Primacy and Its Discontents: American Power and International Stability

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The unprecedented military, economic, and political power of the United States has led some observers to declare that we live in a unipolar world in which America enjoys primacy or even hegemony. At the same time public opinion polls abroad reveal high levels of anti-Americanism, and many foreign governments criticize U.S. policies. Primacy and Its Discontents explores the sources of American primacy, including the uses of U.S. military power, and the likely duration of unipolarity. It offers theoretical arguments for why the rest of the world will — or will not — align against the United States. Several chapters argue that the United States is not immune to the long-standing tendency of states to balance against power, while others contend that wise U.S. policies, the growing role of international institutions, and the spread of liberal democracy can limit anti-American balancing. The final chapters debate whether countries are already engaging in "soft balancing" against the United States. The contributors offer alternative prescriptions for U.S. foreign policy, ranging from vigorous efforts to maintain American primacy to acceptance of a multipolar world of several great powers.

Contributors: Gerard Alexander, Stephen Brooks, John G. Ikenberry, Christopher Layne, Keir Lieber, John Owen IV, Robert Pape, T. V. Paul, Barry Posen, Kenneth Waltz, William Wohlforth

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"U.S. primacy remains of 'prime' importance to the current and future course of international politics. These superb ten essays capture the sources of,disputes about, and reactions to U.S. primacy. An excellent source for courses in international relations and American foreign policy." — Robert Art , Christian A. Herter Professor of International Relations, Brandeis University
Jack Snyder
For centuries, the balance of power has been the central precept of international politics, so what happens when one country's overwhelming primacy makes restraining alliances seem obsolete? This collection of top-quality essays by premier scholars offers lively debates over alternatives like 'soft balancing' and multilateral institutional constraints. Primacy and Its Discontents is ideal for getting students thinking in the classroom.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262524551
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Series: International Security Readers
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael E. Brown is Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

Owen Coté is Associate Director of the MIT Security Studies Program and Editor of the journal International Security.

Sean M. Lynn-Jones is Editor of International Security, the International Security Program's quarterly journal. He is also series editor of the Belfer Center Studies in International Security, the Program's book series that is published by MIT Press.

Steven E. Miller is director of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center.

Graham Allison is Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Graham Allison Allison, Graham

Preface Sean M. Lynn-Jones Lynn-Jones, Sean M.

Pt. I The Sources and Prospects of American Primacy

The Stability of a Unipolar World William C. Wohlforth Wohlforth, William C. 3

Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony Barry R. Posen Posen, Barry R. 40

Pt. II Primacy and Balancing in Theory and Practice

The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise Christopher Layne Layne, Christopher 85

The Unipolar Illusion Revisited: The Coming End of American Hegemony Christopher Layne Layne, Christopher 132

Structural Realism after the Cold War Kenneth N. Waltz Waltz, Kenneth N. 137

Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Persistence of American Postwar Order G. John Ikenberry Ikenberry, G. John 174

Transnational Liberalism and U.S. Primacy John M. Owen IV Owen, John M., IV 210

Pt. III New Responses to American Primacy

Soft Balancing against the United States Robert A. Pape Pape, Robert A. 249

Soft Balancing in the Age of U.S. Primacy T. V. Paul Paul, T. V. 288

Hard Times for Soft Balancing Stephen G. Brooks Brooks, Stephen G. William C. Wohlforth Wohlforth, William C. 314

Waiting for Balancing: Why the World Is Not Pushing Back Keir A. Lieber Lieber, Keir A. Gerard Alexander Alexander, Gerard 351

Suggestions for Further Reading 382

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