Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror

Ian Shapiro

February 2007 | $24.95 | ISBN10: 0-691-12928-2 | 216 pages

In this powerfully argued book, Ian Shapiro shows that the idea of containment offers the best hope for protecting Americans and their democracy into the future. His bold vision for American security in the post-September 11 world is reminiscent of George Kennan’s historic “Long Telegram,” in which the containment strategy that won the Cold War was first developed.

The Bush Doctrine has been marked by incompetence—missed opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden, failures of postwar planning for Iraq, lack of an exit strategy. But Shapiro contends that the problems run deeper. He explains how the Bush Doctrine, based on preemptive war and unilateral action, departs from the best traditions of American national-security policy, from accepted international norms, and renders Americans and democratic values less safe. He debunks the belief that containment is obsolete. Terror networks might be elusive, but the enabling states that make them dangerous can be contained. Shapiro defends containment against charges of appeasement, arguing that force against a direct threat will be needed. He outlines new approaches to intelligence, finance, allies, diplomacy, and international institutions. He explains why containment is the best alternative to a misguided agenda that naively assumes democratic regime change is possible from the barrel of an American gun.

President Bush has defined the war on terror as the decisive ideological struggle of our time. Shapiro shows what a self-defeating mistake that is. He sets out a viable alternative that can offer real security to Americans, reclaim America’s international stature, and promote democracy around the world.

Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science and Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. His many books include The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences and, with Michael J. Graetz, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (both Princeton).

“At a time and on an issue that cry out for fresh, critical and constructive thinking, Ian Shapiro has performed a great service by laying out a bold yet pragmatic idea for dealing with the threats America faces in the post-9/11 world. He has adapted an old idea that worked—the containment of communist expansion during the Cold War—to the task of replacing a policy that has, to a spectacular and tragic degree, not worked: military preemption and the attempt to impose democracy in the name of waging “the war on terror.” His critique of both the Bush administration and many of its Democratic opponents is hard-hitting and well substantiated; his recommendations are compelling; and his presentation is concise and forceful.  The result is a major contribution to the debate over the single most vexing and important political challenge facing the U.S. and the world.”
—Strobe Talbott, Former Deputy Secretary of State and President of the Brookings Institution

“This book succeeds in showing that there are sound alternatives to the dominant unilateralist approach for dealing with the national security and foreign policy challenges confronted by the United States. Bravo for Professor Shapiro!”
—Ernesto Zedillo, Former President of Mexico.

“Ian Shapiro follows up his masterful analysis of the politics of taxation (Death By a Thousand Cuts) with a wonderfully clinical dissection of US foreign policy.  Shapiro recognizes that the policy of the present administration is not just a bad idea stumbled across by accident, but a bad idea that was carefully husbanded and nurtured for years by people who were deadly serious about power and unafraid to use it.  It is time, he  believes, for Democrats who are serious about making the best use of power to stop triangulating these bad ideas, and to start trying to nurture some good ideas of their own.  This crystal clear account of the merits of a policy of containment represents an excellent place for them to begin.”
—David Runciman, author of The Politics of Good Intentions

“This is by far the best critique of the Bush Administration’s national security doctrine that I  have read. Its prose is lively and engaging. It focuses on the essentials and makes a clear argument that is effectively supported by Shapiro’s judicious reflections on the history of the Cold War and on contemporary issues including the war on terror and the conflicts in the Middle East.”
—Michael Doyle, author of Ways of War and Peace