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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Book Review: “Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order”

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The author of this book Robert Kagan, an American foreign policy advisor and the leading advocate for liberal interventionism, has attempted to explicate the different approaches that America and the European nations have taken towards the conduct of foreign policy by giving the insightful analysis of the state of European and American foreign relations.

He argues that the two have different philosophical outlooks on the use of power, which are the natural consequence of the United States’ possession of power and the Europeans’ lack of it.

In a section of his book titled “The Post-modern Paradise”, he cogently discusses that Europe has moved beyond the power system of old politics into a self-contained world of laws, rules, negotiations, diplomacy, inducements rather than sanctions and compromise rather than confrontation and has systematically embraced a strategic culture of peace in international relations.

The author says, “Europeans have stepped out of the Hobbesian world of anarchy into the Kantian world of perpetual peace”.

Contrary to this, America operates in a Hobbesian world where the rules and laws are unreliable and the military force is often necessary and has basically continued on the path that it has been on certainly for the past six decades, if not the past four centuries.

Since the 19th century, the hegemony that America established within the Western hemisphere has become a permanent characteristic of the international relations. As a result, in confronting contemporary international problems, America now believes in the use of force more than Europe.

According to The New York Times:

“Kagan is an ideal position to dissect what is wrong in the United States-European relationship and why. He does so with a surgeon’s skill, stripping away layer after layer to reveal what in the end is a remarkable conclusion.”

By focusing on the demo-graphic trends in America and Europe, he has highlighted that not only the European economy will be half the size of the American economy by 2050 but Europe will also be less able to spend on the defense because a significant proportion of its resources will have to be spent caring for elderly dependents.

By tracing how this state of affairs came into being over the past fifty years and fearlessly exploring its ramifications for the future, he reveals the shape of the new transatlantic relationship. The inescapable conclusion of these demographic trends is that America will continue to be more powerful than Europe and the existing transatlantic schisms between America and Europe will continue to escalate.

Another surprising implication of Kagan’s discussion is that America must live by a double standard. It must sometimes act unilaterally not out of a passion for unilateralism but only because of Europe that has moved beyond the power, the United States has no choice but to act unilaterally.

Kagan emphasizes both sides to perceive themselves through the eyes of the each other. As far as the conduct of foreign policy in the future is concerned, Kagan is perhaps too pessimistic about Europe and too optimistic about America. He pays scant attention to the problems within America that may prevent it from effectively continuing to be the sole hegemon in the future.

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Author is currently acquiring MPhil - International Relations at School of Politics & International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam university, Islamabad. Her Areas of Interest include; Non Traditional Security (NTS) Challenges, Escalating Regional as well as Global Insecurities, Diplomacy, Governance, Policy making and Foreign Policy.

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