Fresh, unique, creative look at how the United States and The West could remain globally relevant this century, while peacefully accommodating the risFresh, unique, creative look at how the United States and The West could remain globally relevant this century, while peacefully accommodating the rise of China. Brzezinski's vision is such a break with the status quo, I actually read it twice, several months apart, so that I could more fully digest his nuanced, optimistic vision for the century.
This is not pontification from a politically correct professor, this isn't armchair quarterbacking. This was written by Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and thereafter continually active in US Foreign Policy circles.
Overall thinking is that:
* By 2025, the US financial situation is apopalyptic
* By 2050, China's per capita GDP will be close to Japan's current inflation adjusted GDP
* By 2050, Europe and the US together will economically be much smaller than China
* The US-Japan and US-Korea alliance allows the US in Asia to mimic the UK in Europe's balance of power strategy
* The West should be enlarged to integrate Turkey, and eventually integrate Russia, into a free trade and free immigration zone stretching from Vancouver east to Vladivostok. Only a larger west can engage the China of 2050 as an equal.
In the long run, global politics are bound to become increasingly uncongenial to the concentration of hegemonic power in the hands of a single state. Hence, America is not only the first, as well as the only, truly global superpower, but it is also likely to be the very last.... Economic power is also likely to become more dispersed. In the years to come, no single power is likely to reach the level of 30 percent or so of the world ' s GDP that America sustained throughout much of this century, not to speak of the 50 percent at which it crested in 1945.
Sections that I highlighted while reading follow, organized by relevant region.
How Asia got here
Most significant leadership roles in the first G-20 meeting in 2009 were played by the presidents of two states: the USA and China.
Inklings of Asia's emergence on the international scene first came into view with the brief rise of Japan as a major military power following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.
Based on high rates of savings, moderate wages, deliberate concentration on high technology, and the inflow of foreign capital through energetically promoted exports, Japan's GDP grew from $500 billion in 1975 to $5.2 trillion in 1995.
Before long, Japan's economic success was emulated—though in politically more authoritarian settings— by China, South Korea, Taiwan, the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, and Indonesia, as well as by the more democratic India.
China, no longer faced by a potential Soviet threat and thus free to focus its resources on domestic development, achieved a degree of infrastructural modernization comparable to what had transpired in the West over the course of the previous century.
China and other Asian states a perplexing amalgam of economic liberalism and state capitalism demonstrated a surprising capacity for economic growth and technological innovation.Why don't we in the west soberly evaluate this system, learn from it, and adapt the benefits? Instead, we let our [so called] "free market" and "democracy" be surpassed by the incremental innovations in Asian politics.
The United States is still preeminent but the legitimacy, effectiveness, and durability of its leadership is increasingly questioned worldwide because of the complexity of its internal and external challenges. Nevertheless, in every significant and tangible dimension of traditional power—military, technological, economic, and financial—America is still peerless.
This reality may not endure for very long but it is still the current fact of international life.
There are several alarming similarities between the Soviet Union in the years just prior to its fall and the America of the early twenty-first century. The Soviet Union, with an increasingly gridlocked governmental system incapable of enacting serious policy revisions, in effect bankrupted itself by committing an inordinate percentage of its GNP to a decades-long military rivalry with the United States and exacerbated this problem by taking on the additional costs of a decade-long attempt to conquer Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, it could not afford to sustain its competition with America in cutting-edge technological sectors and thus fell further. behind; its economy stumbled and the society's quality of life further deteriorated in comparison to the West; its ruling Communist class became cynically insensitive to widening social disparities while hypocritically masking its own privileged life-style; and finally, in foreign affairs it became increasingly self-isolated, while precipitating a geopolitically damaging hostility with its once-prime Eurasian ally, Communist China.
Idealism & materialism defined America from the start and helped obscure and justify should have been profoundly troubling: eviction and extinction Indians (with the Indian Removal Act, passed by Congress in 1830, representing the first formalized case of ethnic cleansing), slavery, repression and segregation of black Americans.
The Mexico seen by the US was ignored by others until recently. An expansionist and territorially greedy power, ruthless in its pursuit of material interests, imperialist in its international ambitions, and hypocritical in its democratic affectations. Planting of the American flag in the Hawaiian kingdom and some decades later even across the Pacific, in the Philippines (from which the United States withdrew only after World War II). Cuba and parts of Central America also had encounters with US power that were reminiscent of Mexico's experience.
President George W. Bush: “Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model for the world” (August 28, 2000).
The post 2020 fiscal outlook is downright apocalyptic.... The United States is fast approaching a historic turning point: either it will act to get its fiscal house in order, thereby restoring the prerequisites of its primacy in the world, or it will fail to do so and suffer both the domestic and international consequences.
America's flawed financial system is a major liability. Financial speculators both in banks and in hedge funds, effectively immune to shareholder control, reaped enormous personal profits without the redeeming benefits of economic innovation or job creation.
Recent studies comparing US intergenerational earnings mobility to those of various European countries show that overall economic mobility is actually lower in “the land of opportunity” than in the rest of the developed world.
On a symbolic level, the fact that China—in rural and small-town respects still a premodern society—is now moving ahead of the United States in such highly visible examples of twenty-first-century structural innovation speaks volumes. As America's infrastructure continues to decay it will inevitably impact its economic output.
Poorly educated American citizens. What passes for news tends to be trivia or human-interest stories. Cumulative effect of such widespread ignorance makes the public more susceptible to demagogically stimulated fear, especially when aroused by a terrorist attack. Public ignorance creates an American political environment more hospitable to extremist simplifications—abetted by interested lobbies—than to nuanced views of the inherently more complex global realities of the post–Cold War era. Key word here: demagogy.
Building off of the public's basic ignorance of world history and geography, profit-motivated mass media exploited public fears allowing for the demagogically inclined Bush administration to spend eight years remaking the United States into a crusader state
America's existing political system—highly dependent on financial contributions to political campaigns—is increasingly vulnerable to the power of well-endowed but narrowly motivated domestic and foreign lobbies that are able to exploit the existing political structure in order to advance their agendas at the expense of the national interest.
Process with roots as large and as deep as political polarization is unlikely to be reversed easily, if at all.... Our nation is in for an extended period of political warfare between the left and the right.
The basic fact, which the currently fashionable deconstruction of the American system tends to slight, is that America's decline is not foreordained.
Advantages * America's relatively strong demographic base, especially when compared to those of Europe, Japan, and Russia. * America's capacity for reactive mobilization. The pattern of its democratic politics is for delayed reactions, followed by social mobilization in the face of a danger that prompts national unity in action. * Some of America's liabilities provide ready-made foci for social mobilization on behalf of socially constructive goals. * Unlike some major powers, America has the advantage of a uniquely secure, natural resource–rich, strategically favorable, and very large geographic base for a population that is nationally cohesive and not beset by any significant ethnic separatism. * America's location on the edge of the world's two most important oceans—the Atlantic and the Pacific—offers a security barrier while America's shores provide a springboard for maritime commerce and, if necessary, for transoceanic power projection. * Broad view of America as fundamentally a democracy still retains its residual appeal.
Could patiently and persistently pursued domestic reforms turn America into an example of an intelligent society in which a productive, energetic, and innovative economy serves as the basis for shaping a society that is culturally, intellectually, and spiritually more gratifying?
After Collapse Hence one “intermediate” and perhaps more likely outcome could involve a period of inconclusive domestic drift, combining spreading decay in America's quality of life, national infrastructure, economic competitiveness, and social well-being, though with some belated adjustments in US foreign policy somewhat reducing the high costs and painful risks of America's lately practiced propensity for lonely interventionism.
Deepening domestic stagnation would further damage America's global standing, undercut the credibility of US international commitments, and prompt other powers to undertake an increasingly urgent—but potentially futile—search for new arrangements to safeguard their financial stability and national security.
Japan is dependent on the United States for military protection and would have to make the painful choice of accommodating China or perhaps of allying with India in joint opposition to it
Prospects of a post-America scramble may already be discreetly shaping the planning agenda of the chancelleries of the major foreign powers even if not yet dictating their actual policies States, like individuals, are driven by inherited propensities—their traditional geopolitical inclinations and their sense of history—and they differ in their ability to discriminate between patient ambition and imprudent self-delusion
China's remarkable economic momentum, its capacity for decisive political decisions motivated by clearheaded and self-centered national interest, its relative freedom from debilitating external commitments, and its steadily increasing military potential coupled with the worldwide expectation that soon it will challenge America's premier global status justify ranking China just below the United States in the current international hierarchy.
China thus prudently accepts the existing international system, even if not viewing as permanent the prevailing hierarchy within it. It recognizes that its own success depends on the system not collapsing dramatically but instead evolving toward a gradual redistribution of power. It seeks more influence, craves international respect, and still resents its “century of humiliation,” but increasingly feels self-confident about the future
Rapid decline of America's global primacy would produce a global crisis that could devastate China's own well-being and damage its long-range prospects
By and large, they are still guided by Deng Xiaoping's famous maxim: “Observe calmly; secure our position: cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.”
Deceptive Posture. The wisest posture in combat is to lay back, let one's opponent make fatal mistakes, and only then capitalize on them.
Unlike America's favorable geographic location, China is potentially vulnerable to a strategic encirclement. Japan stands in the way of [the Pacific].
China's ambitions are beginning to surface more openly, with nationalistic assertiveness increasingly undermining calm posture.
The EU as such is not a major independent power on the global scene, even though Great Britain, France, and Germany enjoy a residual global status
Germany is the economic engine of Europe and matches China in its exporting prowess but remains reluctant to assume military responsibilities outside of Europe.
The days when an exclusive Western club—dominated by Great Britain, France, or the United States—could convene to share global power at the Congress of Vienna, at the Versailles Conference, or at the Bretton Woods meeting, are irrevocably gone.
During the nineteenth century native fighters in head-on battles against the British in Central Africa, against the Russians in the Caucasus, or against the Americans by Indians typically suffered casualties at a ratio of 100:1
Too self-satisfied, it acts as if its central political goal is to become the world's most comfortable retirement home.
Only the economically united European region slightly surpasses the United States, but even so the Western European model exhibits higher structural unemployment and lower rates of growth.
[after US decline] Europe, not yet cohesive, would likely be pulled in several directions: Germany and Italy toward Russia because of commercial interests.
In 1943, President Roosevelt not so subtly told Britain's ambassador to the United States, Lord Halifax, while pointing at a map of the Middle East, that “Persian oil is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours.” So began America's subsequently painful political involvement in that region.
America's long-standing and generous support for Israel, derived more from a genuine sense of moral obligation and less from real strategic congruity
An Israel that could become internationally viewed—to cite Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ominous warning in 2010—as an “apartheid” state would have doubtful long-term prospects.
Uncertainty and insecurity within Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE are likely to intensify. They may have to seek new and more effective protectors of their security. China would be an obvious and potentially economically motivated candidate.
The US position in the Middle East is manifestly deteriorating. An American decline would end it.
Bin Laden in twenty of his twenty-four major speeches, both before and after 9/11, justified violence against America by citing its support for Israel.
INDIA Contemporary India is a complicated mixture of democratic self-governance, massive social injustice, economic dynamism, and widespread political corruption. As a result, its political emergence as a force in world affairs has lagged behind China's.
The view—held by its foreign policy elite—that India is not only a rival to China but also already one of the world's superpowers lacks sober realism.
The Indians envy the Chinese economic and infrastructural transformation. The Chinese are contemptuous of India's relative backwardness
The Indians fear Chinese-Pakistani collusion; the Chinese feel vulnerable to India's potential capacity to interfere with Chinese access through the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Africa
RUSSIA Russia considers itself to be too powerful to be satisfied with being merely a normal European state and yet has been too weak to permanently dominate Europe.
Contemporary postimperial Russia—because of the wealth of its sparsely populated but vast territory rich in natural resources— is destined to play a significant role on the world arena.
The fact of the matter, painful for many Russians to acknowledge, is that in such a Russo-Chinese alliance—assuming that the Chinese would want it—Russia would be the junior partner, with potentially negative territorial consequences eventually for Russia itself.
Russia will lack a secure geopolitical future as well as a self-satisfying modern and democratic identity without a closer connection with the West in general and with Europe specifically.
Strategic clarity means nothing less than a realistic assessment as to what kind of Russia would enhance—and not divide—the West. Only a Europe linked to America can confidently reach eastward to embrace Russia in a historically binding relationship.
Considering how dramatically global politics have changed in the course of the last forty years.
Looking beyond 2025, it is therefore not unrealistic to conceive of a larger configuration of the West. Turkey could by then already be a full member of the EU.
Under optimal circumstances resulting eventually even in Russia's membership in both the EU and NATO....more