A book version of the essay that sparked a great debate on both sides of the Atlantic in 2002. In this tour de force, Kagan argues that today's conflict between the United States and Europe is not simply a result of passing policy disputes or the Bush administration's foreign policy style. Rather, it reflects a more profound estrangement rooted in American power and European weakness. The old Atlantic partners live today on different planets. America's preeminent global position has thrust it into a Hobbesian world of lurking threats and made it more willing to use force, whereas Europe seeks peace through law and diplomacy. Kagan is best in describing Europe's postwar project of taming the dangers and instabilities of power politics in a democratic, Kantian zone of peace. Thanks partly to the U.S. security guarantee, Europeans have devised a political order in which power is subdued and the use of force banished. Yet Europe has also made itself weak, Kagan charges, as its nations remain unable to confront the anarchical dangers of the wider world. Kagan argues that America's realpolitik view is not only a feature of Republican administrations but a deeper expression of American power (after all, Bill Clinton was willing to bomb Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan). The result is a growing divergence in strategic views and eroding solidarity.
Kagan's characterization of a postmodern Europe, however, is too German-centered; he ignores the fact that the United Kingdom and France retain great-power identities and a willingness to use military force. His reading of the United States is also debatable. The United States has been the preeminent global power since World War II, yet it has oftenpursued its national interest through multilateral institutions and security partnerships. Pace Kagan, Europe and the United States might disagree on the nature of threats outside the West as they have in the past but their own relationship remains embedded in an Atlantic security community.
Former diplomat and current conservative think-tanker Kagan (A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1996) rehashes an argument he originally offered in 2001 in 'Policy Review'. That argument goes like this: During the Cold War, the developed world fell into two camps, one dominated by the US, the other by the Soviet Union. The former had need "to preserve and demonstrate the existence of a cohesive ‘West,’ " and so political divisions between, say, Germany and the US tended to be muted, at least on an official level. Though it begs for a united front of defense, today’s common enemy--Islamic fundamentalism--does not demand the same coherence, which allows Europe to turn away from superpower big-stick formulas, to move "beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation." The US, conversely, is settling into its role as the world’s sole superpower, able to accomplish at least some of its tasks in the "anarchic Hobbesian" world by virtue of its military might. Europe, of course, benefits from this situation, even while clucking its tongue and attempting to "control the behemoth by appealing to its conscience," which Kagan considers to be a pretty good strategy that usually works. The upshot? Interpretations may vary, but Kagan offers a genteel solution for both sides: Europe should let us do what we must to keep the peace, recognizing that "we have only just entered a long era of American hegemony." And America shouldn’t try to bully Europe into accepting the unpalatable, and perhaps even listen to our putative allies from time to time. Though he’s capable of concocting a memorable sound bite, Kagan develops his nuancedargument with an appreciation for why Europeans are not now lining up alongside us to give Saddam a good thrashing. Good reading for policy wonks who missed the original article, of a piece with recent arguments for the virtues of American imperialism.
“Kagan is an ideal position to dissect what is wrong in the United States-European relationship and why. He does so with a surgeon’s skill, stripping away layer after layer to reveal what in the end is a remarkable conclusion.” —The New York Times
“A compact and arresting book. . . . Highly readable. It is also a hard-hitting, unsentimental and yet liberal and humane manifesto.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“Lucid and elegant. . . . It is hard to imagine any future serious discussion of trans-Atlantic relations or America’s role in the world without reference to [Of Paradise and Power].” —The New York Times Book Review
“Kagan is one of America’s finest commentators on issues of foreign policy. He writes elegantly, has an excellent command of history and consistently demonstrates superior intelligence and insight. . . . This book could not have been more timely.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“I consider this one of those seminal treatises without which any discussion of European-American relations would be incomplete and which will shape that discussion for years to come.” —Dr. Henry Kissinger
“A book worthy of every thinking person on both sides of the Atlantic. It is hard to imagine so complex a subject being explained so clearly and so compellingly . . . A contribution unlikely to be equaled.” —Times Higher Education Supplement (London)“For its brilliant juxtaposition of strategy and philosophy, of the realities of power and the ethics of power, of the American ideal of justice and the European ideal of peace, Robert Kagan's small book is a big book. Nothing like this has been written since the death of Raymond Aron.” —Leon Weiseltier
“Subtle and brilliant.”—The New Republic
“Cogent and important best describe this slim book, its lack of vast pages belying the weightiness of its message. . . . Controversial arguments, certainly, but this book deserves to be read by all conscientious citizens.” —Booklist (starred review)
“[Has] the foreign policy establishment humming from Washington to Tokyo. . . . It is being called the new 'X' article."—Washington Post
“A cogent new book. . . . Kagan is admirably even–handed.... [His] analysis is valuable and instructive.” —Detroit Free Press
“Kagan’s provocative and thoughtful essay is required reading for everyone concerned about the future of transatlantic relations. . . . Although not everyone will agree with Kagan’s analysis, readers will benefit from its clarity, insight and historical force.” —Senator John McCain
“A subtle and empathetic analysis. . . . Insightful.” —The Seattle Times
“‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus’, writes Robert Kagan in the first paragraph of his new book. . . . That's probably the best one–liner any foreign policy intellectual has offered to explain perennial transatlantic disputes over the exercise of power in international relations. . . . Well–argued. . . .Truly insightful.” —New York Observer
“[Kagan writes with] skill, erudition, and reasoned argument.” —National Review
“Anyone looking for an intellectual primer to explain the geopolitical forces at work in the Iraqi conflict should order a copy of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise And Power.” —Sunday Telegraph (London)
“This refreshing essay results from careful thought combined with critical information. Read it and you will think more deeply about this important arena.”—George P. Shultz, Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
“Brilliant.” —Francis Fukuyama
“The democratic West has divided into two: realist America, putting its trust in physical power, and idealist Europe, trusting to intellectual authority and multilateralism. It is true that, as Mr. Kagan makes clear, American foreign policy retains a strong idealist element, but it is its muscular willingness to act with force, alone if it must, that Mr. Kagan defends here, and convincingly.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Kagan describes [the current climate] with dispassionate and deadly accuracy.”—The Washington Times
“Slender but brilliant.” —Business Week