Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Post American World by Farid Zacharia

I do not discuss politics on this blog. I've got another blog for that, the Codex Americana. But I must still talk a bit about geopolitical things when I review this book, because of the nature of its subject.

First of all, let me say that I like this book. And I highly recommend reading it. And as much as I liked "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman, I like this book more, because of the balanced viewpoint it creates. It is impossible to utterly predict the future, but I have long said that one of the great values of science fiction as a genre was because of the ways it could help us experiment with futures and their consequences.

Sure, we haven't met aliens, but we have played out the situations of what they might be like or what we might be like half a dozen times over. Conversely, the trends indicated in the Post American World are not set in stone, but they are practically granite in their pragmatic logic and patient analysis. Mr. Zacharia plays no favorites. He patiently analyizes, in one of the best ways I have yet read, why the West has been dominant in previous centuries, accepting the best of post modern scholars while at the same time dismissing many arguments that have been made for purposes of political correctness as an attempt at academic guilt routed apology.

He analyzes four of the major powers; two existing (Britian/EU, US) and two rising (India and China). He does not focus on Brazil and Russia as much, but the contrasts between India, the US, and China are fascinating. Reading this books helps paint a view of where we are headed in future times, and likely and intelligent strategies that the US can take to deal with it.

I think that the most valuable element he talks about in the book is the term "the rise of the rest" which is that America is not per se in a decline, but as the larger nations with inherent potential increase in GNP, the US's share of global power will shrink. He highlights the actual unique strengths in the US economy, particularly its vibrancy and its acceptance of immigrants as the true hope of its future. Of course, as an immigrant Mr. Zacharia is probably biased in favor of the US retaining skilled immigrants, but the truth is that he's right. More importantly, as someone who was born in India, lives in the US and who was chosen as the single US journalist to interview the president of China, he is someone who brings weight and seriousness to a discussion of great importance without being paranoid about China or India whilst diminishing the US to a rediculous stereotype.

In short, whether or not you agree with him, his viewpoint is a very insightful one and should be read by anyone who wants a greater understanding of where the world is heading in decades to come.

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