In this thoughtful and very personal meditation, Mahbubani, the distinguished Singaporean scholar-diplomat, expresses his anguish over deepening distrust and resentment of the United States--anguish because he fervently believes that the United States has done more good for the world than any other nation, turning the American dream into the world's hope. His thesis is that in dominating the world the United States also transformed it, unleashing globalizing forces that Washington is ill equipped to manage. Paradoxically, in his view, the United States is largely "innocent" of the world it has touched so profoundly (especially when it comes to Islam and Asia), having escaped--at least until now--the complexities of "history." In Mahbubani's view, a fateful shift occurred after the Cold War: despite grand rhetoric about building a more inclusive and rules-based order, Washington instead chose to become a "normal" country, as reflected in its failure to respond to the Asian financial crisis with generosity or respond at all to genocide in Africa. Because this "return to normalcy" is rooted in American democracy, Mahbubani can only make a plea: that U.S. leaders will rise above short-term self-interest to offer enlightened leadership in a future they have helped set in motion.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Political and Legal From This Issue