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The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century Hardcover – October 29, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title alone makes it clear how controversial this book promises to be in the present climate. That all great nations must fall is a historical fact of central importance to Kupchan's distinctive and provocative version of 21st-century geopolitics. A former National Security Council staffer and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Kupchan eloquently describes the historical trends and long-term patterns within European and American foreign policy that help reinforce his projections detailing the end of the American era. He devotes much of his book to explaining and subsequently refuting alternative views of the future from other famed political analysts such as Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington and Thomas Friedman. Kupchan unequivocally states, "Each of the visions has its merits, but all of them are wrong." According to Kupchan, most of these accounts subscribe to an unrealistic worldview that has America remaining the sole power in a "unipolar" world. Kupchan asserts that the rise of the European Union coupled with the emergence of a strengthened Asia will create a serious challenge to America's primacy, and that new fault lines will emerge around these multiple centers of power, creating a new cycle of history. With a belief that America will contribute to its own demise with the current "go-it-alone impulses" of American policy makers, he warns the U.S. to shy away from an isolationist policy that could alienate potential partners. Given most recent foreign policy developments, Kupchan's book should be more relevant-and more roundly criticized-than ever.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

While the author was working in geopolitics for the Clinton administration, his academic peers were musing on the subject, trying to map the world's new fault lines after the cold war. After critiquing high-profile books by Francis Fukuyama, John Mearsheimer, and Samuel Huntington as inaccurate (calling them either unduly grim or unduly sanguine), Kupchan declares the school of thought he hails from: realism. This would warm the heart of Henry Kissinger, who thought the U.S. should accommodate an allegedly increasingly powerful USSR; now Kupchan assigns the role of rising power to the European Union (China is secondary to the EU in his view). Provocatively embedding his argument in examinations of historical power shifts, like those provoked by the unification of Germany in 1871 or the British Empire's adjustment to America circa 1900, Kupchan argues that American preeminence is dangerous to sustain, because it is in fact unsustainable. Given his insight about the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy, public policy types will want to weigh Kupchan's wonkish warnings. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412158
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,557,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Almost everyone agrees the current U.S. ascendancy in global politics is temporary. Even conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer says Americans should enjoy their current geopolitical dominance because it will not last. In "The End of the American Era," Charles Kupchan also thinks that American dominance is temporary and believes a strategy is needed by which the U.S. transfers some of its global responsibilities to other emerging powers.
He begins his book by addressing the shortcomings of other recent major conceptual frameworks of global politics as conceived by Frances Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Paul Kennedy and Robert Kaplan (who Kupchan groups together), John Mearsheimer, and Thomas Friedman. The flaw in all of these thinkers, according to Kupchan, is that none of them have recognized the most important fundamentals of the present global system, which is America's current overwhelming power and the fact that its hegemony cannot last.
If the U.S. is in decline, who will take its place? Kupchan believes a united Europe is rising and that East Asia (China and Japan) is not far behind. In this global environment, and because of U.S. domestic tendencies towards isolationism, he thinks a grand strategy is necessary for the U.S. to smoothly make the transition from a unipolar world to a multipolar one. While Kupchan is not entirely clear about the timing of this transition, in at least one area of the book he says Europe is about a decade away from forming a credible alternative axis of world power and East Asia about three decades away. Other countries - mostly Russia, sometimes India - are also mentioned in places throughout the book as potential poles, but without much detail.
Europe is the main object of Kupchan's attention.
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Format: Hardcover
Everyone interested in world affairs should read Mr. Kupchan's brilliant analysis of America's future challenges to its position and role in the world.
One thing should be clarified based on comments/reviews I have heard or read about this book: in my opinion it is not about what country or set of countries will replace the United States as the only world superpower, it is about how the U.S. should accompany and help shape a more stable world as new world powers rise.
In response to a previous review:
As a European citizen, I believe that the E.U. will be a superpower (but not the only one) once its constitutional foundations have been laid.
Contrary to the author of a previous review full of clichés and misunderstandings about the EU, I know that the EU has the economical, technological and human potential to compete on the world stage with the US (and anybody else in the world). However, I do not see how the EU could replace the US as the only superpower: it has neither the will nor the interest to do so.
Anyway, in 50 years the US will probably have less to worry about the EU than about China, India or, why not, some kind of new pan-Arabic federation ... depending on how it shapes the world today.
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Format: Hardcover
The advent of Europe and America's reluctant internationalism (followed by a withdrawal from international affairs) are going to be the defining moments of this century. America ought to be come to grips with this reality and prepare for the inevitable, by ensuring that no major war breaks out as a result of this emerging multipolarity.
That is the image of the future conjured up by Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University, in the "End of the American Era." The thesis is built on a historical journey, which turns out to be both an asset and a liability -- at times, history captures the reader and elucidates contemporary trends; often, the historical narratives seem irrelevant, over-emphasized or under-analyzed (i.e. distorted to support a hypothesis rather than used to form one). And, the recitation of obvious or familiar points is likely to bore those with a sound background in foreign policy.
If the geopolitical image painted in this book is interesting, the geo-economic one is less so. That is mainly because Professor Kupchan has spent little to no time analyzing economics -- either in their own might, or in their relation to international politics. Where economic analysis is found, it is usually too superficial to impress.
The books' recommendations -- broadly speaking, multilateralism and humility in conducing foreign policy -- are neither novel nor counterintuitive. The highpoint rests in the rationale Professor Kupchan provides for his policies: the inevitability of America's relative decline and the need for the United States to ensure a peaceful transition rather than try hold on to its power indefinitely. Whether anyone in Washington takes these ideas at heart is a whole other story, especially since implementing his ideas could be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
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Format: Hardcover
The End of the American Era deals with a crucial and very timely task. It endeavors to find a 'grand strategy' for the United States in an era of power transition in years or decades to come.
It is by and large about peaceful change of international order, which is highly going to be shaped by American policies. Kupchan's work is remarkable as it makes an effort to bridge theory, history and present time. It draws attention to power or balance of power in international politics. This realist base, however, is also complemented by liberal notions of strategic restrain and the need for international cooperation. In this sense, Kupchan's analysis is based upon a mixture of realist-liberal framework. Moreover, Kupchan makes several policy recommendations for current American foreign policy. He criticizes unilateralist drives of the Bush administration, which lead to counter-balancing behavior against the United States by major powers in international system. For this reason, the author recommends American foreign policy elites to follow strategic restrain for the sake of peaceful change of international order as well as the on behalf of American interests.
This book is a well-written and timely one on American foreign policy and it is highly recommended for students of international relations and American foreign policy. Alike, this book is recommended for the informed public. No doubt, Kupchan's work seems to remain as an important key to understand the potential implications of the current Iraqi crisis on the relations between the United States and other major powers.
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