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Fire In The East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age Hardcover – May 19, 1999
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Yale political science professor Paul Bracken suggests that the second nuclear age offers many more risks than the first one, the main problem being not that the United States is getting weaker, but that Asia is growing stronger. China looks increasingly aggressive, India and Pakistan have gone nuclear, and more countries--such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea--are waiting in the wings. "Proliferation of modern weaponry is driven not by anything that happens in Washington, but by the national strategies set in Beijing, Delhi, and Tehran," writes Bracken. This has disturbing implications: "Since the War of 1812, only one country in modern history has ever been able to mount a convincing threat to the territory of the United States--the Soviet Union. Now there will be many," he says. Going far beyond the stale debate over engagement versus containment, Bracken argues that the West--especially the United States--must prepare all-new national security strategies to meet the emerging realities of the 21st century: "The long era in which Asia was penetrated by outside powers is coming to a close. An age of Western control is ending, and the challenge is not how to shape what is happening but how to adapt to it." Fire in the East is an outstanding book written by a wise man for a nonspecialist audience, but one so provocative and important that the experts can't ignore it. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
"A multipolar balance of terror stretches over a six-thousand-mile arc, comprising some of the most unstable countries on earth." Such ominous phrases abound in this alarming vision of the post-Cold War geopolitical landscape. Yale political scientist Bracken (Command and Control of Nuclear Forces) takes the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan as his cue to make an argument that the nuclear genie is out of the bottle. Increased cash reserves brought about by the global economy enable governments to buy nuclear technology; therefore, in the 21st century, Asian nations will be able to achieve a measure of military parity with the West not seen for half a millennium. Parts of the book get rather technical, as Bracken addresses military strategy and takes interesting digressions into Asian military history. However, whether he's writing about the oil-rich but politically unstable Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union or more traditional Asian powers such as China and India, Bracken always returns to his theme that the days when the West was the dominant military power in Asia (a period that stretches from the beginning of European colonialism to today's American military hegemony) are numbered. While very clear and persuasive in making his case that the availability of nuclear weapons will change the Asian geopolitical landscape and the relationship between the West and Asia, Bracken is less clear about what the West should do to manage this inevitable shift. He does clearly outline the options (arms control, balance-of-power diplomacy among them), and his book stands as a sobering reminder that economic globalization is as likely to give rise to geopolitical tension as it is to peace and prosperity. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Moreover, "the ballistic missile has empowered pawns to check the dominant powers; countries that were once pawns now have the reach of knights and bishops". The new power and status of the Asian pawns are almost coinciding with the emergence of Asia-Pacific as the new power house of world economy. Hopefully, the present South East Asian financial crisis is just an aberration or an interlude. Bracken draws several pertinent analogies to explain how all the new developments in Asia fall into a historical pattern.
When Europe fought the Thirty Years War in the 17th century, rest of the world remained unaffected. But the Industrial Revolution made Europe rich, powerful militarily and to acquire colonies. Thus, its later wars became everybody's wars. His conclusion is that Asia, too, is "going through a comparable transformation". Throughout, the author proceeds with a bold assumption that the conditions that had led to Asia's decline and colonial subjugation have changed for the better.
There is something 'disruptive' about Asian resurgence. Bracken terms the weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles as disruptive technologies because "they nullify Western advantages in conventional weapons" in Asia. They are equilisers in that, military asymetry will not matter much: A country with crude disruptive technological capability can stand up to a leader in them. Moreover, a poor country can also acquire biological and chemical weapons, if not nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles to deliver them.
This development has introduced a fundamental change in the strategic environment of Asia. For a long time, the predominant military power in Asia has not been Asian. The US indeed is the big power in Asia even at the moment, but the disruptive technologies made its predominance irrelevant. And Washington can no longer 'manage' Asian affairs the way it likes.
Such a situation developed despite the US efforts to contain the spread ofthese technologies through the so-called non-proliferation strategy. Though it seemed to work for a while -- mostly in tarding the spread, not the spread 'per se' -- it ultimately failed. Bracken attributes this failure to the American attempt to "sustain permanently an asymetric advantage" favouring the US. The fundamental difference between the arms control efforts between the two super powers on the one hand and in Asia on the other, is that while in the former case maintaining stability was the focus, in the latter it was maintaining the status quo. It may be recalled that one of the early arms control efforts -- the Washington Naval Treaty -- was aimed at limiting the Japanese naval strength so that the US and Britain could maintain their lead. It ultimately failed then; a similar strategy will fail in future.
'Nationalism' makes the second nuclear age distinct from the first one. It provides the impetus in countries from Israel to North Korea -- the area what the author somewhat crudely calls 'the arc of terror'. The crux is this: Several countries possessing disruptive technologies and driven by 'nationalism' as well as 'national security' considerations will undoubtedly make Asia a more unstable world. Moreover, for the West which long ago enjoyed and suffered 'nationalism', the Asian penchant for a dead and gone sentiment looks incomprehensible. Therefore, for Asia and the West, the emerging order presents many challenges and the failure to effectively meet them will be catastrophic. The author lists out the merits of several strategies for the West including the 'World Government'. Mostly, he himself is not convinced of their efficacy. His conclusion? "An age of Western control is ending, and the challenge is not how to shape what is happening but how to adapt to it". Bracken has written a fascinating book. In just about 180 pages, he manages admirably an illuminating analysis of too complex a subject. A less competent author would have needed double the space, with lengthy citations and distracting footnotes to substantiate his assumptions. The two-page bibliography will disappoint those keen on carrying out further research--a trivial shortcoming compared to the merits of the book.
D. Shyam Babu, Assistan Editor, The Observer of Busness & Politics newspaper, New Delhi, India
"Fire in the East" provides an clear summary of the subtle diplomacy which will be required. Fascinating read.