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Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order Hardcover – January 28, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040933
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,609,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Kagan’s 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

From Booklist

*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 Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

His style is very easy to read, and at only 102 pages, this book is a very quick read.
C. Mclemore
The book has an alarming lack of references and footnotes for a book which has so many claims on the historical record as methods of coercion to the thesis.
Curt Peters
He also sees Europe as being able to afford the "peace" because of the great military power of the United States that will help maintain world order.
Jeremy H.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on August 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this short book, an elaboration of an article written for Policy Review, Robert Kagan puts forward the following thesis: Europe has entered a Kantian world of perpetual peace where tension is resolved via diplomacy and institutions, while Americans occupy a Hobbesian world where force is the only path to conflict resolution and stability.
The book builds on this idea and discusses the familiar arguments about military spending and the differing views on multilateralism and international law that separate American from Europe. At the same time, Mr. Kagan suggests an original idea to explain the split in the West: the European Union, he argues, is predicated on the notion that institutions can resolve deep historical conflicts; if European were to accept the Hobbesian view, Mr. Kagan argues, they would deny the revolutionary nature of their project, as well as its implications for other regions of the world.
Still, this book is selective: there is little mention of Somalia, where Americans withdrew to avoid casualties, or Rwanda, where French forces moved in before UN peacekeepers. The British intervention in Sierra Leone and the French one in Cote d'Ivoire are similar examples of the European attitude to force, which hardly coincide with Mr. Kagan's view.
Mr. Kagan has argued, in essence, that the Europeans lack the collective capacity to act; but their attitude to power might not be as scornful as Mr. Kagan suggests. Still, it is impossible to study the relationship between Europe and America, and their respective roles in the world today, without reading this book.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lyman on March 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an American citizen who writes about European affairs and is based in Europe, I have always felt able to understand the cultures that dominate either side of the Atlantic better than most, which is one reason why I was so eager to read Of Paradise and Power. It's a thin volume and presented in a straightforward way that is easy to read (i.e., it's not just for policy wonks and Ph.D. candidates) and which packs a powerful punch. For anyone looking to understand the increasingly obvious differences between the two parts of the world, this book is obligatory.
Kagan's basic premise is that the two power bases have long been more different than either was willing to admit (mostly in terms of the relative reliance on force vs. diplomacy), and that the differences were masked by the Cold War rather than a product of the conclusion of it, and that is a point he backs up well. In fact, if one remembers that these words were based on a Policy Review essay written in the middle of last year -- before the current crisis between the U.S. and Germany/France -- the author's insight seems even greater.
My criticisms of the book come from part of the conclusion Kagan makes. He says, for example, that the difficulties between the U.S. and Europe would have shown themselves no matter who was in charge and no matter what else happened in the world, yet I cannot believe that is true. Would a more cosmopolitan and diplomatic team in the White House have so easily galvanized European anti-Americanism? If Sept. 11 not happened, would the situation have boiled over so quickly? Would Schroeder have been so vocally anti-American if he had not faced re-election as the Iraq problems started to develop? Would Chirac have taken such a strong stance if he did not feel France's power slipping in other areas?
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Miller on April 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It doesn't matter what political stripe you wear, Kagan's book is a fascinating look at current-day international politics. Kagan presents a wonderfully logical argument about the relationship between Europe and America. And while he doesn't necessarily present any information that is new or surprising, he does help connect the dots in a manner that makes most readers go, "Aha!" Kagan's writing style is very user-friendly, unusual in a field known for its clunky style and obscure historical references (Thomas Friedman notwithstanding). He uses wonderful anecdotes and analogies to help paint his picture of the differences in the ways that America and Europe view world-wide threats (A bear roaming in the woods is viewed differently by a man with a rifle as opposed to a man with a knife). And given these acknowledged differences, is it any wonder that America and Europe increasingly find conflict over the way we resolve these problems? America wants to quickly solve the problems with arms (we have lots of over-powering weapons and a strong distaste for any American deaths); Europe would much rather discuss the problems over time and come to a non-conflict resolution (they don't have the weapons and have come to appreciate the power of discussion). As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, one who attended the numerous spring anti-war demonstrations throughout my hometown, I now look at the world in a different way after reading this fine book -- and what could be a better compliment to any author? And while I continue to feel America's heavy-handed approach is ultimately wrong, this book has given me a more balanced perception of the way things work.
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104 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Andersson on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book forces you to rethink the common world view and the relationship between Europe and America. Kagan's prose is very clear, well-written and easy to follow and he argues quite convincingly. He has a good point that Western Europe has lived under America's protecting umbrella since WW2 and made the Europeans to believe that machtpolitik, that is the necessity to use military force, no longer is needed and that laws and international cooperation is the only way to build a better world. It worked fine for civilized and well-behaving European states in the EU, but it obviously doesn't work that well with more badly brought-up leaders as Kim Jong-Il. Or Hitler for that matter.
Clearly the rift between Europeans and Americans is deeper than many think, and clearly both sides have some serious issues to discuss. But I don't agree with Kagan's implicit conclusions - that the rift is almost impossible to heal and that Europe and USA have different roadmaps that are bound to clash an increasing number of times in the future.
Kagan is exaggerating the differences. Europe lacks the Americans' military power and is occupied with the European integration most of the time, but it does not mean that they will disagree in all important matters in the future. They still share the same visions. But I think that Europe, and especially France, feels a strong threat to be sidelined and ignored by America. Europe is not as important for America as it was during the Cold War. Instead, it is directing its interest towards Southeast Asia where the next superpower, China, is.
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