Taming American Power: The Global Response to U. S. Primacy

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How firm is America's grasp on global supremacy?
The United States currently wields unprecedented global power. Americans often assume that their global role is benevolent and their dominant position unchallenged, but other states are increasingly worried about U.S. dominance and are beginning to turn their concerns into action.
In this elegant and provocative new book, Kennedy School professor and renowned scholar Stephen M. Walt analyzes the ...

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Overview

How firm is America's grasp on global supremacy?
The United States currently wields unprecedented global power. Americans often assume that their global role is benevolent and their dominant position unchallenged, but other states are increasingly worried about U.S. dominance and are beginning to turn their concerns into action.
In this elegant and provocative new book, Kennedy School professor and renowned scholar Stephen M. Walt analyzes the different strategies that states employ to counter U.S. power or to harness it for their own ends. These responses threaten America's ability to achieve its foreign policy goals and may eventually undermine its dominant position. To prevent this, Walt argues, the United States must adopt a foreign policy that other states welcome, rather than one that reinforces their fear of American power.

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Editorial Reviews

Anatol Lieven
The most controversial part of the book is Walt's analysis of the role of national lobbies in the United States, particularly the Israeli lobby. Walt does not condemn this lobby for acting in Israel's interest. Lobbies exist to influence policy. But he does bring out just how damaging the results of Israeli influence have been, both in terms of direct harm to American interests and in creating Muslim perceptions of American bias, hostility and hypocrisy. ''It is one thing to pay a price for taking steps that are clearly in the U.S. national interest,'' he writes, ''but it is quite another matter to place U.S. security at risk doing something primarily on behalf of some other country.'' For raising this vital issue, on which so many others are silent, Walt deserves special thanks.
— The New York Times
David Ignatius
It offers a rigorous critique of current U.S. strategy and, even better, a clearly articulated alternative…by the final chapter, where Walt offers his own prescriptions, the blood is almost dripping off the page.
—The Washington Post
Foreign Affairs
Americans tend to see U.S. preeminence as benign or positive — but around the world, it arouses worry, fear, and resentment. In this landmark book on U.S. power and grand strategy in the age of unipolarity, Walt provides the most lucid and sophisticated account yet of why these negative reactions arise. Drawing on insights from realist theory, he argues that global concern over American dominance is rooted in the insecurities and uncertainties that inevitably exist in a world of anarchy and unequal power. Put simply, other states "worry because the United States is strong enough to act pretty much as it wishes, and other states cannot be sure that Washington will not use its immense power to threaten their own interests." Much of the book explores the strategies that states are using to oppose or counteract U.S. primacy. Although Walt does not find much evidence of full-scale balancing, he does see states using an array of less direct measures to counter U.S. power, such as building realms of regional autonomy and attempting to ensnare the hegemon in international rules and norms. To navigate these troubled waters, he recommends a radical shift by Washington away from a hegemonic grand strategy to one of "off-shore balancing" — that is, resisting imperial or liberal internationalist activism, particularly in the Middle East, in favor of selective engagement and leading by example. It remains a question, however, whether in a world transformed by globalization and menaced by violent groups, the United States can really pull back from its geopolitical commitments and security leadership.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393052039
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/17/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Walt is the academic dean and the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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