“The Post-American World” by Fareed Zakaria

Introduction

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria deals with issues of global dominance. In this book, Zakaria analyses the role that the US has played in both political and world domination. Zakaria reveals that his book is not about the fall of America.

He writes that his book is about the rise of other countries. He refers to these countries as ‘everyone else’1. The Post-American World is different from similar books because it does not portray the fall of America but rather dwells on the rise of other countries such as India and China. Zakaria posits that the United States will lose its global influence on politics and capital. The US will however remain strong.

He compares the current US position with similar positions held by countries such as Britain. Zakaria informs us that Britain and the US have dominated global economics and politics for the last 500 years. While Britain has lost both its economic and military dominance, the US has gained a modern military that dwarfs all other armies in terms of size and equipment. Zakaria gives an optimistic analysis of the next fifty or so years. India, Russia and China will continue to rise.2

This book has enjoyed thousands of reviews from magazines and internet users around the globe. It has been viewed as sharp and accurate. It is a good account of global politics and issues and is written with a comfortable journalistic style. The author is well known and very credible. Zakaria maintains that we are living in a “peaceful era”. He is highly hopeful of the 21st century. He says that global violence was at its climax in the 1980s and 1990s and is now on a historical decline. Less people are perishing in conflicts. He alludes that the US has played a great role in fostering democracy and economic growth around the world.3

As a result, many countries are now rising on the economic front. Wealth has spread to developing countries. The US no longer has the highest buildings or the largest dams. Zakaria looks at the implications of these facts. He advises the United States on the steps it should take to improve its viability.4

Body

Zakaria analyses how developing countries have risen over the past decade. This financial growth has created political confidence and patriotism. The downside is that it can also create serious problems. The book informs the US on how to deal with this new age. The book notes that there have been a few changes of power over the last 500 years. These changes have transferred power from the West to the United States.

This power is now being shared by the US and emerging countries such as Brazil, Russia and China. The United States had a lot of economic power at the beginning of the 20th Century. That power was initially not political. The US gained political power in the middle of the 20th Century. That power has waned and is now held by several other powerful countries.5 Zakaria describes a new world order. He describes his book as such: “This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else.” He reports that the number of poor people is reducing in most of the world’s countries.

The world economy has experienced historic growth despite events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks. It “grew at its fastest rate in nearly four decades.”6 Macao makes more than Las Vegas in regards to casino taxes. Singapore has the largest Ferris wheel. Bollywood has overtaken Hollywood. A small number of countries experience more than 15 percent inflation. An interesting note is that Iran spends about a penny for every dollar the US spends on weapons. The United States economy has dwindled in comparison to other nations.7

This book emphasizes the role of strong central governments. Some people have consequently viewed it as communist. The Post-American World has seven chapters. It first declares its main argument. The argument is that a new power shift has emerged. The United States will remain as the most influential country but with less influence compared to the last few decades. There has also been a shift of power to large non-governmental organizations.

These international organizations need to take adaptive steps to modern trends. Zakaria believes that there is little focus on important issues such as the environment of our planet and inflation. He believes that too much focus is being put on less important factors such as terrorism. The book looks at the factors that have led to the current situation. The West became powerful because of encouraging trade with various nations. The West also improved its labor productivity and. This is where Britain and Europe traded with people from all backgrounds. Britain traded with China, India and nations from other continents.

The US took over this power because of its free market economy and capitalist policy. The US successfully spread this policy to other regions. This spread has caused the creation of new economic powers in a number of nations. The economies of these nations have surged dramatically.8 The book compares this growth to similar growths in the late nineteenth century and mid-twentieth century.9 In both instances there were new nations that climbed the ranks to become global powers. The author looks at how the US has become distrustful of people from other countries.10

An entire chapter is dedicated to China. China exports more products on a daily basis than it did in the whole of 1978. Zakaria analyses how the country has steadily modernized. China has undertaken a technique of minor and gradual reforms. It now stands next to the United States on the power scale. It will however take decades for it to reach the same level as the US. China’s Confucian idealism has enabled it to embrace success. This ideology holds that people can be tutored and improved. This can be achieved through individual and collective efforts. High merit and moral perfection are embraced.11

The country also has strong beliefs in the practicality and rationalism. It has an attractive non-combative guiding principle that has been well applied in Africa. This is in contrast to the forceful Western style of intervention. The Western style enforces reforms but the Chinese do not force anyone to reform. China has a fear of social reforms and this is what inhibits it. This is due to its top-bottom political structure.12

India also has an entire chapter. It has bottom-top political structure that always falls prey to social unrest. This unrest has little political effect. One of India’s inhibitions is the fact that high priority is put on regional matters. This takes away attention from national matters. This is evident in its government policy and decisions. This book looks at India’s plus side. India has autonomous courts.

Contracts and private property rights are respected. There are many businessmen who speak English.13 The constitution is strictly adhered to and the private sector is stable and strong. The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria analyses how global powers have used their power. It summarizes the state of economies, politics and stability. It looks at how Britain and the US started the Boer War and the Iraq War. Britain had enormous political power but it lost its financial authority. The US had unsurpassed economic dominance at the start of the 21st century. The US was different because it had diminished its political power14.

Fareed Zakaria is optimistic on the future of the US. He disagrees with signs that show the US is deteriorating. He warns the US about the dangers of internal partisan politics and domestic extremism. He decries the allocation of power to special interest groups. Zakaria is opposed to media sensationalism. This media reduces the federal government’s capacity to deal with new world trends. The book gives a precise and real account of how the United States has used its power.15

Fareed Zakaria offers six guidelines that the United States should abide to. The guidelines are intended to make the US remain economically and politically strong. The first guideline requires that the US choose its priorities. Zakaria recommends that the US should decide what is important to it instead of spreading its focus on several issues. The US should concentrate on saving and improving the environment and deal with rising commodity prices. Broad rules should be created.16

Special interests should be put aside. Global mechanisms and institutions should be strengthened and enforced. The United States must commit to these mechanisms and institutions. The third guideline says “Be Bismarck, not Britain”17. The United States should foster good relations with every nation. They should not try to counterbalance budding powers. Britain lost heavily because of maintaining strained relations with strategic powers.

The US should respond to problems through a variety of organs such as the United Nations, OAS or NATO.18 It should not address all issues using one front. The US should be rational and assign adequate priorities to all challenges. It should not give undue attention to minor events. The US should deal with terrorists and drug cartels. The last guideline advices the US that legitimacy is the element that determines who has influence. It generates the power to influence agendas and mobilize support.

Conclusion

The Post American World is an informed account of the state of global power. One disadvantage of the book is its brevity. It looks at the changes in the world with a more detailed focus on the events of the last three decades. It shows how US attitudes have changed and there is a greater suspicion of foreigners. The United States is given advice on how it should change and adapt to a new world order. The book gives an optimistic success on the future of the United States. The United States will remain economically and politically powerful but global power will be spread out more evenly.19

Works Cited

Drezner, Daniel W. Avoiding trivia: the role of strategic planning in American foreign policy. Chicago: Brookings Institution Press, 2009.

Herring, George C. From colony to superpower: U.S. foreign relations since 1776. Oxford University Press US, 2008.

Indyk, Martin Innocent abroad: an intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East. Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Lundestad, Geir. East, West, North, South: Major Developments in International Politics since 1945. SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010.

Moïsi, Dominique. The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope Are Reshaping the World. Doubleday, 2009.

Salkowitz, Rob. Young World Rising: How Youth Technology and Entrepreneurship Are Changing the World from the Bottom Up. John Wiley and Sons, 2010.

Sen, Amartya. The Idea of Justice. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Waters, Neil L. Beyond the area studies wars: toward a new international studies UPNE. Chicago, 2000.

White, Jane. America, Welcome to the Poorhouse: What You Must Do to Protect Your Financial Future and the Reform We Need. FT Press, 2009.

Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008.

Footnotes

  1. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 5.
  2. Waters, Neil L. Beyond the area studies wars: toward a new international studies (Chicago: UPNE, 2000), 56.
  3. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 119.
  4. White, Jane. America, Welcome to the Poorhouse: What You Must Do to Protect Your Financial Future and the Reform We Need. (Houston: FT Press, 2009), 142.
  5. Lundestad, Geir. East, West, North, South: Major Developments in International Politics since 1945. (New York: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010), 121.
  6. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 145.
  7. Lundestad, Geir. East, West, North, South: Major Developments in International Politics since 1945. (New York: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010), 121.
  8. Lundestad, Geir. East, West, North, South: Major Developments in International Politics since 1945. (New York: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010), 68.
  9. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 209.
  10. Sen, Amartya. The Idea of Justice. (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2009), 97.
  11. Salkowitz, Rob. Young World Rising: How Youth Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom Up. ( London: John Wiley and Sons, 2010), 67.
  12. Sen, Amartya. The Idea of Justice. (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2009), 76.
  13. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. New York: (W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 214.
  14. Herring, George C. From colony to superpower: U.S. foreign relations since 1776. (New York: Oxford University Press US, 2008), 45.
  15. Indyk, Martin Innocent abroad: an intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East. (London: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 78.
  16. Drezner, Daniel W. Avoiding trivia: the role of strategic planning in American foreign policy. (Chicago: Brookings Institution Press, 2009), 245.
  17. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 111.
  18. Moïsi, Dominique. The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope Are Reshaping the World. (Los Angeles: Doubleday, 2009), 162.
  19. Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008), 219.