Kupchan, Charles A.

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KUPCHAN, Charles A.


Male. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1981; Oxford University, M.Phil., 1983, D.Phil., 1985.


Office—Department of Government, ICC 6th Floor, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057. E-mail—[email protected]


Princeton University, assistant professor, 1986-93; U.S. Department of State, member of policy planning staff, 1992; The White House, National Security Council, director for European affairs, 1993-94; Georgetown University, associate professor, 1994—. Has also served as visiting scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs, Columbia University's Institute for War and Peace Studies, International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales in Paris.


The Persian Gulf and the West: The Dilemmas of Security, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1987.

The Vulnerability of Empire, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1994.

(Editor and contributor) Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1995.

(Editor and contributor) Atlantic Security: Contending Visions, Council on Foreign Relations Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Coeditor and contributor) Civic Engagement in the Atlantic Community, Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers (Gutersloh, Germany), 1999.

(With Emanuel Adler, Jean-Marc Coicaud, and Yen Foong Khong) Power in Transition: The Peaceful Change of International Order, United Nations University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of several articles for scholarly publications, including Contemporary Security Policy, Survival, World Policy Journal, and Foreign Affairs. Other numerous articles have been written for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, the New Leader, La Stampa, Financial Times and the Christian Science Monitor.


Charles A. Kupchan, with a doctorate in political science and extensive experience in government affairs, has produced several books that tend to predict U.S. policy before many of the country's citizens see it coming. Unlike many, more conservative thinkers, Kupchan recognizes the vulnerability of the United States and envisions the eventual demise of its international power. He argues that all great empires must fall and then points out the earmarks of that collapse as he sees it happening in the States. In a review of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, a writer for Publishers Weekly highlighted Kupchan's powers of observation by stating: "Given most recent foreign policy developments, Kupchan's book should be more relevant—and more roundly criticized—than ever." Kupchan, besides being an author, is also a professor of politics, a visiting scholar of international affairs at several distinguished universities, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has also served, under President Clinton, as director of European Affairs on the National Security Council and on the Policy Planning staff at the Department of State.

In his first book, The Persian Gulf and the West: The Dilemmas of Security, Kupchan explores the security problems that have existed in the Gulf region, from the beginning of World War II until the 1980s. The most interesting part of the book, wrote John C. Campbell for the publication Foreign Affairs, occurs when Kupchan discusses the "the so-called Carter Doctrine and the rapid deployment force after the momentous events of 1979 in Iran and Afghanistan." The book probes the problems involved, which include maintaining a small military presence that must deal with the unpredictability and instability of the politics of the Middle East, a challenge that must balance both the organization of U.S. policy and U.S. interests in that area. Campbell, despite the fact that he found Kupchan's discussion of these problems to be intelligent, concluded that even Kupchan could not resolve the dilemmas that these problems presented. The dilemmas, as G. Hossein Razi, writing for the American Political Science Review, pointed out were: "strategy vs. capability, globalism vs. regionalism, and unilateralism vs. collectivism." In the first dilemma, wrote Richard J. Willey for the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, U.S. strategy has been to "secure Western access to gulf oil" by limiting the Soviet presence and "maintaining political stability" in the Middle East. With the second dilemma, the U.S. found it difficult to gain support of political leaders in the Arab nations because of U.S. support of Israel. With unilateralism vs. collectivism, the U.S. had trouble convincing European countries to help support U.S. unilateral military action.

In his second book, The Vulnerability of Empire, which reviewer John Kent, for the Journal of Modern History, called "a long book tackling a large subject," Kupchan studies the question of imperial powers making policies that, as Francis Fukuyama, for Foreign Affairs stated, "are ultimately self-undermining." Kupchan, by researching such empires as those created by Germany, France, Britain, Japan, and the United States, concludes that they do so because they become either overly competitive or, in contrast, overly cooperative when a sudden shift in international balance of power occurs. Historically, Kupchan argues, when empires feel that they can protect their interests no matter what the threat, they become extremely competitive. When they feel vulnerable and fear they might be defeated if war were declared against them, on the other hand, they become very submissive, or at best, very cooperative. This was seen in Britain and France, for example, in the face of the threat from Germany in the 1930s. Policies that are created in the latter context, Kupchan defines as extremist and self-defeating. Once a country perceives itself to be in a state of high vulnerability, as quoted in an article written by Yuen Foong Khong for the American Political Science Review, strategic beliefs in that country induce the "elites to adopt extremist policies." These elites create propaganda and "in so doing, a new strategic culture supportive of these policies emerges." In the heat of this activity, some theorists might realize that the policies that are coming forth are self-destructive, but "they are unable to shift course, because the strategic culture they created now severely constrains their room of maneuvre." This inability to change eventually brings the empire to its knees.

Expanding on the thoughts contained in The Vulnerability of Empire, Kupchan later wrote The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, which Booklist's Gilbert Taylor suggested that "given his [Kupchan's] insight about the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy, public policy types will want to weigh Kupchan's wonkish warnings." Kupchan's warnings concern the fact that American power, as it has existed in the last half of the twentieth century, is impossible to sustain. One of the reasons for this is proven by history. American policy suggests that the political forces in the United States are committing the same mistakes as other empires that have failed. The forces that will possibly bring about this failure include, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "the rapid ascent of a united Europe" and the rise in power of China. In an interview with Suzy Hansen for the online publication Salon, Kupchan states: "No one stays at the top forever."

In that same interview, Kupchan expressed his views that the toppling of modern-day empires comes about much more rapidly than in ancient times, because "history is moving much more quickly than it used to." History, in the digital age, Kupchan says, moves in something much more like a "fast-forward" mode. In Kupchan's mind, the world would fare much better if there were more than one power. "We ought to work toward a world in which there are alternative centers of authority with the will and capability to do peacekeeping and intervention." He would like to see a strong European power taking care of problems that occur on the Eurasian continent. Another center of power might be created in Africa, leaving the United States to focus on the Western Hemisphere. When asked about Europe and China as forces in the future, Kupchan states that China will be a power to contend with in about twenty-five years; but for now "the most volatile relationship will be the one that changes most this decade," which will be the connection that the United States has with Europe. For many decades, the United States has protected and aided Europe. Kupchan believes that Europe has now grown up, and the United States, as Britain once did for it, should make room for Europe's desire to leave "home." Kupchan concluded: "We ought to say: Europe is rising, Europe wants voice, influence, and we're going to make room." Unfortunately, Kupchan finds that U.S. policy appears to be doing quite the opposite. He says: "We're still in the mode of 'How dare you challenge us?'"



American Political Science Review, December, 1988, G. Hossein Razi, review of The Persian Gulf and the West: The Dilemmas of Security, pp. 1429-1433; March, 1995, Yuen Foong Khong, review of The Vulnerability of Empire, pp. 256-257; June, 1996, Donald Rothchild, review of Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, pp. 454-455.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July, 1988, Richard J. Willey, review of The Persian Gulf and the West, pp. 132-133.

Booklist, October 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, p. 282.

Economist, March 22, 2003, "The Widening Atlantic; America and Europe," review of The End of the American Era.

Europe-Asia Studies, May, 1996, Tom Gallagher, review of Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, pp. 491-492.

Foreign Affairs, 1987, John C. Campbell, review of The Persian Gulf and the West, p. 446; May-June, 1995, Francis Fukuyama, review of The Vulnerability of Empire, p. 166; July-August, 1995, Francis Fukuyama, review of Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, p. 133.

International Security, spring, 1995, Richard Rosecrance, review of The Vulnerability of Empire, pp. 145-163.

Journal of Modern History, John Kent, review of The Vulnerability of Empire, pp. 329-331.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of The End of the American Era, p. 1367.

Library Journal, July, 1995, Thomas Karel, review of Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, p. 103.

Middle East Journal, William J. Olson, review of The Persian Gulf and the West, p. 690.

Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of The End of the American Era, p. 73.


Charles Kupchan Home Page,http://www.georgetown.edu/ (November 4, 2003).

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (December 2, 2002), Suzy Hansen, "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire," review of The End of the American Era.*