Professor to Launch Book Predicting Positive American Future
April 9, 2012 – America has deep, underlying strengths that will allow the country to overcome its challenges and crisis, government professor Robert J. Lieber argues in his new book, Power & Willpower in the American Future (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
The widely lauded book, subtitled Why the United States Is Not Destined to Decline, will be launched at Georgetown tomorrow at a book-signing event.
“The core of my argument is that when we talk about decline, most of the discussion has disproportionately emphasized material factors when the real crux the situation is ideational,” says Lieber, an expert on American foreign policy and U.S. relations with the Middle East and Europe. “By ideational I mean beliefs, policy, leadership and choices.”
Wise and Effective
Lieber believes that the problems of debt, the deficit and the rising costs of entitlements are serious and politically difficult, but the policy solutions to it "are available and do not require magic.”
“They require wise and effective choices about government spending, taxation, the budget matters and reshaping entitlements in ways that are manageable and affordable,” he explains.
Georgetown’s Mortara Center for International Affairs is sponsoring the book launch.
Remaining Far Ahead
Lieber notes the conventional wisdom that America is in decline, and cites a recent Brookings Institution study, featured in an April 2 New York Times article, that reports that Chinese leaders believe the U.S. is declining and will be replaced by China as the world’s leading power.
“A lot of this discussion is very exaggerated, hyperbolic, sometimes hysterical and often very ahistorical,” Lieber says. “It focuses mainly on material factors – our GDP compared to China, our infrastructure, our industry and so on. But the mistake it makes is this – the margin that the U.S. had compared to all other actors in the world, say at the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, was so great that even with some attrition the U.S. still remains far ahead of others in material terms.”
A number of prominent academics agree with Lieber, including Aaron L. Friedberg, a Princeton professor of politics and international affairs who has twice served as director of that university’s Center of International Studies.
“The United States is experiencing another bout of anxiety regarding its relative power,” Friedberg wrote in a review of the book. “While he is sober about the challenges confronting the nation, Robert Lieber makes a convincing case that, as in the past, fears of American decline will prove to have been greatly exaggerated.”
Right and Wrong
Lieber is also the author of The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press, 2007), of which one reviewer said, “This may be the best book on American foreign policy written since September 11.”
In an unusual step for a book launch, tomorrow’s event will be prefaced with remarks from fellow government professor Charles Kupchan, author of No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn (Oxford University 2012).
“He’ll explain why I’m wrong, and I’ll explain why I’m right and he’s wrong,” Lieber wryly observes.
Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service, also will make remarks.
The book launch, which takes place from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mortara Building, is open to the public. RSVP here if you wish to attend the event.