Birth of a New World: An Open Moment for International Leadership; Toward Managed Peace: The National Security Interests of the United States, 1759 to the Present; A Search for Enemies: America's Alliance After the Cold War

In This Review

Birth of a New World: An Open Moment for International Leadership

By Harlan Cleveland
Jossey-Brass, 1993
282 pp. $25.95
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Toward Managed Peace: The National Security Interests of the United States, 1759 to the Present

By Eugene V. Rostow
Yale University Press, 1993
383 pp. $35.00
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A Search for Enemies: America's Alliance After the Cold War

By Ted Galen Carpenter
CATO Institute, 1992
238 pp. $22.95
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These very different books frame the debate about America's post-Cold War role. Carpenter's is a clear statement of longtime CATO Institute wisdom--America's alliances abroad are costly and entangling--perhaps made wiser by the end of the Soviet Union. The world will be messy but without a "hegemonic rival," thus the United States can afford to be the "balancer of last resort," not retreating to isolation but declaring "strategic independence," shedding burdens, not sharing them.

Cleveland and Rostow, both committed internationalists, notable scholars as well as distinguished practitioners, start from very different vantage points but arrive at visions that are, intriguingly, perhaps not so far apart. Cleveland begins with the information revolution, which has rendered "top-down" reform all but impossible and drained capability from nation-states. Yet his optimistic call for a "third try" at some international order comes back to the recognition that "for the foreseeable future, world affairs will be dominated by a comparatively few postindustrial states." These, a "coalition of the willing," may be able, as in Iraq, to agree on actions even if their motivations differ; they will act "within the U.N. Charter but outside its procedures," with the United States as "chairman of the executive committee" if it can get its own house in order.

Rostow, in the first of a projected three-volume series on foreign affairs, concludes that America is served by "a pluralist system of world public order, based on a balance of power and regulated by law." As in Britain a century and a half ago, the building blocks of order and the rule of law are congenial to the United States. Power politics is not a part of America's rhetoric but very much a part of its history. His general guidance is to sustain a concert of great powers if possible, a balance of power among them if not. His specific lesson is not to repeat the West's World War I mistake--then permitting Russia's fall to Bolshevism, now letting it fall again into dictatorship or xenophobia.