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America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy Paperback – September 1, 2009
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In America and the World, two of the most respected figures in American foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, dissect the challenges facing the US today: the Middle East, Russia, and China, among others. In spontaneous conversations the two authors explore their agreements and disagreements. Defining the center of responsible opinion on American foreign policy, America and the World is an essential primer on a host of urgent issues at a time when our leadersâ decisions could determine how long our nation remains a superpower.
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The book is set up as a series of interviews between Zrzezinski and Scowcroft moderated by Ignatius. You even get little headers to tell you who is speaking when with each chapter devoted to some of the most pressing world affair problems out there.
I found the book quite easy to read and filled with some very level headed thinking on world affairs.
Some cautions though: I felt that both Zbig and Scowcroft were careful and very diplomatic in towing their party lines to an extent, held back and didn't really come out with some of the problems facing America. They kept their thinking global and pro-world vs pro-America and in some areas like climate change they played into the hype vs really looking at the costs and what it means to do these kinds of big things. Although in their defense these guys are great poker players, global strategists, and diplomats so they have to look at all sides and be welcoming to all in some respects. They play in a strange arena having to be pro-world while at their core they have to be pro-america (I hope). Its like hearing CIA spies talking never knowing if this guy is a spy, a double agent, or a triple agent. Whose side are these guys on? and I dearly hope they're on our side.
Overall, I found the book worthwhile to read as it gives you insight into what these guys are thinking but at the same time as you read the book you can't help but feel the slight tug of an undertow current that lies just below the calm surface; an undertow current that you are not told about but which you are left to decypher on your own. I don't know if the two writers and Ignatius don't mention this on purpose, if its irrelevant, or if they just don't know. Don't get me wrong, I'm not conspiratorial its more like things are left unsaid.
So overall, the book is great but it certainly does not cover domestic affairs, only international affairs and these only within the narrow scope of the author's experience and expertise. This is good in the sense that they keep to their strenghts and don't write about stuff that they don't know about but don't expect a book about everything or expect to be entirely enlightened after reading this book. So this book is not about America and then also about how America relates to the world -- this book is purely about how America relates to the world. You should come out with a baseline context for world affairs and the world we're coming from and moving into.
Its almost as if this book needs to be part of a 3 book series: with a second book being about domestic affairs and then a capstone book that puts it all together. As it stands, this book gives you only the world affairs portion of the picture.
Not surprisingly, they agree on many issues - both Brezinzski and Scowcroft belonged to the "Realist" camp of Security and Foreign Policy, and they hold many views typical of that group in the 21st century. There are some interesting reflections on all these issues.
However, the book is at its most interesting when the two actually disagree on a topic, because the argument brings to the forefront the abilities and intelligence that made them the distinguished political figures they are. The exemplary topic of this is on Russia.
It is a very interesting book, and definitely worth the price.
The text format is one of an interview. David Ignatius, as the moderator, does not ask the flowery, over complementary questions. He is direct, inquisitive, asking the right questions for insight to today's global dilemma.
Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft provide answers and insight that are compelling, understandable and current. These two great minds do not always agree on the same answers to questions placed by Ignatius. You will not receive a one sided answer or opinion as in other books, journals or blogs. These two minds, one Democrat and the other Republican, do agree that a new approach, a reform, is needed for global interaction. Reading the interviews provides their insight to the reforms needed by the United States to survive in a world that has grown smaller right before our half open eyes.
You must have an interest greater than casual curiosity to enjoy this book. The book is not one for beginners of global political policies, though not in depth to the point of making you nod off from boredom. The names, places and situations discussed are all familiar to us. They are being discussed on MSNBC, BBC, CNN and Fox as you read this. These three men take the global situation and place it in some semblance of order for a better understanding for the student of current global history.