Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy


Published by HarperCollins in March 2009

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him. (Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513)

Inspired by Machiavelli’s classic The Prince, former top Pentagon official and Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist for the New York Times Leslie H. Gelb offers illuminating guidelines on how American power actually works and should be wielded in today’s tumultuous world.

Reviews & Endorsements:

Power Rules belongs in the top tier.”
National Interest

“If you care about America’s standing in the world – why it has declined, and how to restore it – this book is essential reading. Leslie Gelb, one of America’s most distinguished practitioner – observers of foreign policy, brilliantly explains how a series of administrations weakened our nation’s security, and shows how we can reverse this trend. Sparing no one in his analysis, Gelb shows how the U.S. failed to use its own strengths to achieve its stated goals, and offers, in succinct and user-friendly prose, the basic power rules with which the U.S. can – and must – restore its proper leadership role in the world. Power Rules is an indispensable book for the new era.”
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke

“Leslie Gelb has as much experience in foreign policy as anyone alive. Unlike most writers in this field, he isn’t afraid to use plain language and say what he means. He relishes hard truths. And he doesn’t mind making powerful enemies. All of these are prerequisites to writing a modern Prince – which is what Gelb has done. I don’t agree with all of it, but I greatly admire this handbook on the uses of American power in a complex age.”
George Packer, The New Yorker

“Leslie Gelb tells it like it is: making U.S. foreign policy and using American power are common sense, not rocket science. Our leaders forget this truth at our peril. Incisive and thoroughly compelling, Power Rules is rich in colorful stories as well as in sound advice for our president and our people.”
Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser

Power Rules provides a much-needed antidote to the ideological fevers that have ravaged American statecraft in recent years. Leslie Gelb’s reflections on power, its effective use, and its limitations are shrewd, trenchant, and refreshingly devoid of either cant or partisanship.
Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University

“For years, Leslie Gelb’s friends have been learning about foreign policy by way of his wisecracks and anecdotes. In Power Rules, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wit and wisdom with the rest of the class. The amazing thing about this shrewd updating of The Prince is not just the insight Gelb brings to topic of America’s exercise of power in the post-Cold War, post-Bush world, but how entertaining he makes the whole subject. This book is a must-read not just for President Obama, but for anyone who wants to understand how the new administration can improve its odds of strategic success.”
Jacob Weisberg, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government

Click here to order this book.


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