3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2012
Professor Joseph Nye is quite an accomplished academic and former state official. I first encountered him during my study of Meisler's 'History of the United Nations'.
I then attempted to read his "The Future of Power" but found the tone too arrogant and self-absorbed, centering as it did on Nye's career and achievements (at least in the first pages) and abandoned the hardback without remorse.
Since I am studying for the diplomatic office one of the books in the bibliography was his 'Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation'.
It is a small book, quite light, which is packed to the brim with information, diagrams, and illustrations.
Even though there are still a few quotes from Mr. Nye's prophetic statements, and so, by osmosis, a bit of the haughty self-image is still visible, it is much more diffused by the length and breadth of information offered, and possibly by David A. Welch's co-authorship.
For a beginner to the study of International Relations I would say look no further. The book explains all the basic theory and concepts (the 'tools' of the political scientist/analyst, call him what you will), and perspectives (liberal, constructivist, realist) for the study of geopolitics.
The book starts with the traditional political analysis of the Westphalian model, looking at 19th century Europe's concert of Europe balance of power arrangement after the Congress of Vienna, and subsequently charts the failure of this model and the rise and fall of multipolarity, vis-a-vis collective security, followed by the bipolarity of the Cold War years and their MAD dispositions culminating in the current, unipolar, international system of states.
The book's value lies in the inclusion of end-of-chapter questions, which are helpful in making use of (and writing down so as not to forget) the knowledge assimilated during the reading of the different sections, as well as many bibliographic references, citations, and lots of material you can pick up to read further on the issues discussed.
It is understandable that Professor Nye's analysis will be skewed in favour of the United States, being a former foreign policy adviser, and so his stances on the 2003 Iraq War, for instance, are still the official dogma (the 'threat' of Saddam's WMD, or the 'imposition' of democracy on a despotic regime) even after Hans Blix's proof to the contrary and the many movies and articles we've been privy to since the truth about the dishonesty of the official justifications for the invasion came to light.
In any case, the analysis is, where possible, quite balanced, even if there is a permeating and continual delight in America's hard power (military) superiority, which at times can get quite annoying.
If you can overlook such details the reading of this book will still be immensely profitable in supplying you with bucketloads of information about pretty much all world conflicts from the 2 World Wars, the Cold War, the conflicts in the Persian Gulf, and so on and so forth all the way to current times.
The scope is thus surprising given the size of the book (346 pages). For this to be accomplished, tiny print was resorted to, but it is still eminently readable. The style is curt and quite lucid, making for a relatively unencumbered read.
Would have given it 5 stars weren't it for the slight skewed points of view mentioned above. A mandatory volume on past and present international relations problems nonetheless.