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The Power of the Past

History and Statecraft

Edited by Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri
The Power of the Past

History, with its insights, analogies, and narratives, is central to the ways in which the United States interacts with the world.  Historians and policymakers, however, rarely engage one another as they should.  This book bridges that divide, bringing together leading scholars and policymakers to address the essential questions surrounding the history-policy relationship. Chapters include:

  • Mark Lawrence on the numerous, and often contradictory, historical lessons that American observers have drawn from the Vietnam War.
  • ŸH. W. Brands on the role of analogies in U.S. policy during the Persian Gulf crisis and war of 1990–91.
  • Jennifer M. Miller on the Potsdam Declaration and Japanese Rearmament in 1945-50
  • Jeremi Suri on Henry Kissinger’s powerful use of history.
  • James Steinberg on how various forms of history informed U.S. responses to the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
  • Peter Feaver and William Inboden on the roles that historical knowledge and analogies played in several key policy initiatives undertaken during their time at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2007.
  • Philip Zelikow, former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, offers a broad and rich discussion of what kinds of lessons history actually offers.

Hal Brands teaches in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is the author of three books on U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, most recently What Good Is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (2014).

Jeremi Suri is the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in the Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He is the author or editor of six previous books on international affairs, including Foreign Policy Breakthroughs: Cases in Successful Diplomacy (coedited with Robert Hutchings) and Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama.

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