The Imperial Temptation

In This Review

The Imperial Temptation

By Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1991
228 pp. $22.50
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Analyzing the post-Cold War era and the new world order is rapidly becoming a cottage industry. This volume will surely rank as one of the best; it has the virtue of dissecting not only the significance of American policy at the end of the Cold War but the meaning of the Gulf War as well. The authors suggest that the end of the Cold War and the opening of a new world order were characterized by decline in the utility of the use of force alongside the growth of economic power as a determinant of policy. The Gulf War, which the authors believe Bush sought from the beginning of the crisis, contradicted the concept of a new order; the result was to exalt the use of force as an essential element of world order. The authors fear that the swift success of the Gulf War will tempt America to a new imperialism: a sort of neo-Wilsonian order, but imposed by the very means Wilson wanted to disavow. The policy emerging from the Gulf War, they argue, amounts to the functional equivalent of "global containment" in the name of high principles, but at the expense of the American tradition: to use force with moderation and restraint, only if absolutely necessary.