Friends of the Library | Focus on new nonfiction at the Truckee Library: The Post-American World
December 9, 2008
Despite its ominous title, Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World” (2008) is not one more doom-and-gloom book prophesying the inevitable decline of America. In fact, the author leaves one with an upbeat feeling about the leading role the United States can and should play in the course of the 21st century, during the time of what he calls “the rise of the rest,” that is, the emergence of other strong economic and political powers ” especially China and India.
Zakaria certainly has impressive credentials. Born in Mumbai (then Bombay) India in 1964, he attended an elite Anglican prep school before, at age 18, coming to the U.S. to complete his education (BA at Yale, Ph.D. in political science at Harvard). Presently, among other posts, he is International Editor of Newsweek. Though he has obviously embraced America fully and enthusiastically, his background has endowed him with a sensitivity enabling him to include the perspective of how other cultures view us.
Zakaria begins with the premise that in “the next few decades, three of the world’s four biggest economies will be nonwestern (Japan, China, and India). And the fourth, the United States, will be increasingly shaped by its growing non-European population.” The bi-polar world of the Cold War is no more, and the author sees clearly that the U.S. will have no military rival in the foreseeable future. He also asserts the U.S. will maintain its global economic prominence for years and years to come. He urges this country to continue its leadership role because the world expects it and, with some policy changes, would continue to welcome it. The question is: What should these changes be?
After making the valuable observation that many emerging nonwestern economic powers want to become modern but not necessarily Western, Zakaria devotes a chapter each to China and India, cultures differing also greatly from each other. He tries to explain how these nations see themselves and thus how we should view them. He cogently argues we have much more to gain by facilitating their economic and political rise than by attempting to thwart it. He suggests that, despite its unprecedented growth, China is not bent on economic world domination but does expect to play a global role commensurate with its economic strength. India’s government was for years officially anti-American, but, as the author explains, its people have been largely pro-American and the rise in the number of engineers in India presents no serious threat to the U.S. Though strong in numbers, Zakaria asserts they are no match in quality and in the key area of creativity. Besides, many of the best and brightest come here and thus strengthen American technological superiority.
After outlining several “new rules” that should govern future U.S. foreign policy, the author stresses the greatest impediment he sees to American leadership in developing peaceful global cooperation: Fear. Though we live in an age and country that, he maintains, can be shown statistically to be the safest in history, we have let fear dominate our thinking. This has soured our relations with the rest of the world. Zakaria advocates a return to the openness and “soft diplomacy” we engaged in so successfully in rebuilding the shattered world after World War II.
There is much here to provoke thought. One wonders if and how the author might have modified his ideas in light of the current global financial crises. In any case, readers of all political persuasions should find much to ponder and perhaps occasionally to take issue with. Check it out at the Truckee Library!
Recommended Stories For You
Monday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Tuesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tuesday Toddler Time at 10:30 a.m. (ages 2 to 3 years)
Babes in Bookland on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. (ages 6 months to 2 years)
Storytelling with Mrs. Fix on Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (ages 3 years and up)
Spanish Storytime on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (ages 2 and up)
Bookshelf’s Dry Camp Book Club at the Library
Meets monthly at the Library. Participants at the book group meeting
will receive a coupon for 15 percent off a one-time book purchase at
the Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks. Everyone is welcome. This month’s selections are “Last Night at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan and “My French Whore: A Love Story” by Gene Wilder (either or both!) Meeting is Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.
Now on display at the library:
Portraits by Truckee artist Raphael Jolly
Above the Fireplace: Sand Harbor in oils by Linda D’Toole