Overextension is the common pitfall of empires. Why does it occur? What are the forces that cause the great powers of the industrial era to pursue aggressive foreign policies? Jack Snyder identifies recurrent myths of empire, describes the varieties of overextension to which they lead, and criticizes the traditional explanations offered by historians and political scientists.
He tests three competing theories―realism, misperception, and domestic coalition politics―against five detailed case studies: early twentieth-century Germany, Japan in the interwar period, Great Britain in the Victorian era, the Soviet Union after World War II, and the United States during the Cold War. The resulting insights run counter to much that has been written about these apparently familiar instances of empire building.
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Jack Snyder is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of The Ideology of the Offensive: Military Decision Making and the Disasters of 1914; Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (both published by Cornell); and From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict; and is the coeditor of Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention.Review:
"Myths of Empire offers the best-developed theory to date of the domestic sources of international conflict and security policy. . . . Snyder has taken a major step toward ending the theoretical impoverishment of the study of the domestic sources of international conflict."―American Political Science Review
"In support of his case, Snyder draws upon recent research into the determinant of foreign policy of the leading powers since the mid-19th century. . . . Historians and still more international relations specialists will find much of interest in this analysis."―Times Higher Education Supplement
"A superb analysis of one of the most dangerous ills that can beset the foreign policy of a great power. Political scientists will benefit from Snyder's mastery of history and the challenging case he makes for the significance of the politics of domestic coalitions as the root of overextension."―Michael Doyle, author of Empires
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