Monday, June 12, 2006

Taming American Power

Along with Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God and Jonathan D. Spence's Mao Zedong (a brief Penguin Lives biography), I'm currently reading Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy by Stephen M. Walt. It is a very good analysis of the problems posed by the United States' post-Cold War position in the world. It reminds me that, for all of its limitations, realism has much to recommend it as a framework for the analysis of foreign policy. Walt's book is also a reminder, however, that modern realism involves much more than power politics. It borrows a good deal, in fact, from the post-World War II liberal internationalism with which it was engaged in the "Great Debate" of the 1950s and 1960s. Power politics may be central to Walt's analysis, but questions about American values appear over and over again in the book.