Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy

TitleImperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsDean, Robert D.
Number of Pages329
PublisherUniversity of Massachusetts Press
CityAmherst, MA

This book begins with a question about the Vietnam War. How is it, asks the author, that American policymakers―men who prided themselves on "hardheaded pragmatism" and shunned "fuzzy idealism"―could have committed the nation to such a ruinous, costly, and protracted war? The answer, he argues, lies not simply in the imperatives of anticommunist ideology or in any reasonable calculation of national interest. At least as decisive in determining the form and content of American Cold War foreign policy were the common background and shared values of its makers, especially their deeply ingrained sense of upper-class masculinity. The author begins by examining the institutions that shaped the members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment―all-male prep schools, Ivy League universities, collegiate secret societies, and exclusive men's clubs―that instilled stoic ideals of competition, duty, and loyalty. Service in elite military units during World War II further reinforced this pattern of socialization, eventually creating an "imperial brotherhood" imbued with a common global vision. More than that, according to the author, the commitment to tough-minded masculinity shared by these men encouraged the pursuit of policies that were aggressively interventionist abroad and intolerant of dissent at home.

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