[At the End of the American Century: America's Role in the Post-Cold War World]

Article excerpt

In the ten years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, students of international relations (IR) have been unsuccessful in reaching a consensus regarding the new rules of the international political system. For some forty years, the nature of the cold war stand-off was unambiguous, especially from the perspectives of the two competing superpowers. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this is no longer the case, and decision-makers in the majority of countries are grappling with the consequences. The End of the American Century is a wide ranging attempt to outline the difficulties government leaders in Washington, DC, face as they try to operate in an international system that has so far defied description and useful characterization.

This volume, edited by Robert Hutchings, is an interesting departure from many other works devoted to exploring the new eta of international relations in that its contributors are not only IR experts. Hutchings makes it clear in his Introduction that he deliberately solicited contributions from individuals with professional backgrounds other than in international political science or law, such as private business leaders, so that fresh voices might be heard in the ongoing, at times circular, debate over the role of the United States in the post-cold war period. The result is a revealing and useful book which sheds a great deal of light on just how deep the schism is within American society when it comes to deciding what the 'national interests' should be in United States foreign policy, let alone how to achieve them.

The book is logically organized into four parts. Part one examines the roots of the competing impulses in United States foreign policy: isolation and engagement. …