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Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Inspired by Machiavelli’s classic The Prince, Leslie H. Gelb offers illuminating guidelines on how American power actually works and should be wielded in today’s tumultuous world, writing with the perspective of four decades of extraordinary access and influence in government, think tanks, and journalism. He argues that Washington risks losing the essential life-blood of its national security—its power—unless American leaders relearn the lessons of how to use that power. Contrary to runaway fashion, Gelb argues that the world is not flat, power is not soft, and that we have not entered a post-American era in global affairs. The United States remains far and away the most powerful country in a world where power remains sharply pyramidal. But it is not the dominant power, and it can’t dictate to others.
“An indispensable book for the new era.”
—Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
Gelb persuasively shows that America’s future power must be based on the principle of mutual indispensability: Washington is the indispensable leader because it alone can galvanize coalitions to solve major international problems (and all nations know this), while other key nations are indispensable partners in getting the job done. The reality is this: succeed together or fail apart. Washington will also fail if it forgets that power is still, as in the days of Machiavelli, about pressure and coercion, carrots and sticks. Reason, values, and understanding are foreplay, but not the real thing. Gelb provides an incisive look at the major U.S. foreign policy triumphs and tragedies of the last half century, and offers practical rules on how to effectively exercise power today. Power Rules is an impassioned challenge to both liberals and conservatives and a plea to reclaim the true meaning of power and the essential role of common sense in solving global problems.
“If you care about America’s
standing in the world—why it has declined, and how to restore it—this book is
essential reading. Les Gelb, one of America’s most distinguished
practitioner-observers of foreign policy, brilliantly explains how a series of
administrations weakened our nation’s security, and shows how we can reverse
this trend. Sparing no one in his analysis, Gelb shows how the U.S. failed to
use its own strengths to achieve its stated goals, and offers, in succinct and
user-friendly prose, the basic power rules with which the U.S. can—and
must—restore its proper leadership role in the world. Power Rules is
an indispensable book for the new era.”
—Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
“Leslie Gelb has as much
experience in foreign policy as anyone alive. Unlike most writers in this
field, he isn’t afraid to use plain language and say what he means. He
relishes hard truths. And he doesn’t mind making powerful enemies. All of
these are prerequisites to writing a modern Prince—which is what Gelb
has done. I don’t agree with all of it, but I greatly admire this handbook on
the uses of American power in a complex age.”
—George Packer, New Yorker
“Les Gelb tells it like it is:
making U.S. foreign policy and using American power are common sense, not
rocket science. Our leaders forget this truth at our peril. Incisive and
thoroughly compelling, Power Rules is rich in colorful stories as
well as in sound advice for our president and our people.”
—Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser
“Power Rules provides a
much-needed antidote to the ideological fevers that have ravaged American
statecraft in recent years. Leslie Gelb’s reflections on power, its effective
use, and its limitations are shrewd, trenchant, and refreshingly devoid of
either cant or partisanship.
—Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University
“For years, Les Gelb’s friends
have been learning about foreign policy by way of his wisecracks and
anecdotes. In Power Rules, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wit and
wisdom with the rest of the class. The amazing thing about this shrewd
updating of The Prince is not just the insight Gelb brings to topic
of America’s exercise of power in the post–Cold War, post-Bush world, but how
entertaining he makes the whole subject. This book is a must-read not just for
President Obama, but for anyone who wants to understand how the new
administration can improve its odds of strategic success.”
—Jacob Weisberg, Slate
Leslie H. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former columnist at the New York Times, where he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism. Gelb has worked as a senior official in the State and Defense departments. He lives in New York City.
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In Power Rules, inspired by Machiavelli’s classic The Prince, Leslie H. Gelb offers illuminating guidelines on how American power actually works and should be wielded in today’s tumultuous world.
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