Paradox of American Power Term Paper

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Paradox of American power is an interesting account of America's rise to the status of super power where Joseph Nye explains why America's lone ranger approach can no longer work in today's world. The author has extremely impressive credentials, which lends more credibility to his research and his work as a political analyst is greatly appreciated. Joseph Nye Jr. is "currently the dean at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, he was, during the Clinton Administration, chairman of the National Intelligence Council and an Assistant Defense Secretary. He also has a reputation as a prognosticator. In 1989, he wrote a contrarian but prescient book called Bound to Lead, which explained why the then-ailing U.S. would ultimately succeed against Japan, which looked like an invincible industrial giant. This time, though, Nye's crystal ball portends ill for the U.S." (Crock, 2002)

With such amazing credentials and extremely powerful rack record, it is only obvious that Joseph Nye wouldn't write a book based on assumptions alone and for this reason, he conducts an in-depth research to explain why he believes America must win the support of other countries in order not to antagonize other powerful forces. The book is divided into five well researched chapters: the American colossus, the information revolution, globalization, the home front, and redefining the national interest and each chapter focuses on various reasons why America must no longer forge ahead without the support of his allies and other powerful countries. Quoting a French analyst, Dominique Moisi, Nye writes what forms the crux of this book: "The global age has not changed the fact that nothing in the world can be done without the United States. And the multiplicity of actors means that there is very little the United States can achieve alone."

In the first chapter, the author clearly makes a distinction between soft power and hard power to prove that a both are required for a superpower to go it alone, but while America can be called a master in hard power, it doesn't have complete superiority in soft power. Here it is important to understand that by hard power, Joseph Nye refers to various aspects of military and political superiority that makes American such an imposing country, while soft power is mainly connected with culture and grass-root values and beliefs. Walker (2002) in his review of the book writes: "Nye describes military, economic, and cultural or "soft" power as three different levels in a three-dimensional chess game. On the military level, the U.S. has unquestioned superiority. On the economic level, it has great strength - although Europe and Asia represent counterweights. It is on the cultural level, the "soft power" level, that things have changed the most. The information revolution has been a great leveler: Anyone with a website and a good argument has a much better opportunity to affect the public agenda than ever before."

The issue of 'soft power' dominates the book and almost all chapters after the first one elaborate on what exactly forms the soft power. Nye maintains that soft power is the result of massive technological revolution, which has given everyone, access to information which was previously available to handful of individuals. With this new information explosion, people with intelligence and an ability to start or counter an argument has a chance to influence major world decisions. He cites the example of landmines treaty, which was basically the result of efforts made by small groups of activists and intellectuals. The most amazing thing about this treaty is that it materialized "despite the opposition of the Pentagon, the strongest bureaucracy in the strongest country in the world,"

Nye believes that America is not far behind when it comes to soft power but what it lacks is an ability to apply it carefully and tactfully. Along with that, he feels, America has also failed to realize the significance of soft power and has so far been ruling the world political scene with hard power alone. We see America forging ahead with its decisions purely due to its military might and this has become more prominent during Bush administration. President has been on a military spree since he came to power without understanding the consequences of employing hard power without ever trying to negotiate with soft power techniques. In this connection Nye quotes French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine: "Americans are so powerful because they can 'inspire the dreams and desires of others, thanks to the mastery of global images through films and television and because, for these same reasons, large numbers of students from other countries come to the United States to finish their studies.' "

The second and third chapters of the book are more geared towards explanation of reasons why American must make greater use of its soft power instead of its hard power to win the support of other countries and when negotiations are in progress. He believes that that in the age of information technology when almost every person with a point-of-view can be heard across continents, it is senseless to assume that America can keep employing its lone ranger techniques and move ahead with its plans. Joseph Nye maintains that it is clear from examples in recent past that when America fails to use soft power and always employs its military might, it annoys other countries and deliberately pushes them farther away. In other words, America must not play the big bully on the world political stage or it is sure to alienate other powers. This is what happened after Iraq war ended and America tried to explain to everyone why it went to war but despite its many efforts it failed to win people's support. In fact the harder it tried, the more it turned countries against it stance. Judt (2002) makes an interesting point in his review of the book, "...Washington's opposition to the International Criminal Court does so much damage [because] It suggests that the U.S. does not trust the rest of the world to treat Americans fairly. But if America displays a lack of trust in others, the time may come when they will return the compliment."

The furor against British policies and the rage against economic slow down at home are indications of what happens when America tries to play the 'Bully' and stomps on other countries with its massive military strength. This unlitarialism will not work in the wrong run is the message that comes across from the fourth chapter where the author discusses America's policies and the reaction they generate at home. He writes: "To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, the United States will benefit from the trends of this global information age, even though pockets of reaction and fundamentalism will persist and react in some countries. But there is a danger that we may obscure the deeper message of our values through arrogance and unilateralism." On the home front, Americans woke up to the existence of a bigger world out there with the terrorist attacks of September 1. Prior to that, Nye maintains, they had no idea what was going on in the Middle east or if such a place even existed. In his review of the book, Shimshon Arad (2002) writes: "Nye also makes the case that - certainly prior to 9/11 - Americans were focusing on domestic rather than foreign affairs. Between 1989 and 2000, TV networks closed foreign bureaus and cut their international news content by two- thirds. "Young adults cared more about the Zone diet than the subtleties of Middle East diplomacy," says Nye."

The last chapter of the book talks about the significance of redefining national interest and what does the Bush administration mean by the term.…[continue]

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