REVIEWSrnEmbarrassing Victoryrnby Justus D. DoeneckernTemptations of a Superpowerrnby Ronald SteelrnCambridge: Harvard University Press;rn144 pp., $18.95rn” I he other side lost, but did wernA win?” So asks Ronald Steel coneerningrnAmerica’s foreign policy. Obviouslyrnthe world long familiar to us hasrnsuddenly collapsed. “Of course there is arnvictory,” writes Steel in reference to thernUnited States’ triumph in the ColdrnWar. “But what do we do with it?” Nornstranger to such questions. Steel has longrnbeen a respected historian and commentator.rnSome of his books—Pax Americanarn(1967), The End of the Alliancern(1994)—were cleariy tracts for the times.rnHis 1980 study of Walter Lippmann,rnhowever, remains a truly monumentalrnwork. Now, in the Joanna Jackson Goldmanrnlectures at the Library of Congress,rnSteel warns against indiscriminate globalrncommitments. “How does a superpowerrnbring democracy to Haiti? How does itrnfight terrorists it cannot find?” The ColdrnWar, Steel believes, was a most ambiguousrnvictory. Though certainly the Westrnis greatly relieved by the demise of thernSoviet Union and the discrediting ofrncommunism, the United States cannotrnnow translate its military might intornpolitical power. Suppose, Steel hypothesizes,rnAmerican forces bomb Serbia orrnblockade Haiti. Ultimately, they wouldrnstill be unable to impose American policy.rnAs Dean Acheson once commentedrnabout the British, the United States hadrnlost an empire without finding a new rolernto play.rnIn the contest with the Soviets, everyrnarea of the globe seemed vital—indeed arnpotential place of crisis. But now, withrnthe contest over, Steel observes that thernfundamental challenge facing the Unit-rnTo order these books, (24hrs, 365 days)rnplease call (800) 962-6651 (Ext. 5200)rned States is economic in nature, involvingrnsuch powerful entities as the industrialrnmegalith of Japan, the fiercely competitiverntrading states of Southeast Asia,rnand “the giant emporium” of a unitingrnEurope. These areas, writes Steel, do notrnwant to “bury” capitalism; rather theyrnare determined to “do it better” than thernUnited States. Technology, finance,rntrade, innovation—this is the currentrngame.rnYet the United States still envisionsrnitself bearing responsibilities more appropriaternto the Cold War at its height.rnIt plans, notes Steel, to keep 100,000rntroops in Europe in addition to maintainingrnpermanent forces in Korea,rnJapan, and the Persian Gulf. The militaryrnbudget of $253 billion is 85 percentrnof the average Cold War budget, makingrnit as large as that of the other nations inrnthe world combined. Over half of all discretionaryrnfederal spending is devoted torndefense. Indeed, during the presidentialrncampaign of 1992, Bill Clinton pledgedrnhimself to build weapons systems thatrnthe Bush administration had tried to cut:rnthe Seawolf submarine and the tilt-roterrnV-22 plane. Speaking from the WhiternHouse, Clinton said, “We do have tornlead the world,” though later he morernmodestlv added that the United Statesrncannot solve all international problems.rnWhen he terminated the ill-fatedrnexpedition in Somalia, he disguised itrnas a victory. Otherwise, the Presidentrnexplained, “Our own credibility withrnfriends and allies would be damaged”rnand “our leadership in world affairsrnwould be undermined.”rnSteel coircedes that the worid is morernviolent than ever, with its fresh regionalrnwars, balances of power, coalitions, andrnspheres of influence. Indeed, wc seernsuch systematic political breakdownsrnthat in some quarters there is the war ofrn”all against all.” Eortunately for thernUnited States, however, militarily it hasrnnever been more secure. Citing formerrnDefense Secretary Dick Chenev as hisrnauthority, Steel writes, “We are as near tornbeing invulnerable as a nation can get.”rnNeither Iran nor Iraq is a major power.rnSouth Korea is covered by a nuclearrnguarantee from threats by its northernrnneighbor. Europe is more secure fromrnaggression than it has been for 60 years.rnFor the foreseeable future, Russia is likelyrnto be a marginal player in Europeanrnstatescraft.rnSteel questions America’s ability tornhalt, even confine, today’s bloodshed.rnOn its own terms, military muscle-flexingrnis often counterproductive. Takingrnsides between China and Japan, or Chinarnand Russia, can alienate the otherrnpower. “Reassuring” trading partners byrnpunishing “malefactors” can make themrnmore anxious, as seen by the cautious reactionrnof South Korea and Japan whenrnthe United States confronted North Korearnover its nuclear program. Eurthermore,rnmilitary nright is just one conrponcntrnof national power, and the UnitedrnStates is discovering this fact the hardrnway. It certainly is no help in loweringrnJapanese trade barriers or taming therndeficit. Moreover, as Steel observes,rnAmerica needs the Europeans andrnJapanese to buy the Treasury bonds thatrnfinance its persistent deficit.rnWhen it comes to international organization.rnSteel is skeptical. He findsrnNATO outmoded, unable to identify anrnenemy while costing $ 100 billion a year.rnEuropean alliances, he believes, mustrnnow be limited to Europeans. The UnitedrnNations is ineffective, in part becausernthere is no international consensus onrnthe rules of a post-Cold War world. Ifrnone truly believes that peace is indivisiblernthroughout the world and that aggressionrnanywhere threatens peace everywhere,rncollectiye security can simplyrnescalate minor quarrels, making themrnregional, even global ones.rnSteel is certainly not an isolationist ofrnthe stripe of Robert Taft or William Borah,rnand perhaps not even of J. WilliamrnEulbright, who in 1966 attacked America’srn”arrogance of power.” Indeed, he isrnfar more restrained than the RonaldrnSteel who, in the winter of 1972, claimedrnthat Americans had been cruelly used byrn”political leaders who have squanderedrntheir wealth and stolen the lives of theirrnchildren to fight imperial wars.” Indeed,rnSteel asserts that at times there is a needrnfor American intervention, as for examplernwhen the horror “undermines thernfoundations of Western civilization itself,”rnas in the “gcnocidal madness” ofrnHitler’s Germany, or when the UnitedrnStates can act quickly, as in the contemporaryrncases of Rwanda and Cambodia.rnAs far as Bosnia goes, however, a directrn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn