Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fareed Zakaria's Post-American World

Though The Post-American World is a rather alarming title, Fareed Zakaria is quick to state that it’s ‘not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else.’ Essentially, the book details the ways that globalization has resulted in the fundamental shift of political and economic (though not military) power away from American dominance and toward the two fastest growing economies today, China and India.

Unfortunately, none of the date presented here is new, nor is it analyzed in a unique way. Zakaria writes
for Newsweek, and this felt like an extended article from that magazine: more a digest of information than one with much real depth of its own.

But what makes this book worth reading is the call for America to begin to act as an honest power broker between other countries that may one day overtake it. Cue analogy to post-imperial Britain. But what is resounding is the utter absurdity of America’s foreign policy when it comes to emerging nations: nuclear technology isn’t allowe
d unless you had it before the mid 1960s (unless you are an ally). Use clean technology, even though we don’t, etc. Zakaria wants the next president to bring America’s rules for the world and for itself into alignment. Again not necessarily a new idea, but a sound one.

In my inexpert opinion, I felt that more attention should have been paid to some of the negatives to the end of the Cold War, a viewpoint that no Democrat or Republican has really been ready to take. Two major powers diame
trically opposed and controlling virtually the entire world is almost unheard of in history. America’s influence was such that it could literally persuade other nations to do things not in their own best interests because few wanted to shift their alignment to the Soviets. With no clear opposition, countries are now looking to strike deals that are in their interests, regardless of whether said countries have been ‘approved’ by America.

And that is where economic powers like China, who have no problem dealing with countries with human rights issues, like Zimbabwe, come in. The lack of clear opposition has as much to do with the current globalization climate as anything else, and Zakaria would have done well to dedicate a chapter to it in what really isn’t a very long book.

Along with a lot of other people, this book came to my attention when then presidential candidate Obama was photographed carrying it on a runway, finger inserted in the middle to keep his place. Can’t ask for a better blurb than that. But I tend to wonder what the new president really could learn from The Post-American World. It’s well stated, but not new material, or even a new twist on the old. And if it isn’t new to me, it certainly couldn’t have been to him.

One tends to wonder how many photographs showing presidents carrying books are truly presidents carrying props.

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