The book argues essentially that these geopolitical and historical theories are dangerous oversimplifications. Above all that the unipolar interpretation of the soviet collapse was a serious misreading of the world that is in fact evolving. To begin with the actual cold war system was itself more complicated than the bipolar imagery implies. It was an error to see two blocks each dominated by superpower and dividing the whole world between them. The real world was already increasingly plural in the so called soviet sphere for example, China and Russia were often close to war throughout most of the cold war. In fact China and India were both determined to develop after the war in a third world where they could establish firm control over their own national systems before being drawn into a global economy. So that when they did open up and join the world so to speak, they did so not as colonial satellites but as [???] superpowers. In the West meanwhile, the European relationship was always finally balanced during the European, American relationship. Europe enlisted American military power of course to balance Soviet military power with the formulation of the European economic community, the forerunner was EU as you all know. In the 1950s, Europe also set out to balance American economic power and on the whole they succeeded very well in doing this and particularly with the opening of [???] as a general western policy. In the 1960s European states began to use soviet political power to balance American political power. The result was a set of relationships, which I think are more accurately described as tripolar rather than bipolar, a set of *Atlantic relationships. From this perspective the collapse of the Soviet Union did not so much cement America’s hegemony over Europe as it removed the need for it.
Europe no longer depending on the US for its security could look forward to a more collaborative relationship with a new Russia and meanwhile of course by 1991 China was already an Asian superpower. In this plural system in the making, America’s unipolar world was bound to be increasingly dysfunctional. Indeed it threatened to pit the United States against all the world’s newly rising powers against the Chinese in Asia, against the Europeans in Europe, against the Russians in their own [???], against Muslims in the middle east. All these people and many more had dreams of their own for the next century and America’s unipolar aspirations seemed inhospitable to them all and it is not surprise then that ever since the soviet demise the united states has grown progressively isolated and embattled with growing distortions to our own national constitution and overstretch and ruin for our economy. Pointing to an unworthy [???] for our country’s own noble [???] experiment with democracy, anyway that is the broad argument in particular in the book for its chapter. The next two chapters illustrate the dysfunctional world view in action in two regions central to American foreign policy, chapter 3 the Middle East, chapter 4 deals with Europe. Now I suppose before we go on this an obvious question to be answered. The question is hasn’t all this changed with the election of 2008 or even you might say the election of 2006, the congressional elections. Well for what it is worth, a critical argument throughout the book is that the democrats themselves are often strongly attracted to the unipolar vision. They reject not so much Bush’s view of America’s world role as the way he conducted that role as we know Obama now is pressing for a major new effort in Afghanistan spilling over into Pakistan.
This isn’t altogether on promising project. In effect both parties are caught in this unipolar mindset where setbacks are the result of tactical mismanagement rather than strategic overstretch. As a result unless it seems to me the unipolar fantasy is itself exposed, is pulled out and seen for what it is and repudiated, the United States governed by either party will remain bound to an imperial vocation and in that sense Bush will prove to have been the elections real victor. Anyway chapters 2 and 3, well let me say another issue I suppose is does this mean that the alternative for the United States is to be an isolationist America. The answer is obviously not. The United States is the world’s single greatest power, it will have a deciding role to play in the foreseeable future, but it is a role that we have to learn to play with greater respect for the ambitions of other great powers and lesser powers as well and in a fashion with a restraint that allows us to sustain our own constitutional balances develop our own national community and not mortgage our economy far into the future. Anyway these two chapters deal with the Middle East and with Europe and chapters, the European chapter concludes my asking why do we follow his path? What are the assumptions that inform and substantiate this unipolar role and the world view that goes with it. I come up with four assumptions, that America’s soft power is irresistible that America’s hard power is incomparably superior that America’s economic power is invulnerable to the overstretch that has regularly defeated the hegemonic ambitions of other great powers and that America’s global ambition and power are recognized by others as intrinsically legitimate. Anyway chapters 4, 5, and 6, which is the book’s second part examined these assumptions.