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New Left Review 58, July-August 2009


MAX GASNER

THE RIVALS

It is rare for a magazine article to spawn an entire counter-genre of polemic pamphlet literature, but American policy intellectuals have not yet tired of announcing the end of The End of History. [1] Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Atlantic Books: London 2008, £12.99, hardback, 116 pp, 978 1 84354 811 9. If anything, the pursuit has gained in popularity as the signs of a post-unipolar twenty-first century have become more insistent. Thus Robert Kagan, whose The Return of History and the End of Dreams—its cover festooned with a self-consciously anachronistic Punch cartoon, complete with Russian bear and pig-tailed Chinaman—argues that ‘the world has become normal again’. The fall of the Soviet Union had briefly held out the utopian vision of a world without enemies, in which all significant conflict over grand strategy and ideology had come to an end. Globalizing commerce, multilateral institution-building and seamless communications technology were to have eroded the foundations of the nation-state and so the stakes of international competition. European bureaucrats dreamed that Russian acquiescence to capital account liberalization and nato expansion would melt the Eastern frontiers away and forever banish the spectre of land war in Germany. Americans saw a chance to assume a kinder, gentler leadership: the us as global sheriff, enforcing the definitive replacement of war by isolated police actions in backwards provinces.

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