Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order. By Hal Brands, Ithaca NY: Cornell Press, 2016. Endnotes. Index. Pp vii, 469. $29.95 ISBN: 978-150170272-3
A third of Americans today have few--or no--memories of the Cold War's bipolar era when the very survival of America was seriously threatened. America's younger generations have known only a time in which their country has had a unipolar grasp on global power. How America got there is the subject of this book.
In the period following the Vietnam War humiliation it seemed that the Soviet Union was practically unrestrainable. It was deploying mobile theater nuclear-weapons systems in Europe while Cuban troops, acting as an arm of Soviet power projection, were fighting in Africa. Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and began a war there that lasted nearly a decade. Extremist ideologues, often with training in Warsaw Pact member states, were terrorizing Europe and the Middle East; and the Soviet Union had gained the upper hand in the Horn of Africa when it forged a close alliance with Ethiopia, a previously dependable friend of the U.S. In America's backyard, Nicaragua fell to Marxist guerrillas, and control of the Panama Canal passed out of America's hands. In 1979 the pro-US. shah of Iran was deposed and replaced by a bitterly anti-American regime, further destabilizing the Middle East.
Henry Kissinger lamented that "never had America been weaker." James Schlesinger, a senior member of the Carter Administration, worried in 1979 that "the retreat of American power" could become a rout. Global economic leadership in the post-World War II world, represented by the dollar-centric Bretton Woods International Monetary System, began to impose an unsustainable financial burden on the U.S., as competing world economies grew stronger. In 1971, the Nixon Administration yielded to the new reality of America's shrinking economic dominance and ended the system. The 1973 oil embargo went even further in demonstrating the decline of America's global power.
Yet, the "end" of America's...