Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might

Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might

by Nancy Soderberg
     
 

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A senior foreign policy advisor to President Clinton recounts the important decisions made after 1993, regarding when to intervene in international conflicts. Challenging the Republicans' enduring unilateral position, she analyzes the lack of diplomacy exhibited by the Bush administration before and after the invasion of Iraq, and questions its lack of response to… See more details below

Overview

A senior foreign policy advisor to President Clinton recounts the important decisions made after 1993, regarding when to intervene in international conflicts. Challenging the Republicans' enduring unilateral position, she analyzes the lack of diplomacy exhibited by the Bush administration before and after the invasion of Iraq, and questions its lack of response to African genocide. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* Nancy Soderberg, currently with the International Crisis Group, offers a more conventional take on U.S. grand strategy in The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might. She urges the United States to find the right balance between isolationism and global dominion, arguing that Americans must accept that U.S. leadership is essential to maintaining global order while also resisting the myth of U.S. omnipotence. Her policy recommendations — "tough engagement"; working "in concert with the international community, rather than clashing with it"; and using "force as a last, not first resort" — are sensible and put The Superpower Myth in line with other liberal and centrist critiques of the Bush administration.
One of the greatest strengths of Soderberg's book is her insider's account of many of the seminal events of the 1990s. From 1993-96, Soderberg was a high-ranking official on President Clinton's National Security Council (where I also worked from 1993 to early 1994). She then served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations until 2001. These perches gave Soderberg a bird's-eye view of such critical issues as intervention in the Balkans and Haiti and U.S. efforts to combat al Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden. Although she is sometimes a bit too easy on her former bosses, her narrative provides valuable material on the considerations and personalities that shaped policy. While her accounts do not offer stunning revelations, they do provide important new detail, illuminating, for example, the tortured debates over intervention in Bosnia and Clinton's effort to overcome the post-Vietnam aversion to limited war. (The Washington Post, April 3, 2005)

Unilateral big-stick carrying may seem well and good to the "hegemons" in the Bush administration, writes erstwhile Clinton advisor Soderberg, but it hasn't made the world safer or better.
In the tradition of Clinton and other Democratic leaders (John Kerry comes to mind), the author argues that the way for the White House to win friends and influence people abroad is to build strong international alliances and share the burden of promoting peace and order with our partners. The Bush administration had the chance to extend the Clinton approach in addressing recent events, she continues, and did so to some extent in Afghanistan. But it chose to do otherwise after the fall of the Taliban. The present administration's insistence on going to war in Iraq "will prove to be a test of the myth of the hegemon's view of America's role as a superpower," writes Soderberg, who contends that going it alone in the modern world leads to isolation and the accumulation of enemies. The Superpower Myth has some interesting moments, as when the author recounts the 1993 attack on American soldiers in Somalia so ably depicted in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down (1999). Soderberg describes a livid Bill Clinton demanding to know what had gone wrong, letting a few heads roll as a result, then taking charge of his own foreign policy. Lessons learned: Don't allow Pentagon types to go unquestioned, and don't allow the United Nations to lead American troops into battle. The second lesson has become an article of rhetorical faith among politicos, but the first has been lost on the onetime cold warriors of Ford and Reagan vintage who now serve Bush II. The point is well taken, but Soderberg's arguments swim in a sea of dreary detail; her narrative is less a book than an extended white paper, with all the requisite problem-describing, pundit-quoting, and policy-recommending.
May set a think-tank denizen's pulse racing, but won't do much for general readers with a concern for America's role in the world. (Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004)

Foreign Affairs
Soderberg, a Clinton administration insider who held high-level positions on the National Security Council and at the UN, offers an appraisal of Clinton-and Bush-era foreign policy. She recounts the internal policy debates and decisions of the Clinton years, as the administration struggled to blend diplomacy and the use of force in a sequence of trouble spots and played peacemaker in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. Her basic thesis is that after initial missteps in Haiti and Somalia and bruising lessons learned in Bosnia, the Clinton team eventually found an effective combination of diplomacy and force that led to success in Kosovo and the emergence of the United States as the indispensable superpower. The deeper story is of Washington's struggle to define a grand strategy for the post-Cold War world. Soderberg thinks that the Clinton administration succeeded in articulating a strategic vision-not defined by a single principle but a blend of realism and liberal activism, a "nuanced policy of tough engagement." Underplaying the commonalities between the two administrations, she contrasts this with Bush's hegemonic approach, which, built on a radical overestimation of U.S. capabilities, has led to a failed adventure in Iraq and dangerous anti-Americanism around the world.
Kirkus Reviews
Unilateral big-stick carrying may seem well and good to the "hegemons" in the Bush administration, writes erstwhile Clinton advisor Soderberg, but it hasn't made the world safer or better. In the tradition of Clinton and other Democratic leaders (John Kerry comes to mind), the author argues that the way for the White House to win friends and influence people abroad is to build strong international alliances and share the burden of promoting peace and order with our partners. The Bush administration had the chance to extend the Clinton approach in addressing recent events, she continues, and did so to some extent in Afghanistan. But it chose to do otherwise after the fall of the Taliban. The present administration's insistence on going to war in Iraq "will prove to be a test of the myth of the hegemon's view of America's role as a superpower," writes Soderberg, who contends that going it alone in the modern world leads to isolation and the accumulation of enemies. The Superpower Myth has some interesting moments, as when the author recounts the 1993 attack on American soldiers in Somalia so ably depicted in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down (1999). Soderberg describes a livid Bill Clinton demanding to know what had gone wrong, letting a few heads roll as a result, then taking charge of his own foreign policy. Lessons learned: Don't allow Pentagon types to go unquestioned, and don't allow the United Nations to lead American troops into battle. The second lesson has become an article of rhetorical faith among politicos, but the first has been lost on the onetime cold warriors of Ford and Reagan vintage who now serve Bush II. The point is well taken, but Soderberg's arguments swim in a sea ofdreary detail; her narrative is less a book than an extended white paper, with all the requisite problem-describing, pundit-quoting, and policy-recommending. May set a think-tank denizen's pulse racing, but won't do much for general readers with a concern for America's role in the world. Agent: Andrew Stuart/The Stuart Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471656838
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
01/28/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.94(d)

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