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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos rules, democracy survives, all the rest cause trouble, May 24, 2008
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This review is from: The Return of History and the End of Dreams (Hardcover)
Brilliant; history has not ended, it is alive and well and in most part ignoring and even rejecting the "exceptionalism" of America and writers such as Fukuyama.

In brief, Kagan presents the logical facts about why international turmoil will continue unabated. Yet, he's still stuck in the idealism of Kant and Montesquieu who argued, "The natural effect of commerce is to lead toward peace."

But, commerce is competition which becomes riddled with cheating and bullying. From steroids in sports to bribes in business, competition leads to cheating which leads to fisticuffs and, when enough people are involved, to war. Kagan astutely recognizes the ills of the last century; he doesn't sumble until he gets to the future.

This may be the most relevant book issued this election year. One of it's central ideas is already part of Sen. John McCain's campaign platform, and an issue for discussion in the Financial Times. Ignore Kagan's sense of reality and Bush's blundering bozos will look like picnickers playing in the park compared to what comes next.

"In a world increasingly divided among democratic and autocratic lines, the world's democrats will have to stick together," Kagan advises. It's a proposal McCain has voiced with his 'League of Democracies'. Kagan likely originated it; McCain copied, which at least shows he's capable of recognizing good ideas.

Yet, there's another "reality". At this point (May 2008), Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can't form a 'League of Two Democrats' let alone two democracies. Many Republicans have a similar problem in forming a "league" to elect McCain.

What does it prove? It proves life is challenged more by chaos than by all the clever philosophies from Plato to Kagan, who writes, ". . . they regarded democracy as the rule of the licentious, greedy, and ignorant mob".

They were right. Now it's called chaos. Success is the ability to recognize useful patterns within chaos. The world is not an orderly formula which everyone obeys, like some "Universal Theory" Albert Einstein sought so vainly. It's chaos, confusion, conflict and contusion which the wise learn to analyze and the foolish continue to lament.

Aye, there's the rub. How do you implement perceptive insights and good ideas in a world of chaos?

Kagan goes right up to this point, then hesitates rather than plunge into uncertainty. He's an American idealist, ready to build the 'city on a hill' as the perfect answer, a man governed by reason, inspired by perfection but somewhat above reality.

It is a brilliant essay. It's as current as this year's U.S. elections, as timeless as history itself and as relevant as anything else you may read this year.

But, chaos rules. You'll understand after reading this book.
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