All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-first Century and the Future of American Power

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All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-first Century and the Future of American Power
By Thomas J. Wright
Yale University Press, 2017
288 pp.

If the U.S.-led liberal international order erodes, what will take its place? In this smart book, Wright argues that the world is slowly inching back to its normal state of great-power competition and zero-sum conflict. What many observers saw as a post–Cold War global victory of liberalism and multilateral cooperation was, in Wright’s realist interpretation, just the temporary dominance of the United States and its ideas. China and Russia were never on a path toward liberal democracy; they were simply waiting until they were strong enough to push back against the West. Wright contends that the triumphalist liberal narrative omits the fact that for large parts of the non-Western world, ethnic and nationalist traditions have been strengthened and not weakened by the forces of globalization. In the coming era of geopolitical competition, he warns, multilateral cooperation will recede and the United States will lose its grip on global institutions. Curiously, despite this bleak prognosis, Wright argues against a U.S. grand strategy of offshore balancing or of managing regional spheres of influence. He argues instead for a strategy of “responsible competition,” in which Washington would seek to preserve the international liberal order and would step up its diplomacy, alliance maintenance, and deep engagement with the world

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