The Pursuit of Dominance: 2000 Years of Superpower Grand Strategy, Christopher J. Fettweis

Reviewed by Ionut Popescu

The scholarly literature on American grand strategy since the end of the Cold War has been dominated by a long-running and, at times, intense debate between proponents of a deep engagement approach based on liberal internationalism and those of a more noninterventionist restraint framework grounded in (defensive) realism. The Washington, D.C., policy world tended to side more often with the former, which led to many frustrations among academic realists and, consequently, to repeated efforts to advocate for more restraint in the U.S. government’s dealings with the world. In The Pursuit of Dominance, Tulane professor Christopher Fettweis adds another wrinkle to this debate by arguing that the historical record of previous global superpowers indicates that a restraint grand strategy leads to better outcomes than pursuing an approach specifically aimed to maintain their hegemonic position.

All in all, this book is much more interesting and worthwhile as a work of history than as a contemporary political science or strategic analysis of the United States’ options in the current era of intense geopolitical competition against China and Russia. The author offers a very readable and insightful account of how six previous global powers (the Roman Empire, the Tang Dynasty, the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, Imperial Spain, and the British Empire) pursu

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