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The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
"Unilateralism, arrogance, and parochialism" the U.S. must abandon these traits in a post-Sept. 11 world, says Nye, former assistant secretary of defense and now dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He explains eloquently the principles he believes should govern American foreign policy in the decades ahead. His starting point is the preponderance of American power in today's world. Nye distinguishes between hard power (military and economic strength) and soft power (openness, prosperity and similar values that persuade and attract rather than coerce others). Nye argues that a dominant state needs both kinds of power, and that the current information revolution and the related phenomenon of globalization call for the exercise of soft more than hard power. It is, Nye believes, dangerous for the U.S. systematically to opt out of treaties and conventions endorsed by the great majority of nations. The U.S. should participate in world debate on transnational issues such as global warming and nuclear defense, not simply declare American interests paramount to the exclusion of all other views. Nye quotes a summarizing insight from a French critic: "nothing in the world can be done without the United States, [A]nd... there is very little the United States can achieve alone." As the author points out, in the aftermath of September 11, the policy issues this book addresses are magnified rather than diminished in importance. This reasoned and timely essay on the uses of power makes a valuable contribution to American public discourse. (Mar.)Forecast: Blurbs by Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger highlight that this should be required reading for foreign policy wonks. Oxford is backing this with a $50,000 marketing budget and is counting on major media attention. Still, whether this finds a wider audience may depend on whether Americans' interest in the world at large survives six months after September 11.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Nye, former assistant secretary of defense under Clinton and current dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, offers a prescription for America's new role in the world that calls for a broader, more responsible, and cooperative relationship with the rest of the world. Nye sees September 11 as a "wake-up call" to Americans that negates our decade-long sense of invincibility and invulnerability in the wake of the invisible power now held by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and stealthy terrorist organizations. The main instigator of this dissipation of traditional American power is the technological revolution, which has been diffusing power away from governments during the post-Soviet decade and thus empowering individuals and groups to act globally in ways that were previously the domain of governments. Nye calls upon the U.S. to counter these forces by the use of "soft power," by which he means, for instance, a more focused and intelligent use of new forms of mass communications. A very thoughtful look ahead at American power through this century. Allen Weakland
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Among the strategic thoughts that I found most valuable were these: 1) a plenitude of information leads to a poverty of attention; 2) in the absence of time or means to actually review real-world information, politics becomes a contest of competitive credibility (with the Internet changing the rules of the game somewhat); 3) Japan has vital lessons to teach Islamic nations--that one can adapt to the new world while maintaining a unique culture; 4) we are failing to adapt our democratic processes to the challenges of the Earth as well as the opportunities of the Internet.
This last merits special attention. I found in this book an intellectual and political argument for restoring democratic meaning to our national policies. From its evaluation of the pernicious effect of special interest groups on foreign policy; to its explanation ("When the majority are indifferent, they leave the battlefields of foreign policy to those with special interests."); to its prescription for healthy policies: a combination of national discussion (not just polling), with a proper respect for the opinions of others (e.g. foreigners), the author clearly sets himself apart from those who would devise national policies in secret meetings with a few preferred pals.
Throughout the book, but not given any special chapter as I would have preferred, the author is clearly cognizant of the enormous non-traditional challenges facing the community of nations--not just terrorism and crime, but fundamentals such as water and energy shortages, disease, genocide, proliferation, trade injustices, etcetera.
Operationally, the book is slightly disappointing. Despite the fact that the author has served as both the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (and perhaps left the operational bit to his Vice Chairman, Greg Treverton, whose book, "Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information" I recommend be read in conjunction with this one), and as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, I did not see two things in this book that would have bridged the gap from strategic reflection to operational implementation:
1) How must we change the manner in which our nation handles information? What should our national information strategy be, to include not only a vast new program for properly collecting, processing, and understanding foreign language materials that are openly available, for but improving our K-12 and undergraduate education with respect to foreign affairs?
2) How must we change the manner in which our nation authorizes, appropriates, allocates, and obligates the taxpayer budget? While noting that we spend 16 times as much on military hard power as we do on diplomatic soft power, the author left this issue largely on a single page.
On the topic of values and accountability the author excelled. Although I would disagree that values by themselves are the foundation of national power ("knowing" the world, in my view, is the other side of the coin of the realm), the author sounds very much like Noam Chomsky with a social make-over--we have to be honest on human rights and other core values, and not act nor permit our corporations to act in ways that are antithetical to our true national commitment to decency and honesty. The section on new forms of accountability and transparency being made possible by changing in information tools and practices are valuable--admitting non-governmental organizations to all bodies; accelerating the release of records into the public domain, and so on.
We learn from this book that the author is an avid admirer of The Economist, that he thrives on Op-Ed reading (I have never seen a more comprehensive use of Op-Eds in the notes), and that he is largely accepting of the World Trade Organization and other multi-lateral groups, most of which have not yet accommodated themselves to the new world of citizen-centered policymaking. As good as the notes are, the book would have benefited from a bibliography. The index is acceptable.
If we part ways on any one thing, it would be that I am less sanguine about any foreign policy, however much it might use "soft power," being successful if it persists with the notion that we can cajole and seduce the world into wanting what we want. We've done that with Hollywood, and McDonalds, and chlorine-based plastics, and it is not working to our advantage. It may be that America must first recognize its own demons, adjust its global goals accordingly, and interact with the world rather than striving for a grander version of the "Office of Strategic Influence" that recently got laughed into oblivion. We appear to agree that the U.S. Information Agency must be restored as our two-way channel between our people and all others. I would dramatically expand USIA to also provide for a Global Knowledge Foundation and a Digital Marshall Plan on the one hand, and the education of all women on the other (Cf O'Hanlon's "A Half-Penny on the Federal Dollar").
This book opens the great conversation, and in doing so, renders a valuable service. Missing from the public conversation is the Department of State. Both the politically-appointed and the professionally-trained leadership of the diplomatic service appear to have been cowed into silence by a mis-placed coda that confuses abject compliance with loyalty to the larger national interest. If this book can draw State back into the public service, into a public debate on the urgency of protecting and expanding our most important soft power tools, then the author's ultimate impact on the future of American security and prosperity will be inestimable.
Nye says, among other things, that the world is no longer the realm of an unipolar power (USA). According to him, it is necessary to distinguish three dimensions of power.
The first dimension is interstate military issues, and it is dominated by USA. We can say that this dimension of power is unipolar. However, there are other dimensions: the economic one, and the dimension regarding transnational issues.
The economic dimension of power deals with interstate economic issues, and has many important actors (for example the EU, Japan, and other relevant players). Nye highlights the fact that this second dimension is multipolar: USA needs the cooperation of other states, in order to achive its objectives.
Finally, the third dimension takes into account transnational issues such as global warming and and terrorism. In this case the structure of power is disperse, and the number of relevant state and nonstate increases exponentially.
Joseph Nye Jr. also says that the importance of the military dimension, that involves hard power, is likely to diminish in the future. On the other hand, he predicts that the relevance of the other two dimensions, more soft power oriented, is going to increase, due to many factors (for example, the information revolution). However, a state has to take into account not only soft power but also hard power in order to achieve success in its policies.
He also tries to make the idea of the three dimensions of power more easily understandable by comparing power to a three-dimensional chessboard, where you have to play in the three dimensions if you want to win. The problem, according to him, is that USA is increasingly paying attention only to the military dimension of power, and due to that it is likely to have more than a few problems in the long term. A onedimensional player in a three dimensional game can only lose...
On the whole, a very good book that can help you to understand better what is happening today ... Recommended !!!