Abu Muqawama pointed to a must-read essay in The New York Times Magazine by Parag Khanna of The New America Foundation ( if you are not familiar with this think tank’s orientation, you can get some idea by checking out their board of directors). This is a lengthy, grand historical ( and overly deterministic) narrative of relative American decline and a coming age of superstate multipolarity with a critical “swing vote” being held by New Core/Seam states like Russia and Brazil.
The Geopolitical Marketplace
At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing – and losing – in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules – their own rules – without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.
The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.
Read the rest here.
My reaction to Khanna’s essay, distilled from his upcoming book The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, are mixed. Clearly, great effort and thought that has been put into this project by the well-read Mr. Khanna and his Thomas Friedmanesque globetrotting reportage is nothing but impressive. Clearly, Parag Khanna “gets” that globalization is a dynamic and complex system with interdependent “frenemies”; which I infer that he splices liberally with geopolitics and the hard cultural conflict of Sam Huntington. A synthesis of civilizational conflict and convergence.
While erudite, Khanna’s geo-economic/political argument regarding the inevitable decline of the liberal international order has been made before (anyone recall Lester Thurow or Paul Kennedy?) in the early 1990’s, the 1970’s, late 1950’s, early 1930’s and perhaps originally in the gripping angst of the Lost Generation of WWI. Perhaps even further, as Russian intellectuals of the Silver Age like Aleksandr Blok were already worrying themselves sick about ” the Yellow Peril” even before the Russo-Japanese War. And as he freely admits, Khanna’s geopolitical model of three, contending global centers of gravity bears a strong resemblence to Orwell’s. Khanna offers some sound, if modest, advice for American policy makers though the soundness of his counsel is independent of the validity of his thesis. There’s a great deal of glossing over the longitudinal weaknesses of the EU and China and minimizing of the adaptiveness of America in this essay in order to make the declinist narrative as deterministic as it comes across.
That being said, well worth your time to pop open a cold one and read it.
Dr. Nexon has his evaluation of his former student’s work at The Duck of Minerva
CKR has an awesome critique in the comments section here.
Libby at The Newshoggers takes note.
protein wisdom rejects it as unwise – and I agree that the article probably reflects the geopolitical hopes of some NYT editors in their lighter moments when they are not too busy slandering Iraq War veterans.
Love fest from Washington Note.