In This Review

Seeing the Elephant: The U.S. Role in Global Security
Seeing the Elephant: The U.S. Role in Global Security
By Hans Binnendijk and Richard Kugler
Potomac Books, 2007, 336 pp

Binnendijk and Kugler have come up with an original approach to providing a guide to the international literature on the post-Cold War world. The idea is that by taking stock of the various interpretations of the contemporary international system and the United States' role within it, a relatively complete picture might be drawn, just like in the Buddhist fable in which a number of blind men report on different parts of an elephant. Rather than relying on the categories of contemporary international relations, they draw on the classical political philosophies of Hobbes and Kant, who can stand, respectively, for realist pessimism and idealist optimism. After covering the broader views of where the world is heading, there is a narrower focus on what the United States might do about it. Students will find this wonderful -- there are manageable summaries of the ideas of luminaries such as Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and John Mearsheimer -- but it has to be hoped that it will whet the reader's appetite for more. Given the focus, it is not surprising that those cited are either American or work in the United States, but it might have been useful to go farther afield.