Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ivy Scholars Reading: Update 2/A (future) Yalie in New York

I definitely should have made a blog update sooner, but things such as my return flight from NY trip (which I'll talk about later) being delayed by two hours and drum major duties unfortunately focused my attention elsewhere. I'm really sorry, but I'll try to fill it with lots of content. Since the last time I've blogged I've finished (and enjoyed) two more books, Robert Kagan's The Return of History and the End of Dreams and Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World.

The Return of History and the End of Dreams disproves the belief that the end of ideological disputes on an international level. This belief, which is known as the "new world order", is not present today. Instead, what exists is a world order of "one superpower [the United States], many great powers [Russia, China, Japan, India, Iran]". Kagan provides a detailed analysis of how each modern great power rose and what each great power's motives are today. "The great fallacy of our era has been the belief that a liberal international order rests on the triumph of ideas and on the natural unfolding of human progress," is a quote from the book that truly captures the book's main idea. The future does not guarantee that all nations will eventually turn to liberalism, thus producing a world of free countries free of international conflicts. What we face today is a world composed of democratic and autocratic powers. If we want an international order of liberalism, democracies must work towards it, because it is not--contrary to the belief of Enlightenment thinkers--guaranteed. This book opened my eyes to viewing international issues in the status quo. Now, I can see how those powerful countries use certain grand strategies in trying to accomplish their ambition--for example, Russia wishes to reestablish its position as Eurasian hegemon and it is doing things such as preventing Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO or the EU--and how the United States will need a formidable grand strategy to maintain peace in this world of conflicting interests.

I am glad that I read The Post-American World immediately after finishing The Return of History and the End of Dreams, because these books, which both address the rise and current state of great powers today and how United States factors into all of this, are very closely related. I even noticed that Zakaria quotes Kagan a few times in his book. The Post-American World explains how "the rise of the rest" is taking place, from capitalism becoming a worldwide phenomenon to the development of new industries. It explains how although the growth of many countries expands the pie of wealth and power, thus yielding more for everyone, it still has an inverse relationship of percents. This means that although the United States is still expanding economically and politically, its relative position with respect to the rest of the world is diminishing. Zakaria explains the situation much more clearly with, "As other countries grow faster, America's relative economic weight will fall". He summarizes the reason with, "...the United States succeeded in its great and historic mission--it globalized the world. But along the forgot to globalize itself." Then, he devotes a chapter to China, which is modernizing and expanding its power every day through capitalism. He calls it "the challenger" because although China now believes in a free economy, it still doesn't follow the American ideal of having a free government. He then devotes a chapter to India, which, like China, is developing rapidly through capitalism, but is called "the ally" instead, because of its democratic government. I really appreciated reading these two chapters, because not only did they give me lots of information about two countries that are affecting our world greatly today, but also because I can incorporate this new knowledge into my life as a policy debater (Policy debate constantly consists of arguments involving many countries such as nuclear proliferation and probable nuclear war). The next two chapters focused on America's power and purpose today. Zakaria covers the many advantages and many disadvantages of the United States today in this global playing field. He concludes with six steps that we as a nation must do to remain successful in the future. We must especially stay true to our liberal ideal of being an open, welcoming country that embodies diversity an determination. I think that we must also try to retain those qualities as individuals.

(I'll add the NY section in a little bit.)

1 comment:

  1. Yohanna,

    A very interesting read.

    You Yalies seem to be getting a nice mix of history and an analysis of the world as it is now. Knowing the history can help you to better understand some of the social commentaries you’re reading about and be able to make an informed decisions whether the author knows what he’s talking about or not.

    Not everyone has to agree with our own way of thinking, Yohanna, but how are we to separate the ‘right’ thinking from the ‘wrong’ if we don’t have a good foundation from which to base our own analysis?

    I feel very confident that you all are establishing that foundation. Of course, there’s always a lot more to learn but such is life—we continue to learn until we die.