Doug Vanderweide's Reviews > The Post-American World

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
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** spoiler alert ** Fareed Zakaria is a political agnostic.

Not blinded by dogma -- beyond "government should be by consensus, and everyone should row in the same direction with the same destination in mind" -- he's ripe to criticize left and right alike.

Therein lies the mixed-bag reviews of "The Post-American World." Simply put, if you have a fixed world view, you're going to find ways to criticize Zakaria's opinions.

In addition to its provocative title -- which, to those who judge books by their covers, suggests an America in decline, rather than the world in transition that Zakaria actually writes about -- Zakaria's point is that there is nothing we can do to remain a global hegemon.

That's a wildly unpopular attitude to Americans, regardless of political stripe. Even if all the facts and evidence of at least the last five years clearly point to that fundamental truth.

What you can't take away from Zakaria, or this book, is that he's got evidence on his side. Yes, one can frame any argument in any context, if he's select in what facts he uses and how he presents them.

But I would argue that the takes Zakaria forwards in this book -- initially written four years ago, updated two years ago -- are plainly obvious, absent the evidence he cites.

Zakaria's primary arguments:

-- America has won. Its missionary zeal for democracy, peace and capitalism have largely taken root in the world, including places one never would have suspected it to flourish.

The consequence of winning is that the rest of the world is rising from poverty and irrelevance. And as that happens, their need to kowtow to the world's only superpower is waning.

-- America is by no means impotent; certainly not military, practically not economically. But the days of pushing other nations around, without regard for their interests or opinions, withered at the end of the Cold War, went terminal with the George W. Bush administration, and are now directly numbered.

In other words, the United States -- which used its post-world-wars might to seek compromise and multilateralism, used its economic and military supremacy in the wake of the Cold War to act as a bully. The results have been disastrous, and expecting to strong-arm our way out of that mess is patently ludicrous.

-- America will long be the world's greatest military power and will for the foreseeable future be its economic center.

-- The way forward for America is to be less of a boss and more of a leader. In other words, we can maintain the front-and-center role we've built by sticking to the principles that got us here, and that are raising up the developing world: open markets, firm rules that apply equally to everyone, accepting that only a child expects to get his way every time (and never actually gets it), and making hard choices about what's really important to us, rather than expecting to have our cake and eat it, too.

I couldn't agree more with all of that.

As Zakaria says repeatedly, the problem we face is politics that are not about consensus, balance and compromise, but about fear-mongering and obstinacy. At the moment when we most need the second Reagan administration, we're getting Harry Truman's second term.

If you're not blinded by MSNBC or Fox, you'll appreciate what Zakaria has to say, and see the wisdom that runs throughout it.
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