The book notes the lessons of the experience in the conflicts of the 1942-76 period, which recurred monotonously, and more or less fall into the category of "patently evident if not blindingly obvious but unacknowledeged":
(1) American theories of nation building were "somewhat tenuous"; "utterly wrong" would be another way of putting it. The assumption that improving economic conditions would improve stability proved hopelessly wrong and completely counterproductive. The "revolution of rising expectations" proved to be another "myth". Most people rejected modernization and economic development in general. Astonishingly, there are still people today who are want to claim that eradicating poverty will help fight terrorism. History teaches us the reverse.
(2) The assumption that American values were exportable or even effective was "misguided". Most attempts to export American values failed, which was actually fortunate, as they invariably produced negative consequences. The idea that the middle class would promote stability and democracy proved false. Democracy in particular proved to be an ill-advised and fatally flawed concept. This seems glaringly obvious today in the wake of 9/11 and Iraq, with democracy on the nose around the globe, but should have been learned before.
(3) That outsiders could correctly diagnose the ills of a foreign society was "simplistic" and "materialistic", when not naive or arrogant. Peoples of the world turned out to be opposed to "progress", quite satisfied with their own way of life, and resistant to outside remedies.