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Parag Khanna. The Second World ISBN 0-812979842 - Book Report/Review Example

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Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (2008) was born in India and was raised in the United Arab Emirares, the United States, and Germany. As a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America…
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September 4, The End of American Dominance and the Rise of The Second World of Parag Khanna Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (2008) was born in India and was raised in the United Arab Emirares, the United States, and Germany. As a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation, he has a natural sense of a variety of cultures, having been raised around the world. He utilizes this sensibility in his book, The Second World, where he weighs the future powers and comes up with a striking thesis: America will no longer be the dominant nation in the 21st century world and beyond.
This overarching narrative drew me into the book, as Khanna laid out his view of a 21st century world no longer dominated by one nation. He asserts that the 21st century world order will no longer have the USA at the top of the heap, but have three dominant superpowers essentially sharing a delicate balance of power: the United States, China, and the European Union (the “big three”).
The driving force behind this reorganization of world power is the struggle for control of energy and natural resources in regions of the world like the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. The three superpowers are continuously in conflict over control of these resources, and geo-politics, combined with how the powers treat and deal with the nations who possess those natural resources. Khanna gives the reader much information about the political value of such nations as Algeria, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Indonesia and Tajikstan, and the role they have to play in the geo-political game of chess.
These periphery players, or “second world” countries, as Khanna calls them, are second-tier in global power, but first-tier in strategic importance (Khanna, 121). These countries are growing, and growing fast, have a variety of natural resources important to the “big three,” and control a growing percentage of the world’s oil reserves and other natural resources, and are major players in who controls the world’s global economy. These countries are just as independent as the big three, and have their own social, economic and political agendas. They present an often difficult minefield of diplomacy, economic and cultural relationships, geographic proximity, and reciprocity for the big three, especially the United States.
Khanna talks a lot about how the US has been accustomed to getting its own way in international relations, as the main superpower after WWII and especially after the collapse of the USSR. The US uses its international monetary and military might to influence the policy of many nations in the world, leading to low energy prices and a seemingly infinite tap into the world’s resources. This is quickly coming to an end, asserts Khanna. More and more, these strategic countries throughout the world, have tasted freedom and independence (through the Arab Spring, and other popular uprisings) and have begun to realize their own roles to play in the geo-political landscape. No more are these countries willing to capitulate to the demands of the Untied States, but are willing to listen more and more to the EU and China as they themselves negotiate the new world economy. No longer, Khanna insists, will these second world countries be listening to the United States, but will be doing things their own way.
In light of the continuing economic problems in the European Union, with the failing banks, failing countries, instability of the Euro, and general disaffection with the EU, Khanna sees the EU as a more stable entity; with its years of social equality, ability to right itself, and an economic system that is more stable than one would think, the EU is poised to recover from its current financial issues, thanks to Germany, and to recover, as it usually does, and to begin to prosper once again, with the Euro and the the Union in tact. Interestingly, Khanna does not see Russia as a major player in the global economy, and talks of its poor governance system, oligarchies, waning influence to its south and the influence from China to its east. In Khanna’s 21st century, Russia is but a bit player, not a dominant world power, which is contrary to how Russia and many of the world’s nations see its influence. (I noticed a marked similarity to how the US and Russia see themselves in the world, and how Khanna sees the roles of the two countries in the future-- a disconnect in points-of-view).
Khanna sees a future where Central Asia and its huge oil reserves plays a major role in determining the “big three.” He sees the US at a geographic disadvantage, with the EU and China, which are close to and border the region, able to have more economic influence and are more natural trade partners with those regions. With an infrastructure of pipelines, roads and trade to Central Asia, China has the most to gain from this relationship. The US relies more on its military influence, and bases, to assert its power, while the EU relies more on investment and political influence over many of those countries. Khanna sees the geographical proximity and shared interests as winning out over the more top-down, “do what we say, we are stronger than you” diplomacy of the United States.
What I also found interesting was Khanna’s assertation that the influence of Islamism (radical Islam and the philosophy of terrorism to gain political and societal advantages) to be manageable in economic terms. Basically, economic prosperity and well-being is becoming more important to Islamic states, and he maintains that the terrorists are largely middle-class, educated people reacting to authoritarian regimes and American-backed aggression, not the irrational zealots we see them as. He asserts that instead of bombing and implementing a “we are America--fear us” mentality, we should be taking advantage of more economic opportunities to make those countries more economically and politically independent, and using a more “bottom-up” economic approach.
Khanna has a world view decidedly different than most Americans, including how America sees itself and its own influence in the world. Instead of the American-led western-focused world power, our would will have differing powers, a fragmented economic and militaristic sharing of power with a triumverate of nations. Americat will no longer be the sole power, but must learn to respect those “second world” nations more, reshape its foreign policy to respond to the independent desires of those countries, and begin to see itself as a player in the game of global dominance, rather than the top dog, who can influence other countries with simple economic or militaristic commands.
With the current rise and dominance of China, the US would be well served by Khanna’s view of the world, and to begin to adjust its military and economic policies to reflect this world-wide reality. Much of his thesis is already happening, with a new economic liberation in the Middle East and growing world movement for sharing the worlds resources. The only question for me is, will the United States ever submit itself to sharing power this way? Only time will tell.
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Khanna, Parag. The Second World: Empires and Influences in the New Global Order. New York: Random House, 2008. Read More
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