Has the West Lost It?: A Provocation : A Book Review
Author Kishore Mahbubani
Publication Date: 2018
Review by Scott C. Holstad
Kishore Mahbubani has an excellent grasp, not only of world and Western history over the past couple of decades, but a fairly realistic and reasonably objective viewpoint and analysis of the twenty-first century world. If overly sensitive Westerners take offense at his criticisms, it is only because they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid of a continuing US/Western arrogance in their long held beliefs that they have enjoyed international dominance for the past few centuries almost by their theocratic god-given right to determine and influence the fate of other sovereign countries and the world in general. As a foreign affairs analyst, specializing in China, East Asia and the remainder of Asia, I have watched the rapid changes Asia has been undergoing for the past 30 years, as well as more recently, and the BRICS coalition as a whole as well. I have watched the world transition from a bipolar world to unipolar which arrogant US leaders thought they’d maintain forever while decimating the country with never ending, pointless trillion dollar wars with no viable exit strategies or remotely mature, well planned long term goals/agendas of transforming the world into one of capitalist democracies modeled on its own with no understanding of various states’ histories, peoples, religions (beyond a superficial understanding), goals, ambitions, desire or willingness, let alone historical experience with a democratic system, to undergo the changes being forced through a variety of methods and strategies, and without any realistic understanding or foresight of whether such peoples and societies are even capable of sustaining substantial change (see Russia as prime example), not to mention issues such as deregulation, unchecked globalization, and unrealistic and misleading (often intentional) economic status and forecasting studies, analysis and reports, helping to lead not only the US, but much of the West as well and the rest of the world into the worst financial disaster/crisis since the Great Depression. And now we’ve reached a multi-polar world, or very nearly. There are many other variables, but as the author so adroitly points out, most of the West and especially the US have regressed into such bitter divisiveness and polarization led by renegade “politicians” egged on by (and egging on) an unanticipated tide of carefully managed white rage, which has become so toxic that hate and any willingness to seek or accept compromise have become more common in the former and nonexistent in the latter in America on both sides of the aisle than at any time in many decades, if not centuries. And what has this led to? A broken dysfunctional country resentful of the rest of the world for perceived injustices of “free rides” of growth, a huge number of defense treaties and US promises to protect most of the world with the country’s nuclear umbrella — contingent upon their signing the NPT and the promise of nonproliferation, ultimately an economic, militarized, hypocritically moralistic declining superpower reluctant to acknowledge the literal and inevitable power shift from West to East and the rapid rise of an increasing number of regional powers with the potential of becoming competing “superpowers,” most especially and obviously China. I have been observing China for decades and for much of this decade I have been trying to educate, inform, warn, etc. as many people as possible of the very real potential dangers an increasingly aggressive, brazen China MAY represent, with the alleged Chinese goal of 2049 in mind, which whether one accepts the theory/belief or not, is in fact on the minds of many government officials, military leaders, policy and foreign relations analysts, etc., regardless of the alleged goal as a plausible reality or no. These, and many more domestic/international issues, don’t appear to either exist or matter to most Americans who are too engrossed in social media, Play Stations, reality TV, etc., oblivious to the major changes taking place around the world, many of which WILL impact Americans. I have read and researched numerous issues of increasing international concern, such as the escalating situation in the SCS, East China Sea disputes, Brazil’s demands for global power recognition, India’s prominent rise in South Asia as a possible competitor to China, the resurgence of Eurasia in other words, and there are many excellent resources out there, from all viewpoints. But most I’ve encountered have been or are authored by Americans or other Westerners, and the fact that this book takes a radically different approach to such issues, that of a non-Western world citizen with many interesting and valid points, criticisms and ultimately suggestions as one who feels America needs to adjust both its perception of US hegemony being a long lasting given and that the world revolves around us, as well as domestic and international priorities/strategies, to a more realistic position, like it or not, and all of this is written to America(ns) from one who has long admired this country, continues to feel the role of America’s power is crucial for the stability of the world, and is rooting for us. Badly. Unique, refreshing, valuable perspectives rarely found elsewhere. Highly recommended!
July 9, 2019