rauch, writer-in-residence at The Brookings Institution and correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly

"This book is well written, well organized, and a must read for decision makers and students of American foreign policy. . . . Beyond making a case for the establishment of security within troubled states, Etzioni also outlines a realistic, constitutionally practical, and affordable program to prevent terrorism, relying again on the principle of 'first things first.' . . . Essential."—Choice

"The wide-ranging essays in Security First add up to a comprehensive strategy for the West informed by Etzioni's neo-communitarian perspective. . . . He makes a credible case that the right to physical security is the foundation of all other rights, not to mention a necessary precondition for the development of democracy. . . . [He] has written a wise and stimulating book."—Survival, A publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

"Security First is an important book for scholars interested in contemporary foreign policy, political sociology, Middle East politics, or national security in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The book is best suited for policy makers and analysts as well as concerned citizens, [and] it does have a place in the sociology classroom, particularly in courses on political sociology, the Middle East, or communities. . . . Its strength lies in starting a much-needed dialogue about where our national foreign policy should go from here."—Meredith Kleykamp, Contemporary Sociology

"An important book for scholars interested in contemporary foreign policy, political sociology, Middle East politics, or national security in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq."—Meredith A. Kleykamp, Politics and the State

"Etzioni's new book is a must for specialists on International relations and enjoyable (because it is well written), but also frustrating reading (because it convincingly shows how wrong some widely held assumptions are) for all those interested in most crucial issues of world affairs."—Rein Mullerson, International History Review

"[This] learned and well-written book deserves wide attention. Etzioni amply demonstrates his deep intellectual breadth, confidently walking readers through an examination of major religions, arms-control policy, the law, and economic development. . . . This book, therefore, offers the most value to politicians, policy-makers, and military officers interested in a clear and reasoned review of global security problems and general suggestions for how to solve them."—Michael H. Creswell, Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly

"This important book clarifies how some Israelis and Americans think about and plan the 'future' of the Arab and Muslim worlds." —Amr G. E. Sabet
ISBN: 9780300108576
Publication Date: July 5, 2007
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4