BOUND TO LEAD: The Changing Nature of American Power by

BOUND TO LEAD: The Changing Nature of American Power

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A timely case is made against the currently fashionable theory that America is in decline. Nye, a Harvard professor who was a former Deputy to the Undersecretary of State in the late 70's, offers a well-reasoned, if not entirely convincing, refutation to Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. ""The United States is likely to remain the leading power"" in the next century, Nye states, ""yet it will have to cope with unprecedented problems of interdependence that no great power can solve by itself,"" since ""ecology, drugs, AIDS, terrorism--involve a diffusion of power away"" from great states to lesser states and private entities like multinational corporations. This ""critical new dimension in world politics"" is the test that America must master to maintain its status among great powers far into the 21st century. The problem, as the author sees it, is more one of national will (hampered by inapplicable theories of decline) than it is a lessened US economic and military capacity. Classical models of geo-political decline like Kennedy's are only parttially applicable, Nye feels, to the new international, multipolar world politics now evolving. In his most critical and astute reasoning, Nye maintains--with a wealth of well-explained data--that US ""decline"" has been relative only to the rise of the postwar powers, Japan and West Germany. The US predictably lost its 1940's relative preeminence in military and economic affairs, but this should not be seen as ""decline"" because in absolute terms the US has steadily maintained a convincing share of the world market. Its military commitments do not outstrip economic capacity. Nye is cautiously optimistic; his critics see the statistics differently, and view the current US domestic problems as more intractable. A provocative, if not completely persuasive, argument from Nye (Fateful Vision, 1988, etc.) against the pessimism of Kennedy and others.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1990
Publisher: Basic Books