Are there limits to American power? The neoconservative brain trust behind the Bush administration don't seem to recognize any. After the cold war, many Americanson both sides of the aislehave come to mistakenly believe that the United States has become powerful enough to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, without regard to allies, costs, or results. But as events in Iraq are proving, America may be incredibly powerful, but it is not all powerful.
Drawing on her eight years as a high-ranking official in the Clinton administration, Nancy Soderberg takes you behind the scenes in the highest echelons of government to examine how the president and his advisors responded to the challenge of shaping a new foreign policy for the postcold war era. She cites personal recollections, recently declassified documents, and interviews with the principals involved in these decisions to provide insight into the decision-making process that all presidents faceoften in crisis situations without complete information and with lives hanging in the balance.
Soderberg carefully contrasts Clinton's approachas it evolved from a shaky start in Somalia and Haiti, through peacemaking efforts in Ireland and the Middle East, to a carefully crafted blend of diplomacy, force, leadership, and cooperation in Bosnia and Kosovowith Bush's embrace of the superpower myth, which holds that America is powerful enough to bend the world to its will, largely through unilateral force, whether that goal is spreading democracy, ending terrorism, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining homeland security, or creating peace. The only uncertainty the Bush administration feels it facesis when and where to act.
As The Superpower Myth makes startlingly clear, no country, in practice, could ever be strong enough to solve problems like Somalia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan through purely military means. In the future, America's power will constantly be called upon to help failed and failing states, and it is becoming clear that the complex mess of Somalia (and now Iraq) has replaced the proxy war of Vietnam as the model for what future military conflicts will look like: a failed state, a power vacuum, armed factions, and enough chaos to threaten an entire region. Using vivid examples from her years in the White House and at the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg demonstrates why military force alone is not always effective, why allies and consensus-building are crucial, and how the current administration's faulty worldview has adversely affected policies toward Israel, Iraq, North Korea, Haiti, Africa, and al Qaeda.
Powerful, provocative, and persuasive, this timely book demonstrates that the future of America's security depends on overcoming the superpower myth.
Soderberg, a Clinton administration insider who held high-level positions on the National Security Council and at the UN, offers an appraisal of Clinton-and Bush-era foreign policy. She recounts the internal policy debates and decisions of the Clinton years, as the administration struggled to blend diplomacy and the use of force in a sequence of trouble spots and played peacemaker in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. Her basic thesis is that after initial missteps in Haiti and Somalia and bruising lessons learned in Bosnia, the Clinton team eventually found an effective combination of diplomacy and force that led to success in Kosovo and the emergence of the United States as the indispensable superpower. The deeper story is of Washington's struggle to define a grand strategy for the post-Cold War world. Soderberg thinks that the Clinton administration succeeded in articulating a strategic vision-not defined by a single principle but a blend of realism and liberal activism, a "nuanced policy of tough engagement." Underplaying the commonalities between the two administrations, she contrasts this with Bush's hegemonic approach, which, built on a radical overestimation of U.S. capabilities, has led to a failed adventure in Iraq and dangerous anti-Americanism around the world.