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Strong from the Beginning

The article below by IWP Dean Mackubin Owens was published by National Review.

In his 2004 book Surprise, Security, and the American Experience, John Lewis Gaddis called John Quincy Adams “the most influential American grand strategist of the 19th century.” Charles Edel, a professor at my former institution, the U.S. Naval War College, fleshes out Gaddis’s argument in his remarkable new work Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic. Edel has written a book I wish I had written: a dual biography, of Adams and of the early American republic.

John Quincy Adams was one of the most remarkable men ever to engage in the public life of the republic. The son of John and Abigail Adams, John Quincy served as a diplomat, secretary of state under James Monroe, president from 1825 to 1829, and member of the House of Representatives from 1831 until his death in 1848.

Edel describes the arc of Adams’s career in tandem with the development of the United States. In his telling, the two are inseparable.

The conventional wisdom holds that the United States merely “muddled through” in foreign affairs until the period after World War II. It is true that the United States did not possess a national-security establishment worthy of the name until World War II. And, of course, today that establishment generates an endless succession of national-security documents purporting to explain the country’s defense policy, national-security strategy, and national military strategy.

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