Posted by: Paraic | July 21, 2008

The Post-American World

On the recommendation of Fred Wilson,  I’ve just finished reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria.  I really enjoyed the book but I’ve also really tripped across the uneven or incoherent treatment of Europe, specifically the European Union, particularly in the forward-looking (“Post-American”) part of the book.  It’s going to take more than one post for me to work though my thoughts on this, but as I was reading through the book I really expected to find a chapter dedicated to the European Union just like China (‘The Challenger’) and India (‘The Ally’) as a large force in the new multipolar order.

Working through references to the European Union is useful.  The first reference is on page 4, which is useful because it’s included in the statement that, “Functions that were once controlled by governments are now shared with international bodies like the World Trade Organization and the European Union” (so that sets out his view of the EU).

On page 43, “The European Union now represents the largest trade bloc on the globe, creating bipolarity…” , so there is the acknowledgment of the EU as an economic power.  Some other references to economic statistics use the ‘Eurozone’ or ‘Europe’ rather than the EU, like on p195 (“The Eurozone has been growing at an impressive clip, about the same pace per capita as the United States since 2000.  It takes in half the world’s foreign investment, boasts labor productivity often as strong as that of the United States, and posted a $30 billion trade surplus in 2007 from Janguary through October…. All in all, Europe presents the most significant short-term challenge to the United States in the economic realm”) . Related to growth of financial stock on p204, “…the Eurozone’s is outpacing America’s which clips along at 6.5 percent.  Europe’s total banking and trading revenues, $98 billion in 2005 have nearly pulled equal to U.S. revenues of $109 billion.”

In terms of international relations, on p125, “Were the United States and the European Union to adopt fundamentally differing attitudes toward the rise of China, for example, it would put permanent strains ont he Western alliance that would make the tensions over Iraq look like a minor spat.” and on p216 an observation on the fact that the EU did not take the role resolve the Parsley crisis.   On page 207, “Even on immigration, the European Union is creating a new ‘blue card’ to attract highly skilled workers from developing countries”.

So I disagree with Mr. Zakaria’s decision not to specifically examine in a coherent way the EU’s role in the Post-American World – it deserves it’s own chapter!  If we go back to the first reference in the book that distinguishes between ‘governments’ and ‘international bodies’ then it’s certainly worth looking at the move toward an increasing ‘government’ role of the EU, for example in the Treaty of Lisbon and how that plays into the EU’s ability to take a more important role in a multipolar world, not just economically (which it clearly already is) but also from the point of view of international relations and politics.

There’s also the question of course of whether the EU will (or even wants to) continue to move (and how far) in that direction of increasing the role of the EU ‘government’ or not, and to what extent the trends outlined in this book play into that (driving the need for a ‘strong’ European Union in a multipolar world).  This is all very topical given our recent rejection of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty!

I did enjoy the book – it definitely gave me a lot to think about.

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