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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Post-American World

Bad news sells lots of newspapers, magazines and books and it does wonders for the ratings of television and radio news shows. Because of that, many of us who read or keep up with the news on a regular basis have been brainwashed into believing that the United States is in the midst of a terrible economic and societal decline from which it may never fully recover. In The Post-American World, author Fareed Zakaria offers a more optimistic view of the country’s current world status and how and why that status will change in the 21st century. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in between, but Zakaria’s book is definitely a persuasive one.

Zakaria’s theory is that the perceived decline of America is more to be attributed to the rise of the rest of the world than it is to an actual American decline. He sees the American example as having been a key element in the more-and-more successful globalization of the world that has allowed countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia to achieve remarkable economic growth and successes of their own. As those countries carve out a bigger piece of the pie for themselves, America’s dominance of the global marketplace will, by definition, decrease – not necessarily through any fault of its own.

The Post-American World emphasizes how important it is for the United States to adapt its foreign policy to one that places it in the position of the world’s “honest broker,” a position that will allow it to exert its influence on the rest of the world without it forever having to play the role of the “world’s policeman.” Zakaria believes that America’s geographical location will help make this possible because so many countries are likely to get along better with the U.S. than they do with their closer neighbors with whom they develop conflicts if the U.S. adopts a philosophy of “consultation, cooperation, and even compromise.”

Fareed Zakaria sees “the rise of the rest” as a good thing and as an opportunity for the United States to wield its influence in a way that will benefit not only itself but the rest of the world. He makes the case that what is happening to the global economy has the potential of creating a more peaceful world than the one we have seen in the past and that the United States has a major role to play in the process if it is to be successful.

Some will argue that Zakaria is being overly optimistic, and perhaps they are correct. It remains to be seen what will happen as a result of so many of “the rest” competing for the same limited natural resources and whether or not any resulting conflicts can be peacefully resolved – or if the U.S. is even willing, or able, to adapt itself to the new status predicted by Zakaria. One would like to believe that the author is onto something here, but only time will tell. The Post-American World presents an interesting theory in only 259 well-written pages, helping to make it a must-read for those interested in political and economic theory.

Rated at: 4.0
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