Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post–Cold War Order

Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post–Cold War Order The 1970s was a decade of gloom for U.S. foreign policy commentators. The Soviet Union appeared to be winning the Cold War arms race. Moscow-backed revolutionary movements surged across the Third World. Stagflation, a fear of Japanese imports, and oil-price shocks plagued the U.S. economy. The trauma of the Iranian hostage crisis seemed to underscore a lack of American confidence on the global stage. By the 1990s, this situation was dramatically transformed. Four decades of super-power rivalry ruined the Soviet Union and converted the United States into a “hyper power” (p. 336). Open markets, free societies, and democratic norms were in the ascendant globally. In 1991 the U.S.-led coalition's stunning victory over Iraq forces confirmed the return of U.S. confidence, vitality, and purpose. In this beautifully crafted, cogent, and thoroughly researched book, Hal Brands offers a compelling explanation for this stunning reversal of U.S. fortunes. The making of the unipolar moment was not an accident, but instead the result of sound statecraft and deep structural changes in the international system. As Brands shows, economic, technological, and political forces that gathered force in the 1980s and took off in the 1990s reinforced American primacy. The worldwide turn toward open markets, an integrated world economy, and the respect for human rights and democracy benefited the United States and sapped the prestige and strength of the Soviet Union. Globalization alone, however, does not explain the United States's stellar trajectory. Brands emphasises that a shrewd and iterative process of strategy making in Washington identified and harnessed global trends and turned them against the Kremlin. Although the outlines of this strategy emerged under Jimmy Carter, it was under the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations that a deliberate and proactive strategic vision developed. The crucial phase occurred in the 1989–1992 period, when the United States managed the Soviet Union's demise and reversed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, establishing U.S. primacy in a new world order. Making the Unipolar Moment is not an unalloyed tale of American triumph and virtue, however. Brands argues that U.S. strategy combined a long-term vision with trial-and-error adaptations that were subject to misperception, miscalculation, and moral compromises. For example, the U.S. support of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan bought immediate Cold War gains at the cost of stoking future trouble. The Reagan administration's backing of murderous clients such as the Salvadoran army and the Nicaraguan rebels was as counterproductive as it was morally questionable. Historians will undoubtedly dispute Brands's judgements about these and other issues, but he has nonetheless written an indispensable account of the origins of the unipolar moment. His astute observations about the potentially decisive relationship between global trends and competent strategizing in the White House will no doubt give many readers pause for reflection and concern at a time when the worldwide currents are shifting toward authoritarianism, economic nationalism, and jingoism. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post–Cold War Order

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/making-the-unipolar-moment-u-s-foreign-policy-and-the-rise-of-the-post-Of6GLbLxhN
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
D.O.I.
10.1093/jahist/jax554
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The 1970s was a decade of gloom for U.S. foreign policy commentators. The Soviet Union appeared to be winning the Cold War arms race. Moscow-backed revolutionary movements surged across the Third World. Stagflation, a fear of Japanese imports, and oil-price shocks plagued the U.S. economy. The trauma of the Iranian hostage crisis seemed to underscore a lack of American confidence on the global stage. By the 1990s, this situation was dramatically transformed. Four decades of super-power rivalry ruined the Soviet Union and converted the United States into a “hyper power” (p. 336). Open markets, free societies, and democratic norms were in the ascendant globally. In 1991 the U.S.-led coalition's stunning victory over Iraq forces confirmed the return of U.S. confidence, vitality, and purpose. In this beautifully crafted, cogent, and thoroughly researched book, Hal Brands offers a compelling explanation for this stunning reversal of U.S. fortunes. The making of the unipolar moment was not an accident, but instead the result of sound statecraft and deep structural changes in the international system. As Brands shows, economic, technological, and political forces that gathered force in the 1980s and took off in the 1990s reinforced American primacy. The worldwide turn toward open markets, an integrated world economy, and the respect for human rights and democracy benefited the United States and sapped the prestige and strength of the Soviet Union. Globalization alone, however, does not explain the United States's stellar trajectory. Brands emphasises that a shrewd and iterative process of strategy making in Washington identified and harnessed global trends and turned them against the Kremlin. Although the outlines of this strategy emerged under Jimmy Carter, it was under the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations that a deliberate and proactive strategic vision developed. The crucial phase occurred in the 1989–1992 period, when the United States managed the Soviet Union's demise and reversed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, establishing U.S. primacy in a new world order. Making the Unipolar Moment is not an unalloyed tale of American triumph and virtue, however. Brands argues that U.S. strategy combined a long-term vision with trial-and-error adaptations that were subject to misperception, miscalculation, and moral compromises. For example, the U.S. support of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan bought immediate Cold War gains at the cost of stoking future trouble. The Reagan administration's backing of murderous clients such as the Salvadoran army and the Nicaraguan rebels was as counterproductive as it was morally questionable. Historians will undoubtedly dispute Brands's judgements about these and other issues, but he has nonetheless written an indispensable account of the origins of the unipolar moment. His astute observations about the potentially decisive relationship between global trends and competent strategizing in the White House will no doubt give many readers pause for reflection and concern at a time when the worldwide currents are shifting toward authoritarianism, economic nationalism, and jingoism. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Unlimited reading

Read as many articles as you need. Full articles with original layout, charts and figures. Read online, from anywhere.

Stay up to date

Keep up with your field with Personalized Recommendations and Follow Journals to get automatic updates.

Organize your research

It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

Monthly Plan

  • Read unlimited articles
  • Personalized recommendations
  • No expiration
  • Print 20 pages per month
  • 20% off on PDF purchases
  • Organize your research
  • Get updates on your journals and topic searches

$49/month

Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial

Best Deal — 39% off

Annual Plan

  • All the features of the Professional Plan, but for 39% off!
  • Billed annually
  • No expiration
  • For the normal price of 10 articles elsewhere, you get one full year of unlimited access to articles.

$588

$360/year

billed annually
Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial