Review: The Choice–Global Domination or Global Leadership

4 Star, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Strategy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars End of An Era–And About Time….,

April 29, 2004
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski is considered by the Chinese to be one of America’s top strategists (along with Steve Metz from the Army War College), and that is entirely his due. He is brilliant when it comes to state-centric strategy, but falls short with respect to emerging threats, sub-state threats, intelligence reform, and the roles of non-governmental organizations including religions, and civil networks instead of government-driven “command and control.”While it used to be fashionable, when confronted with a choice between, say, market economies and controlled economies, to cleverly say “some of each” and earn the top grade, today things have changed and the answer is more often than not, “none of the above.” This estimable author, whose wisdom must certainly be taken into account at all times, does not actually present a choice, only an opinion as to how a state-centric system–largely irrelevant in the 21st Century–might best be managed.

Especially troubling to me was the almost complete lack of attention to substantive books published in the last ten years, including those, most recently, of George Soros (abusive capitalism), William Greider (immoral capitalism), Herman Daly (ecological economics), Jonathan Schell (unconquerable world), Howard Rheingold (Smart Mobs), Thomas Stewart (the wealth of knowledge as an alternative to violence), and so on. The author is not alone in this oversight–Joseph Nye, whose book on Soft Power I am also reviewing today, bases his work on Op-Eds, many of them not written by the people signing them, and has almost no substantive references either. The think tank culture has lost touch with true scholarship.

The author’s claim that Washington, D.C. is the center of the earth (pages 131-132) reflect in my view the last gasp of the Reagan-Smart Bush-Clinton era. While the author alludes to New York as the “other center”, I and my colleagues think instead of a loose network on “nodes”, some financial (Tokyo, London, Kuala Lumpur), some religious (Jerusalem, Rome, Salt Lake City, points in India), and so on. The author’s emphasis on the Trilateral Commission and the now-dying World Economic Forum (Davos) as the bastions of a global elite that is in agreement struck me as being astonishing insular and inaccurate. The author says that “This elite is fostering the emergence of a global community of shared interest in stability, prosperity, and perhaps eventually democracy.” I do not think so. All the other books I have reviewed for Amazon suggest that this elite is doing all it can to plunder the world by enriching micro-elites through corruption, while disenfranchising the broader publics (e.g. Canadian companies displacing villages in Peru to loot the gold, French companies buying up the water in Brazil to increase charges to the public for the water they used to own, etc.).

The author is to be commended for at least recognizing that America is losing its moral standing in the world, and this is an intangible value that cannot be easily purchased nor replaced.

In passing, footnote 4 on page 38 is inadvertently incorrect. There are 175 violent internal political conflicts, not 38. There are also 32 countries engaged in complex emergencies, 66 with millions of displaced refugees, 59 with plagues and epidemics, 33 with massive starvation, and 18 genocides now on-going.

The book ends somewhat quietly, suggesting a transatlantic convention and what one other reviewer very appropriately called “baby steps.” My bottom line: Brzezinski is a solid citizen with a big mind and an old framework. He *must* be consulted for his wisdom as we move forward, but it falls to others now to define the bold new steps–faith-based diplomacy, ecological economics, public intelligence, global accountability of leaders–that are essential is we are save the world for our children.

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