How often have you read a book twice? Anybody for three times? I just re-read Robert Kagan’s book Of Paradise and Power for the third time. Wow!
In my office at home, I have a shelf on my desk with those books that have inspired or moved me. Robert Kagan’s National Bestseller (Random House 2004) has been there since I first read it.
Europe has been involved in power politics for 300 years. And it has brought them nothing but misery. They have been warring and killing off whole generations of young men for centuries. Finally, after World War II, Europe collapsed emotionally — and decided that (at least for now) enough was enough. They formed a European Union and have moved in the direction of controlling and limiting the exercise of power. It is for that reason that many Europeans (especially the French) now assail the U.S. for what they perceive as the use of power politics. This attitude has accelerated since the collapse of the Soviet Union — the end of Europe’s strategic dependence on the U.S.
Thus, the U.S. and Europe have differing views on the efficacy of power, the morality of power and the desirabililty of power. Since the end of WWII, Europe and the U.S. no longer share a “strategic” culture. Thus the U.S. feels free to act — as needed — in the defense of its national interests.
Kagan’s book is the best I’ve read on foreign dynamics since reading (also for the third time) Walter Lippmann’s 1943 classic Foreign Policy. Both are worth a read . . . .or two or three. . . .