Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kagan on new global empires

From the Economist, March 29, book review.

Mr Kagan probably never left his study while preparing “The Return of History and the End of Dreams”. He has written just over 100 pages, the type is large and the spacing generous. Yet his book is subtle and deep where Mr Khanna's is clunky and shallow. His argument is that the short period after the end of the cold war when it was said that ideological conflict was over and that liberal democracy had prevailed was a delusion; we are now, he says, back in a world of clashing national ambitions and interests, one more akin to the 19th century than to the 1990s.
In that world there are no simple formulae for predicting or managing national behaviour. It is not a world in which one power—America—is dominant, though it remains the single most influential and capable country on a global scale, even after its debacle in Iraq. Nor is it a world, on his account, in which just three “empires” hold sway in any sort of triangular balance. It is a world in which many countries and their ruling elites are jostling for position and advantage, some of them keen to prove that today's assumptions about influence and status can and will be overturned. If there is a broad trend to be discerned in recent years it is the revival of autocracy as a sometimes effective and even legitimate form of government. If there is a neat dividing line, it is the line between the democracies and the autocracies. But using that line in the operation of foreign policy is no easier now than it has ever been.

Kagan's essay is here:

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