Power and Restraint: The Rise of the United States, 1898-1941

My book review of Jeffrey Meiser’s Power and Restraint: The Rise of the United States, 1898-1941 is now available in the latest issue of Perspectives on Politics. It’s a great book, chock full of interesting and well-researched case studies of US expansionism and non-expansion.

World politics in the twenty-first century looks set to unfold in the context of major shifts in the distribution of power between leading states. How rising states act on the world stage is thus a pressing concern of International Relations theorists and foreign-policy practitioners alike. Under what circumstances do rising powers implement revisionist grand strategies to upend the international status quo? When will rising powers adopt predatory behavior, perhaps pursuing territorial expansionism at the expense of the weaker neighbors? And is it ever possible for the leaders of rising powers to exercise restraint on the world stage?

In his book, Jeffrey W. Meiser addresses these and related questions through a detailed study of US grand strategy between 1898 and 1941. Meiser argues that the US exhibited a remarkable disinclination for territorial expansion during this period—albeit with some notable exceptions—and that the country’s domestic institutions were largely responsible for its under-expansion. The lesson, then, is that burgeoning material power does not inevitably lead to expansionism on behalf of rising states: with the “right” sort of domestic configuration, rising powers can be expected to abnegate the potential fruits of their newfound strength…

Click here to read the full review.