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Temptations of a Superpower (Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lecture on American Civilization) Hardcover – April 14, 1995

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Product Details

  • Series: Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lecture on American Civilization
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (April 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674873408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674873407
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,564,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Now that the Cold War is over, Steel (political science, Univ. of Southern California) trenchantly critiques the assumptions on which the United States bases its current "new world order" foreign policy. He examines what he calls the shibboleths of stability?world leadership and assuring democracy?and challenges the role of the "experts" who have tended to shape that policy. After considering our "ambiguous victory" in the Cold War, Steel discusses the complications in finding a new role after the fall of our more easily defined enemies. His analysis of Europe is especially important in light of the protracted conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. His ominous references to the role of nationalism and the new version of the German question are disquieting. NATO and its raison d'etre are given a thorough airing. Comments about the lack of relationship between market economic successes and democratic institutions is worthy of serious consideration. Steel's book, based on a presentation at the Library of Congress in November 1993, deserves a wide readership.?Frank Kessler, Missouri Western State Coll., St. Joseph
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Temptations of a Superpower deserves a wide readership among both foreign policy experts and laymen. [It] is a rare example of clarity, wisdom, and intellectual integrity. It would stand out even in a time when the nation's chattering classes were able to distinguish argument from invective. (Alan Tonelson New York Times Book Review)

Consistency is an admirable intellectual trait, and Mr. Steel's writings show a disciplined coherence over thirty years...In fact, they are the expression of a distinct sensibility that holds that no matter what the world looks like, a minimalist foreign policy is best for both America and the world. These convictions are heartfelt and expressed with moral clarity. (Fareed Zakaria Wall Street Journal)

Ronald Steel has been a brilliant and iconoclastic critic of American policy and American follies for a quarter century--perhaps our most brilliant. This book recapitulates absurdities and excesses of the Cold War now over, summarizing with a certain peremptoriness, and even a certain weariness, things Steel has often said before. (William Pfaff World Policy Journal)

Put bluntly, Steel's message in this nicely crafted series of essays is: Forget most of what you learned during the past half-century. The United States may be the world's only superpower, but it is far less 'super' than before, and the honor may be more trouble than it's worth...This is a direct and bracing argument, more useful than anything our major politicians have said about foreign policy over the past few years. (Doyle McManus Washington Monthly)

This sharp little book offers an important contribution to the current debate on the future of US foreign policy. As is almost de rigueur these days, Temptations of a Superpower opens with a depiction of the US foreign-policy establishment's disorientation following the end of the Cold War, and the loss of an enemy that now looks 'more like a deflated blowfish than a whale.' Given Ronald Steel's long-standing suspicion of this establishment, including both its commentators and practitioners, this is done with a certain relish. (Lawrence Freedman Survival [UK)

Picking a word or two to describe the Steel doctrine won't be easy...None does justice to the depth, poignancy or persuasiveness of Steel's call for the US to put domestic priorities first, now that the threats posed to its security by other countries are few and far apart. (Nachman Spiegel Jerusalem Post)

Clear-eyed, hardheaded American liberalism has no more able a foreign affairs analyst than Ronald Steel, an editor at the New Republic and professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. For over 30 years...Steel has been developing a sagacious and iconoclastic body of writing on American foreign policy...[An] impressive analysis...In this small book, Steel is, as [Walter] Lippmann was, truth's pilgrim at the plow. (David Palmieri The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Igor Biryukov on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am Russian and have been in the US for 1 year. This is the first book I read that really explained to me unexplainable things in American foreign policy. Obviously a scholar, Mr. Steel nevertheless does beautiful work in explaining how things really work in practice without any open partisan agenda or moralistic drivel. Thoughtful and balanced book, worth reading particularly for foreigners who would like a better understanding of how American foreign policy works and what the forces behind it are.
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