Not since the days of Imperial Rome has one nation dominated the world as decisively as the modern-day United States. But despite this almost unprecedented power, American leaders have been frustrated in their attempt to solve global problems such as terrorism, regional conflicts, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this elegantly formulated essay, former assistant secretary of defense Joseph S. Nye Jr. explains why raw unilateral power can not suffice in our postmodern world. Nye argues that the arrogant use of military forces and economic leverage must be discarded for more subtle policies that renew our cooperative engagement with the rest of the world. As timely as tomorrow's headlines.
"Unilateralism, arrogance, and parochialism" the U.S. must abandon these traits in a post-Sept. 11 world, says Nye, former assistant secretary of defense and now dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He explains eloquently the principles he believes should govern American foreign policy in the decades ahead. His starting point is the preponderance of American power in today's world. Nye distinguishes between hard power (military and economic strength) and soft power (openness, prosperity and similar values that persuade and attract rather than coerce others). Nye argues that a dominant state needs both kinds of power, and that the current information revolution and the related phenomenon of globalization call for the exercise of soft more than hard power. It is, Nye believes, dangerous for the U.S. systematically to opt out of treaties and conventions endorsed by the great majority of nations. The U.S. should participate in world debate on transnational issues such as global warming and nuclear defense, not simply declare American interests paramount to the exclusion of all other views. Nye quotes a summarizing insight from a French critic: "nothing in the world can be done without the United States, [A]nd... there is very little the United States can achieve alone." As the author points out, in the aftermath of September 11, the policy issues this book addresses are magnified rather than diminished in importance. This reasoned and timely essay on the uses of power makes a valuable contribution to American public discourse. (Mar.) Forecast: Blurbs by Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger highlight that this should be required reading for foreign policy wonks. Oxford is backing this with a $50,000 marketing budget and is counting on major media attention. Still, whether this finds a wider audience may depend on whether Americans' interest in the world at large survives six months after September 11. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, currently dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, optimistically predicts that the US will retain its current dominance in world affairs. Nye (Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, 1990, etc.) must have scurried to do some revisions after 9/11, for both his preface and his text contain allusions to and analyses of that horror. He also makes an attempt to erect a commodious Big Tent for his views, quoting respectfully from both Presidents Bush, and both the National Review and the Nation. Nye begins with a distinction between "hard power" and "soft power." The former includes military might and economic muscle; the latter, which he defines as "getting others to want what you want," is a combination of suasions including popular culture, public opinion, and core values. He examines each of the country's putative rivals on the world stage (China, Japan, Russia, India, the European Union) and argues that each will remain an understudy, at least for the foreseeable future, because none can equal the US's potent combination of hard and soft power. Most interesting is Nye's analysis of the "information revolution" and "globalization," both of which, he argues, favor a continuing American ascendancy. Among his more intriguing ideas is the contention that globalization does not equal homogenization. His only real admonition is that we must avoid the fate of Rome, a civilization that, he says, rotted from within. The US cannot squander its "soft power" by doing things in the world (e.g., bullying) that make other countries not want to be like it. He worries, too, about what he sees as Americans' generalapathy about world affairs, an opinion he has surely modified since 9/11. The text is generally fluid and engaging, despite an occasional appetite for triteness that has Nye using "wake-up call" to refer to a shocking event at least four times. A sanguine assessment of our sanguinary times. Author tour
From the Publisher
"This elegantly constructed essay is about why an unrivalled military and economic power still needs allies or partners, and why, as world leader, America should rely also on the soft, persuasive kind of power: the appeal of its values and culture."The Economist
"This reasoned and timely essay on the uses of power makes a valuable contribution to American public discourse."Publishers Weekly
"Admirably compact...illuminating."Christian Science Monitor
"Joseph Nyeconsistently one of the wiser heads aroundhas produced, yet again, a lucid, forceful critique of American foreign policy and a sensible, far-sighted prescription for making American power more palatable and more effective around the world. In the wake of September 11, The Paradox of American Power could hardly be more timely. It reflects Nye's multiple experiences in government as well as his perspective as a scholar and thinker."Strobe Talbott, Yale University
"Joe Nye is one of the most astute observers of the changing nature of international politics. His new book provides an excellent framework for viewing U.S. role in the 21st century and especially after the events of September 11."Madeleine Albright