The Post-American World

Prior to last month’s discussion of The World is Flat, I was trying to finish Fareed Zakaria‘s The Post-American World.   Oh well, better late than never.  Zakaria starts off the book discussing the “rise of the rest” and how many parts of the rest of the world (states and non-states) are doing much better these days.  America pushed for globalization, got globalization and now doesn’t know what to do with it.  In his chapter titled A Non-Western World? he ponders the connections between culture and destiny and reviews the rise and fall of other great civilizations and cultures.  The next two chapters cover China and India (the Challenger and the Ally respectively) and their roles in the post-American world.  The chapter on China covers its history, relations with the rest of Asia, relations with America and the asymmetrical aspects of its current power.  India’s self-identification as a geography more than a country and the relative effects of Hinduism were two of the next chapter’s more interesting side topics.  The penultimate chapter reviews the political gridlock that cripples America now and has a fascinating comparison of current-day America with late nineteenth century Britain.  Their Boer War is not our Iraq War, since they were a political power with a crippled economy and we are, in broad strokes, the opposite (here’s a related article from Foreign Affairs by Zakaria, adapted from the book).

Zakaria closes the book with a call for a renewal of American Purpose.  He proposes six New Rules for a New Age:  Choose, build broad rules instead of narrow interest, be Bismarck not Britain, order a la carte, think asymmetrically, and legitimacy is power.  The book ends with his call for us to lose our fear, regain our confidence and return to the great, open America we once were.

For more opinions, here’s a more in-depth review by one of Zakaria’s colleagues, a less-enthusiastic one from Britain, a friendly chat between Zakaria and Thomas Friedman, and an anti-Zakaria column.

This was a very “glass-half-full” type of read.  It motivated me much more than TWIF and it had less fluff.  I hope Zakaria is right about our current status and our ability to regain the best parts of our past successes.  Work-wise, I particularly appreciated his pages on the changes that need to take place in Washington.  People  from both/all sides could benefit from his approach to government problem-solving and policy-making.

Note to his editors:  check the multiple improper uses of  “further” in place of the correct “farther.”

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