The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century. (Book Reviews)

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The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century. By Charles A. Kupchan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. 336 pages. $27.95.

Even before the Cold War was over, strategic thinkers in America began a searching inquiry into the future of the United States in the era that would ensue. Early into print, two years before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, was Paul Kennedy with The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, in which he saw the United States in relative decline. Then Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the triumph of democracy in The End of History and the Last Man in 1992. Samuel Huntington cautioned the West in 1996 to prepare for The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order.

Over the next five years, Richard Haass called the United States The Reluctant Sheriff; Thomas Friedman said in The Lexus and the Olive Tree that globalization would go far toward saving the world; Robert Kaplan foresaw The Coming Anarchy; Walter Russell Mead noted the Special Providence of America; and Joseph Nye pointed to The Paradox of American Power and why the United States could not go it alone.

Now comes Charles A. Kupchan wading into the fray fearlessly, some might say brashly, to say of his predecessors: "All of them are wrong. And most of them are wrong for the same reason."

With the possible exception of Kennedy, Kupchan argues that the others have based their thinking on the mistaken belief that America's present preponderance will continue. To the contrary, says Kupchan, who was Director of European Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council in the first Clinton Administration, the United States will soon be on the way down as a world power while Europe is on the way up, to be followed closely by Asia. "America's unipolar moment and the global stability that comes with it will not last," he contends.

"Europe now has a single market, a single currency, and more frequently speaks with a single, self-confident voice," Kupchan says. "The rise of Asia may in the long term spell more trouble for the West than the return of rivalry between North America and Europe." But Europe, not Asia, he asserts, "is the near term challenger to American primacy. …