critique of American foreign policy

Set around the time of its publication, The Quiet American is usually seen as a critique of American foreign policy during the Cold War. A view of that foreign policy may be neatly summed up into the introduction to NSC 68, a statement of foreign policy goals by the Eisenhower administration in 1950:

‘Within the past thirty-five years the world has experienced two global wars of tremendous violence. It has witnessed two revolutions–the Russian and the Chinese–of extreme scope and intensity. It has also seen the collapse of five empires–the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Italian, and Japanese–and the drastic decline of two major imperial systems, the British and the French. During the span of one generation, the international distribution of power has been fundamentally altered. For several centuries it had proved impossible for any one nation to gain such preponderant strength that a coalition of other nations could not in time face it with greater strength. The international scene was marked by recurring periods of violence and war, but a system of sovereign and independent states was maintained, over which no state was able to achieve hegemony.

Two complex sets of factors have now basically altered this historic distribution of power. First, the defeat of Germany and Japan and the decline of the British and French Empires have interacted with the development of the United States and the Soviet Union in such a way that power increasingly gravitated to these two centers. Second, the Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a new fanatic faith, anti-thetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world. Conflict has, therefore, become endemic and is waged, on the part of the Soviet Union, by violent or non-violent methods in accordance with the dictates of expediency. With the development of increasingly terrifying weapons of mass destruction, every individual faces the ever-present possibility of annihilation should the conflict enter the phase of total war.

On the one hand, the people of the world yearn for relief from the anxiety arising from the risk of atomic war. On the other hand, any substantial further extension of the area under the domination of the Kremlin would raise the possibility that no coalition adequate to confront the Kremlin with greater strength could be assembled. It is in this context that this Republic and its citizens in the ascendancy of their strength stand in their deepest peril.

The issues that face us are momentous, involving the fulfillment or destruction not only of this Republic but of civilization itself. They are issues which will not await our deliberations. With conscience and resolution this Government and the people it represents must now take new and fateful decisions."

Considering this statement of foreign policy, consider the novel…

Is Greene’s novel anti-American? Is it anti-Communist? Is it anti-Imperial? Why or why not? (There is no single answer to these questions… both sides could be argued).

Technical details:

Papers should be 2-4 pages, double-spaced, written in a normal (Times New Roman or similar– no Arial or Lucida, I know the tricks), 12 point font. Normal 1-inch margins all around. There is no need for a title page, or extensive headings; just your name, your section, and a brief title is all you need.

The only sources you may use are The Quiet American, our textbook (Forging the Modern World), and class notes. No internet sources are needed to complete this paper assignment. All direct quotations from any of these sources must be cited properly. Parenthetical citation (author, page number), or footnotes (in Chicago style, see link below) are acceptable citations.

Papers should also include a bibliography/works-cited page (which is not part of the 2-4 pages of the assignment). History uses the Chicago Style, and so shall we in this class. A link to the Chicago style guide is provided below.

If you feel the need to cite class notes, check out the format related on this website:


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