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Publisher's Summary

"Speak softly and carry a big stick", Theodore Roosevelt famously said in 1901 when the United States was emerging as a great power. It was the right sentiment, perhaps, in an age of imperial rivalry. But today many Americans doubt the utility of their global military presence, thinking it outdated, unnecessary, or even dangerous.

In The Big Stick, Eliot A. Cohen - a scholar and practitioner of international relations - disagrees. He argues that hard power remains essential for American foreign policy. While acknowledging that the United States must be careful about why, when, and how it uses force, he insists that its international role is as critical as ever, and armed force is vital to that role. Cohen explains that American leaders must learn to use hard power in new ways and for new circumstances. The rise of a well-armed China, Russia's conquest of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, and the spread of radical Islamist movements like ISIS are some of the key threats to global peace. If the United States relinquishes its position as a strong but prudent military power and fails to accept its role as the guardian of a stable world order, we run the risk of unleashing disorder, violence, and tyranny on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The United States is still, as Madeleine Albright once dubbed it, "the indispensable nation".

©2016 Eliot A. Cohen (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Turn off the news, listen to this

This audio book is excellent for anyone who wants a thorough discussion of the problems that the United States faces and their potential solutions. The only reason that I gave it four stars is because the person reading the story had a raspy voice that was sometimes unpleasant to listen to.

7 people found this helpful

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extremely interesting

well conceived, well argued, well written and fundamentally easy to understand, even if you do not agree with all it's conclusions

2 people found this helpful

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dense writing and delivery made this a chore

I consider this would have been a very interesting subject but the density with which it was written and, in my experience, the general lack of variation in sentence structure and delivery made this one tough to work through.

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Overall pretty good

The author made a lot of good points but he often doesn’t give good alternatives to the problems he identified and there are a few areas where I disagree. He feels the US military has an anti intellectual streak (I agree, and it is a serious problem) but he doesn’t offer any good ways to improve things. He does a very good job describing Chinese military strategy and its problems, but I think he overestimates the Chinese economy. He doesn’t do a good job differentiating between Al Qaida and Iranian backed groups and I think his view of the Iranian government is oversimplified. But he offers a very good alternative method fo fighting the war on terror. He also brings up a good point on the problem with the “tacticization” of GWAT strategy. He bashed the F-35, which is pretty standard, but while I agree it has problems, he doesn’t bring up the new capabilities it has and I think that it is a distracting aside that takes away from the overall quality of the book. I recommend everyone interested in contemporary military strategy read it.

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Power Is a Swiss Army Knife, Not A Hammer

With the 2020 Elections as a backdrop, I pulled this down from my Audible Plus collection and was not disappointed. Having worn an uniform for most of ny adult life, I share Cohen's premise that soft power has its limits and that, while distasteful, today's geopolitical environment still needs hard power as a countermeasure to aggressive nation-states and transnational violent extremists. Discussing the near term threat of Russia, far term rise of China, and regional belligerents such as North Korea and Iran, Cohen articulates the threats that our national interests face and makes a strong case for the use of force in service to those interests. In the event of prolonged conflict in the 21st century, Cohen's strategy of modern warfare across surface, air, and cyber domains could work; however it would require a shift in mindset from both the American electorate and its leadership to taking a more flexible and patient view of war. Reading Cohen's work provides a somewhat murky, but useful, crystal ball for better understanding of 21st century warfare.

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poignant analysis

the author looks at the multitude of factors going into the use if force to achieve national end states. It's not sensational or all that controversial in my opinion. a good read to give you something to Chew on.