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About this book

This broad-ranging assessment of US power in the twenty-first century covers not just the nature and mechanics of foreign policy but the broad array of economic, military, political, social and ideological forces that shape America's global position and role, all set in a clear historical context.

Table of Contents

Introduction: American Power in the World

Abstract
Since the end of the Cold War, the future of American power has been much debated. The collapse of the Soviet Union ended an era where the US role in the world was well understood, and the new era saw the US as a sole superpower, and much contention in terms of what that might mean for America’s future role. Would the US become predominant or preponderant in the international system? Would the US squander its newfound power through an increasing insularity? Would challengers rise to circumvent American power? In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, such questions became even more heated. Were there new transnational threats that could undermine US power in different ways? Would the US reaction to such challenges jeopardize American legitimacy in the world? More recently, the economic crisis of 2007/08 has again brought the debates to the forefront, and with the Western capitalist system seemingly mired in continual problems, new economic challengers to American power are seen as on the rise (or as already arisen). Are we headed for a ‘post-American world’, where states such as China, India and Russia are peer competitors to the US? Is the unipolarity of the US in the international system to be replaced by a multipolar system?
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 1. The Rise of American Power

Abstract
In 1783, after the Treaty of Paris concluded the Revolutionary War against Britain, the ‘US state’ consisted of about a third of the territory of the current continental United States. This included the original thirteen states with the addition of territory to the west that was conceded by Great Britain at the end of the American Revolution. Until the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, the United States were held together in a loose confederation, and were still very much a collection of quasi-independent states. In 1803 a vast swathe of the center of the continent was purchased from France. Westward expansion continued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century until 1848, when, with the Mexican Cessation, the United States had filled territorially what we now think of as the continental United States (if not yet formally being composed of all the states existing today). While historians have long been interested in this westward expansion, what role does it play in thinking about US power and foreign policy?
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 2. American Power and International Relations

Abstract
The previous chapter accounted for the historical rise of American power, stressing key moments where there were important shifts in the practices or ideas shaping American power that are significant for understanding American power today. These historical perspectives on power and the historical narrative provide the background to the conceptual discussion in the present chapter, which will survey various views on understanding US power in international relations. The debates about power can also be better situated in historical conceptualizations of America’s role in the world, and the chapter first visits these concepts — isolationism, internationalism, realism, idealism, unilateralism, multilateralism — both as a means to bridge the previous chapter with the present, and to introduce the varied ways in which these concepts have been used to articulate differing visions of the expression of American power internationally. In the Introduction, it was argued that there are different ways of understanding both American power and power in international relations, alternative perspectives that yield distinctive analytic conclusions. The debates in the social sciences on the character of power are therefore an important starting place for a better understanding of American power. The second section of the chapter analyses these debates in more detail, presenting a four-fold typology of power that will be utilized in the rest of the book. The analysis of four types of power — compulsory, institutional, structural and productive — is necessary for a better understanding of the power resources of the US, and the chapter argues that institutional and structural power need to play a central role in any analysis of American power, past, present or future.
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 3. The Power of the State and the Foreign Policy Process

Abstract
The political power of the American state provides a focal point for American power, and therefore a discussion of its dynamics is crucial. The purpose of the present chapter is to look at political power within the US state in order to investigate the potentially fragmented character of political power and how it impacts on US power projection. Here we will open up the ‘black box’ of the state in order to better understand how decisions about foreign policy are reached and the different dynamics that help to define the kinds of actions the US takes internationally. The chapter delves into the connections between the American state and power by looking at a theory of the American state, both through its formal institutions and broader powers. Accounts of US foreign policy-making make a distinction between the impacts of international relations and the domestic decision-making context. As stated in the Introduction, the view taken here is that both are crucially important. The international level sets a crucial context, in terms of the broader array of relations the US has, the material balance of power, and sets of international institutions that provide the limits and potential for expressions of US power. However, the domestic level provides many core explanations for the expressions of material interests, the style of US foreign policy, and the actual power bases that the US draws upon.
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 4. The Evolution of Military Power: An American Way of War?

Abstract
American military power is a crucial part of its global reach. The US has the largest military spending of any country in the world, outspending the next ten biggest spenders combined (IISS, 2011). The defense budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011 was approximately $687 billion, including some $160 billion for ‘overseas contingency operations’ (OCO), mainly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The FY2012 budget was down to $645 billion, due to the decreased funding to such operations (with the FY2013 request down even further to $613.9 billion — with OCO down to $88.5) (White House, 2012a; cf. United States Department of Defense, 2012a). This spending goes not only to staff costs, but also to arming and equipping what is by far the most technologically advanced military in the world. That the US has managed since the start of the Cold War, when high peacetime military spending and a permanent large peacetime military was first established, to do this while only spending between 5 and 10 per cent of GDP on defense also shows very starkly the interlinking of economic and military power.
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 5. The Rise (and Fall?) of American Economic Power

Abstract
The economic power of the US is a prime source of its hegemony and influence in world affairs. The future of US economic leadership in the face of relative decline is potentially the most critical issue for the future of American power. Key rivals such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (the so-called ‘BRIC’ economies — though now expanded as ‘BRICS’ to include South Africa), as well as economically robust states such as Germany, continue to have strong growth and a (seemingly) relative immunity to recent economic problems. While US military power is unrivalled (if not necessarily as fungible as is sometimes thought), economic power is not. However, there remain important questions that need to be addressed to understand the present state of US economic power. First, there is a fundamental issue concerning how US economic power is expressed. Like military power, economic power should not be seen merely in terms of relative material measures such as GDP or GDP growth (as important as these are). The institutional and structural power of the US in the global economy is equally important, and understanding the various ways that this power can be analysed is crucial for answering other important questions on the future of US of power. Second, with a better understanding of the character of US economic power, we can move on to the relative durability of economic power, and whether US economic power is in terminal decline. While these issues are related, they should be seen as analytically distinct. The former tends to involve the extent to which the US can maintain leadership or hegemony over the global political economy. The latter has more to do with the mounting set of domestic crises and challenges that the US economy faces. Obviously, these are interlinked, but they do not necessarily presuppose one another.
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 6. The Power of American Values: Ideology and Identity in American Foreign Policy

Abstract
At the 2008 Democratic Presidential Convention, former US president Bill Clinton pronounced that ‘people the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power’ (Maraniss, 2008). This statement gets to the heart of the role of values in American political life, and their connection to American power in the world. Clinton’s focus on values was in many ways a rebuff to the approach of the Bush Administration, which certainly took the view that legitimacy flowed from power, whereas Clinton’s view was basically the opposite: the US had to regain legitimacy in the world by reinforcing the power of its guiding values.
Bryan Mabee

Chapter 8. Responses to American Power

Abstract
The final chapter considers global responses to American power, in terms of both direct challenges and the ways in which American power has been broadly incorporated into the international system. The chapter does this by revisiting the ‘types’ of power discussed in Chapter 2 (and utilized throughout), and argues further that responses (or ‘resistance’) need to be contextualized within the context of these different types of power, in order to see better the forms resistance can possibly take, and whether it is actually occurring. The intention is not to look exclusively at direct counter-pressures to American power (although these will be examined), but also to look at ways that American power has been structurally opposed, incorporated and adapted by other actors within the international system.
Bryan Mabee

Conclusion: The Second American Century and Beyond

Abstract
The conclusion will attempt to synthesize and summarize the points made in the preceding chapters, in order to develop a more sustained theoretical overview of American power. While we can use the model developed in the book to think about the future, the main aim was not to make predictions, but rather to better chart the conditions by which American power may decline, remain robust, or potentially rise further. While it seems a banal historical truth that great powers ‘rise and fall’, we do need to get a better sense of why this is the case, the kinds of power resources states rely upon, and how we can see combinations of variables leading to relative or more severe decline. Part of the focus of the book was also to chart dimensions of power that are qualitatively American, so we are not just discussing American power, but American power. The main point made in this regard relates to the novel manner in which American core values were institutionalized in international relations, providing an important context for legitimacy in the international system. While such legitimacy has not gone uncontested, many of those core values have been embedded in international institutions to the extent that when the US does not live up to them, it is criticized for hypocrisy.
Bryan Mabee
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