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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


USA Foreign Policy

The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century by Charles A. Kupchan (Knopf) The conclusion of the Cold War is commonly presumed to mark the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism, bringing to a close the world’s last great ideological divide. Privileged by its commanding economic and military strength, the United States is destined to preside over this new century, clearing the way for a durable era of great-power peace and prosperity.

In a work of remarkable scope, Charles A. Kupchan exposes the flaws in this conventional wisdom, revealing that the close of the Cold War heralded not
America ’s final victory but the beginning of the demise of its global dominance. He contends that the next challenge to America is fast emerging. It comes not from the Islamic world or from an ascendant China, but from an integrating Europe , whose economy already rivals America ’s. As the European Union seeks influence commensurate with its economic status, it will inevitably rise as a counterweight to the United States. America and Europe are parting ways, the discord extending well beyond the realm of trade. Decades of strategic partnership are giving way to renewed geopolitical competition.

Kupchan argues that the unraveling of American primacy will be expedited by growing opposition at home to the country’s burdensome role as global guardian. Although temporarily reawakened by terrorism,
America ’s appetite for international engagement is on the wane; the country’s historic aversion toward foreign entanglements is making a comeback. Returning as well is America ’s fondness for unilateral action, alienating the partners with whom Washington will need to work to bring together an increasingly divided world. The impact of the digital age on U.S. society also promises to have profound effects on American politics and on the scope and nature of the country’s role in global politics.

Far from watching the end of history, we will be witnesses to the end of the American era. By deftly mining the lessons of the past to cast light on our future, Kupchan explains how the United States and the rest of the world should prepare for the more unpredictable and unstable global system that awaits. Timely and compelling, this book will take its place among the most insightful works of geopolitics.

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