From its opening-line salvo"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"Of Paradise and Power
announces a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Europe. Robert Kagan begins this illuminating essay by laying out the general differences as he sees them: the U.S. is quicker to use military force, less patient with diplomacy, and more willing to coerce (or bribe) other nations in order to get a desired result. Europe, on the other hand, places greater emphasis on diplomacy, takes a much longer view of history and problem solving, and has greater faith in international law and cooperation. Kagan does not view these differences as the result of innate national character, but as a time-honored historical reality--the U.S. is merely behaving like the powerful nation it is, just as the great European nations once did when they ruled the world. Now, Europe must act multilaterally because it has no choice. The "UN Security Council is a substitute for the power they lack," he writes.
Kagan also emphasizes the inherent ironies present in the relationship. European nations have enjoyed an "American security guarantee" for nearly 60 years, allowing them to cut back on defense spending while criticizing the U.S. for not doing the same. Yet Europe relies upon the U.S. for protection. This has led America and Europe to view the same threats much differently, as evidenced by the split over how to deal with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Kagan points out that some European leaders are more afraid of how the U.S. will wield its power in the Middle East than they are of the thought of Hussein or other "rogue state" leaders acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Kagans brevity is as impressive as it is appreciated; most writers would have required thrice as many pages to get to their point. At any length, the book is nothing short of brilliant. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand the post-Cold War world. --Shawn Carkonen
*Starred Review* Cogent and important
best describe this slim book, its lack of vast pages belying the weightiness of its message. This is an expanded version of an essay originally published as "Power and Weakness" in the June/July 2002 issue of Policy Review,
written by the senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who is also a columnist for the Washington Post
. The article created such a stir that a book-length expansion proved necessary for a wider readership. Tight, rigorous reasoning stands behind Kagan's cold analysis of the growing disparity between U.S and European views of the post-cold war world and how best to achieve peace and order. The lack of agreement is based primarily on opposing beliefs concerning the "proper balance between the use of force and the use of diplomacy in international affairs." Europe, as Kagan points out, is economically strong but militarily weak, while the U.S. is strong on both fronts. How to settle the world's problems is seen very differently, then, depending on whether one is negotiating from strength or from weakness. Further, the author avers that American military power has "made it possible for Europeans to believe that [military] power [is] no longer important." Controversial arguments, certainly, but this book deserves to be read by all conscientious citizens. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved