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Review Essay

Overpowered?

Questioning the Wisdom of American Restraint

In This Review

Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray -- and How to Return to Reality
Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray -- and How to Return to Reality
By Jack F. Matlock Jr.
Yale University Press, 2010, 368 pp. $30.00 Purchase
The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics
The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics
By Giulio M. Gallarotti
Lynne Rienner, 2010, 2,007 pp. $22.00 Purchase
The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free
The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free
By Christopher A. Preble
Cornell University Press, 2009, 232 pp. $25.00 Purchase

"Money can't buy happiness," the old saying goes, and anyone who doubts that this is sometimes true should conduct a Google search for "lottery winners horror stories." He or she will find accounts of people for whom a great financial windfall led to misery, bankruptcy, and even suicide. In international relations, power is the equivalent of money -- highly desired, actively sought, and eagerly used. The theme of three new books about power and U.S. foreign policy is that as with money, so with power: a great deal of it does not necessarily bring success.

It can even have the opposite effect. Powerful countries can and do carry out foreign policies that fail, making them less prosperous, less respected, and, ultimately, less powerful. In each of the books, the prime example of the dangers of power, the equivalent of the lottery winners destroyed by riches, is the United States

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In This Review

Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray -- and How to Return to Reality
Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray -- and How to Return to Reality
By Jack F. Matlock Jr.
Yale University Press, 2010, 368 pp. $30.00 Purchase
The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics
The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics
By Giulio M. Gallarotti
Lynne Rienner, 2010, 2,007 pp. $22.00 Purchase
The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free
The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free
By Christopher A. Preble
Cornell University Press, 2009, 232 pp. $25.00 Purchase

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