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Lawrence Freedman’s massive, ambitious new book, Strategy, offers a personal take on an important term, one so overused that it has become almost meaningless.
This superb book is Kennedy’s best. His simple but striking proposition is that the Allied victory rested not only on the work of grand strategists in presidential cabinets and high military commands but also on the efforts of middle managers, such as the logisticians, engineers, and operational analysts who addressed the major obstacles to success.
The United States is spreading its aid and efforts too thin in the developing world. It should focus on a small number of "pivotal states": countries whose fate determines the survival and success of the surrounding region and ultimately the stability of the international system. The list should include Mexico, Brazil, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia. A discriminating strategy for shoring up the developing world is a wise way to address traditional security threats and new transnational issues; it might be thought of as the new, improved domino theory. If effective, it could forestall the move in Congress to wipe out nearly all foreign aid.
People need an international system for security of many kinds. But the United Nations today is precariously funded, stretched thin by an unprecedented number of peacekeeping missions, and generally underequipped to deal with the rising demand for its services. Reform is necessary for the middle-aged organization. States touchy about sovereignty and interest groups pushing their agendas must sink their differences and work out a plan to revitalize the world body. They might consider giving it an independent source of income and some standing troops for enforcement power.
Paul Kennedy has followed his Rise and Fall of the Great Powers with an even gloomier prophecy. The major global trends underway-demographic and technological- portend trouble for both nations and individuals. If Kennedy is right, the future looks bad. If he is wrong, it may look worse.
Professor Kennedy, a British scholar translated to New Haven, has written a massive book around a grand theme: the relation between the rise and fall of major powers over the past five centuries and the shifts in their relative economic strength and technological virtuosity. It is both a work of historical analysis, in which the author seeks to discern recurrent patterns upon which to base defensible generalizations, and a policy prescription, notably for the United States. Understandably, it is the latter strand that is receiving current attention; but before examining Kennedy's advice it is worth surveying briefly the other dimensions of his work.