Princeton University

Anne-Marie Slaughter


The Idea That Is America

Where to Buy the Book


Basic Books

THE IDEA THAT IS AMERICA: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World.

For 17 months, Army Captain Ian Fishback struggled in vain to get his superiors to pay attention to the prisoner abuse he had witnessed repeatedly in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he finally decided to blow the whistle by contacting Senator John McCain, he posed the central question confronting America in the twenty-first century:

"Will we confront danger in order to preserve our ideals, or will courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple: if we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America.""

But what is this idea? George W. Bush waged war in Iraq in the name of American values—liberty and democracy. His critics in the United States and around the world use the language of values, too, and attack him for deceiving a nation to wage an unjust war. What values does America truly stand for?

The Idea That is America reminds us of the essential principles on which our nation was established: liberty, democracy, equality, justice, tolerance, humility, and faith. These are the values that have shaped our history and that bind us together as a nation. We have struggled to make them real, through the civil rights movements for women, African-Americans and other minorities; through campaigns for religious tolerance and tolerance of wave of immigrants; through demands for voting rights and equal protection of the law; and through the steady surge of reform and resistance that defines our democracy. When we seek to promote and support these values in the rest of the world, we must be honest about these struggles and about our own imperfections. We have much to learn from other nations as well as to teach.

American needs a values-based foreign policy that is true to our actual values. The Idea that is America offers a set of foreign policy proposals that meet this standard and that provide a roadmap for getting our nation back on track in the world. We as a nation cannot afford to give up even the smallest part of the idea that is America.

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