Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Orderby Robert Kagan
At a time when relations between the United States and Europe are at their lowest ebb since World War II, this brief but cogent book is essential reading. Robert Kagan, a leading scholar of American foreign policy, forces both sides to see themselves through the eyes of the other. Europe, he argues, has moved beyond power into a self-contained world of laws, rules, and negotiation, while America operates in a “Hobbesian” world where rules and laws are unreliable and military force is often necessary.
Tracing how this state of affairs came into being over the past fifty years and fearlessly exploring its ramifications for the future, Kagan reveals the shape of the new transatlantic relationship. The result is a book that promises to be as enduringly influential as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations.
Kagan's characterization of a postmodern Europe, however, is too German-centered; he ignores the fact that the United Kingdom and France retain great-power identities and a willingness to use military force. His reading of the United States is also debatable. The United States has been the preeminent global power since World War II, yet it has oftenpursued its national interest through multilateral institutions and security partnerships. Pace Kagan, Europe and the United States might disagree on the nature of threats outside the West as they have in the past but their own relationship remains embedded in an Atlantic security community.
“A compact and arresting book. . . . Highly readable. It is also a hard-hitting, unsentimental and yet liberal and humane manifesto.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“Lucid and elegant. . . . It is hard to imagine any future serious discussion of trans-Atlantic relations or America’s role in the world without reference to [Of Paradise and Power].” —The New York Times Book Review
“Kagan is one of America’s finest commentators on issues of foreign policy. He writes elegantly, has an excellent command of history and consistently demonstrates superior intelligence and insight. . . . This book could not have been more timely.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“I consider this one of those seminal treatises without which any discussion of European-American relations would be incomplete and which will shape that discussion for years to come.” —Dr. Henry Kissinger
“A book worthy of every thinking person on both sides of the Atlantic. It is hard to imagine so complex a subject being explained so clearly and so compellingly . . . A contribution unlikely to be equaled.” —Times Higher Education Supplement (London)“For its brilliant juxtaposition of strategy and philosophy, of the realities of power and the ethics of power, of the American ideal of justice and the European ideal of peace, Robert Kagan's small book is a big book. Nothing like this has been written since the death of Raymond Aron.” —Leon Weiseltier
“Subtle and brilliant.”—The New Republic
“Cogent and important best describe this slim book, its lack of vast pages belying the weightiness of its message. . . . Controversial arguments, certainly, but this book deserves to be read by all conscientious citizens.” —Booklist (starred review)
“[Has] the foreign policy establishment humming from Washington to Tokyo. . . . It is being called the new 'X' article."—Washington Post
“A cogent new book. . . . Kagan is admirably even–handed.... [His] analysis is valuable and instructive.” —Detroit Free Press
“Kagan’s provocative and thoughtful essay is required reading for everyone concerned about the future of transatlantic relations. . . . Although not everyone will agree with Kagan’s analysis, readers will benefit from its clarity, insight and historical force.” —Senator John McCain
“A subtle and empathetic analysis. . . . Insightful.” —The Seattle Times
“‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus’, writes Robert Kagan in the first paragraph of his new book. . . . That's probably the best one–liner any foreign policy intellectual has offered to explain perennial transatlantic disputes over the exercise of power in international relations. . . . Well–argued. . . .Truly insightful.” —New York Observer
“[Kagan writes with] skill, erudition, and reasoned argument.” —National Review
“Anyone looking for an intellectual primer to explain the geopolitical forces at work in the Iraqi conflict should order a copy of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise And Power.” —Sunday Telegraph (London)
“This refreshing essay results from careful thought combined with critical information. Read it and you will think more deeply about this important arena.”—George P. Shultz, Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
“Brilliant.” —Francis Fukuyama
“The democratic West has divided into two: realist America, putting its trust in physical power, and idealist Europe, trusting to intellectual authority and multilateralism. It is true that, as Mr. Kagan makes clear, American foreign policy retains a strong idealist element, but it is its muscular willingness to act with force, alone if it must, that Mr. Kagan defends here, and convincingly.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Kagan describes [the current climate] with dispassionate and deadly accuracy.”—The Washington Times
“Slender but brilliant.” —Business Week
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Read an Excerpt
It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power—the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power—American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Immanuel Kant’s “perpetual peace.” Meanwhile, the United States remains mired in history, exercising power in an anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable, and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory—the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.
It is easier to see the contrast as an American living in Europe. Europeans are more conscious of the growing differences, perhaps because they fear them more. European intellectuals are nearly unanimous in the conviction that Americans and Europeans no longer share a common “strategic culture.” The European caricature at its most extreme depicts an America dominated by a “culture of death,” its warlike temperament the natural product of a violent society where every man has a gun and the death penalty reigns. But even those who do not make this crude link agree there are profound differences in the way the United States and Europe conduct foreign policy.
The United States, they argue, resorts to force more quickly and, compared with Europe, is less patient with diplomacy. Americans generally see the world divided between good and evil, between friends and enemies, while Europeans see a more complex picture. When confronting real or potential adversaries, Americans generally favor policies of coercion rather than persuasion, emphasizing punitive sanctions over inducements to better behavior, the stick over the carrot. Americans tend to seek finality in international affairs: They want problems solved, threats eliminated. And, of course, Americans increasingly tend toward unilateralism in international affairs. They are less inclined to act through international institutions such as the United Nations, less likely to work cooperatively with other nations to pursue common goals, more skeptical about international law, and more willing to operate outside its strictures when they deem it necessary, or even merely useful.
Europeans insist they approach problems with greater nuance and sophistication. They try to influence others through subtlety and indirection. They are more toler- ant of failure, more patient when solutions don’t come quickly. They generally favor peaceful responses to problems, preferring negotiation, diplomacy, and persuasion to coercion. They are quicker to appeal to international law, international conventions, and international opinion to adjudicate disputes. They try to use commercial and economic ties to bind nations together. They often emphasize process over result, believing that ultimately process can become substance.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Robert Kagan is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he is director of the U.S. Leadership Project. In addition to a monthly column in theWashington Post, he is the author of A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990 and coeditor, with William Kristol, of Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy. Kagan served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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I read this while deployed in 2006 after noticing it on the USAF recommened reading list. I enjoyed the perspective and thought. Add it to your library.
The author has three pages of hypothesis and 100 pages of rational. The problem with the book is the author has slipped on an intellectual bananna peel--he's confused rational with testing. He doesn't test his hypothesis in any way, so the book is just a lot of talk about what he wants to believe and why he wants to believe it. It's actually a pretty good example of a guy with an idea, and, instead of presenting the idea as a hypothesis and designing a test for the hypothesis, he presents the idea as a conclusion and gathers around whatever facts he can to support his conclusion. This manner of thinking can lead you off a cliff, or maybe a into military quagmire...
Robert Kagan's treatise on the current state of transatlantic relations provides a refreshing and unique insight into the troubling situation in which America and Europe navigate through today. By outlining the philosophical ideologies of Kant and Hobbes and the historical events that shaped the current anarchic system of the world, Kagan rightly observes the liberal and realist approaches to international affairs as the dividing point between the 'paradise' of Europe and the 'power' of the United States. Although I disagree with many of his views, Mr. Kagan does an excellent job of shining much needed light on this dormant issue which will surely be a defining point not only for the future of the United States and the rest of the powerful 'West', but for the entire foreign affairs community as well.
I would summarize the book as: Europe wants peace because they don't have a big army, and because the US does, we can do what we please, right or wrong. One page would have been enough.
Good book, but not a great one. It's more of an essay that illustrates some obvious differences between 'post-modern' Europe and the United States. Could have been more than it was.
Kagan, has done a superb job in detailing the differences as well as the similarities between the United States and Europe. It is a chilling reminder of what brought us together, and is a stark reality of what is tearing us apart. The only problem with the book is that it is to short.
Kagan presents a well-researched and thorough analysis of the differences between the United States and Europe. If you ever wondered why these two always seem to be at polar opposites these days, this book will explain it to you. It presents it in both the historical and contemporary contexts. It's a very quick read too. You may not like the conclusions he draws about either the US or the Europeans, but he has hit the nail on the head in his assessment of both. He shows the good, the bad, the ugly, and the feckless about both sides, with brutal honesty. This little book has an enormous impact - I am still stunned by his lucid and balanced look at both sides of the Atlantic.
On first reading this book `Of Paradise and Power¿ I thought it must be a satire, a subtle and amusing attempt to mock the elite war lords prodding President Bush. On second reading I found I was wrong. He actually means it. What a surprise that he has just discovered that Europeans and Americans do not share share a common view of the world. He says that Europeans believe that rules and laws are more important than military power. They believe this because, unlike America, Europe has been trodden on too many times first by Napoleon, then Hitler and finally Stalin resulting in more than 30 million dead bodies lying about. As he says Europeans have tried war. They have also tried peace. Old Europe likes peace better. He is correct America now has the power. Hitler had it in 1938. Hitler insisted that Might-Makes-Right. He even claimed, as Kagan does, that Germany was doing God¿s work for Him. Hitler¿s notion of the unachievable one-thousand year Reich is identical Kagan's assumption that America has entered a long era of American hegemony including, as he says, ¿a long-term occupation of one of the Arab world¿s largest countries.¿(p97). But at what cost? Europe, and most countries, welcome America as its leader. But if we continue with Kagan's approach we shall finish up a leader with no followers. The more we dominate the world the quicker we shall lose it. Last month the Oxford Union in the UK, our ally, debated the motion that ¿America is the Biggest Threat to World Peace.¿ The motion failed by a very small margin. Previously the motion was ¿The Advance of the American Way of Life Should be Resisted¿. There is a move in Europe to write a ¿Declaration of Independence¿ and another to adapt George Kennan¿s famous text on containment (of the United States that is). There is even a play on the stage in London called ¿The Madness of George W¿.
This book is an extension of Mr. Kagan's 'Power and Weakness', an essay published in 'Policy Review' vol. 113. Mr. Kagan argues that the fundamental interests of Europe and the United States diverge sharply, and each should prepare to go separate ways: the US with 'a proper regard for the opinions of mankind', and Europe with an understanding that the US must do what it must do. A flip answer to this thesis is 'Who knew?' Anybody concerned with foreign policy is perfectly aware that there are decisive regional differences and always have been. However this seems to be a recent discovery for Mr. Kagan. 'Of Paradise and Power' has gained notoriety by analyzing some difficult issues, and presenting the results in compact, readable form - a considerable service, if it had been done well. Unfortunately Mr. Kagan's presentation is badly reasoned and dangerously naive. His arguments draw heavily on ill-made - one might say barely made - analogies, usually a sign of poor logic and sloppy thinking. Often, there's no case made at all, just unproven conclusions stated as bald fact, with assumed agreement on the reader's part. In the end, 'Of Paradise and Power' draws an attractive, but deceptive picture: for Europe, a suggestion to enjoy its privileged position as a latter-day Athens, protected at American expense; for the US, a Spartan future: a disguised rationalization for unilateral intervention at will. It's worth remembering that the glory that was Greece was most of all Athenian. Here is the origin of the book's seductiveness: it's an invitation for the US to conduct any foreign policy desired, without taking the trouble to think through the consequences. There's better work along this line, notably 'Conflict After the Cold War' and more recent articles from Richard Betts, who's considered national security issues much longer and more deeply than Mr. Kagan. For a lighter read, Eric Russell's excellent novel, 'Wasp', has been recently republished. It explores the mind of a surprisingly familiar terrorist.
The writing is exquisite. The ideas are a warmed over hash. The tone is 'Mein Kampf' Volume 2, lite, combined with (of all things!) JFK's New Frontier, before the Bay of Pigs. There's some Hegelian inevitability mixed in for thickening, though the word used by Mr. Kagan is 'structural'. The result will be a must-read in some circles, as Mao's Little Red Book was in others. Both were written to be misinterpreted.
This essay is incredibly well written and gives a conscise and precise explanation to the huge divide in methods of thought between the "Paradise" that Europe has created for itself with its continuing reliance on the "Power" (United States). This is a must read for any Political Science major or anyone that simply wants to know why "the U.S. is from Mars and Europe is from Venus."
a stultifying and absolute embodiment of disinformation that would make even josef goebbels blush! it's real page turner. paraphrased from the book: america exists in an hobbesian world of perpetual war. europe sees itself in a kantian world of perpetual peace. this is why we fail to see eye-to-eye. being personally and intimately familiar with the works of both thomas hobbes and immanuel kant, all i can say is 'wow!' couching this pap in pseudointellectual pedantics certainly one method of pissing on people's backs and convincing them that it is raining!! ....if one is to willingly ignore better than 100 years of cultural and philosophical development transpiring between hobbes and kant, of course! i will certainly credit it in one regard: 'of paradise and power' is much like 'leviathan:' one 'whale of a tale,' that should have been as dutifully pursued across the four corners by melville's 'mad captain ahab,' and rightfully harpooned. for kagan to have published this drivel in contravention of available fact, one or all of the following are true: 1.like any bureaucratic automaton, remaining a sychophant is the accepted method in attainng job security 2. he had no access to the reams of available fact from intelligence reports, diplomatic analyses, radio, television, syndicated news sources... 3. he is proliferating a calculated and consistently deliberate deception. as one of the nation's top foreign policy advisors, for robert kagan to exhibit any of the above is completely untenable.