three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
35-July-Aug-2008
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0

A-The Post-American WorldFareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, is the author of several books, including The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (2003). He also frequently appears as a television commentator on foreign affairs.

The Topic: Between global initiatives to fight terrorism after 9/11, the war in Iraq, and ongoing efforts to broker a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the United States has plenty to worry about regarding foreign affairs. But Zakaria argues that these violent conflicts, important though they may be, are not the chief factor that will determine the long-term success of America in the world. Instead, he argues, the nation should pay attention to the "rise of the rest": countries like China and India, whose economic growth has skyrocketed in recent years and whose political power will soon expand proportionately. Simply put, the United States will not remain the sole superpower. But by fixing its political system, adopting a more flexible foreign policy, and restoring its international legitimacy, America can continue to prosper, even in a post-American world.
Norton. 292 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 039306235X

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a relentlessly intelligent book that eschews simple-minded projections from crisis to collapse. … [M]aybe it takes a Bombay-born immigrant like Zakaria, who went from Yale to Harvard (where we were colleagues) and to the top of Newsweek International, to remind this faltering giant [the United States] of its unique and enduring strengths." Josef Joffe

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Fareed Zakaria … has written a fascinating book on the rise of China and India in the 21st century with what will become a famous opening line: ‘This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else.’" Sam Coale

San Antonio Exp-News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] highly informed and meticulously detailed examination of ‘the third great power shift of the modern era.’ … Studded with statistics, Zakaria’s book is notable for its emphasis on economics as the driving force of global change." Rayyan Al-Shawaf

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Reading Zakaria, it’s hard not to reference Thomas L. Friedman’s seminal 2005 The World Is Flat, which sounded an alarm over the growing global competition America faces. … Departing from Friedman, Zakaria emphasizes a need for America to restore its legitimacy." Alan Moores

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Among those who comment on America’s place in the world there are plenty of Cassandras. … Amid such gloom, it is refreshing to read Fareed Zakaria, who writes with infectious (though not naïve) sunniness." Brendan Simms

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Zakaria’s The Post-American World is about the ‘rise of the rest,’ a catchy phrase from one of the most widely cited writers on foreign affairs. … But geopolitics is about more than growth rates. … Does China’s example tell us what has gone wrong in Venezuela and Pakistan, and could go wrong in Egypt and Indonesia?" Parag Khanna

Critical Summary

Reviewers generally welcomed Zakaria’s sanguine outlook on global affairs. Given his wide-ranging expertise and ability to marshal statistics and anecdotes to his cause, he is difficult to refute. Several critics also embraced an account of globalization that acknowledges the facts yet maintains an optimistic, pro-American view. But many reviewers were disappointed that Zakaria did not consider how to apply his ideas to some of the tangible problems facing the United States, most notably the war in Iraq (which he initially supported, even though he was critical of its execution). As a result, most critics praised The Post-American World, but few gave it the ringing endorsement that one might expect for a book by someone of Zakaria’s skill and stature.