Monday, March 10, 2008

Walter Hixson's "The Myth of American Diplomacy"

Walter Hixson is professor and chair of the Department of History, University of Akron. He has published numerous books and articles on the history of U.S. foreign policy, including the prize-winning George F. Kennan: Cold War Iconoclast.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy, and reported the following:
Turning to page 99 of my new book, The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2008), I discovered a Currier and Ives print from 1876 entitled “The Cradle of Liberty.” As I note below the print — and it should be readily obvious to any observer — “This lithograph symbolizes the nation’s power, patriotism, and justice.”

The Myth of American Diplomacy features eight illustrations along with some 320 pages of text, all of which complement my central argument. Below “The Cradle of Liberty” on page 99, I also wrote, “The Union victory in the Civil War ultimately affirmed the imagined community and the Myth of America.” My book focuses on national identity, the imagined community of the United States and how it drives and affirms the nation’s foreign policy.

I argue that a “myth of America” — the notion that the United States is a chosen nation destined to lead the world — lies at the heart of national identity and of a militant U.S. foreign policy. Discourses and representations of racial superiority, masculine power, and providential destiny permeate American history and foreign policy. Finally, I have found remarkable continuity throughout the modern era, from early “settlement” (ethnic cleansing of Indians) to the Iraq War of today. While not everyone agrees with national foreign policy, and prolonged engagements like the war of today do become relatively unpopular, the foreign policy is hegemonic and thus enduring because it is a reflection of the nation’s very identity.
Learn more about The Myth of American Diplomacy at the Yale University Press website, and visit Walter Hixson's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue