The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might

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The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might

By Nancy Soderberg
Wiley, 2004
432 pp. $27.95

Soderberg, a Clinton administration insider who held high-level positions on the National Security Council and at the UN, offers an appraisal of Clinton-and Bush-era foreign policy. She recounts the internal policy debates and decisions of the Clinton years, as the administration struggled to blend diplomacy and the use of force in a sequence of trouble spots and played peacemaker in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. Her basic thesis is that after initial missteps in Haiti and Somalia and bruising lessons learned in Bosnia, the Clinton team eventually found an effective combination of diplomacy and force that led to success in Kosovo and the emergence of the United States as the indispensable superpower. The deeper story is of Washington's struggle to define a grand strategy for the post-Cold War world. Soderberg thinks that the Clinton administration succeeded in articulating a strategic vision-not defined by a single principle but a blend of realism and liberal activism, a "nuanced policy of tough engagement." Underplaying the commonalities between the two administrations, she contrasts this with Bush's hegemonic approach, which, built on a radical overestimation of U.S. capabilities, has led to a failed adventure in Iraq and dangerous anti-Americanism around the world.

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