Temptations of Power by Robert J Jackson

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Temptations of Power by Robert J Jackson

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Temptations of Power is an interesting and accessible book which argues that current US foreign policy is doomed to fail. Using historical context and an international relations perspective, it's clear, logical and persuasive. Recommended for all those interested and concerned by world affairs.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: August 2006
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 1403946779

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Since the end of the Cold War, there has been only one superpower, the US. A new security dilemma has developed. No longer is the only major danger that of open warfare between states. International terrorism is the new bogeyman. No longer does terrorism keep to its own shores in domestic insurgencies. Terrorists are now capable of striking inside the homelands of those they consider oppressors. Temptations of Power argues that US foreign policy since the terrible events of 9/11 has failed to understand this globalised, interdependent world in which American interests, security, and prosperity cannot rely upon isolationism, restriction of homeland civil liberties and the flexing of expensive and unwieldy military force abroad.

Frankly, it is not difficult to demolish the current US administration's arguments or policies. The effects of them beggar belief. Images of carnage hit our television screens every day. People are dying every day. Civil liberties are encroached upon a little more every day. War, the ultimate state sanction, seems to have become a more acceptable option with frightening ease. Yet, we are demonstrably less safe. However, Temptations of Power isn't just another anti-Bush rant, decisive and opinionated though its condemnation of George Bush's policies are - Iraq, for example, is described as a "human abattoir" - it has more to offer.

Temptations of Power finds a niche beyond traditional right and left wing politics. It argues that this new security dilemma requires a new approach from the traditional ideological divide, with left wing analysis concentrating on poverty and the root causes of insurgencies and right wing analysis centred on security and the military. The authors suggest that real solutions can only come from a combination of these two perspectives. It makes sense. As the book says the current situation...

... reminds one of George Bernard Shaw's play, The Doctor's Dilemma, in which physician has his own favourite remedy that he employs in every case, regardless of what illness he is treating.

That's it in a nutshell, isn't it?

Today's mass media is single-issue obsessed. There is absolutely no discussion of the big picture. The interdependence of the various strands of US (and western) foreign policy is simply ignored. It is causing a massive black hole in the average person's understanding of the world around them. In fact, Temptations of Power mentions this in passing. If we do not understand the big picture, the little pictures will never make any sense to us. As our media is failing us, we need to find accessible texts from academia to plug the gap. Temptations of Power is a perfect example of such a text. I found it enlightening.

I think we all tend to feed our prejudices. I react to the world with my heart more than with my head. I voted for Tony Blair. When I think about Iraq, for example, it is with a sense of personal shame and anger so powerful it is almost overwhelming. Consequently, I tend to read flag-waving, polemic books. Temptations of Power, while offering strong opinions, is cool, analytical, logical, and academic. It did me good to read it. It also made a great deal of sense.

If you feel under-informed, Temptations of Power is an accessible, interesting text that makes a powerful and cohesive argument against current US foreign policy, without a hint of the conspiracy theories usually associated with any anti-Bush message. Lay readers may at first find the book a little dry and the annotations overwhelming, but they should stick with it. Any students of international relations will obviously find it of interest. It is highly recommended by this over-emotional reader.

Those looking for more in the way of polemic should try our review of The New Rulers of the World by John Pilger.

This book was kindly forwarded to the Bookbag by the publishers, Palgrave Macmillan.

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Buy Temptations of Power by Robert J Jackson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Temptations of Power by Robert J Jackson at Amazon.com.


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Robert Jackson said:

Of course, I loved you review. Thanks. Bob