Superpower – Ian Bremmer (2015)
As the US presidential election approaches, books on candidates, geopolitical issues and the hard choices would-be presidents will see themselves confronted with, will hit the bookstores in big numbers. My guess is that this one will probably stand out for clarity, as the author isn’t afraid to balance all his arguments – as normally seen in essays. After G-Zero this is Bremmer’s second book I read, and again he shows great ability in describing the complex world in a easy-to-read and intelligent way.
America’s ability to lead isn’t the same it used to be, Bremmer argues, not only because the world has changed (multipolar, wide variety of interwoven conflicts, the rise of China, the destabilizing nature of Islamic fundamentalism etc), but also because Americans want their leaders to be more modest. But that doesn’t mean, Bremmer argues, that the next president can afford to be mere pragmatic in his of her foreign policy. That comes down to not choosing, the worst option of all. The leader of the free world has to choose. And he challenges the reader to do the same. It will not only make the world more predictable, ant thus stable, but the American public and America’s allies deserve to know what America stands for.
Bremmer explores three options, based on what sort of country you want the US to be.
1- Independent America. The United States declare independent from the responsibility to act as the world’s fireman and will instead focus on its internal potential. And from there could lead by example.
2- Moneyball America. Named after the book and movie about the baseball coach who succeeds to transform a mediocre team in champions with a strategy based on facts and not letting emotion or historical burden get in its way. A pragmatic approach, based on the notion that Washington can’t do it all and with a realistic assessment of its limitations and capacities. Defending America’s interest where needed, and not bother when side-lined.
3- Indispensable America. The world needs the US. Values as freedom and democracy have to be spread around the globe. To liberate the oppressed people overseas but also because it serves American interest, as we live in a hyperconnected world and global stability depends on American leadership.
Bremmer begins the book with a quiz – the answers of course corresponding with the different views. He then makes the arguments for and against each of these choices, in accessible chapters. In the end he unveils his quite surprising own conclusion and asked the reader to do the same. The interesting thing is that I thought we would be on the same page, but I appear to believe more in American leadership abroad then Ian Bremmer does. Maybe that’s because as an European I know how much we owe the Americans.