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The Case for Goliath by Michael Mandelbaum

- Abstract

When Michael Mandelbaum failed to win a big foreign-policy job in the Clinton administration in 1992, insiders speculated that there had been a personal falling-out between the President-elect and his eminently qualified campaign adviser. The distinguished professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins was apparently a Friend of Bill no more. That there was also a substantive dimension to the split was suggested by the Los Angeles Times, which reported that Mandelbaum simply “did not share the views of top officials” on the new foreign-policy team. It was a taste of things to come.

By the end of Clinton’s first term, Mandelbaum had emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the administration’s record. A rare foreign-policy realist in the Democratic camp, he saw the post-cold-war era as a moment for the U.S. to walk softly and to keep its big stick in reserve, especially in dealing with the other major powers. Clinton, Mandelbaum charged, had wasted American might on peripheral issues, heedlessly pushing for NATO expansion despite Russian objections and engaging in a series of feckless humanitarian interventions in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. As he wrote in Foreign Affairs, in an oft-cited barb, the administration seemed to view foreign policy as “a branch of social work.”

About the Author

Gary Rosen is the former managing editor of COMMENTARY .