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The World America Made Hardcover – February 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"The book makes the case that the nation’s decline is a myth, a reaction to the financial crisis of 2008 rather than to any genuine geopolitical shifts." —The New York Times
"These ideas struck a chord with a President accused of leading a great American retreat."
—Michael Crowley, Time
"Kagan paints with a broad brush, sprinkling a memorable metaphor here, a striking simile there . . . He provides a compelling demonstration that whether it's protecting the sea lanes vital for free trade or nudging societies toward democracy, the world stands a better chance with America in prime position than with China or Russia in the lead." —The New York Times Book Review   

"[Marco] Rubio's foreign-policy views have evidently been recently shaped by a reading of Robert Kagan's The World America Made, a much-discussed refutation of the now-popular notion of American decline. As a Romney advisor who has penned bedside reading for President Barack Obama, Kagan could plausibly claim to be the most prominently cited writer in Washington right now." —Foreign Policy Magazine

"Intelligent, cogent, and timely." —Publishers Weekly

"At once a robust defence of the role America plays in world affairs and a determined rejection of the 'myth' that America is in decline." —Financial Times

"Serious, scholarly . . . [These are] ideas expressed clearly and consicely." —David Ignatius, Washington Post Writers Group  

"An extended and convincing argument against the thesis that there is anything inevitable about American decline." — Max Boot, Commentary 
"The foreign policy blueprint for the next Republican president." —Senator Marco Rubio
"Kagan grabs the reader’s attention from page one . . . He makes a powerful point: If America were to make a serious effort to disengage in world affairs, the world quickly would devolve into a much more scary and dangerous place . . . If you have time to read just one book, I suggest Kagan’s."  —Major General Perry Smith

"Magisterial . . . It's a small book, it's a great book."  —Bill Bennett
"Very important . . . A wonderful book."  —Hugh Hewitt
"A must-read."  —Lou Dobbs

About the Author

Robert Kagan is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for The Washington Post. He is also the author of The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Dangerous Nation, Of Paradise and Power, and A Twilight Struggle. Kagan served in the U.S. State Department from 1984 to 1988. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307961311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307961310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Kagan's major argument is that all the talk of American decline shows little knowledge and perspective in regard to the various historical situations and realities the United States has been through. `Decline' as he sees it is not an inevitability but a choice and one great danger is that accepting the conventional wisdom regarding America's alleged decline will help promote it.
To argue against inevitable U.S. decline Kagan assesses the present situation of the United States and defines it in a different way from most other commentators. He maintains that the United States still has one- quarter of the world`s GDP- the same figure that it has had over the past three decades. The single great unusual point was after World War Two where it had fifty percent of the world product. Kagan notes that the U.S decline is often compared with the British Empire decline though late nineteeth and early twentieth century Britain had a rapid fall in share of global GDP of a kind the U.S. has never known.
On the military front Kagan argues that the U.S. remains far superior to any potential rival. He notes that it ,contrary to common opinion, has a far smaller percentage of its population serving overseas than it did in the sixties and seventies. He points out that the U.S. has a far superior array of military technologies than any potential rival. This military superiority is vital to the U.S. being the key provider in a more secure and prosperous world. i.e. Kagan's argument is not only that U.S. power is not in decline, it is that U.S. power is beneficial to the peoples of the world, and in fact makes the world- system operate in a far better way than it would were any other power to be its leader. In this Kagan clearly suggests that those who preach U.S.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MoseyOn on July 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The core idea underlying Robert Kagan's short book is straightforward: Any world order is dependent, both for its formulation and for its maintenance, on the most powerful state or states of the day. The current world order is largely a creation of postwar American power. Kagan's main question, then, is two-fold. First, is America in decline, as much contemporary commentary suggests? And if it is, can it be supposed that the current economic, ideological, and security order--based on the primacy of liberal democracy and free-trade, free-market economies--would continue if American power or influence were eclipsed? Kagan's answer is no, not because of anything special about America, but simply because any world order is a reflection of its strongest powers. Kagan was a foreign policy adviser to John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, and apparently to Mitt Romney now, but it would be wrong to assume that he is narrowly partisan. Kagan sits on Secretary of State Clinton's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and President Obama (we are told) has been an eager student of his work. In this book, he is both complimentary and critical of Republican as well as Democratic presidents. He is looking not at any specific policies as much as he is looking at structures. This is not to say that his views are not informed by ideology. Correctly or not, some have identified him with the neoconservative strain in American foreign policy thinking. Whether or not that is accurate (Kagan rejects it), there is certainly an ideology at work in his writings. It is conservative, but it is not constrained by the demands of narrow partisanship.

Early in the book, Kagan nicely captures the ambiguities and ambivalences in the American character and national mythology.
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38 of 54 people found the following review helpful By William Whipple III VINE VOICE on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some people think the United States spends far too much on its armed forces out of a misguided desire to be the world's policeman. Spend half as much, eliminate most of the foreign bases, bring our troops home. And guess what - other nations will pick up the slack and life will go on. Meanwhile, we can do some "nation building" in this country.

This book by a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution paints a different picture. In Robert Kagan's view, US preeminence since the breakup of the USSR has been a good thing for both our country and the world. Among the benefits: continued freedom from major wars, a trend towards democratic governments, and relatively free trade that contributes to global prosperity.

The idea that the US has already begun a decline is mistaken, says the author, and stem from two misperceptions. Aside from the situation immediately after World War II, the US never enjoyed as much power as some people now "remember." Also, recent disappointment with results of the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan and economic reverses have skewed perceptions of the longer-term situation. This country has encountered many setbacks over the years, as in the 1970s with the end of the War in Vietnam and the oil crisis, and come back stronger than ever.

Let there be no mistake, moreover, that the US could reduce its military forces and foster a multi-polar world without adverse consequences. History shows that any world order depends on the existence and if necessary use of military power; the leading nations will not voluntarily subordinate their ambitions to someone else's notion of the greater good. Likely results of US decline would be less democracy in the world, more barriers to trade, and far more risk of major wars.
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