Books & Reviews


Published in the US and UK, 2008 and in paperback, 2009.

In defence of America

The world has turned against the United States. Anti-American sentiments have swept the globe. Foreign leaders, pundits and ordinary people decry the United States, proclaiming at best their heartbreak that the American values they once admired have vanished, and at worst condemning America as a criminal state beyond redemption. The invasion of Iraq, America’s refusal to sign the Kyoto accords, detention without trial in Guantanamo and torture in Abu Ghraib, the spread of American movies and fast food into every corner of the globe – all have contributed to a feeling that the United States, once a force for good in the world, is abusing its position as the world’s sole superpower.

But there is another side to the story.

failings, and how the US frequently makes its own case badly, even when it is on strong ground. And she reveals a world in danger of fighting to keep the giant at bay, when the harder task is to give America good reason to keep engaged.In this provocative, brilliant book, acclaimed foreign affairs columnist Bronwen Maddox shows how critics of America take the best of it for granted and exaggerate the worst. They give the US too little credit for their own freedom and wealth and struggle to fend off a monolithic American culture that does not exist. She shows how opponents often unfairly equate American mistakes with moral

Persuasive and important, In Defence of America is essential reading for anyone who cares about America’s place in the world, and America’s future.

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  • Bronwen Maddox’s view is not that of a propagandist and still less of a perverse one. She seems to want to take an unflinching look at the country she loves. And she begins in the right place: she is reluctant to pick and choose what to cringe over. That is surely the point: it’s only the ‘bad’ bits of America which are worth defending. And the bad bits are interwoven very tightly with the best.
    Richard D. North, The Social Affairs Unit
  • Britain’s foremost commentator on foreign affairs makes a first-rate Counsel for the Defence, speaking of the prisoner in the dock with unrivalled expertise and elegance. Bronwen Maddox reminds US-sceptics of the values of a great democracy but offers the same sobering reminder to Washington policy-makers. The chapter on Guantanamo and torture must be required reading for law students and presidential hopefuls alike.
    Shami Chakrabarti
  • She is a tough critic rather than a blind apologist. In her cool, elegant and knowing way, she chastises when the occasion calls for it, suggesting that the U.S. might benefit from a bit of realism, tact and humility ... But it is her air of authority, the rigour of her thinking and the evidence she marshals that make her argument on behalf of America so persuasive ... And for all those hoping to see the U.S. taken down a peg and reduced to the status of a toothless, former superpower, she warns: be careful what you wish for.
    The Daily Mail
  • While not defending the conception and execution of the Iraq war, the flouting of international laws or the illegal detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, she attempts to provide the decisions made by the Bush administration with a context that makes them, if not excusable, then understandable. Her overriding point is that, despite America’s recent ‘mistakes’, its mission of spreading and defending democracy continues to play a crucial role in global security and that the West would be much worse off without it ... A deeply researched and lucid attempt to reassess America’s position in the world.
    The Sunday Times
  • Her book is an attempt to redress the balance, and what makes it so engaging and refreshing is that, almost uniquely for a book on modern American life, it is written with brisk clarity and common sense ... Unlike one or two British historians and politicians, Maddox is no fawning sycophant who worships everything cloaked in the Stars and Stripes. She is properly scornful of the Bush presidency, of American indifference to climate change and of American arrogance and ignorance of the outside world. But she is full of admiration for American prosperity, tolerance and diversity.
    Literary Review
  • In an environment of knee-jerk anti-Americanism, it is a relief to know books such as this are being written by intelligent, literate commentators; informing us of what the situation really is, devoid of bloviating or exaggeration and hyperbole ... Maddox has written a book which should be essential reading for all in Europe and the rest of the world, who need to be reminded of all the good America has done for and around the world ... Highly recommended.
    Civilian Reader
  • Bronwen Maddox is a tough-minded editor and reporter who prefers to do her own thinking ... an argument that needs to be asserted against a vapid hubbub of facile and received opinion.
    Christopher Hitchens, First Post
  • Remind[s] the world that America and its current president are not the same thing ... careful and scholarly.
    The Economist
  • Bronwen Maddox is just the kind of friend-and-defender the U.S. needs these days: basically supportive, constructively critical, and skilful at presenting the big picture in concise, readable form.
    Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution
  • Like her authoritative Times column, her book reads like an off-the-record briefing by an erudite Foreign Office official
    The Observer
  • Her book is an attempt to redress the balance, and what makes it so engaging and refreshing is that, almost uniquely for a book on modern American life, it is written with brisk clarity and common sense. read more
    Dominic Sandbrook, Literary Review
  • Lest anyone of the ‘America, Love It or Leave It’ school mistake [In Defense of America] for an uncritical defense of the world’s only superpower, Maddox’s book offers not unstinting praise but tough love. read more
    James Kirchick, assistant editor of the New Republic, City Journal
  • Infused with knowledge, research and balance ... a must-read to grasp why the US matters and why anti-Americanism is the modern socialism of fools.
    The Times
  • A marvellous book which shows how vital American engagement is to the world. Bronwen Maddox is a superb and very knowledgeable writer who has the utmost courage of her convictions.
    William Shawcross, The Times
  • This is a must-read to grasp why the US matters and why anti-Americanism is the modern socialism of fools. read full review
    Denis MacShane, The Times