Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Three views of American power

The inescapable foreign-policy issue for U.S. presidential candidates this year is whether American power is declining and, if so, what to do about it. This strategic conundrum lies behind every challenge the U.S. faces, from Egypt to Afghanistan to China.

For your election-year reading table, I recommend three new books that tee up this question of American power and offer different conclusions. If candidates could honestly debate the issues raised in these books, maybe we could get beyond the slogan-filled evocations of the past — the idealized “shining city on the hill” — and frame policies that fit the real world.

My book-club selections are “The World America Made,” by Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution; “Liberal Leviathan” by John Ikenberry of Princeton; and “No One’s World,” by Charles Kupchan of Georgetown.

These are serious, scholarly books, but they go to questions that every voter can understand: Is America’s position in the world eroding? Can the U.S. bounce back, and what’s the right recovery strategy? Or is the liberal international order we’ve known since 1945 giving way to something different and disorderly, no matter what we do? Read more......

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