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From one of the nation's leading foreign-policy minds comes a provocative new account of how to think about—and use—America's power in the twenty-first century.

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 lifeblood 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 the U.S. is not the dominant power, and it can't dictate to others.

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.

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