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The superpower myth : the use and misuse of American might /
Nancy Soderberg.
imprint
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley, c2005.
description
xii, 404 p.
ISBN
0471656836 (cloth)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley, c2005.
isbn
0471656836 (cloth)
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
5356489
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Nancy Soderberg is now a Vice President at the International Crisis Group
Excerpts
Flap Copy
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 Americans-on both sides of the aisle-have 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 post-cold 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 face-often in crisis situations without complete information and with lives hanging in the balance. Soderberg carefully contrasts Clinton's approach-as 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 Kosovo-with 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 faces is 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.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-12-06:
A former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Clinton foreign policy adviser, Soderberg offers this cogent study of the unilateralism that she believes has taken over American foreign policy and military intervention. The argument that ignoring U.S. allies (and even neutrals) interferes with the administration's own stated goals of peace and increased democracy is familiar, but Soderberg's deep knowledge of the mechanics of diplomacy, as well as of the players and issues, allows her to assess recent moves in depth: the book carries more than 1,150 footnotes. Along the way, we get a defense of Clinton's actions toward bin Laden (and other Clintonian policies) and various swipes at neoconservatives and neoconservative doctrine). Some readers will feel that Soderberg's rehashing of interventions in Somalia and the Balkans do not argue for multilateralism as a guarantee of improved politicomilitary outcomes. And the negative views of the "New Europe" on the aspirations of the Franco-German-Russian axis are not much taken into account-though everything from the Oslo accords to troubles in Haiti is. But as a file from the opposition on the current administration's tactics, this is a satisfying document. Agent, Andrew Stuart. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-02-15:
Soderberg was part of the White House foreign policy staff during the Clinton administration. In this analysis, she compares and contrasts the international styles of the Clinton and current Bush administrations, drawing on her work diaries and files and extensive media articles. The largest part of the book is devoted to terrorism and Iraq. While Soderberg praises and criticizes both administrations, her preferences are clear. In her view, the Bush foreign policy team seeks a military solution first, as if a state achieves superpower status solely by its armed might; this approach represents a regression to the darkest days of the Cold War. In her opinion, emerging issues (e.g., nonstate terrorist groups and diseases like HIV/AIDS) cannot be solved with weapons alone by one country. This thoughtful, informed analysis belongs in academic libraries.-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
* Nancy Soderberg, currently with the International Crisis Group, offers a more conventional take on U.S. grand strategy in The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might . She urges the United States to find the right balance between isolationism and global dominion, arguing that Americans must accept that U.S. leadership is essential to maintaining global order while also resisting the myth of U.S. omnipotence. Her policy recommendations -- "tough engagement"; working "in concert with the international community, rather than clashing with it"; and using "force as a last, not first resort" -- are sensible and put The Superpower Myth in line with other liberal and centrist critiques of the Bush administration. One of the greatest strengths of Soderberg's book is her insider's account of many of the seminal events of the 1990s. From 1993-96, Soderberg was a high-ranking official on President Clinton's National Security Council (where I also worked from 1993 to early 1994). She then served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations until 2001. These perches gave Soderberg a bird's-eye view of such critical issues as intervention in the Balkans and Haiti and U.S. efforts to combat al Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden. Although she is sometimes a bit too easy on her former bosses, her narrative provides valuable material on the considerations and personalities that shaped policy. While her accounts do not offer stunning revelations, they do provide important new detail, illuminating, for example, the tortured debates over intervention in Bosnia and Clinton's effort to overcome the post-Vietnam aversion to limited war. ( The Washington Post , April 3, 2005) Unilateral big-stick carrying may seem well and good to the "hegemons" in the Bush administration, writes erstwhile Clinton advisor Soderberg, but it hasn't made the world safer or better. In the tradition of Clinton and other Democratic leaders (John Kerry comes to mind), the author argues that the way for the White House to win friends and influence people abroad is to build strong international alliances and share the burden of promoting peace and order with our partners. The Bush administration had the chance to extend the Clinton approach in addressing recent events, she continues, and did so to some extent in Afghanistan. But it chose to do otherwise after the fall of the Taliban. The present administration's insistence on going to war in Iraq "will prove to be a test of the myth of the hegemon's view of America's role as a superpower," writes Soderberg, who contends that going it alone in the modern world leads to isolation and the accumulation of enemies. The Superpower Myth has some interesting moments, as when the author recounts the 1993 attack on American soldiers in Somalia so ably depicted in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down (1999). Soderberg describes a livid Bill Clinton demanding to know what had gone wrong, letting a few heads roll as a result, then taking charge of his own foreign policy. Lessons learned: Don't allow Pentagon types to go unquestioned, and don't allow the United Nations to lead American troops into battle. The second lesson has become an article of rhetorical faith among politicos, but the first has been lost on the onetime cold warriors of Ford and Reagan vintage who now serve Bush II. The point is well taken, but Soderberg's arguments swim in a sea of dreary detail; her narrative is less a book than an extended white paper, with all the requisite problem-describing, pundit-quoting, and policy-recommending. May set a think-tank denizen's pulse racing, but won't do much for general readers with a concern for America's role in the world. ( Kirkus Reviews , December 1, 2004)
"... some interesting moments". ( Kirkus Reviews , December 1, 2004)
Nancy Soderberg, currently with the International Crisis Group, offers a more conventional take on U.S. grand strategy in The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might . She urges the United States to find the right balance between isolationism and global dominion, arguing that Americans must accept that U.S. leadership is essential to maintaining global order while also resisting the myth of U.S. omnipotence. Her policy recommendations -- "tough engagement"; working "in concert with the international community, rather than clashing with it"; and using "force as a last, not first resort" -- are sensible and put The Superpower Myth in line with other liberal and centrist critiques of the Bush administration. One of the greatest strengths of Soderberg's book is her insider's account of many of the seminal events of the 1990s. From 1993-96, Soderberg was a high-ranking official on President Clinton's National Security Council (where I also worked from 1993 to early 1994). She then served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations until 2001. These perches gave Soderberg a bird's-eye view of such critical issues as intervention in the Balkans and Haiti and U.S. efforts to combat al Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden. Although she is sometimes a bit too easy on her former bosses, her narrative provides valuable material on the considerations and personalities that shaped policy. While her accounts do not offer stunning revelations, they do provide important new detail, illuminating, for example, the tortured debates over intervention in Bosnia and Clinton's effort to overcome the post-Vietnam aversion to limited war. ( The Washington Post , April 3, 2005) Unilateral big-stick carrying may seem well and good to the "hegemons" in the Bush administration, writes erstwhile Clinton advisor Soderberg, but it hasn't made the world safer or better. In the tradition of Clinton and other Democratic leaders (John Kerry comes to mind), the author argues that the way for the White House to win friends and influence people abroad is to build strong international alliances and share the burden of promoting peace and order with our partners. The Bush administration had the chance to extend the Clinton approach in addressing recent events, she continues, and did so to some extent in Afghanistan. But it chose to do otherwise after the fall of the Taliban. The present administration's insistence on going to war in Iraq "will prove to be a test of the myth of the hegemon's view of America's role as a superpower," writes Soderberg, who contends that going it alone in the modern world leads to isolation and the accumulation of enemies. The Superpower Myth has some interesting moments, as when the author recounts the 1993 attack on American soldiers in Somalia so ably depicted in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down (1999). Soderberg describes a livid Bill Clinton demanding to know what had gone wrong, letting a few heads roll as a result, then taking charge of his own foreign policy. Lessons learned: Don't allow Pentagon types to go unquestioned, and don't allow the United Nations to lead American troops into battle. The second lesson has become an article of rhetorical faith among politicos, but the first has been lost on the onetime cold warriors of Ford and Reagan vintage who now serve Bush II. The point is well taken, but Soderberg's arguments swim in a sea of dreary detail; her narrative is less a book than an extended white paper, with all the requisite problem-describing, pundit-quoting, and policy-recommending. May set a think-tank denizen's pulse racing, but won't do much for general readers with a concern for America's role in the world. ( Kirkus Reviews , December 1, 2004)
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, December 2004
Booklist, February 2005
Library Journal, February 2005
Wall Street Journal, March 2005
Washington Post, April 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Back Cover Copy
Praise for The Superpower Myth "What America can-and cannot-accomplish purely on its own has become the central question of U.S. foreign policy. Nancy Soderberg offers a sensible, hard-headed, realistic alternative to the excesses of America's Iraq-era dealings with the world." -James Fallows, National Correspondent The Atlantic Monthly "Both a memoir and analysis, this fascinating account by a White House insider tells how to marshal the full strength of American power beyond our unrivalled military." -Joseph S. Nye Jr., author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics "In The Superpower Myth, Nancy Soderberg tackles the most important question the United States has faced since the end of the cold war: how and to what end do we use our military and economic supremacy? Her argument shows, among other things, how George W. Bush ignored the answers that the Clinton administration had begun to develop to this question. She provides a very useful memoir of the Clinton years and a compelling critique of the Bush administration." -John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic and author of The Folly of Empire "For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when it's in danger of breaking down." -Dr. Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State "The Superpower Myth exposes the essential fallacy of those who believe that because America is the most powerful country in the world, it can go about its business without regard for the views of others. Soderberg's argument that we must engage the world in concert with others speaks to an essential truth that we ignore at our own peril." -Ivo H. Daalder, coauthor of America Unbound
Back Cover Copy
Praise for The Superpower Myth"What America can-and cannot-accomplish purely on its own has become the central question of U.S. foreign policy. Nancy Soderberg offers a sensible, hard-headed, realistic alternative to the excesses of America's Iraq-era dealings with the world." -James Fallows, National Correspondent The Atlantic Monthly"Both a memoir and analysis, this fascinating account by a White House insider tells how to marshal the full strength of American power beyond our unrivalled military." -Joseph S. Nye Jr., author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics"In The Superpower Myth, Nancy Soderberg tackles the most important question the United States has faced since the end of the cold war: how and to what end do we use our military and economic supremacy? Her argument shows, among other things, how George W. Bush ignored the answers that the Clinton administration had begun to develop to this question. She provides a very useful memoir of the Clinton years and a compelling critique of the Bush administration." -John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic and author of The Folly of Empire"For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when it's in danger of breaking down." -Dr. Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State"The Superpower Myth exposes the essential fallacy of those who believe that because America is the most powerful country in the world, it can go about its business without regard for the views of others. Soderberg's argument that we must engage the world in concert with others speaks to an essential truth that we ignore at our own peril." -Ivo H. Daalder, coauthor of America Unbound
Bowker Data Service Summary
Using examples from her years in the White House & at the United Nations, Soderberg demonstrates why military force is not always effective, why allies & consensus-building are crucial, & how the current administration's faulty world view has adversely affected policies toward Israel, Iraq, North Korea, Haiti, Africa & Al-Qaeda.
Long Description
Praise for The Superpower Myth"What America can-and cannot-accomplish purely on its own has become the central question of U.S. foreign policy. Nancy Soderberg offers a sensible, hard-headed, realistic alternative to the excesses of Americaa's Iraq-era dealings with the world." -James Fallows, National Correspondent The Atlantic Monthly"Both a memoir and analysis, this fascinating account by a White House insider tells how to marshal the full strength of American power beyond our unrivalled military." -Joseph S. Nye Jr., author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics"In The Superpower Myth, Nancy Soderberg tackles the most important question the United States has faced since the end of the cold war: how and to what end do we use our military and economic supremacy? Her argument shows, among other things, how George W. Bush ignored the answers that the Clinton administration had begun to develop to this question. She provides a very useful memoir of the Clinton years and a compelling critique of the Bush administration." -John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic and author of The Folly of Empire"For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when ita's in danger of breaking down." -Dr. Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State "The Superpower Myth exposes the essential fallacy of those who believe that because America is the most powerful country in the world, it can go about its business without regard for the views of others. Soderberga's argument that we must engage the world in concert with others speaks to an essential truth that we ignore at our own peril." -Ivo H. Daalder, coauthor of America Unbound
Main Description
"For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when it's in danger of breaking down." -Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State Are there limits to American power? The neoconservative brain trust behind the Bush administration's foreign policy doesn't seem to recognize any. For the first time, we have people in power who believe that as the world's reigning superpower, America can do what it wants, when it wants, without regard to allies, costs, or results. But as events in Iraq are proving, America may be powerful, but it is not all-powerful. In practice, no country could ever be strong enough to solve problems like Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq through purely military means. In the future, America's power will constantly be called up to help failed and failing states, and it is becoming clear that the complex mess of Somalia 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 panic an entire region. Using vivid examples from her years in the White House and at the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg demonstrates why military force is not always effective, why allies and consensus-building are crucial, and how the current administration's faulty world view 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.
Main Description
For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when it's in danger of breaking down. Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State Are there limits to American power? The neoconservative brain trust behind the Bush administration's foreign policy doesn't seem to recognize any. For the first time, we have people in power who believe that as the world's reigning superpower, America can do what it wants, when it wants, without regard to allies, costs, or results. But as events in Iraq are proving, America may be powerful, but it is not all-powerful. In practice, no country could ever be strong enough to solve problems like Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq through purely military means. In the future, America's power will constantly be called up to help failed and failing states, and it is becoming clear that the complex mess of Somalia 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 panic an entire region. Using vivid examples from her years in the White House and at the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg demonstrates why military force is not always effective, why allies and consensus-building are crucial, and how the current administration's faulty world view 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.
Main Description
"For eight years, Nancy Soderberg served with distinction and creativity at the highest levels of American government. She is uniquely positioned to explain how the world works in this new era-and when it's in danger of breaking down." -Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State Are there limits to American power? The neoconservative brain trust behind the Bush administration's foreign policy doesn't seem to recognize any. For the first time, we have people in power who believe that as the world's reigning superpower, America can do what it wants, when it wants, without regard to allies, costs, or results. But as events in Iraq are proving, America may be powerful, but it is not all-powerful. In practice, no country could ever be strong enough to solve problems like Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq through purely military means. In the future, America's power will constantly be called up to help failed and failing states, and it is becoming clear that the complex mess of Somalia 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 panic an entire region. Using vivid examples from her years in the White House and at the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg demonstrates why military force is not always effective, why allies and consensus-building are crucial, and how the current administration's faulty world view 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. Nancy Soderberg (New York, NY) was a foreign policy advisor to Bill Clinton from the 1992 campaign through the end of his second term. From 1993 to 1996 she was the third ranking official at the National Security Council, serving as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and from 1997 to 2001 she was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She is currently the Vice President and Director of the New York office of the International Crisis Group and a foreign policy analyst for MSNBC.
Table of Contents
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Things Fall Apart
Crossing the Rubicon
Go as Peacemakers
Force and Diplomacy
A Realistic Foreign Policy?
A New Breed of Terrorists
The Myth of Invincibility
Failure to Be on a War Footing
Iraq: A Decade of Deceit
The Hegemonsa?? Failed Peace
Are We Really Going to War?
The African Intervention Gap
Winning the War on Terrorism
Lessons for the President
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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