Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review of Strategic Vision by Zbigniew Brzezinski


I was in the middle of reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman which I started reading this book Brzezinski’s Strategic Vision.  One of the findings of Thinking Fast and Slow is that experts have a very, very low success rate when it comes to predicting the future in areas such as politics and economics so I approached Brzezinski’s pronouncements with a skeptical eye. 

Nevertheless, in the absence of anything better, it is interesting to see what a foreign policy export like Brzezinski has to say about the future of Europe, America and China.
In Part 2 - The Receding West, Brzezinski reminds us that Europe’s woes, both demographic and economic, are well known. Europe lacks the coherence to play a major role on the world stage. Due to its enormous national debt and its involvement in two expensive wars, America also has challenges due to such as:
·         The division between rich and poor in America is widening
·         Social mobility is stagnating
·         Its infrastructure is aging[1]
·         It population is not well educated
·         America’s role in causing the global financial crisis has not enhanced its reputation as a model to be emulated.
But it also has strengths
·         Democratic appeal
·         Technological and innovative potential
·         Underlying economic strength and size
·         Strong tertiary education sector
·         Dynamic demographics[2]
·         Ability to react to a crisis.
However, America’s strength abroad will depend on its ability to solve its domestic problems.

Part 3 - The World After America by 2025 -  Not Chinese but Chaotic
If (and it is a big ‘if’) America were to falter, no single economy would be in a position to take the part of a global superpower to replace it.
In the absence of the security provided by a world superpower, many states would start to pursue their own agendas to the detriment of their weaker neighbors. China has not as yet sought to universalize its experience. And Chine has its own challenges to address if it is to continue its extraordinary growth. These have been identified internally as:
·         disparity between rich and poor
·         urban unrest and discontent
·         a culture of corruption
·         unemployment
·         loss of social trust
In this scenario the most endangered states include:
·         Georgia – vulnerable to Russia
·         Taiwan – to China
·         South Korea – to North Korea
·         Belarus – to Russia
·         Ukraine – to Russia
·         Afghanistan – to warlords and the Taliban
·         Pakistan – to internal instability, radical Islam
·         Israel – to attack by Hamas, Hezbollah etc
The resources shared by the globe as a whole (known as the “global commons”) would also be in danger of disruption should the US decline. These include orderly governance of the internet, the global environment and the sea lanes.

Part 4 – Beyond 2025 – a New Geopolitical Balance
Brzezinski predicts that Eurasia will be the most important continent beyond 2025. By Eurasia he means: China, Russia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Europe,
Should America be able to deal with its internal challenges it will have a vital role in stabilizing this geopolitical area. The West – broadly conceived, needs to expand and grow in strength in order to provide stability to a volatile Eurasia.
Potential Asian conflicts include: Korean Peninsula,  Spratly Islands, Malacca Straits, Kashmir, Russian / Chinese border.
India continues to be envious of Chinese superiority with regards to education, economic advancement and life expectancy.

Two emergent China’s are possible
·         A triumphant, militaristic, assertive, impatient China lead by the PLA
·         A more Confucian China, content to grow and develop peacefully and to seek a balance of power in the region, dominated by facts rather than aspirations.
Conclusion
America needs to :
·         Improve its internal economy and make itself economically stronger in order to play a more prominent role on the world stage.
·         Act as a promoter and guarantor to the West to assist it to revitalize itself.
·         Act as a balancer and a conciliator in response to a rising East.


[1] Some of America’s airports are almost 3rd world.
[2] US is not beset with the problem of ageing population to the same degree as Europe is.

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