The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone

The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone

The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone

The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone

Synopsis

Not since the Roman Empire has any nation had as much economic, cultural, and military power as the United States does today. Yet, as has become all too evident through the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the impending threat of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iraq, that power is not enough to solve global problems--like terrorism, environmental degradation, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction--without involving other nations. Here Joseph S. Nye, Jr. focuses on the rise of these and other new challenges and explains clearly why America must adopt a more cooperative engagement with the rest of the world.

Excerpt

The tragedy on September 11, 2001, was a wake-up call for Americans. We became complacent during the 1990s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, no country could match or balance us. We had unsurpassed global military, economic, and cultural power. The Gulf War at the beginning of the decade was an easy victory; and at the end of the decade, we bombed Serbia without suffering a single casualty. The economy grew and the stock market boomed. We resembled Britain in its mid-Victorian glory, but with even greater global reach.

But Americans were largely indifferent and uncertain about how to shape a foreign policy to guide this power. Polls showed the American public focused on domestic affairs and paying little attention to the rest of the world. Between 1989 and 2000, the television networks closed foreign bureaus and cut their foreign news content by twothirds. TV executives found that “young adults cared more about the Zone diet than the subtleties of Middle East diplomacy.” The president of MSNBC blamed “a national fog of materialism and disinterest and avoidance.” And many of those Americans who did pay attention to foreign policy became arrogant about our power, arguing that we did not need to heed other nations. We seemed both invincible and invulnerable.

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