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The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michael Mandelbaum demonstrates convincingly that the world needs governance and the U.S. is the only country which has been able and willing to assume this role. Unlike the great powers and even the superpowers of the past, the 21st century U.S. has no international peer for this purpose following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union (pp. xxi, 4, 17, 196-218, 225).

Mandelbaum shows clearly that many people erroneously perceive the U.S. as an empire. Subordination, coercion, and ethnic, national, religious, or racial difference - or some combination of these differences - between the ruled and rulers are the hallmarks of an empire (pp. 1-6). Growing resistance of the subjects of imperial rule resulting from nationalism made it prohibitive and ultimately doomed its existence (pp. 10, 27-28, 77-78).

The U.S. provides services, which are public goods, to the society of sovereign states while furthering its interests around the globe (pp. 7-9). These services found their origin in the emergency measures that the U.S. took in the aftermath of WWII to strengthen Western Europe and key allies in East Asia economically, military, and politically, and to deter and contain the former Soviet Union (p. 18). The U.S. was not keen on repeating mistakes such as disastrous economic protectionism and appeasement of belligerent dictators in the 1930s (pp. 17-18, 31-32, 69, 129-34, 187-88, 224).

The U.S. provides the following global services:

1) Reassurance/Deterrence: The American military presence in Europe reassures Europeans that they do not have to spend more on defense than they do for their protection against the possibility of an aggressive neighbor (pp. 30-41). Reassurance took over from deterrence at the end of the Cold War following the disintegration of the communist block in Central and Eastern Europe (p. 35). In contrast, defense dominance and weapon system transparency have not the same supremacy in East Asia (pp. 37-39). Most ominously, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially in the hands of unaccountable rogue states and terrorists, increases the costs of American world's government (pp. 41-64, 101-02, 159, 189-92, 214, 220-22).

2) Cross-border Trade: The global projection of American military forces also helps enforce the international economic order. The U.S. is the only country with a navy powerful enough to provide a secure political framework for international economic activity (pp. 88-115, 127-28, 193-94). Close to 95% of trade that crosses international borders is waterborne, as is 99.5% of the weight of all transcontinental trade as Arthur Herman reminds us in his excellent book "To Rule the Waves."

3) Money: Despite the recent arrival of the euro, the world continues to use the U.S. dollar as a vehicle for transactions and as a reserve (pp. 119-20). Although the U.S. derives economic advantages upon which it can pay its foreign bills in the currency that it itself prints, the world is still better off due to the size of the U.S. economy and the sophistication of its financial markets (pp. 117-18).

4) Consumer of Last Resort: The ongoing American spending spree helps many export-driven economies grow, especially when economic conditions are sluggish in their home markets (pp. 14, 134-36). This over-reliance, which feeds the fast-growing U.S. trade deficit, is a threat to the global economy due to a sub-optimal allocation of resources needed to cover this spending spree (pp. 136-40).

One global service that the U.S. has refused to provide is a reduction in its oil consumption for a variety of reasons (pp. 110-11, 114-15, 217).

Unlike a sovereign state towards its subjects, the U.S. cannot force other sovereign states to pay for these costly services due to no acknowledged monopoly on the legitimate use of violence (p. 8). The rest of the world is usually glad to benefit from these services without paying for them (pp. 9-10, 212-13, 216-20). At the same time, there is widespread disapproval of, and even hostility to, the American global role. This negativity stems not only from American actions, but also from what the U.S. embodies (pp. 145-48, 222). However, the relative world's consensus in favor of peace, democracy, and free markets provides some legitimacy to the American role as the world's government by optimizing the costs of playing that role (pp. 10, 24-30, 93-94, 157-69, 195).

The global services mentioned above are not advertised enough with the consequence that they are usually underappreciated and taken for granted due to a lack of visibility (pp. xix, 37, 65, 93, 219-20). The biggest threat to these public goods in the 21st century will be the ageing U.S. population rather than either the discontent this leadership generates or terrorism (pp. xviii, xx, 10, 24, 28, 72, 182-86).

Furthermore, declining domestic support for state-building resulting from either preventive war or humanitarian intervention is threatening this role due to a sub-optimal performance of the U.S. over time (pp. xx-xxi, 64-87, 161-62). No country or organization possesses a silver bullet in the area of state-building (pp. 102-03). State-building is usually a generational enterprise which rests on the slow-evolving underlying local culture most often allergic to foreign rule (pp. 79-80). This observation results from the inverse relationship that exists between the ease with which a country (e.g., Saddam Hussein's Iraq) can be defeated militarily and the ease with which a new and better government (e.g., Iraq's new federal structure) can be established after its defeat (pp. 81-82).

The world's government that the U.S. embodies will generally not be acknowledged publicly as the worst form of government except for all the others as long as its key advantages are not advertised properly (p. xviii). Global services such as defense savings thanks to the American military presence and jobs created thanks to net exports to the U.S. should be translated by country and on a global basis into easy-to-understand talking points to further foster American interests abroad. Similarly, the American wider public should be sold with more conviction on this subject because it lacks the foreign policy elite's commitment to this global role (pp. 169-86, 223-26).
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
You'd have to look hard to find a more incisive and eloquent expert on American foreign policy than Michael Mandelbaum. The Case for Goliath is perhaps his finest book. In it, Mandelbaum takes issue with the America-bashing that has become a staple of news commentary and scholarly analyses, showing that the United States plays a beneficial and irreplaceable role in the world--one that it has never sought but is destined to assume. Yet Mandelbaum is no Pollyana: he is clear-eyed and explicit about the burdens and challenges that come with this responsibility. If you're going to buy one book on international politics in 2006, this should be the one.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
No one writing today has the ability to write as clearly, concisely and readably about where the United States is heading in the 21st century. He looks at the big picture and, with lots of specific examples, explains everything from the coming crisis of Medicare to how America is perceived---and misperceived---all over the world. No one can read everything on these complex, important subjects, so do yourseslf the favor of reading this one brilliant, readable book. You can have no better guide than this great writer and thinker.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Everyone passionately interested in the state of the international system in the 21st century should rush to buy and read this work of splendid, non-partisan, non-jingoistic insight. Writing cooly and clearly, the author sets forth a surprising and uncannily perceptive view of the American role in the world. Unlike British and French imperial history, he shows that the United States has never---and still does not---seek to exercise direct political control over other countries, but rather has set in place a vast network of beneficial organziations, from NATO to the International Monetary Fund to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the United Nations itself. These are among the legacies of a nation that may soon turn inward, in order to fund the vast social security entitlements that will come due as the post-World War II baby boomers require medical and economic aid from their government. This book is wise, profound and beautifully written. I teach English literature, and few books I have encountered are as well written. Bravo to its sage, calm and insightful message. You will be a wiser person for having read this significant book.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Professor Mandelbaum has the intellectual firepower and insight to vizualize and articulate geopolitical realities that heretofore have not been as accurately perceived or cogently explained. When, in this unique and outstanding work, he analyzes the facts and history of the world situation he is able to discerrn and describe why nation states have taken actions that their own leaders may not fully comprehend. Michael Mandelbaum is the foreign policy equivalent of combining a geopolitical Einstein with the Freud of nation states.

This highly readable and consistently fascinating foreign policy masterpiece is like reading Hamlet; there are many levels to consider and the work is enjoyable for the reader in a multidimensional manner. The more one studies and considers Professor Mandelbaum's analysis, the more enlightened one becomes.

Anyone interested in the current global role of the United States in our world will be fascinated by the expert analysis of Professor Mandelbaum. Everyone who wonders about the future geopolitical situation must seriously study this highly valuable and lucid work.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Other than the unfortunate and thoroughly misleading titular metaphor, this is a mostly sensible and blessedly non-partisan explanation of why America is the world's indispensable nation. As Mr. Mandelbaum correctly notes, the notion that we are an empire is inaccurate -- mainly because we don't exercise actual governing authority over even the nations whose regimes we change -- and, even if the term "empire" does capture something of the influence we have globally, it has become a such a pejorative in the hands of the isolationist Left and Far Right that it isn't very useful any longer. Instead, he opts for describing America as the world's government:

[T]he United States furnishes services to other countries, the same services, as it happens, that governments provide within sovereign states to the people they govern. The United States therefore functions as the world's government.

He's aware of the difficulties with even this descriptor, but makes a compelling argument in its favor:

As a description of America's relations with other countries the word "government" is even more jarring, and may at first seem even less apt, than "empire." There are, after all, many governments in the world and the global role of the United States, expansive though it is, does not look much like any of them.

The reason for this is that government everywhere is identified with what the world lacks: a state. A state has three defining properties. It encompasses a formally delineated territory. It employs specialized personnel, usually bureaucrats and soldiers. And it is recognized as independent on its territory; that is, it is sovereign. Government is the instrument of the state, established by and acting on behalf of it. [...]

Government may also be understood, however, as a provider of services for a society. A society is a collection of interconnected yet independent units that are in regular contact with one another. By this definition the world's sovereign states qualify as a society....

And what services does America provide that make it similar to a government?: (1) security between states and between regimes and their people; and, (2) the creation and enforcement of a reliable global economic marketplace. If it was the dream of many that sovereign states would one day be replaced by one world state, we have instead arrived at a system where we may realize all the benefits of such a state, the services it would provide, without the drawbacks that would accompany it, loss of national sovereignty, infringement on democracy, and homogenization. [...]
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Mandelbaum's THE CASE FOR GOLIATH should be required reading for the everyone who cares about the the way the nations of the world interact today. Whether you are an ardent student of international relations, or a lover of poetry and fiction, this clearly-written, fair-minded look at how the United States provides services all over the planet will be an eye-opener, especially for those accustomed to thinking of the USA as an imperial menace. This is a completely non-partisan, calm, objective look at how this super-power uses its power. Professor Mandelbaum's three decades of teaching, writing and profound thinking about international relations have resulted in a fine, accessible book that will benefit readers the world over. They will gain an understanding that is unavailable in the press, on television or radio, or in any other book. This author is a genuinely thoughtful person who has given the world a remarkable, readable, and brilliant book. I highly recommend THE CASE FOR GOLIATH, and do so without reservation.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"The Case for Goliath" has greatly enhanced my understanding of America's unique but long taken-for-granted (and often mischaracterized) role as general facilitator and guardian of stability in the world. Not only does Michael Mandelbaum offer fresh and illuminating insights, but he restores what is largely missing in the current debate over US global involvement - a calm voice and a broad perspective. I urgently recommend this book to anyone who cares about this country and its future!!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Professor Mandelbaum provies a comprehensive, and important, picture of world events and the positive influence the inadvertent giant, America, has had since World War II. Without making value judgments, the author quietly and completely analyzes the impact on world events the USA has had, and is likely to have, unless/until domestic policy needs place a brake on it.

I truly hope our Congressional leaders read this book before it is too late.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Mandelbaum's THE CASE FOR GOLIATH should be required reading for the makers of foreign policy and for lay people everywhere. Professor Mandelbaum's searching questions reveal first and foremost a clear understanding of the American role in the 21st Century. But his ability to make us see beyond our own noses into the complexities of the world situation is nothing short of uncanny. You must read this book!
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