- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (December 6, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400076463
- ISBN-13: 978-1400076468
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,167,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West
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Colossal events such as the fall of France during World War II or the dismantling of the Berlin Wall create seismic shifts in geopolitics. Alliances are broken or forged. Power and influence are redistributed. According to Timothy Garton Ash, author of Free World: Why a Crisis in the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war in Iraq have produced such a crisis in the West. French and German opposition to America's war have signaled a severe rift between these one-time staunch allies and have raised questions about European identity, the role of Britain in this struggle, the direction of U.S. foreign policy, and most important, the spread of freedom and democracy to the poor and voiceless millions in the developing world.
France's attempt to become the voice of the European Union and to defy the will of the U.S. marks a departure from an age-old power structure. Or does it? In clear and engaging prose, Ash, an expert on European-American relations, places the crisis in a historical context dating back to the Second World War. Ash maintains that the future of the West depends on the EU's choice between Gaullism (Europe as "not-America"), or Churchill-style Atlanticism (Europe as a partner of the U.S. with England providing the bridge between the two). At the same time, the world's hyperpower, the U.S., must decide if it will continue to pursue unilaterally its foreign policy of self-interest combined with a Wilsonian edict to spread democracy, or embrace the kind of transatlantic interdependence that already exists in the business world. Wisely, Ash cautions against oversimplification and effectively deflates the myth that there is one America or one Europe. He shows that "There are not two separate sets of values, European and American, but several intersecting sets of values." Therefore, he urges cooperation between these two great powers. Only then, says Ash, can the West reverse its potential decline and spread its legacy of democracy and freedom to the "unfree" world. --Silvana Tropea --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
A Great Britain caught between America and its Continental neighbors—on Iraq and much else—commences Ash's look at the 21st-century's strains on relations in the West. As the eminent British scholar and journalist (The File) moves on to the Continent, he echoes several recent critiques of the call for a unified Europe to act as an alternative superpower, citing the "uneven development" of the European Union. He suggests, however, that the European community still has a vital role to play in advocating the spread of freedom around the world, and looks forward to the day when America treats Europeans as "full partners in a common enterprise" in doing so. For Ash, that enterprise is largely economic. He calls for a global "war on want" and urges Western nations to open their borders to trade from developing neighbors; emigrants from undeveloped countries in the Arab world will turn to Europe, he argues, for homes and jobs. He also points to the imminent threat of global warming, which inspires his harshest criticisms of the current American government. The combination of sweeping historical insight with journalistic immediacy, related in Ash's own conversational style, should help this incisive commentary on world affairs stand apart from its competitors.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
To say that the challenges for the continued success of a "Western dominated World," will be daunting would be a monument to understatement. And despite the author's upbeat approach and attitude, both the underlying realties (the so called fundamentals) and the trajectory of history, not only seem to suggest that the world is changing in unpredictable ways, but also that it seems to be lurching in a more or less random walk towards a new "less knowable" catastrophic future. Terrorism is just one of many such unknowable un-predictabilities. The idea that there is a neatly arranged happy ending to our global dilemma belies what history has taught us and what we have seen our politics capable of achieving. And while it is true that we have won the Cold war, just barely averted a nuclear holocaust, and globalized the international economy, hollow proclamations of "freedom" will not quite be enough to turn the corner and save ourselves from an uninviting future.
"Steadiness" and "smoothness" are not adjectives I would use to describe Western leadership in the aftermath of a turbulent and bloody last century, the most brutal and bloodiest of all history. The more apt adjective "shaky" comes to mind, and would, in any case be somewhat closer to the truth: For the world remains poor, uneducated, dramatically unequal, divided and restless, and while we in the West were busy "making the world safe for our version of democracy," the rest of the world has been "going to hell in a hand basket. Plus, all our success has despoiled the planet in ways that are perhaps beyond recovery.
It would be foolish to pretend that there is no good news in all of this, but a sober disinterested mind might conclude equally that the imperatives controlling our narcissism, greed, racist and self-assigned importance, might be enough to tilt the balance against a more enlightened and survivable future.
From this Atlantic division, Ash recognizes sharper differences within the U.S. and Europe. Europeans are divided into "Euro-Atlanticists", who want political ties with the U.S. and worry about the sovereign tendencies of the European Union, and "Euro-Gaullists", who see the EU as an essential counterweight to the U.S. and support a consolidated welfare state. For their part, Americans are divided between what have come to be called red-state and blue-state voters. The blue side corresponds to the "Euro-Atlanticist" side, while the red side encompasses traditionally conservative issues such as gun ownership and resistant hostility toward international institutions like the EU. What results is an overlap in what the U.S. sees as the Democratic Party since Europe does not have a red-state equivalent resembling the republicans and the U.S. has no organized socialist party on movement with the two major parties. This overlap is where Ash sees the future of true partnership where he believes the U.S. can move toward greater multi-lateralism and Europe toward improved trans-Atlantic cooperation.
Clearly there is a great amount of optimism in Ash's viewpoint. He wholeheartedly feels that what divides the West is less significant than what unites it, even though he acknowledges the erosion in shared causes and memories due to both the "Euro-Gaullist" mindset shaped by French President Jacques Chirac and the unilateralism forced by the Bush administration. It is really this divisiveness that makes it difficult to believe Ash's vision of trans-Atlantic unity will come to fruition any time soon. One fundamental difference is the war on terrorism. Americans view 9/11 as the beginning of a new age of nihilistic, mass-casualty terrorism, while Europeans, used to random bombings, tend to think of it as a single lucky shot. Moreover, the perception of American credibility has been sorely tested given the lack of resolution in the Iraq conflict. But Ash gives one faith with his well-written arguments about the joint mission toward spreading freedom globally, even if there have been communication breakdowns on the death penalty and global warming. Highly recommended reading for those who realize we must face up to our responsibilities beyond our borders.
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Best described as a globalist's perspective and suggestions for the problems facing the civilized world.Read more