1st Edition

Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy How Generals, Weapons Manufacturers, and Foreign Governments Shape American Foreign Policy

By Richard Hanania Copyright 2022
    230 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book argues that while the US president makes foreign policy decisions based largely on political pressures, it is concentrated interests that shape the incentive structures in which he and other top officials operate.

    The author identifies three groups most likely to be influential: government contractors, the national security bureaucracy, and foreign governments. This book shows that the public choice perspective is superior to a theory of grand strategy in explaining the most important aspects of American foreign policy, including the war on terror, policy toward China, and the distribution of US forces abroad. Arguing that American leaders are selected to respond to public opinion, not necessarily according to their ability to formulate and execute long-terms plans, the author shows how mass attitudes are easily malleable in the domain of foreign affairs due to ignorance with regard to the topic, the secrecy that surrounds national security issues, the inherent complexity of the issues involved, and most importantly, clear cases of concentrated interests.

    The book will be of interest to students and scholars of American Studies, Foreign Policy Analysis and Global Governance.


    Chapter 1 – American Grand Strategy and the Unitary Actor Model

    Chapter 2 – The Public Choice Model of Foreign Policy

    Chapter 3 – The Rogue Superpower

    Chapter 4 – Build, then Balance: The United States and Its Rivals

    Chapter 5 – American Sanctions: Ineffective, Immoral, and Politically Convenient

    Chapter 6 – The War on Terror from the Public Choice Perspective

    Conclusion: Understanding and Changing American Foreign Policy


    Richard Hanania is the President of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology and a Research Fellow at Defense Priorities. He was formerly a Research Fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, received his PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. Richard has published academic works that contribute to the studies of American foreign policy, international law, political psychology, the role of nuclear weapons in international politics, and civil war.