In “That Used to Be Us” Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum join a growing number of foreign policy thinkers warning that America’s position abroad cannot endure without a renewal of the domestic sources of American prosperity and strength.
The concerns are justified. The United States faces the most profound set of challenges since the 1930s, when an economic depression and the breakdown of the British-led international order raised basic questions about our domestic politics and international strategy.
“That Used to Be Us” represents an effort by Mr. Mandelbaum, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the country’s leading public intellectuals, and Mr. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times whose three Pulitzer Prizes only hint at the global influence of his work, to describe the rocky conditions of the present day and prescribe a way forward. This may be an American crisis, but as Mr. Friedman and Mr. Mandelbaum eloquently explain, it is not just an American concern. Nor is it simply a matter of improving the living standards of future generations in this country. Because of the unique — and at this point irreplaceable — American role in providing important public services across the globe, the world as a whole will become a much poorer and more dangerous place if Americans fail at the task of national renewal.