Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

by Robert Kagan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400034185
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/27/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 844,220
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.45(d)

About the Author

Robert Kagan is a senior fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for The Washington Post. He is also the author of The Return of History and the End of DreamsDangerous NationOf Paradise and Power, and A Twilight Struggle. He served in the U.S. State Department from 1984 to 1988. He lives with his wife and two children.

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.

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Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
norro on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I really wish I had read this book sooner. This book feels dated to the early years of the Bush administration war drums are beginning to beat in the US and over seas. The events of the Iraq war and the debt market crisis feels like plot twists, obstructing any resolution that was proposed. While it is easy to that Mr. Kagan's analysis is right (the historical divergences between Europe and the US has left the former a internal-looking state benefiting from might of the latter) the current crises at home and at war has me wondering who ended up better off from this relationship. Kagan's prognosis that Europe should expand its own military self defense for both its own benefit and America's just does not seem feasible any more considering fiscal austerity. With American military spending compatibly shrinking as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind-down, it seems as if Europe is going to have more relative regional military power but only as the US wanes. I had mixed feelings as I read that I was bouncing between up to date analysis to data from a history textbook. The world has changed but book is still interesting to read as picture of what could have been.
trav on LibraryThing 5 months ago
It's always gratifying to read a book that you agree 100% with. This essay on US transatlantic relationships and policy making is right on the money. Kagan pulls no punches in this one and his simple fact-of-the-matter rationale is hard to argue with and clear cut.But just because he calls out Europe for exactly what they have been and are, he does it without getting nasty and schoolyardish about it. Which is refreshing in these times of O-Reilly and Heraldo.Kagan acurately outlines why US foreign policy is what it is and why it will remain so. That is until someone else becomes king of the hill.His parallels between Europe's historical actions and the US's current endeavors are clear and factual.It's refreshing to read something on US policy that's not filled with the boasting and grandstanding that all of today's political books are filled with.Kagan is the political science professor you'll wish you had in school and this book won't disappoint any reader. Whether you agree with him or not.
steve.clason on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The cover blurbs announce a book especially favored by "realist-nationalists", intellectuals of the neo-conservative type, still there's plenty here for everyone to absorb no matter their political alignment. The book explicates the diverging strategic views of Europe and the US since the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11/01, a divergence caused by fundamentally different strategic contexts and a reduced need for strategic cohesiveness. Four stars because at times I felt I was being led along a path without good reason.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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...
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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¿.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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."
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.