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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Aug 10, 2022

With its massive economy and military budget, America is the world’s most powerful country. How did the U.S. come to have so much power to affect nations and people around the globe? How did the country achieve this status over the past 250 years?

Michael Mandelbaum helps us understand how the U.S. got here through the evolution of its foreign policy. In his latest book, The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy, he divides U.S. history into four distinct periods, each defined by a consistent increase in American power and each with major events and important personalities at play. He portrays the ascent of the U.S., first as a “weak power,” from 1765 to 1865, followed by a “great power” between 1865 and 1945, next as a “superpower” from 1945 to 1990, and finally as the world’s sole “hyperpower” from 1990 to 2015.

Mandelbaum also identifies three features of American foreign policy that are found in every era: first, the goal of spreading political ideas; second, the use of economic instruments to achieve foreign policy goals; and third, a process for creating and implementing policy that’s shaped by input from the public. American foreign policy, as he puts it, has been unusually ideological, unusually economic, and unusually democratic. He argues that these practices continue today.

In what has been called a “…deeply insightful — and disturbing — analysis of both history and current affairs” (Kirkus Reviews), Mandelbaum sparks readers to think about America’s path to power and what future eras might hold.

Michael Mandelbaum is the Christian A. Herter Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Before joining Johns Hopkins in 1990, Professor Mandelbaum taught at Harvard University, Columbia University, and at the United States Naval Academy. He also has taught business executives at the Wharton Advanced Management Program in the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mandelbaum is the author of sixteen previous books, including Mission Failure (2016), The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth (2019), and, with Thomas L. Friedman, That Used to Be Us (2011). Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” of 2010. He wrote a regular foreign affairs analysis column for Newsday from 1985-2005, and his Op-Ed pieces on foreign affairs have also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and many more. He has appeared on The CBS Evening News, The News Hour, Face the Nation, Larry King Live and The Charlie Rose Show, among many other programs. A popular speaker for the United States Information Agency for more than two decades, Mandelbaum has explained American foreign policy to diverse groups throughout Europe, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Middle East.

Jacqueline Miller has led the World Affairs Council of Seattle since May 2014. She also serves on the Mayor’s International Affairs Advisory Board; is a member of the Civic Council for UW’s Master of Arts in Applied International Studies (MAAIS) program; and serves on the Washington State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. She is chair of the board of Global Ties U.S and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations. She is also a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She got her start in think tanks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she was deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia program. She has also taught at The George Washington University, where she undertook graduate work after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cornell University. She has been a commentator for various news sources including The New York Times, the BBC, CBC, and Voice of America.