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The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs) Hardcover – March 17, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0801447655 ISBN-10: 0801447658

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Product Details

  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801447658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801447655
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Power Problem doesn't flinch from offering specifics as to what commitments the United States should keep and which it should shed. In addition to proposing criteria for using military force that are stricter than the old Weinberger-Powell doctrine—allied interests would no longer be treated as synonymous with American national interests—Preble suggests 'right-sizing' our military forces for the defense of American territory and the Western hemisphere. . . . Preble has started a debate where too often there has been a monologue."—W. James Antle III, Washington Times, 18 June 2009



"In this readable new volume, Preble argues flatly that the current level of American military capabilities makes the United States less safe, less prosperous, and less free. America's military power should be reduced to fit within the balances of the constitution and a realistic view of security requirements in a multipolar world. . . . Preble's spirited analysis gives rise to some big questions: Are American elites prepared to give up running the world? Can we afford to relinquish the prerequisites of global hegemony? Who will keep order in the world if not hegemonic America? . . . Whatever the inconveniences of change, Preble makes clear that the status quo itself is increasingly expensive and ultimately unsustainable."—David Calleo and Marco Zambotti, Survival, October 2009



"I want to recommend a new book called The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free. The book's got a good explanatory subtitle, but to briefly sketch the thesis, Preble argues that our over-large military establishment isn’t just a waste of money, but actually harmful to our security. . . . If we had much less military capacity, we would have a much narrower definition of the strategic purpose of our military—to defend the country against threats—and would find that we were happy with that equilibrium. But the large military spawns a grandiose strategic concept that winds up writing checks that even a gigantic military can’t cash. I think this analysis is dead on."—Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress, 25 April 2009



"I recommend Christopher Preble's excellent new book, The Power Problem . . . which tackles the familiar justifications for American dominance head-on, and shows that the usual pieties about global stability or spreading democracy are far from airtight."—Stephen M. Walt, ForeignPolicy.com, 12 May 2009



"In an important new book, The Power Problem, Christopher Preble defies the conventional categories and gives us a 21st-century foreign policy consistent with American traditions. . . . Preble argues that our current defense posture is radically out of line with American interests, properly understood. He calls for scrapping our outdated Cold War alliances, and insists that the constitutional goal of 'the common defense of the United States' could be secured by a military budget far smaller than what we currently spend."—Gene Healy, Washington Examiner, 14 April 2009



"An important book, The Power Problem, . . . puts forth the case that American military power naturally invites excessive or irrelevant use, and that the habits of mind created by military supremacy have caused the United States to be less safe than otherwise, less free, more vulnerable, and less able to do the things that fundamental national security demands. Its author, Christopher A. Preble, is a former officer in the U.S. Navy and is head of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He argues, as many others do, that the United States has a level of military power that it doesn't need, that has limited utility against stateless enemies and insurgents, and causes confusion between military strength and national power, the latter being the ability to actually produce a desired effect. It is a good and lucid book and should be read."—William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, 16 April 2009



"Here is a book that Dwight D. Eisenhower—the general and the president—would have greatly admired. Like Ike, Christopher Preble has a keen appreciation for the limits of military power, for the consequences of its misuse, and for the dangers of militarization. The Power Problem is simply terrific."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism



"Those who believe that U.S. military power alone can protect our national security should read Christopher Preble's The Power Problem very carefully. By analyzing the costs and benefits of using military power, Preble provides a useful guide that policymakers and the American public should consider before sending our troops into harm's way."—Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress



"This extremely important book could not be more timely. Should the United States pursue 'military dominance'—Christopher Preble, a traditional conservative, courageously challenges the conventional wisdom. This thoughtful, tightly argued work is rich in insight and useful information and should be required reading for every member of Congress."—Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra University

"Christopher Preble compellingly argues that America's recent predisposition toward deploying force rather than more subtly using the mystique of limitless ability that only superpowers can wield is hurting its interests and place in the world. The Obama administration is inheriting a nation wounded by a 'power problem' after the exposure of key limits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Preble's book is must reading for the Obama team and others if they want to understand why American power is slipping and what can be done to reverse this worrisome reality."—Steve Clemons, Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation, and publisher, The Washington Note



"Christopher Preble skillfully analyzes the enormous and unaffordable economic and moral costs of our national security apparatus. He also shows that the cosmetic steps likely to be taken to reform the behemoth will fail. The basis of real reform, reducing the muscle-bound military colossus commensurate with a new grand strategy of prudence and restraint, is not what most liberal and conservative policy poo-bahs in Washington have in mind. Preble provides a useful guide to those truly interested in change, and he raises important questions for those who are going to wait for the wreckage to become obvious even to them."—Winslow T. Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information

"Christopher Preble offers a provocative challenge to the presumption—prevalent among liberal internationalists as well as conservative interventionists since the earliest days of the post-Cold War era—that the world welcomes America's global military presence and that chaos would ensue if the United States were to step back from serving as a global sheriff. With striking clarity of logic and command of current American policy, he makes a strong case that American policy makers routinely allow ambitions to exceed even the awesome military might of a sole superpower—with the result that America is less safe and less free than necessary. The Obama administration would do well to carefully consider Preble's solution to this 'power problem': a more humble grand strategy based on a more realistic balance of America's power and foreign policy commitments."—Robert A. Pape, University of Chicago, author of Bombing to Win

From the Back Cover

"Here is a book that Dwight D. Eisenhower--the general and the president--would have greatly admired. Like Ike, Christopher Preble has a keen appreciation for the limits of military power, for the consequences of its misuse, and for the dangers of militarization. The Power Problem is simply terrific."--Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. .......................................................................................................................<P>.................................................................................................................. "Those who believe that U.S. military power alone can protect our national security should read Christopher Preble's The Power Problem very carefully. By analyzing the costs and benefits of using military power, Preble provides a useful guide that policymakers and the American public should consider before sending our troops into harm's way."--Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress....................................................................................................................... <P>............................................................................................................................ "This extremely important book could not be more timely. Should the United States pursue 'military dominance'? Christopher Preble, a traditional conservative, courageously challenges the conventional wisdom. This thoughtful, tightly argued work is rich in insight and useful information and should be required reading for every member of Congress."--Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra University..................................................................................................................... <P>............................................................................................................................ "Christopher Preble compellingly argues that America's recent predisposition toward deploying force rather than more subtly using the mystique of limitless ability that only superpowers can wield is hurting its interests and place in the world. The Obama administration is inheriting a nation wounded by a 'power problem' after the exposure of key limits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Preble's book is must reading for the Obama team and others if they want to understand why American power is slipping and what can be done to reverse this worrisome reality."--Steve Clemons, Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation, and publisher, The Washington Note....................................................................................................................... <P>........................................................................................................................ "Christopher Preble skillfully analyzes the enormous and unaffordable economic and moral costs of our national security apparatus. He also shows that the cosmetic steps likely to be taken to reform the behemoth will fail. The basis of real reform, reducing the muscle-bound military colossus commensurate with a new grand strategy of prudence and restraint, is not what most liberal and conservative policy poo-bahs in Washington have in mind. Preble provides a useful guide to those truly interested in change, and he raises important questions for those who are going to wait for the wreckage to become obvious even to them."--Winslow T. Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.................................................................................................................... <P>............................................................................................................................... "Christopher Preble offers a provocative challenge to the presumption--prevalent among liberal internationalists as well as conservative interventionists since the earliest days of the post-Cold War era--that the world welcomes America's global military presence and that chaos would ensue if the United States were to step back from serving as a global sheriff. With striking clarity of logic and command of current American policy, he makes a strong case that American policy makers routinely allow ambitions to exceed even the awesome military might of a sole superpower--with the result that America is less safe and less free than necessary. The Obama administration would do well to carefully consider Preble's solution to this 'power problem': a more humble grand strategy based on a more realistic balance of America's power and foreign policy commitments."--Robert A. Pape, University of Chicago, author of Bombing to Win

More About the Author

Christopher A. Preble (1967-) is the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at The Cato Institute. In addition to his books, Preble has published over 100 articles in major publications including USA Today, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reason, the National Interest, the Foreign Service Journal, and the Harvard International Review. He has also appeared on many television and radio news networks including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, NPR, and the BBC. Before joining Cato in February 2003, he taught history at St. Cloud State University and Temple University. Preble was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of the Gulf War, having served onboard USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) from 1990 to 1993. Preble holds a Ph.D. in history from Temple University, and a BA in history from George Washington University.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By James T. Ranney on April 27, 2009
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As a long-time peace activist, I was amazed that a person who is both a Navy veteran and a member of the somewhat conservative Cato Institute could write such a thoroughly stirring indictment of excesses of military spending. Moreover, it is not only a cogent and timely update of the classic work of the likes of Seymour Melman, it is also, more importantly, a very thoughtful larger argument against our "out there" posture all over the world. While those who are big on R2P (responsibility to protect) may have a basis to argue with his conclusions in this area (I might also), this is just too great a book to pass up. I wish it could be read by everyone in congress.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence A Haines on May 1, 2009
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A clearly written and clearly explained discussion of the problem of being the world's policeman. The USA has in fact become such and is spending its resources curiously without any compensation from the rest of the world. A sad state of affairs that needs correcting.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Preble, a former naval officer, believes that the end of the Cold War left American leaders "unconstrained by the fear" of a rival superpower and ultimately led to the costly misadventure in Iraq. "We should reduce our military power in order to be more secure" is Preble's argument in "The Power Problem." He also contends that the most important lesson of the Cold War was that strength is not merely a function of military power. Military intervention often makes a bad situation worse - eg. troops left after the 1991 Gulf War I helped lead to 9/11, and we are now accepting recruits who only a few years ago would have been turned away. Meanwhile, the defense budget has grown more than 12%/year since 2001 as we play a role both as the world's sole policeman and its armed social worker. We now spend more on the military, inflation-adjusted, than at any point during the Cold War. Over 267,000 in the military are deployed in over 100 countries, plus thousands more at sea. It's 2008 budget devoted over $76 billion to R&D, more than the entire defense budgets of France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the U.K. We also have approximately 24 million living veterans.

The total that the U.S. spends on national defense goes beyond the Department of Defense. The request for FY 2009 was $515.4 billion, but missed the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, operations related to the War on Terror, $17.1 billion in the Department of Energy for care of our nuclear weapons, Homeland Security ($40.1 billion FY 2009), the VA ($91.3 billion), military retirement ($12.1 billion) carried in the Treasury Department, and unfunded liabilities to repair and replace equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Preble estimates the true total as about $800 billion - about 5.5% of GDP.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Fulmore on February 18, 2011
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Currently, there is a great debate over the difference between military spending and defense spending. This book gives the reader some valuable insight on this debate. The thesis of the book is that we have been spending way more than we should have on our military, and that we have been taking on much more world responsibility that we have been asked to take on. It would be better for our country and we would be more secure if we were to reduce our military power and commitments.

Sarah Palin would have done well to have mastered this book before being asked about the "Bush Doctrine" by Katie Couric, as there is a great deal of documentation about the road to the military policy eventually adopted by President George W. Bush.

With hindsight, it is relatively easy to agree with the author on what the policy of our country should be relative to our military and its power and responsibilities: "We should deploy forces abroad only when there are vital U.S. security interests at stake; when there is a clear and attainable mission; when there is broad public support; and when there is a clear understanding of what constitutes victory; and, therefore, when our forces can leave."

But, as it is, and by our choice, via our ex-President George W. Bush, today, our military is clearly superior to any competitor in the world. If nothing else, we have the numbers: nearly 300 naval vessels, including submarines; more than 1,100 aircraft just under the Navy; about 336,000 men or women in the active-duty Air Force; more than 186,000 in the Marines; and nearly 600,000 in the Army. And, in 2008, we spent more just in "research, development, testing, and evaluation" than the total amount spent by several other developed countries on their entire defense budgets.
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Reader on February 25, 2010
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This is a very good book, with one glaring omission: our entanglement with Israel. The idea that we are involved in other countries' affairs to our great detriment should be plain to every American since the debacle in Iraq and the mess-that-will-never-end in Afghanistan, but the author doesn't say a word about the problems our support for Israel has created for us.

Preble explains in very informative detail what it is costing us to keep bases and ships at the ready to defend a great many countries. For example, we are pledged to defend Taiwan and Japan in the event of an attack by China, and we still have troops in Korea and Germany. All these countries are able to spend a fraction of what we spend on defense because the American taxpayer is paying for THEIR defense.

The author supports his arguments with sufficient detail to be very convincing. For example, America spent $2,065 (2007) per person for defense while Japan spent $340 and Germany $430. Ask yourself what we are getting for our money. As he points out in quantitative detail, not the schools, not the roads, and not the bridges we need. Certainly, not the health care.

My problem with this book is that he avoids any discussion of our main entanglement: Israel. Our abiding support for Israel is costing us dearly in many areas of foreign relations (another war, this time with Iran?) and domestic policy. Preble certainly doesn't discuss Israel's involvement in our domestic affairs, but see the books of Grant F. Smith for detailed treatment of this subject.

The whole of the Muslim world and a good part of the civilized world hate us for ignoring the realities of Gaza. Forget the nonsense about "the special relationship" and "our shared values and and common interests" with Israel.
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