Follies of Power: America's Unipolar Fantasy

In This Review

Follies of Power: America's Unipolar Fantasy
By David P. Calleo
Cambridge University Press, 2009
188 pp. $30.00

Calleo argues that American foreign policy elites after the Cold War, instead of guiding the world to a stable system of balance, restraint, and shared leadership, quickly became enamored with the idea of "global hegemony." Clinton-era foreign policy focused on economic hegemony and the expansion of NATO, and the George W. Bush administration recast the pursuit of unipolar dominance in terms of the "war on terror," militarizing its diplomacy and transforming the United States from the "world's favorite protector into its leading disturber of the peace." Calleo singles out the neoconservatives for criticism, but he also thinks that the "unipolar fantasy" is a more general feature of the American political imagination. Due to the United States' declining economic and soft power, he concludes that the gap between grand visions of hegemonic dominance and national power will only grow. The book's most interesting arguments are about Europe and its role in redirecting Washington toward the pursuit of a more collaborative -- or even confederal -- interstate system in which a coalition of power centers takes the lead. Follies of Power provides one of the most elegant statements yet in favor of a U.S. strategy of retrenchment. But it fails to reflect on the liberal features of U.S. hegemony -- support for rules and an open world system -- which are still in demand.

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