ÜBERPOWER by Josef Joffe


The Imperial Temptation of America
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A European explains why American primacy in the 21st century will be natural, provided that it is conservative.

Joffe, publisher and editor of Die Zeit and a fellow of Stanford’s Hoover Institute, offers particularly valuable insights on the subject of anti-Americanism. It’s more than mere opposition to American policy, he avers. Anti-Americanism is an obsessive concern with the United States, seen as ubiquitous and everywhere culpable. Like anti-Semitism, with which it is increasingly blended, it is an attack on modernity. The scope of anti-Americanism increased when the Cold War ended and American primacy became a fact. Matters worsened when the Bush Administration restated American foreign policy in revolutionary terms. The United States has not legitimated itself as a universal revolutionary force, Joffe contends, but its older role as a global provider of “international public goods” still has the prospect of longevity. Neither China nor the European Union is likely to outpace America economically in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the U.S. is the only power with substantial interests in both the “Berlin-Berkeley Axis” (i.e., the West: states shifting from manufacturing to information-driven production, a world of “defanged nationalism”) and the strife-ridden “Baghdad-Beijing Axis,” along which individual states compensate for their variously inadequate levels of economic development by preaching various forms of murderous nationalism or ethnic tribalism. For more than a century, American policy has been concerned not with possession but with a stabilizing structure of multilateral agreements and an alphabet soup of international organizations. Joffe suggests that the U.S. should continue to promote such stability in the future by combining two different but fundamentally compatible strategies: England’s centuries-long policy of staying aloof from continental entanglements unless one power became threateningly predominant, and Bismarck’s 19th-century efforts to entangle all of Europe in alliances that would discourage other states from ganging up on Germany. Joffe’s model is plausible, his arguments persuasive.

Makes a witty case for how the world ought to work.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-393-06135-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2006