This book briefly flared into the limelight this campaign season when Barack Obama was seen reading it. It also inspired yet another dumbshit chain email asserting that the book was “a Muslim’s view of a defeated America!” Like most of the dreck which comes out of this specious subculture of conservative email forwarding, it’s utter nonsense.
Fareed Zakaria was born in India and raised Muslim, though he says he is “not a religious guy.” He’s an American citizen, and, among other things, was an editor of Newsweek magazine in 2000.
Politically speaking, Zakaria is best described as a moderate, unless you’re a liberal/conservative who things that anybody to the right/left of you is necessarily an extremist conservative/liberal. Mostly, Zakaria tends to be a realist and pragmatist (similar to economists), which puts him on the wrong side of liberals when he starts talking about free trade and globalization and such; otherwise, he falls afoul of conservatives when he’s not their cheerleader.
The Post-American World might raise the ire of knee-jerk nationalists who don’t do so much as read the jacket flap. In fact, one of the first things Zakaria does is qualify the somewhat sensational title by warning his readers that the book is not about the decline of America, but rather the rise of everyone else. Especially in Asia (and to a lesser extent Africa and South America), countries which are beginning to build up strong economies and relatively free, democratic societies (this is all relative, mind you). In the last few decades, countries that the West had long relegated as somewhat Third-World had quietly become major economic contenders—and, as is generally the case, strong free-market economies tend to encourage democracy (tend, mind you). Suddenly, the United States is sharing global economic power with many more countries than ever before, and that changes the political landscape as well. It is no wonder that Zakaria’s conclusions from this arouse ire from the aforementioned nutty conservatives: the sort of people who like to engage in dick-shaking contests w.r.t. their gods and governments don’t like being told that maybe a “Eh, Fuck You!” foreign policy maybe isn’t the best tactic now that we can no longer afford to be politically and economically solipsistic. The passive-aggressive Bush approach to global political support doesn’t fly with Zakaria, and he makes no secret of it, though his general agreement with the power of free markets and self-directed governments in developing countries ought to at least earn a nod of approval from orthodox conservatives.
I finished Post-American World, however, feeling as though I had just waded through a book of bullet points, politics and economics abstracted of all their nuance—similar to the way I must analogize and speak slowly when explaining complicated computer concepts to unsavvy people. I suppose such a book needed to be written, but I wish I had known beforehand that it would be as broadly-termed (and, honestly, just a bit jingoistic) as it was. I’m a little surprised that Obama read it.