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Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy Hardcover – September 19, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


“This is a pathbreaking book for both the informed public and policy makers, for whom it should be required reading and who would do well to follow its recommendations.” — Samuel Huntington, author of The Clash of Civil --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephen M. Walt is the academic dean and the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1St Edition edition (September 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393052036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393052039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,604,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Walt is a long-time proponent of Realism in international relations, publishing especially in the journal International Relations. This is his latest brief for U.S. foreign policy, and not only is it a rebuke of the Bush Administration's disastrous war on Iraq, "GWOT," and "preemptive war doctrine," which of course is really *preventive*, offensive war, but it outlines a more sensible course of action -- a strategy based on Realist principles.

The bulk of the book examines how the rest of the world is actually responding to U.S. primacy, and why, from the eminently logical point of view that countries pursue their own interests, not ours. Walt looks at examples of the whole range of possibilities, from balancing (including asymmetric strategies), to "balking" (footdragging), "binding" (to alliances, institutions and norms), and delegitimation (what we call in sociology a "framing" strategy), in the cases of Europe, China, Russia, Arab states, and the whole cast of characters on the world stage.

Only at the end, based on this primer on Realist analysis, does Walt turn to his eminently sensible prognosis for U.S. foreign policy. He indicts the failed Global Hegemony strategy of the Bush Administration, which has led to active attempts by virtually everyone else to counter the U.S. After a brief survey of the Selective Engagement strategy of the Bush Sr. and Clinton Administrations, he recommends a return to Offshore Balancing, which was U.S. strategy through most of its history, and which Walt says is perfectly suited to this (no doubt temporary) period of U.S. primacy.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By fCh on November 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ask folks outside the US if there is something wrong with it and what that is, and chances are that you'll get a good many little piece of the big puzzle characterizing the relationship between the US and the World. Since the "mission accomplished" moment, similar pieces have made it in the US media taxonomy, as high up as editorials. It is the merit of Stephen Walt's, to have been gathered a lot of little pieces in a framework that would capture the situation like this: 1) Why other states fear the US primacy? 2) What strategies can states pursue in response to US primacy? 3) What can the US do about #2? If not much can be debated about points #1 and #2 in Walt's framework, point #3 comes along the lines of a growing conversation meant to supplant the neocon doctrine, as the latter one loses steam by the day.It should be briefly noted that the answer to point #3 had preoccupied the US foreign policy makers even before the neocon doctrine - recall Clinton's 'indispensable nation.'

The relative novelty Professor Walt brings into consideration, when looking for answers to point #3, is the need for openness and public debate about the activity of political lobbies - especially those steering the US foreign policy. Michael Scheuer might have been the first one, in this round, to raise awareness about political lobbies as factor influencing the US foreign policy. However, it is only now that we have a proposal on how to deal with the shortcomings of what, Walt reminds us, is a fundamental feature of the American democracy - interest groups. It should also be added that, in a recent report on overall nations' business competitiveness, released by The World Economic Forum, the US occupies only the second place due also to the perceived negative influence of business lobbies on government policy.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on December 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A new genre of foreign policy writers is emerging in the United States. They are called "realists", but defining the term defies precision. Following the "neo-con" works extolling the idea of the US flexing its military and economic might came the "soft power" advocates. The latter declared that overbearing foreign policies were counterproductive. Power must be curbed or withdrawn in favour of more conciliatory policies, preferably multilaterally decided and applied. Stephen Walt's approach is a middle ground, without being conciliatory to either of the previous stances.

Walt opens with a summary of all the aspects of might available to the USA. This is the foundation of the "realist" genre - the power is there and Walt catalogues it nicely. The USA is at once the strongest power militarily and economically, influencing many by sheer presence. It has far outstripped whatever competition it might have had. A military defeat is out of the question and even economic challengers can only hope to share, not dominate, markets. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the USA in the role of world primacy. That unique position has led other nations to view such solitary might with distrust and resentment. Walt explains brilliantly why these countries are suspicious. Any nation confronted with such prowess will naturally be wary. He generally avoids value judgements in the depiction, but he notes how poorly informed the leaders and general populace of the USA are about the resentment. How other nations do and should react becomes the theme of most of Walt's remaining chapters.

Once he's described what he calls "the roots of resentment", Walt describes the reactions by nations uncomfortable with the USA's "primacy".
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