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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What about India?
This is the book I have been waiting years for - it is the clearest picture I have yet seen of the 21st century's nascent Great Game; the Game as played by three Great Powers with very different styles: the United States, the European Union, and China. Khanna has developed an original view of a tripolar world, and effectively balances the force of geopolitics with the...
Published on March 6, 2008 by Theseus Augustus

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, but in need of depth
This book provides a great overview of some of the most critical parts of the world. For some, it is a useful summary of these regions and their history. However, I was hoping for a bit more. In particular, I would like to know more about what the EU, China, and US do in each region. Mr. Khanna is very general in his assessments of these three superpowers and their access...
Published on March 8, 2008 by Enjolras

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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What about India?, March 6, 2008
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This is the book I have been waiting years for - it is the clearest picture I have yet seen of the 21st century's nascent Great Game; the Game as played by three Great Powers with very different styles: the United States, the European Union, and China. Khanna has developed an original view of a tripolar world, and effectively balances the force of geopolitics with the complementary trend toward globalisation.

The book has several persistent and gnawing weaknesses. Khanna persistently focuses on traditional land power geopolitics, an easier thing to describe and a well trodden path in International Studies, but perhaps an increasingly less potent matrix with the emergence of new realms of competition in this century: low Earth orbit (mentioned briefly in one paragraph of the book); the emerging Internet culture and electronic world; enduring naval power and new oceanographic frontiers; the growing diasporas and transnational, nomadic elites who owe no geographical national allegiance. In particular, he who rules lower Earth orbit rules the planet, regardless of who predominates upon the "World-Island" of Eurasia.

The author, like many intelligent NRI Indians, seems disillusioned by the failure of Indian democracy to overcome poverty and wealth disparity on the subcontinent (at one point stating, "It could be argued that China is a freer country than democratic India", ignoring some obvious differences in number of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free access to the Internet . . . ). Though often pointing out the environmental and cultural devastation that Chinese dominance has visited on its satellite countries, Khanna as frequently stumbles in his lavish praise of the authoritarian Singapore model that China is now following, hinting that China will allow a free society once it has acquired enough wealth, and understates the potential power of chaotic, creative, "undisciplined" (read: free) India and "Bollystan" (Khanna's term) in this century.

Freedom of speech and protection of a counterculture are more than just abstract features of a Western liberal morality. Freedom of speech and protection of "deviants" comprise essential economic infrastructure in the twenty-first century. As we move into an Information Age, societies that offer strong protection of freedom of speech and individual expression will trump those Confucian societies that emphasize obedience and silent submission to authority. As unlikely a winner as oft-benighted India may seem to be, I would still put good money on India and the individualistic U.S., in collaboration with the European Union, as the future leaders of the non-local sphere of Information and Cyberspace, leaving the Confucian societies not yet visited by glasnost far behind. Freedom of information should be treated by Khanna as one of the most important traits of an economic superpower, far more important than good roads, canals, and oil rigs. Confucianism, as it exists today, is a mimicry engine producing only commodities; free societies such as India have the potential to become creativity engines, producing entirely new economic niches.

Unless we are driven into a new Dark Age by war or resource disasters, the relentless Information Age will reward societies with strong creative classes (Richard Florida's term); reward societies with a protected counterculture and bohemia; and will punish societies ruled by conformity and fear of "deviance"; will punish societies without their equivalent of Mad Magazine; will punish societies that imprison dissidents. Until Chinese glasnost emerges, the United States, Europe and India will rule cyberspace, and hence the future.

India will not be destroyed by wealth disparities. The caste system will provide structural stability for some time to come, giving India a prolonged safety interval in which to grow a strong middle class. India is a nation of jatis, but a nation nonetheless. Its diversity and syncretic ability to adapt and absorb culture is a strength that the Chinese lack.

One final point before I go. Khanna's occasionally obsequious praise of Singapore-style authoritarianism is almost matched by the fault of his dismissive critique of United States foreign policy. As another reviewer has stated, the only reason the European Union can focus on building networks and economic bridges is that the United States is providing all the muscle. Without U.S. military presence, the EU would find itself much constrained and forced to be the "bad cop" more often. This is in no way an endorsement of what I agree is largely clumsy and inappropriate U.S. policy, but how the U.S. got to this point is much the result of an inadequate European security policy.

The book, on balance, is a good start.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Geopolitical Marketplace, April 26, 2008
Izaak VanGaalen (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation draws his inspiration from Arnold Toynbee's 12-volume history of the world. Toynbee wrote his books first, and then embarked on a trip around the world to check the acurracy of his work. Khanna, however, did it the other way around: he spent two years travelling to forty countries, talking to people and getting a first-hand look at the facts on the ground, then writing this book. The result makes this volume a very pleasurable read, mixing policy recommendations, historical analysis, and traveller's eye for local color.

Khanna argues that there will be three superpowers in the 21st century - China, the European Union, and the United States. He sometimes calls them empires as in the subtitle of the book, but that term is confusing since the Big Three will not resemble the empires of old. These superpowers will have their own unique approach for extending their power and influence. The main objectives of the Big Three are essentially the same: they want to be in the good graces of energy- and resource-rich second-tier countries such as those of the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Khanna calls this the second world. And as more and more countries become nuclear, military muscle becomes less of a tool. The superpowers are developing non-military means to win allies and influence. According to Khanna, winning in the 21st century will not take place in the battlefield but in the geopolitical marketplace.

Of the three, Khanna finds the European model the most attractive. The European practice of offering the prospect of membership in the world's richest market is a very powerful incentive for countries to reform themselves and comply with EU standards. Europe has successfully assimilated many countries on its periphery. Khanna, however, glosses over Europe's problems, such as an ageing population and unassimilated minorities.

Khanna also speaks glowingly of the rising influence of China. By the shear thrust of their economic growth, China has been able to buy friends and influence in the second world. And with their indifference to human rights, they acquire some very unsavory friends. This practice however, is now backfiring as people everywhere are rallying for Tibetans as the Olympics approach. Khanna's praise for "Asian values" amounts to accepting enlightened despotism.

The most scorn, however, is reserved for the United States. With the war in Iraq in its fifth year, America is starting to look like an overstretched empire and an object of global resentment. He excoriates America for neglecting its poor as well as its physical and financial health. This may hold some truth at the present, but Khanna has forgotten that America is resilient and has a great capacity to renew itself.

Critics of Khanna, however, should not write him off as anti-American or a pessimist. At the end of the book, he has a long list of recommendations for transforming the military-industrial complex into a diplomatic-industrial complex. He would like to see the resources that we now invest in the Pentagon go to the State Department. A new muscular foreign service is needed to further American interests and make globalization work for us. If this book sounds like it's written by an international relations graduate student, that's because it is.
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40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tour of the world in concise but precise terms, March 30, 2008
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This is an extraordinary book, a tour of the "real" world where the future is being defined. While I respect the reviewer's that have difficulty with inaccuracies or inconsistencies, on balance, in all of my reading as reviewed on Amazon, I would rate this one of the top 20 books, perhaps even one of the top 10 (let's go with that, making it one of the top 10 on reality, while my other "top ten" would encompass world changing, social entrepreneurship, the Tao of democracy and other solution-oriented writings).

My notes must of necessity be cryptic. I will start with the bottom line and urge the Amazon reader to take my notes as a strong incentive to buy and read the book cover to cover.

Bottom line: US has screwed up big time, and is taking third place to China's achievement of globalization on its terms, using consultation, incentives, and efficient/effective agreements to propel itself past Europe, which has consensus model that has displaced the US but cannot compete with China's global juggernaut. The US is gently tarred with confusing "security" for prosperity or legitimacy, with preferring single-party strong-arm partners, and with being generally clumsy, inept, ignorant, and hence losing on all fronts.

+ Second World is internally divided between rich and poor sectors

+ Second World is the tipping point domain that will determine the tri-polar (China, Europe, US) outcome

+ Author covers five regions 1) east of Europe including Russia and Turkey; 2) Central Asia; 3) South America with little attention to Caribbean; 4) Middle East; and 5) Asia and the 4 Chinas.

Early on the author states that the Americas are terribly ignorant of both the old and new geography, and I would agree while emphasizing that the "expert" advisors to Presidential candidates are themselves as ignorant (or biased)--from those that are state-centric to those that are ideologically unbalanced to those that believe their ego and social network are sufficient in and of themselves. Not a single one of them knows how to lead a nation-wide conversation, much less a regional or international conversation--they are the "walking dead" of the pyramidal era, and any contender that listens to them and allows them to exclude the iconoclasts and the avant guarde is destined to be neutered, so to speak, before their time.

+ According to the author, America is now viewed as destabilize, in an era when the Second World judges legitimacy on the basis of proven effectiveness (one could also add: sustained effectiveness, not a US forte). Further on the author drives this point home by saying that success trumps ideology, and across the Second World, democracy is not considered practical (nor credible as a US claim for access).

+ European Union is the standard bearer for both technology and regulation (another book I have reviewed pointed out that USA has become a "dumping ground" for products from China Europe will not admit--thank you, Dick Cheney).

+ USA, EU, and China have no common culture, and (combined with the distinct cultures of the other four emergent regions), this is cause for concern about future misunderstandings and over-reactions.

+ The world is demographically blended and so increasingly inter-dependent that the day of major war is indeed likely to be a thing of the past.

+ In the early focus on Europe, the author quotes a European to the effect that Europe is expanding, each time getting poorer, but each time delivering and buying priceless stability. This is one reason why Eastern Europe is skyrocketing and at the same time, displacing the USA as a source for many exports to Europe.

+ He tells us that Europe is confident, incentivizes its partners, has a generation in charge that is transcendent, and is disdainful of the US for its ineptness.

+ Russia is described as a "Siberian Saudi Arabia" but with an insecure nuclear arsenal. ¾ of the wealth is centered in (controlled from) Moscow while 2/3 of Russians are living at the poverty line or below.

+ Russia is being emptied of Russians as they vote with their feet and move west, at the same time that Chinese are moving north into Siberia, which global warming is making more hospitable.

+ In the Balkans instability threatens Europe, but European agro-technology is making a huge difference, as is the European penchant to support multiple parties rather than any single dictator. Still, "lurking tribalization" is of concern.

+ Turkey is a key player in saving the Balkans, and in the author's view, is powerful, democratic, secular, and Muslim, and also responsible for ten times more trade with Europe than with the US.

+ Black Sea is creating its own unified region.

+ Georgia does not have a single decent road.

+ Caucasian Corridor is a Balkans waiting to happen.

+ While Brussels is central, London, Ankara, and Moscow each have their own key role in the region.

+ Central Asia benefits from the re-creation of the Silk Road for East-West trade, while also suffering from being the "laboratory" for imperial excess seeking to play the Great Game (not something the US is at all qualified to "play")

+ The author points out Central Asia is at the intersection of Russia, China, Europe, and the US, to which I would add Iran as well.

+ Mongolia is militarily aligned with the US (and from my own knowledge, has one of the finer peace keeping training programs as well as an ideal pre-Afghanistan mobilization training environment)

+ According to the author, China, in sharp contrast to the US and Russia, is making huge gains in Central Asia because of "swift settlement" of all outstanding border issues, its promotion of shared development strategies, its "massive charm offensive" and its role as a "consultative leader," and its being the "standard bearer for business practices" which is code for no-strings attached loans nearing one billion. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is now called the "NATO of the East." China is winning Central Asia through strategy, trade, and co-development. [See also my online memorandum "Chinese Irregular Warfare"]

+ Kazakhstan has energy and retained its own language, shows promise.

+ Kyrgystan a mess, Tajikistan a bridge for revival of Sino-Iranian trade routes.

+ Uzbeckistan and Tajikistan are Islamic targets.

+ American failure to reconstruct Afghanistan has left Karzai neutered, perhaps soon to go.

+ South America has been suffocated by US hegemony, and US sponsorship of 30 years of "Dirty War" pitting authoritarian rightists against [liberation theology and populist] leftists.

+ Unlike other regions, South America simply wants US to live up to its rhetoric about free trade and democratization, "without exceptions."

+ US threatened by crime, drugs, migration from the South, does not seem to appreciate the value of South American integration and self-sufficiency in energy and food sectors.

+ Four Mexico's--northern, central breadbasket, indigenous destitute isthmus, and very poor Mayan Yucatan.

+ Chaves in Venezuela is a spendthrift and has quadrupled Venezuela's debt, but he actually has a serious strategy that includes China to offset US, a pipeline to Argentina, state to state barter of commodities, modernizing Caribbean energy sector, and welcoming Iran and Europe.

+ Colombia is the key to the future of the region, unique for having Pacific and Caribbean coasts while also being the entry point for a Pan-American highway of greater potential.

+ US is losing the drug war and screwing up the alternatives of trade and economic accelerators.

+ Brazil is the USA of South America, and has formed a trade axis with China. It is multiracial, with the largest populations of Arabs outside Nigeria, Lebanese outside Lebanon, Italians and Japanese outside their own countries. Crime is the wild card, the Achilles' heel.

+ Argentina is a basket case (the author does not tell us that Argentine is also being seduced by Chinese men and is likely to be majority Chinese by 2025).

+ Chile, despite US mis-deeds, benefited from German farmers and is today's success story, focused on stability, pragmatism, and profit.

+ Arabs are redefining themselves in the Middle East in a manner not seen in the past 1000 years. They remain central, and the author anticipates Arab economics will triumph over Islamic radicalism. Later in the book he concludes that the Arabic opinion and sense of self is solidifying.

+ North Africa is Europe's southern shore, and part of the Mediterranean culture, but suffers a massive disconnect between unemployable poorly educated youth and jobs without qualified applicants.

+ Libya (I learn for the first time) is a huge success, with major gains in education, advancement of women, and per capita income over $7000 a year.

+ Egypt as the Arab cornerstone and the difficult blend of Arabia and Islam. This government, the author tells us , "provides neither moral leadership nor public services" and therefore is "a perfect target for Islamist groups well-equipped to provide both." He believes an Iranian-style revolution is possible.

+ The Mashreq--Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, he sums up as "Iranian interference, Syrian intransigence, Lebanese weakness, Israeli aggression, and Palestinian desperation." I was surprised to not see "American idiocy" in there, since my taxpayer dollars are funding the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians.

+ He anticipates the death of Iraq and the emergence of Kurdistan, and here I quote two gifted turns of phrase: "Wars are like a geopolitical reset button." and "The Iraq war exposed the United States as a superpower whose intelligence does not match its aspirations." As an intelligence professional, I must clarify this: both the Army leadership and the CIA professionals, that is to say, Charlie Allen, got it exactly right--no weapons of mass destruction, kept the cook books, bluffing for regional sake. It was George Tenet who parked his integrity on the same shelf as Colin Powell and Mike Hayden, who allowed Dick Cheney to hijack the US Government and send the US military to war on the basis of 935 explicitly documented lies to the public and Congress and the UN, and 25 explicitly documented high crimes and misdemeanors.

+ Iran does not get enough coverage, but that is insufficient to undermine my very high regard for this book.

+ Gulf will provide 40% of the energy for the foreseeable future. Oil windfalls were mis-directed by the leaders, who funded luxuries for themselves, and militaries, rather than seeing to the public good.

+ Wahhabist reckoning is coming--they teach selected elements of the Koran by rote, not Islam. However, they correctly evaluate the Saudi Royals as the near enemy and the USA as the far enemy, joined at the hip.

+ United Arab Emirates is where Las Vegas meets Singapore, with Dubai as the icon. He notes with studied understatement that Chinese goods and Chinese whores are half price to any competing goods or whores, and the former "designed to disintegrate."

+ Malaysia and Indonesia have huge Chinese Diasporas. Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam not as well covered as I would have liked, especially Vietnam which is totally independent of China.

+ There are four Chinas--the southeast quadrant with Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (I was surprised to see no mention of Macau, through which China is aggressively wooing all former Portuguese colonies including Brazil); the Beijing centered northeast, and the far edge of Tibet and Xinjiang, which the author tells us earlier in the book are as vital to China as the Rockies and West of the Rockies are to the US.

+ He says that China is "blending" Asia, and that from Malaysia and elsewhere there is broad recognition that a form of Chinese "Monroe Doctrine" is being established. He specifically points out that US offers of "security" are losing out to European offers of "capacity" that nurture prosperity (as well as Chinese offers of co-development).

+ I grew up in Singapore, finishing high school there, and I am in total agreement with the author's admiration for Lee Kuan Yew and the manner in which communitarian trumps democratic when it comes to producing more stability and prosperity. I recently learned from my step-mother, who just left Singapore after decades of being the leader of English education for the government (and Chinese teachers) that one cannot run for Parliament in Singapore without first earning a Masters in Business Administration.

+ Uniquely, Asians want to stay in Asia while visiting everywhere else.

+ He plays down India and I completely disagree with his dismissal of them. India has made more progress than China when one considers the totally divergent and conflictive situations they must handle across tribes, religions, classes, and environmental challenges.

In his conclusion, the author suggests that a tri-polar world now exists, but one read what can only be a list of indicators of USA suicidal tendencies: lousy education, no investment in technology, as many gang members as there are policemen (roughly 750,000 he tells us). The USA can learn to co-exist and co-develop with the rest of the world, and abandon its military "big stick" paradigm, or it can be relegated to third place forever, and gradually go down even further.

I am very worried. I see no one that has strategic perspective, a holistic understanding of the ten threats and twelve policies, nor an appreciation of the urgency of creating an alternative development model for Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, among others.

See also:
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility--Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Third Edition
The Future of Life
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

See also the images above (under the book cover).
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, but in need of depth, March 8, 2008
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This book provides a great overview of some of the most critical parts of the world. For some, it is a useful summary of these regions and their history. However, I was hoping for a bit more. In particular, I would like to know more about what the EU, China, and US do in each region. Mr. Khanna is very general in his assessments of these three superpowers and their access to these regions, which is sometimes frustrating since the book was billed as a study of the new world geopolitical order.

For example, he seems to assume that everything the US does is wrong, while China is always around doing stuff right, and the EU as sophisticated. Yet, it also seems that the EU is overly bureaucratized, China still has enormous internal development and governance challenges, and a huge amount of America's downturn can be reversed (we are still the world's largest economy, with the best educational institutions and companies). The whole rise of China theme eerily seems to me a replay of the rise of Japan fears of the 1980s. While China will probably rise, Khanna is ascribing the country with a power I don't think it yet possesses.

Furthermore, it seems America is always assumed to have the worst possible motives, even when it does not make sense to assume so. For example, when talking about the Middle East, Khanna suggests that it is America that is trying to find excuses such as oil and terrorism to intervene in Arab affairs, which seems to have the situation backward - the US would have no interest in the region if not for oil or terrorism. If we got alternative energy or the Middle East stopped spawning terrorists, we'd love to let it alone. Likewise, the book makes it seem as if the US gives no foreign aid while the EU gives a lot, but the US private sector gives a huge amount of aid that should not be discounted (indeed, some would argue that aid is better spent through private institutions than the government). Without further discussion, I'm not sure I can accept Khanna's assumptions.

This book is great if you want an overview of the "second world", their histories, and current problems. It should be further developed though with more explicit reference to what the US, EU, and China can and are doing. It's a fun overview, but don't treat it too seriously since it leaves a lot out.

Overall, 3.5 stars.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fanciful and moralistic, very opposite to geopolitics, June 24, 2010
This review is from: The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century (Paperback)
Mr. Khanna a geo-strategist manqué, a globe-trotting "international relation expert" has written a compilation of US foreign policy delusions of the last two decades.

If you like the sentences: "Kazakhstan has an opportunity for self-realization", "America's childish treatment of Iran" or "Russia is archetypal petrocracy with profligate spending" when this is a book for you. In my view, the ideas that Parag Khanna's book is advancing are wrong and following them will bring nothing but harm to the US.

In his chapter on Russia called "The Russian Devolution" he is lambasting and degrading Russia with a ferocity I would only expect from a neoconservative think-tank "auteur" who came back from Russia with a food poisoning. It's really toe curling in its Russo-phobia. Russia is presented as a sick country. As a power, it's inferior, second-rate, crumbling, with "outdated military equipment" and small and declining economy. The only safe place in Russia is sauna, because no weapons are allowed there. The lesson? Unlike China or EU, Russia is not a real power. It presents no interest, no threat and, therefore, should be thrown to the EU who can deal with it as they like and try to save it from itself. If they want, they can even try to "Europeanize" Russia. But Mr. Khanna isn't sure if it's worth the effort for the American government to make friends with those degraded Russians.

It's clear that Mr. Khanna's views contradict reality. Whatever his wishful thinking is, Russia is a rising, not declining power. In reality, Russia has reappeared as a geopolitical force to be recon with. Russia isn't just an energy superpower, but is appearing as a supplier of nuclear technology and military technology, in which it competes with the US. A country with virtually no national debt, Russia has a thriving market economy. It is a country with significant cultural heritage and military might. Mr. Khanna would do better to write about something he really knows - presumably India or airport lounges.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Great Travelogue, a Disappointing Conclusion, June 22, 2008
Parag Khanna's travelogue of the world is a good read for 320 or so of its 343 pages. I suggest you keep Google close by however, as Khanna's world tour touches on multiple historical events and places that it does not describe in enough detail, which is understandable in order to keep the book slim enough to draw in readers. Khanna does, helpfully, include regional maps that I found myself constantly flipping to in order to keep track of his travels.

Of the 320 pages or so I enjoyed, one downside was Khanna's overly optimistic view at times of global relations. In discussing China and Japan for example, Khanna ignores the legacy of World War II and continuing fear and dislike between those two important Pacific powers. Another example is Khanna's discussion of the European Union. The EU nations have certainly coalesced in many circumstances around a common purpose, but they do not yet speak as one. Ireland's recent vote against the EU treaty testifies to that fact. I felt Khanna did this often, papering over disagreements between nations in favor of what draws them closer together. That could be a good political strategy, but it can also be a bit intellectually dishonest.

But the real downside to the book is its conclusion. After an interesting, compelling travelogue Khanna begins a twenty page rant as to why everything America does is wrong and cannot be restored. It is not constructive. The journal Democracy really nails down the problem in its review of The Second World, comparing it disfavorably to Fareed Zakaria's more constructive "The Post-American World." You can read the review here: [...]

Another oddity I noticed in the book is Khanna's brief discussion of Israel. On pages 209 and 210 of the hardcover edition, he makes the sweeping statement that "Until Palestinians are granted statehood, pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel is premature and ironic precisely because Palestine is an entity, not a state, and thus is in no position to offer such legal recognition." The statement struck me as strange for a few reasons. First, don't we usually expect organizations, companies, and people to recognize nations? Do I have to be a nation myself to recognize that Ghana, to pick a random example, is a country? Second, the statement is pretty sweeping and probably deserves its own book. But that is all Khanna has to say on the subject. That brief passage stuck out to me as I was reading the book, an uncomfortable speed bump as I was cruising through a great read (again, this was before the disappointing conclusion).

If you are picking up the book, I suggest skipping the conclusion and enjoying Khanna's many insights on the multitude of nations most of us do not think much about, but are all important in their own spheres, and globally.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New World Order, April 7, 2008
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This is a remarkable book in its scope and insight into the future of the world. Khanna is a true world citizen and brings with him a fresh perspective, meticulous research and engaging writing skills. Personally, I found the conclusion of the book worth the price of the book itself, although the entire book is valuable for anyone wanting to understand the world in the twenty-first century. The author's take on geopolitics is fresh and realistic. Khanna's view of the United States is a chilling look at what the future may hold for this great nation, as it slowly loses its world dominance in education, manufacturing, infrastructure and technology. As one who has traveled and lived abroad, it's true that many parts of the world seem to be passing the U.S. by.

The future, according to Khanna, relies on three global powers: the United States, the European Union and China. Little will be accomplished by the Second World unless one or more of the three superpowers is on board. Geographic regions and dominant nation-states (Brazil, India and Japan, for example) will be forced to align their interests with one or more superpower, with the stronger playing off each other to serve themselves. This is the closest thing I have read to a new world order and should be recommended reading for all college students in the United States.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Khanna's delusion, July 14, 2011
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This review is from: The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century (Paperback)
Khanna's main theory: the EU and China are taking over the World and the US is falling off the First World. For him, most everything the EU and China do is great. While the US can do no right. This is even the case when the undertakings are identical like promoting civil rights. If the EU does it, it is superior governance. When the US does it, it is ineffective meddling. This book is similar to Emmanuel Todd equally delusional After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) written in 2004. While Khanna's magic societies are the EU and China. Todd's are the EU, Japan, and Russia. Another member of this genre is Clyde Prestowitz who wrote Trading Places: How We Allowed Japan to Take the Leadin 1988 or how Japan was number 1. More recently, Prestowitz revised his magic society to be China in his Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth And Power to the East written in 2006. These authors make the same errors. They cherry pick the data to capture only the strengths of their magic societies and the weaknesses of the US. They extrapolate into the future and generate poor analysis.

Magic society theories routinely fail shortly after the book release. Japan experienced an ongoing economic stagnation just a year after the release of Prestowitz's "Trading Places" in 1988. Similarly, Russia's economic and demographic outlook has very much dimmed ever since Todd's "After the Empire" released in 2004. Additionally, on both economic and demographic counts the EU is not faring well despite Todd and Khanna's love affair with it.

Here are a few facts to benchmark the competitiveness of the EU, US, and China. Using the politically correct statistics of the IMF relying on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) method, between 1980 and 2010 China has grown enormously. And, on a PPP basis its share of world GDP has risen from 2.2% to 13.6%. It has grabbed those shares more from the EU than the US. Over the same period, the EU share dropped by 34.7% or from 31.3% to 20.5% of World GDP. Meanwhile, the US downtrend was milder with a decline of 20% from 24.7% to 19.7% of World GDP. The IMF forecast through 2016 indicates China's share of world GDP on a PPP base will grow to 18.0%. Meanwhile, the EU and US will be tied at 17.8%. In other words, the three economies would be of the same size (on a PPP basis). However, China's economic size is due primarily to its larger population (5 times the US). Once you adjust for that, China is barely a Second World country. Let's look at the 2010 IMF statistics on GDP per capita on a PPP basis. On this measure, the US [GDP per capita (PPP basis)]is still 55% higher than the EU and over 6 times greater than China.

Now, that we have established the facts let's contrast those with Khanna's vision.
His idealization of the EU is limitless. He states "The EU is easily the most popular and successful empire in history... Europe... is partially Islamic. A successful empire cannot be racist." Khana completely overlooks that Muslim populations within the EU are marginalized and radicalized into terrorism. A bit later, Khana adds: "The EU is now the most confident economic power in the world... its superior commercial and environmental standards have assumed global leadership... It is often said that "America breaks and the EU fixes." The statement about "America breaks" is surreal. The American fixes have saved Europe in WWI, WWII, and Kosovo. Meanwhile the EU has not fixed anything on the world stage.

Let's give China some love. Khanna expands on Chinese "peaceful rise" as he states "the more confident China becomes, the more it cooperates." Peaceful rise also suggests that "overconsumption and pollution are dangerous." Well, how about overproduction and pollution?! Even Asian gangs are better: "Their ruthlessly efficient drugs, weapon, and money-laundering operations make American gangs seem amateurish."

Sometimes, Khanna states paradoxes without knowing it. "China is so confident in America's lack of appeal that US presidential elections are televised live, perhaps for entertainment... America ranks as the most disliked country in China... while Chinese have become a major brain gain of the US." Another choice quote: "The Chinese state is strong enough that it can afford to allow the media to be critical... media reporting on natural disasters without prior approval is banned." Later Khanna states: "China is building a mega-economy based both on mass production and consumption." But, Chinese economic growth is mainly export lead.

Khanna's disdain for the US is profound. He deems the US solely responsible for the rise of leftist leaders through Latin America. The US has failed to economically integrate the Americas because "America still focuses too much on regulating markets and too little on building them." This statement when coupled with Khanna's idealization of super-regulated European capitalism makes for an absurd contradiction. He also holds the US responsible for Mexico's society devolving in corruption and drug warfare. Later, he blames the US for the rise of terrorism in Islam. In other words, no one bears any responsibility for their own bad behavior. It is all the American's fault.

Khanna dedicates a good part of his concluding chapter in denigrating the US further. He cherry picks the weakest spots of the US and pretty soon turns it into Armageddon. Here, the US is all about its failing health care system, obesity epidemic, Katrina government fiasco, mediocre primary education, lack of gun control, high incarceration and crime rates, failing of auto industry, Detroit, etc... Khanna selectively skips on any of the US strengths including an outstanding university system, hotbed of technological and scientific innovations, a first class venture funding, an adaptive culture of entrepreneurship that attracts the most capable immigrants worldwide including Chinese and Europeans.

Regarding the Middle East, Khanna's narrative is also off. He suggests that the area has all the "[human capital] talent to develop itself." Later he states: "Arabs will not be left out of globalization; they are shaping it." "Arab Muslims... ascribe greater importance to economic than spiritual [religious] ends." And, later he states: "more than ever, the Arab world has all the elements..., common form a natural geopolitical bloc." He omits the inherent sectarian hatred within this fragmented religion (Islam). Khanna adds that Islam is spreading rapidly in modern regions due to its mass appeal to converts. Later he states, "Dubai is set to triple in size by 2015." Instead, Dubai World filed for bankruptcy in 2009, less than a year after the printing of this book.

For a far superior and nuanced treatment on the exact same subject, I recommend Zakaria's The Post-American World: Release 2.0. For a more realistic US outlook, check out Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. If you think this competition of empires is obsolete, read R. Florida's excellent Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rooks, knights, bishops and queens on the global chessboard, March 26, 2008
James G. Workman (San Francisco, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
Can you judge a book by its cover? The dust jacket map emphasizes all the countries that really matter; sub-Saharan Africa is left literally Dark. Pages devoted to that region add up to approximately zero. For someone (like me) who has focused a decade on the politics, economics and culture of our oldest continent, that omission at first seemed glaring. No post-apartheid South Africa, which had the bomb and could again? No Congo, with its unsurpassed natural wealth? No Nigeria, the world's fourth largest democracy and sixth largest oil producer? No Angola, one of three countries (with Russia and the US) to hold such a diverse resource portfolio that it need not trade across borders? Nope. And Khanna offers no apologies. I found just two pages at the end of a chapter on Libya, boiled down to a sentence about China backing Mugabe's Zimbabwe while the U.S. bankrolls the equally despicable regime in Equatorial Guinea. Yet that, of course, is the author's whole realpolitik and neo-imperialist point. He is not unsympathetic to the 800 million souls floundering in these underdeveloped countries. He just states what most people won't: Africa's states are expendable pawns, limited to plod one square at a time, sacrificed if necessary but mostly bypassed. And while the Great Game of the 20th century tended to obsess on the psyche of America's noble white king vs a dark king of the Evil Empire, Khanna shows not only how there are now three amoral players in the fast-paced game, but that that game will be won or lost on the unexpected lateral and diagonal moves made by rooks, knights, bishops and queens of the Second World. And therein lies hope for countries left off the map. Perhaps as Africa's disadvantaged pawns survive their slow shuffle to the other side of the board, they can learn new moves, and transform themselves into chess pieces with more flexibility and clout.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Book on IR that I Have Ever Read, June 27, 2009
farlio (Cincinnati, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century (Paperback)
If you find Tom Friedman too complex, nuanced, and conceptually sound, you'll love Parag Khanna. It's as if he read Friedman, figured out what all the annoying bits were, and decided to double down on them. He even quotes random, anonymous, wise taxi cab drivers!

A genuinely terrible book, and a waste of my valuable time.
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