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Power and Willpower in the American Future: Why the United States Is Not Destined to Decline Paperback – June 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"The United States is experiencing another bout of anxiety regarding its relative power. While he is sober about the challenges confronting the nation, Robert Lieber makes a convincing case that, as in the past, fears of American decline will prove to have been greatly exaggerated. The United States has the resources necessary to continue to play the part of the world's preponderant power; the question is whether its leaders, and its people, will have the necessary wisdom and resolve. On this count, as Lieber makes plain, there is every reason for optimism." - Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University

"If there is anything that commands general agreement today it is that the US is declining. Lieber shows that much of the reasoning and claims here are not only superficial, but flatly wrong. His argument that the US has the economic and political resources to play the leading role in world if it chooses to do so deserves attention by scholars and members of the concerned public." - Robert Jervis, Columbia University, author of American Foreign Policy in a New Era

"There is so much facile soothsaying on America's future as a has-been-as there was in the past four waves of Declininism since Sputnik. Power and Willpower is a much-needed counter to the fifth wave, written by one of the country's authoritative scholars of U.S. foreign policy." - Josef Joffe, Senior Fellow, Stanford University; Editor, Die Zeit (Germany)

"Robert Lieber offers a wise and lucid rebuttal to hyperbolic reports of American decline. His expertise on energy policy, Europe and the Middle East, all shine through, as does his long (and positive) view of American exceptionalism. He recognizes China's challenge but notes that Beijing faces looming problems of its own and still falls well short of being America's peer competitor. The real bulwarks against decline, he argues, are America's vast moral and material resources and its historic resilience. In this well-researched book, Lieber offers a bracing challenge to the declinist literature and its policy prescriptions." - Charles Lipson, Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

"Robert Lieber's clear, concise, and provocative analysis will become the starting point for the debate about the most important global issue of the next ten years: the future of American power in the world." - Michael Mandelbaum, Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy, The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; co-author of That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

"Deserves a place at the top of the must-read list ... [a] shining contribution to our understanding of America in the world." - PJ Media

"Those readers who prefer wisdom and good sense in their historical analysis...will get more out of reading Lieber." - The Weekly Standard

"Lieber provides a valuable dissenting voice to the growing literature on the decline of US power. Summing up: Highly recommended. General readers, undergraduate students and professionals" - J.R. Clardie, Cameron University, CHOICE magazine

"A concise and provocative book, Power and Willpower shows that America still remains, by many measures, the world's leading power" -Zachary Fredman, Boston University, H-Net Reviews

"This book charts new territory for other researchers to explore. It will undoubtedly stimulate a new set of inquiries and debates about the reasons why groups adopt nonviolence." -Sharon Erickson Nepstad, University of New Mexico, Perspectives on Politics

Book Description

This book makes a strong argument against the widely proclaimed notion that the United States is destined to decline. Everywhere we look, scholars, pundits, politicians, foreign commentators, and the wider blogosphere pronounce and repeat the idea. Today's problems at home and abroad are less severe than those the United States has overcome in the past. Ultimately, the ability to avoid serious decline is less a question of material factors than of policy, leadership, and political will.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (April 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052128127X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521281270
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #947,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ROBERT J. LIEBER is Professor of Government and International Affairs at Georgetown University, where he has previously served as Chair of the Government Department and Interim Chair of Psychology. He is an authority on American foreign policy and U.S. relations with the Middle East and Europe. He was born and raised in Chicago, received his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. at Harvard. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has also taught at Harvard, Oxford and the University of California, Davis, and has been Visiting Fellow at the Atlantic Institute in Paris, the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Fudan University in Shanghai.

Professor Lieber's latest book is Power and Willpower in the American Future: Why The U.S. Is Not Destined To Decline (Cambridge 2012). His previous book, The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century (Cambridge, 2005 and 2007), earned high praise from reviewers, one of whom wrote that, "This may be the best book on American foreign policy written since September 11." In addition, Lieber is author or editor of fourteen other books on international relations, U.S. foreign policy, and energy security.

Professor Lieber has lectured widely in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He has been active in debates about American foreign policy and in addition has been an adviser in several presidential campaigns. His articles and opeds have appeared in scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers, including International Security, Foreign Policy, American Political Science Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The National Interest, Commentary, Internationale Politik (Berlin), Politique Etrangere (Paris), International Affairs (London), Harper's, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), and Asharq Al-Awsat (London), among others, and his media appearances have included The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS TV, ABC TV's Good Morning America, NBC and CBS network news, the O'Reilly Factor on Fox TV, Voice of America, BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, and other radio and TV programs in Europe, the Arab world and Israel. Among his assorted credits is a walk-on part in the Alfred Hitchcock film classic, NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm on April 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started reading Robert Lieber's new book with skepticism, but decided I would have an open mind. It has turned out to be a fascinating, thought-provoking read. While I can't agree with everything he says, the case he makes is powerful as he challenges the conventional wisdom that America is on a path of inevitable decline. The book draws on a quite dazzling range of knowledge, history and common sense. I'd recommend it to everyone. In fact, his arguments have stayed with me and sharpened my questioning of much of the news and analysis I read. I hope Obama and Romney read it, it would make a great focus for a presidential candidate debate.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dusko Doder on May 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Lieber's new book offers a much needed counter to the currently fashionable view that the United States is declining. Pessimists advance a variety of arguments, ranging from self-serving contentions that America "would become another Greece" if Congress fails to pass this or that measure to misguided assertions that America is already falling behind an ever stronger and more assertive China. Lieber's is an intelligent and compelling rebuttal. The United States, he concludes, possesses vast political and material resources as well as institutional stability and the resilience and sense of national purpose.

As someone who has spent most of my life living and studying foreign countries (including China), I think Lieber is correct. In my view, the United States remains the world's preponderant economic, military and political force without a real peer competitor.

I wish that Lieber had delved deeper into the root causes of our current difficulties. America's staying power, he says, will ultimately be determined more by political will than material resources. But he only suggests that since the end of the Cold War we have been saddled with weak leaders (each with different sets of flaws) who have allowed our political class to evolve into irresponsible, bitter partisans. Our problems - debt, deficit, entitlements - could be solved with a spirit of compromise. Instead, national leaders and opinion makers use the imaginary American decline to explain away our dysfunctional government. Another Lieber book tackling that issue with the courage of this one would be welcome.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jan kalicki on January 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
Robert Lieber outdoes himself in his latest book, which counters effectively the commentariat of US "declinism". Extremely thoughtful, well and concisely written, this volume reminds the reader of the many crises the US has faced and overcome in its history, only to become the stronger for it. It then sets forth the nation's many inherent strengths, from resources and technology to economic and military power. The demographic advantage is especially well taken: the US remains the country most sought after - and advantaged - by immigrants, and its human potential is vast. Immigration reform, anyone?

If human and material power offers superior potential, Lieber acknowledges the challenges of policy, leadership and political will. Willpower: will it be up to the potential that power gives the US? As the author acknowledges, "Ultimately, elite and popular beliefs, policy choices, and leadership remain critical in shaping outcomes." In decades past, ideological foes made common cause for the national good, and also over common-sense, pragmatic initiatives that would serve a growing middle class. Now, unfortunately, we face the opposite trend, and it is to be hoped that strongly negative ratings of political institutions and leaders will ultimately result in a badly needed course change in the nation's capital.

In the space of 172 elegantly written pages, Lieber offers a brilliant antidote to the "no can do" bemoaning set. The challenges are clear, but so are the opportunities. A must read.

Jan Kalicki, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
Dr. Robert Lieber is has been writing about the place of the United States as a world superpower in the international arena for many years. His message throughout all of his works has been consistent: America faces challenges, but its decline as a superpower is neither preordained nor inevitable.

Given the prominence of authors declaring the looming decline of American power and the end of the American era, Dr. Lieber's book is a refreshing take on a well-worn question. Dr. Lieber points out that the end of American dominance has been proclaimed time and time again, each instance followed by a declaration that (insert country name here) will overtake the United States and the world's major economic, military, diplomatic, and cultural superpower. Yet, each time, the declinists' arguments have been proven wrong, but Dr. Lieber's argument for the continuation of American power still stands.

Power and Willpower offers the argument one more time. This time, Dr. Lieber addresses the oft-repeated thesis that the 21st century belongs to the Chinese by re-evaluating the data of China's rise and demonstrating that the United States continues to dominate the international arena in every category.

The most important aspect of this book, however, is Dr. Lieber's recognition of the unique global conditions which now characterize international relations. Dr. Lieber argues that American dominance in the 21st century is not inevitable and that the United States has a number of economic hurdles to overcome.

Overall, this is an excellent and easily digestible, yet still academic, book from an experienced scholar that offers an unpopular, but refreshing perspective on an old issue.
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