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The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives Paperback – September 18, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

The former national security advisor is still a believer in geopolitics after all these years. Like most foreign-policy aficionados weaned on the Cold War, Brzezinski (Out of Control, 1993) has been forced by the disintegration of the Soviet Union to broaden his perspective--but not very far. He sees the US as the only global superpower, but inability to maintain its hegemony indefinitely means that ``geostrategic skill'' is essential. To what end is not specified beyond the vague shaping of ``a truly cooperative global community'' that is in ``the fundamental interests of humankind,'' but in this genre, goals are commonly assumed rather than examined. In any case, Brzezinski casts Eurasia as the playing field upon which the world's fate is determined and analyzes the possibilities in Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Balkans (interpreted broadly), and the Far East. Like a grandmaster in chess, he plots his strategy several moves in advance, envisioning a three-stage development. Geopolitical pluralism must first be promoted to defuse challenges to America, then compatible international partners must be developed to encourage cooperation under American leadership, and finally the actual sharing of international political responsibility can be considered. The twin poles of this strategy are a united Europe in the West and China in the East; the central regions are more problematic and, for Brzezinski, not as critical in constructing a stable balance of power. This updated version of East-West geopolitics is worth taking seriously but it is also an amazing example of how a perspective can be revised without actually being rethought. (Radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review sobering as it is timely... -- American Spectator, David Aikman

At its best, The Grand Chessboard makes permanent contributions to the national debate over American foreign policy and power. At its worst, it demonstrates the need for contemporary statesmen and political thinkers to immerse themselves more deeply in the rich tradition of Anglo-American strategic thought that brought first Britain and now the United States to global preeminence at an astonishingly low cost. -- The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Walter Russell Mead

Brzezinski has now stated and restated his concerns. His books are there for any political leader to use as material for future policy declarations. But it is difficult in the current situation to imagine much of a competition to take up Brzesinski's ideas, however well they are argued here. -- The New York Times Book Review, Bernard Gwertzman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (September 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465027261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465027262
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

215 of 222 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Smith on September 2, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like others offering their reviews, I rate this book very highly not because it is a real "page turner" or is particularly well written, but because of its cold Machiavellian analysis of the need to protect and expand the American Empire and what that means to the ordinary Joe and Jane Citizen.

Three things in this book made my blood run ice cold. The first is the complete absense of any sense of morality in the whole discussion. I do not mean that this is an *im*moral book, it is not a moral book, it is *a*moral in that there is literally no discussion whatsoever whether what is being proposed is RIGHT or should be done. That the recomendations to grow the American Empire are valid is simply assumed, not proven or even argued. The second thing was the whole discussion on how the political center of mass was Central Eurasia (i.e. the region between Turkey and Pakistan and between Iran and Turkmenistan) and how unlikely it was that we were going to be able to have a substantial presence in the region (in the near term) unless we have SOME PERL HARBOR CLASS EVENT to accelerate the populations willingness to accept the costs. Also, This Was Bad because it would delay our needed expansion. Then, just on cue, we have the 9/11 attacks, and dang if we don't end up with a Whole Bunch of military presence all throughout the heart of Eurasia... Coincidence? Makes one wonder. As if that is not enough, the book closes with a clear and unambiguous reference to the steps needed to get us to the One World Government of the New World Order.

Read it and weep because, as another reviewer stated, he is not predicting the future, he is *planning* the future. Coldly. Methodically.
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126 of 135 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is how Brzezinski views the (supposedly sovereign) nations of Central Asia:
"The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world's paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power..."
"Two basic steps are thus required: first, to identify the geostrategically dynamic Eurasian states that have the power to cause a potentially important shift in the international distribution of power and to decipher the central external goals of their respective political elites and the likely consequences of their seeking to attain them;... second, to formulate specific U.S. policies to offset, co-opt, and/or control the above..." (p. 40)
- "...To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." (p.40)
- "Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America's status as a global power." (p.55)
- "America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe's central arena. Hence, what happens to the distribution of power on the Eurasian continent will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and to America's historical legacy." (p.
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115 of 124 people found the following review helpful By D. Ghica on February 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book with disbelief. Brzezinski was for a long time a strategist, a political planner of the highest rank so I have to take him seriously. But I couldn't help but constantly wonder if the book is for real.
It displays an unabashed and unapologetic view of the U.S. as a world 'hegemon' (author's word) and divides the rest of the world in 'vassals' (author's word), rivals, 'pivots' and strategically irrelevant countries. Western Europe and Japan are the prominent members of the first category, Russia and China of the second. The pivots are the countries that have strategic choices important to the U.S., such as the Ukraine. United Kingdom is an (amusing) example of strategically irrelevance.
The book proceeds by systematically and often tediously analyzing case-by-case scenarios and what-ifs concerning the strategic impact of the policy decisions of the players (vassals, rivals and pivots) in four main theatres: Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East. The analysis seemed rather un-principled to me but by the end I could discern some key points. The most important of them is that the U.S., despite is global hegemony cannot afford wars but it has to maintain its dominance by smartly playing the rivals against each other so that a major global rival does not emerge.
I think the book's shocking disregard of democracy and national self-determination is quite consistent with the way the American administration tends to act in international affairs. Unfortunately, the current administration does not seem to take the book's main advice regarding the need for America to avoid outright wars and to dominate through smart diplomacy.
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