The end of the Cold War was a "big bang" reminiscent of earlier
moments after major wars, such as the end of the Napoleonic Wars in
1815 and the end of the World Wars in 1919 and 1945. Here John
Ikenberry asks the question, what do states that win wars do with
their newfound power and how do they use it to build order? In
examining the postwar settlements in modern history, he argues that
powerful countries do seek to build stable and cooperative
relations, but the type of order that emerges hinges on their
ability to make commitments and restrain power.
The author explains that only with the spread of democracy in
the twentieth century and the innovative use of international
institutions--both linked to the emergence of the United States as
a world power--has order been created that goes beyond balance of
power politics to exhibit "constitutional" characteristics. The
open character of the American polity and a web of multilateral
institutions allow the United States to exercise strategic
restraint and establish stable relations among the industrial
democracies despite rapid shifts and extreme disparities in
Blending comparative politics with international relations, and
history with theory, "After Victory" will be of interest to anyone
concerned with the organization of world order, the role of
institutions in world politics, and the lessons of past postwar
settlements for today. It also speaks to today's debate over the
ability of the United States to lead in an era of unipolar
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