Lothar Rühl's "The Empire of the Right"Book review

Posted in United States | 01-May-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Lothar Rühl is well known in Germany and in Europe as an historian, academic, book author, journalist and politician. His new book – written in German – "Empire of the Right," deals with the rise of the lone superpower USA during the 20th Century and the risks of its decline in the 21st Century.

The book goes back to the roots of American history. It’s a brilliant historical analysis starting in the 16th century. According to Rühl, the US never had a comprehensive foreign policy with the aim and objective of becoming "number one" in the world. He argues that the comparison with Rome and the "pax romana" are wrong. The US followed a more selective approach to external challenges – there was no master plan to conquer the world.

In American politics, there has always been a fluctuation between a policy of external commitment – if there was a need- and a policy of isolation. From the very beginning in the 16th Century, the citizens of America developed the feeling of living in "God’s own country" with a clear "mission" to make the world better.

The greatest achievement of American foreign policy after WW II was the containment of the Soviet Union and its later demise - the reunification of Germany within NATO and the enlargement of NATO that brought it to the Western border of Russia.

Lothar Rühl sees the US at the peak of its power with the risk of losing this unique role if and when the US is no longer able to find partners in the world for a common way ahead. He advocates a re-strengthening of NATO from both sides of the Atlantic. He asks Europeans not to waste limited resources working against the US, but rather to work together with the US. It astonishes me that as an historian, Lothar Rühl comes to the following assessment concerning the war in Iraq: "It was the wrong war, at the wrong time and at the wrong place." This assessment seems to me to be premature. It is far too early to come to this conclusion.

Recent developments in the "Broader Middle East" – from Afghanistan to Morocco – would not have been initiated without the impact of US military commitment to this region. The virus called "democracy" is out of the box, creating a political epidemic in the whole region.

Lothar Rühl’s book is a "must" for those who want to gain a better understanding of American foreign policy. As opposed to the mainstream in some European countries these days, Rühl is not anti-American. For Lothar Rühl, "American national interests" are the key to better understanding the US.

The US can be and will be the guarantor for democracy and freedom – hopefully multilaterally, with good partners and allies. For Rühl there is no doubt about it: The US must take the lead to navigate the ship though troubled waters.

Lothar Rühl: “Das Reich des Guten,” Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-608-94130-4