Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

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9781400034185: Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

From Robert Kagan, a leading scholar of American foreign policy, comes an insightful analysis of the state of European and American foreign relations. At a time when relations between the United States and Europe are at their lowest ebb since World War II, this brief but cogent book is essential reading. Kagan forces both sides to see themselves through the eyes of the other. Europe, he argues, has moved beyond power into a self-contained world of laws, rules, and negotiation, while America operates in a “Hobbesian” world where rules and laws are unreliable and military force is often necessary.

Tracing how this state of affairs came into being over the past fifty years and fearlessly exploring its ramifications for the future, Kagan reveals the shape of the new transatlantic relationship. The result is a book that promises to be as enduringly influential as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

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At a time when relations between the United States and Europe are at their lowest ebb since World War II, this brief but cogent book is essential reading. Robert Kagan, a leading scholar of American foreign policy, forces both sides to see themselves through the eyes of the other. Europe, he argues, has moved beyond power into a self-contained world of laws, rules, and negotiation, while America operates in a “Hobbesian” world where rules and laws are unreliable and military force is often necessary.

Tracing how this state of affairs came into being over the past fifty years and fearlessly exploring its ramifications for the future, Kagan reveals the shape of the new transatlantic relationship. The result is a book that promises to be as enduringly influential as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations.

Review:

From its opening-line salvo—"It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world"— Of Paradise and Power announces a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Europe. Robert Kagan begins this illuminating essay by laying out the general differences as he sees them: the U.S. is quicker to use military force, less patient with diplomacy, and more willing to coerce (or bribe) other nations in order to get a desired result. Europe, on the other hand, places greater emphasis on diplomacy, takes a much longer view of history and problem solving, and has greater faith in international law and cooperation. Kagan does not view these differences as the result of innate national character, but as a time-honored historical reality--the U.S. is merely behaving like the powerful nation it is, just as the great European nations once did when they ruled the world. Now, Europe must act multilaterally because it has no choice. The "UN Security Council is a substitute for the power they lack," he writes.

Kagan also emphasizes the inherent ironies present in the relationship. European nations have enjoyed an "American security guarantee" for nearly 60 years, allowing them to cut back on defense spending while criticizing the U.S. for not doing the same. Yet Europe relies upon the U.S. for protection. This has led America and Europe to view the same threats much differently, as evidenced by the split over how to deal with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Kagan points out that some European leaders are more afraid of how the U.S. will wield its power in the Middle East than they are of the thought of Hussein or other "rogue state" leaders acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Kagan’s brevity is as impressive as it is appreciated; most writers would have required thrice as many pages to get to their point. At any length, the book is nothing short of brilliant. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand the post-Cold War world. --Shawn Carkonen

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