History Strikes Back: How States, Nations, and Conflicts Are Shaping the Twenty-first Century

In This Review

History Strikes Back: How States, Nations, and Conflicts Are Shaping the Twenty-first Century
By Hubert Vedrine
Brookings Institution Press, 2008
160 pp. $22.95
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When a French Socialist calls the United States a "hyperpower," most Americans assume he is an ideologue -- or just jealous. Yet this thoughtful book by the former French foreign minister who coined the phrase and opposed the Iraq war is no rant. It is a sober plea for what Védrine terms "smart realpolitik," on which he thinks the United States and Europe could agree. National cultures and interests inevitably diverge, so international problems, he argues, are not best solved by imposing democracy. Instead, countries must strike tough-minded deals with foreign governments, whether those governments are likable or not. Védrine believes that stronger multilateral institutions, which many Europeans dream of, often undermine national capacities. And so, he says, naive EU federalists should not push a constitution or Turkish membership; European defense cooperation would be more useful. Védrine is not always so sure-footed: his pan-European referendum would be unruly, his solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute remains vague, and, like many in France, he overemphasizes military power. Overall, however, his analysis is balanced and lucid.