The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might

Front Cover
Wiley, Feb 11, 2005 - History - 404 pages
Are there limits to American power? The neoconservative brain trust behind the Bush administration don't seem to recognize any. After the cold war, many Americans—on both sides of the aisle—have come to mistakenly believe that the United States has become powerful enough to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, without regard to allies, costs, or results. But as events in Iraq are proving, America may be incredibly powerful, but it is not all powerful.

Drawing on her eight years as a high-ranking official in the Clinton administration, Nancy Soderberg takes you behind the scenes in the highest echelons of government to examine how the president and his advisors responded to the challenge of shaping a new foreign policy for the post–cold war era. She cites personal recollections, recently declassified documents, and interviews with the principals involved in these decisions to provide insight into the decision-making process that all presidents face—often in crisis situations without complete information and with lives hanging in the balance.

Soderberg carefully contrasts Clinton's approach—as it evolved from a shaky start in Somalia and Haiti, through peacemaking efforts in Ireland and the Middle East, to a carefully crafted blend of diplomacy, force, leadership, and cooperation in Bosnia and Kosovo—with Bush's embrace of the superpower myth, which holds that America is powerful enough to bend the world to its will, largely through unilateral force, whether that goal is spreading democracy, ending terrorism, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining homeland security, or creating peace. The only uncertainty the Bush administration feels it faces is when and where to act.

As The Superpower Myth makes startlingly clear, no country, in practice, could ever be strong enough to solve problems like Somalia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan through purely military means. In the future, America's power will constantly be called upon to help failed and failing states, and it is becoming clear that the complex mess of Somalia (and now Iraq) has replaced the proxy war of Vietnam as the model for what future military conflicts will look like: a failed state, a power vacuum, armed factions, and enough chaos to threaten an entire region. Using vivid examples from her years in the White House and at the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg demonstrates why military force alone is not always effective, why allies and consensus-building are crucial, and how the current administration's faulty worldview has adversely affected policies toward Israel, Iraq, North Korea, Haiti, Africa, and al Qaeda.

Powerful, provocative, and persuasive, this timely book demonstrates that the future of America's security depends on overcoming the superpower myth.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

THE SUPERPOWER MYTH: The Use and Misuse of American Might

User Review  - Kirkus

Unilateral big-stick carrying may seem well and good to the "hegemons" in the Bush administration, writes erstwhile Clinton advisor Soderberg, but it hasn't made the world safer or better.In the ... Read full review

The superpower myth: the use and misuse of American might

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Soderberg was part of the White House foreign policy staff during the Clinton administration. In this analysis, she compares and contrasts the international styles of the Clinton and current Bush ... Read full review


Things Fall Apart
Crossing the Rubicon
Go as Peacemakers

13 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2005)

NANCY SODERBERG was a senior foreign policy advisor to Bill Clinton from the 1992 campaign through the end of his second term. From 1993 to 1996, she was the third-ranking official at the National Security Council, and from 1997 to 2001, she was a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Soderberg is now a Vice President at the International Crisis Group, and she is regularly invited to comment on foreign policy issues for NPR, MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

Bibliographic information