Power and Responsibility: Building International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats

Front Cover
Brookings Institution Press, Sep 30, 2009 - Political Science - 360 pages
1 Review

"The aim of the Managing Global Insecurity project is to launch a reform effort of the global security system in 2009. That task is both ambitious and urgent.... The time to act is now."—from the Foreword by Javier Solana

The twenty-first century will be defined by security threats unconstrained by borders—from economic instability, climate change, and nuclear proliferation to conflict, poverty, terrorism, and disease. The greatest test of global leadership will be building partnerships and institutions for cooperation that can meet the challenge. Power and Responsibility describes how American leadership can rebuild international order to promote global security and prosperity for today's transnational world.

Power & Responsibility establishes a new foundation for international security: "responsible sovereignty," or the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as one's own citizens. Governments must cooperate across borders to safeguard common resources and tackle common threats.

Power & Responsibility argues that in order to advance its own interests, the United States must learn to govern in an interdependent world, exercise leadership through cooperation, and create new institutions with today's traditional and emerging powers. The result of a collaborative project on Managing Global Insecurity, the book also reflects the MGI project's global dialogue—extensive consultations in the United States and in regions around the world as well as discussions with the MGI project's Advisory Group, composed of prominent U.S. and international figures.

"The 2008 financial crisis has brought our global interconnectedness close to home. But economic insecurity is just one concern. Power and Responsibility provides a road map for building effective policies and legitimate global institutions to tackle today's suite of transnational challenges."—Kemal Dervis, administrator, UN Development Program


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Power & Responsibility (2009) is essentially a project report of conclusions regarding potential improvements in global security that--if success remains an option--must be implemented sooner rather than later. The authors are pre-eminent thinkers who have participated in the Managing Global Insecurity project, sponsored by the Brookings Institution. The text is well researched, the findings prescient, and the call to action impressive. While the findings present a classical liberal, humanist approach to international security--one that I prefer--the authors do make an attempt to address more realist concerns.
The book serves as an action plan for President Obama's nascent administration, outlining key actions and prioritizing their desired effects. For example, the authors declare up front that the new administration must shift foreign policy initiatives and acknowledge the rising power of transnational/non-state actors. "In a world of new, transnational dangers, the United States cannot defend itself unilaterally against the array of threats that it faces" (24). This implies that military-go-it-alone solutions are no longer tenable and that the US must cooperate with other states--both traditional and rising powers (26, 27). The primary question this book asks the reader and policy makers goes to the heart of the international political dilemma: How can we create a world order in which the "vision, institutions, and tools...enable major and rising powers to address the large and complex agenda of transnational crises and challenges...."? (21).
The answer, the authors claim, lies in an international order established upon responsible sovereignty. What differentiates this new flavor of sovereignty from the traditional non-interference in domestic affairs is the promotion of "medium- to long-term considerations" and consideration of "trust and reputation" rather than just state interest in world politics (13). This is a tall order, and the authors recognize that.
A key way to realize this ideal is to create and/or reform global institutions. This is the idealist/liberal ingredient to the proposition. The authors also provide a realist warning: "The costs of delaying the revitalization of international cooperation will increas over time; it is best to engage now" (37). By expanding membership of such institutions as the G-8 to rising geographically distributed powers--e.g., China, India, South Africa, and Brazil--the US and its traditional partners can pave the way to future cooperation (46). Hence, the authors conclude the first priority for the Obama Administration will be to include these new members so they have "the voice, influence, and responsibility that are their due" (44).
The authors admirably anticipate critics. For instance, they address how revitalized international institutions may counter irresponsible actions by states: "responsible sovereign states together [will] decide" (65).
In the final analysis, by incorporating relevant snippets of liberal, idealist, and realist theories, the authors present a rigorous call to action. This is a good read for anyone concerned by the future path of international relations. It will be interesting to see how much of it President Obama implements.


Sovereigntys Last Best Chance
Interests and Order
Power and Institutions
Arresting Climate Change
The Second Nuclear Ages
Security in the Biological Century
Managing Civil Violence and Regional Conflict
Combating Transnational Terrorism
Strengthening the Pillars of Economic Security
The Hardest Case
Urgency and Choice
Back Cover

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Bruce Jones is director of the Managing Global Insecurity initiative, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. Carlos Pascual is the United States ambassador to Mexico and former vice president and director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Stephen John Stedman is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former assistant secretary general and special adviser to the secretary general of the United Nations.

Bibliographic information