The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just finished The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. It was a quick read since it mostly feels like a long-form journalistic essay, more than a tough piece of non-fiction. I didn’t particularly find anything about this book to be earth-shattering or controversial, but it was a fair description of the ways in which the global system is undergoing important changes, with the U.S. still at the center.

In a nutshell, Zakaria argues that the U.S. is still enjoying a hegemonic unipolar status in the world and certain economic, military and social blunders notwithstanding, America is not being challenged for its primacy in any major way. He spends a good chunk of the book praising China and India for their successes and describing all the ways in which their growth and progress is shaping the international system. He laments on the excess in politics, technology and economics that has led to some of the ills in the world today. He argues about security in a unipolar world and the existence of the major power outside the realm of the system of international initiatives (something I plan on taking up on this blog later this week).

One of the more interesting thoughts I took from the book was a footnote near the end about Zakaria’s position on Iraq and the invasion of 2003. Here it is, replicated below –

“It is not a subject for this book, but I was in favor of the effort to oust Saddam Hussein, though I argued from the start for a much larger force and an internationally sanctioned intervention and occupation. My reasoning was mostly related to the fact that Western policy toward Iraq had collapsed-sanctions were leaking, countless civilians were dying because of the embargo, Al Qaeda was enraged by our base in Saudi Arabia, from which we operated the No Fly Zone-and I believed that a more modern and moderate Iraq in the middle of the Arab world would help break the dysfunctional political dynamics of the Arab world. I opposed, from the first few weeks, Washington’s occupation policies. In retrospect, I underestimated not merely the administration’s arrogance and incompetence but also the inherent difficulty of the task. I continue to believe that a modern, moderate Iraq would make an important difference in the politics of the Middle East, I hope that Iraq will, in the long run, evolve into such a place, but the costs have been ruinously high-for Americans, for America’s reputation, but especially for Iraqis. And foreign policy is a matter of costs and benefits, not theology.”

I thought this passage was especially interesting because Zakaria writes honestly about his support for the deposing of Hussein and the evolution in his thought processes, leading him to where he is today. Most left-of-center thinkers would be quick to dismiss ever having supported intervention efforts, based primarily on the folly that the situation has turned into today. Zakaria’s honesty here is commendable.

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