From the “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” department —
Awhile back I received an email from a conservative friend with a picture of President Obama getting off Air Force One with a book under his arm. You could just read the title: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. Apparently my friend was offended the president would be reading a book with such a title.
On the other hand, I was intrigued. I downloaded the book onto my Kindle and read it during my recent trip to Europe. I’m glad I did.
First, I was familiar with the author from his columns in Time magazine. Fareed Zakaria has an impressive resume as a journalist. Some highlights — he was born in India, hosts the show Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, writes a column for The Washington Post, and is the author of five books and co-editor of one. As such, he brings a unique perspective to world politics and economics.
Second, this work is less about the decline of the USA and more about the rise of the rest of the world, which Zakaria explains in some detail. Yes, other nations are rising, presumably at our expense. How should we respond? That’s the real message of the book — facing the challenges, and opportunities, that changing circumstances require. More specifically, Zakaria sets six specific guidelines for our future courses of action. They are summarized as —
- Choose — In other words, have priorities.
- Build broad rules, not narrow interests
- Be Bismarck, not Britain — Britain’s decline began as it kept too low a profile in Europe, while German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck engaged all the great powers.
- Order a la carte — “… the search for a superpower solution to every problem may be futile and unnecessary.”
- Think asymmetrically — “Because the current era is one in which asymmetrical responses have become easier to execute and difficult to defeat.” (Like terrorism)
- Legitimacy is power
So this work is a very good analysis of how we got to where we are today, and where we should go from here, not about an inevitable decline. As I said, you can’t judge a book by its [title] cover.