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Princeton Project on National Security
History of National Security Strategy


Surprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis. (Harvard University Press, 2004)
September 11, 2001, was not the first time a surprise attack shattered American assumptions about national security and re-shaped American grand strategy. We have responded each time by dramatically expanding our security responsibilities. The British attack on Washington in 1814 gave rise to a strategy of unilateralism and preemption aimed at maintaining strength beyond challenge throughout the North American continent. In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, FDR devise a new strategy of cooperation with allies on an intercontinental scale to defeat authoritarianism. The 9/11 terrorist attacks prompted the Bush administration to devise a strategy whose foundations lie in the 19th century tradition of unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony, this time on a global scale.

"9/11 and the Past and Future of American Foreign Policy" by Melvyn P. Leffler. International Affairs; Oct 2003, Vol. 79 Issue 5, p1045.
The Bush administration policies constitute a surprising departure from the ways most former U.S. administrations have dealt with 'existential' threats in the twentieth century. By championing a 'balance of power favouring freedom' and by eschewing the 'community of power' approach propounded by Woodrow Wilson, Bush and his advisors are charting a unilateralist course for times of crisis, a course neither so popular nor so efficacious as its proponents think. But the unilateralism is prompted by fears and threats that must not be dismissed or trivialized.

"Lessons of History" by Harold James. (NIC 2020 Project)
There are clear historical precedents to the current worldwide wave of reaction against and rejection of what is now perceived as U.S. style capitalism. New opportunities to create new wealth mean radical changes in distribution. Large and apparently illegitimate increases in fortune provoke resentments and a populist reaction. Wars challenge assumptions about the global distribution of economic and political power. Wars also lead to questions about the rules that are essential in guiding economic interaction. The danger of escalating conflict disrupting globalization has deep historical precedents. Today, concerns about human rights issues as well as the potential of bad governments to destabilize whole regions are realistic and creditable. They will necessarily lead to military engagements in sometimes expected and sometimes unexpected places. The small conflicts set the stage for bigger and more global clashes.

Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World by Walter Russell Mead (Routledge 2001)
There are four contrasting schools of U.S. foreign policy: a "Hamiltonian" concern with U.S. economic well-being at home and abroad; a "Wilsonian" impulse to promulgate U.S. values throughout the world; a "Jeffersonian" focus on protecting American democracy in a perilous world; and a bellicose, populist "Jacksonian" commitment to preserving U.S. interests and honor in the world. Each of the four schools is able to combine effectively with the others to form varying coalitions in response to external or internal pressures, which reinforces the pragmatism and flexibility of American foreign policy. During eras when the U.S. has lacked a clear consensus about its relationship to the global system, different schools have stood for fundamentally different strategic issues of American foreign policy. It is not a promising sign that after 1989, the American foreign policy debate appears to be subsiding again into a standoff, while policies proliferate in the absence of strategy.

The Development of American Strategic Thought by Marc Trachtenberg. (Garland, 1987-1988)

"A National Security Strategy for a Global Age" by William J. Clinton. (The White House, December 1999)

"National Security Strategy of the United States 1994-1995: Engagement and Enlargement" by William J. Clinton. (Brassey’s 1995)

"National Security Strategy of the United States 1991-1992" by George H.W. Bush. (Brassey’s 1991)

"National Security Strategy of the United States 1990-1991" by George H.W. Bush. (Brassey’s 1990)

"National Security Strategy of the United States" by Ronald Reagan. (Brassey’s 1988)

"George F. Kennan and the Origins of Eisenhower’s New Look: An Oral History of Project Solarium" edited by William B. Pickett. (Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, 2004)

Waging peace: How Eisenhower shaped an enduring cold war strategy by Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman. (Oxford UP, 1998).

American Cold War Strategy: Interpreting NSC 68 by Ernest R. May. (Bedford, 1993)

The National Security: Its Theory and Practice, 1945-1960, edited by Norman A. Graebner. (Oxford UP, 1986)

Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy by John Lewis Gaddis. (Oxford UP, 1982)

"The Sources of Soviet Conduct" by X. Foreign Affairs (July 1947)

The Long Telegram by George F. Kennan. Department of State – Division of Communications and Records (February 22, 1946)


U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Foreign Relations of the United States

The Grand Strategy Project, Yale University International Security Studies

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University


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