TO “chart the course to the next renaissance” – as if human evolution has confronted a roadblock – is a lofty idea. Call it wishful thinking, sweeping exuberance or plain obsession to meddle with others lives — this is the agenda of this new book. It is attempting to redraw the world map.
It advocates multiple secessions of present-day sovereign states, relentless pursuit for assertion and freedom of countless socio-cultural units, arbitrary division and subdivision of states, overweening interference and engagement of the NGOs in governance; all under the benign supervision of the United States. The book tries to conceal its real objective of recasting the world with a generous prelude to the existing world order where the Asian powers are rising and the US is on the decline. But this American think-tank has compared the situation to the Dark Ages where it is chaotic. Asian Empires, Western militaries, Middle Eastern sheikhdoms, wealthy multinational corporations, elite clans, religious zealots, magnetic city-states, tribal hordes and potent media are seething in an ever more unpredictable and dangerous storm, the book claims. To overcome this, the author suggests, to work towards “the emergence of a mega-diplomacy, consisting of coalitions among motivated technocrats, influential executives, super-philanthropists, cause-mopolitan activists and everyday churchgoers … to make the world economy fairer”, rebuild failed states, fight terrorism, provide health care and good governance. The global leaders have to start dealing with the world part-by- part till they succeed in forging the new networks among governments, businesses, and civil interest groups to tackle the crises of today.
If it sounds like a doomsday prediction of a market place evangelist don’t blame the reviewer. And if this looks akin to what happened at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar last fortnight consider it accidental. The world would have already become a wonderful place had the champions of the world allowed the sovereign states run their affairs the way their citizens liked. It is not to be. The end of the cold war and the fall of Soviet Union had created a situation that there was no challenge to US hegemony. Though, influence, in the wake of economic meltdown has seen a decline the protagonists of the Washington Consensus are unrelenting. So we have the grotesque situations as they are emerging in Libya, the one in Afghanistan and the next developing in Pakistan. The US wants to police the world. It wants the world to adopt its obsolete technology, its decadent life style, it wants to export its arms and army all over the world in the name of keeping peace. This, in fact is the real challenge before the world community.
The book under review in that sense should have been titled “How not to run the world”. But the author, Parag Khanna, an India-born American, as could be expected has titled the book How to Run the World: Chartering a Course to the Next Renaissance. Khanna, directs the Global Governance Initiative at the New American Foundation.
Khanna has a global canvas before him. From the 2008 economic down turn, to West Asia to Af-Pak to China; money, market, technology, food, fuel, enterprise, talent and NGOs — all have to take a few lessons from Khanna, so that “the world will become smarter than the sum of its parts” and “encourage more diverse and dynamic market places”. The book is relentless with one-liners. Clichés, clichés, clichés. If you think you have been here before, again the fault lies with the pursuit for global domination. Considering the size, history, cultural diversity, circumstances of its creation and expansion Parag Khanna should have advocated the remodeling first to the US. But everything is honky-dory there. Khanna advocates a mega role for voluntary organizations. There are many promoting ideology and proselytisation in the name of charity. Are the beneficiaries not vulnerable? Weakening the state power, withdrawal of the state from all aspects of daily life, are the causes overstated. Though the book is America centric, India gets extensive coverage. India’s nuclear programme, food scarcity, governance shortcomings, avian flu, community building, economic liberation, public private collaboration, migrations from India, water resources, Planning Commission and Kashmir are discussed in some detail in this 250-odd page book. As an author of Indian origin, if you think he has analysed the situation with better understanding you are mistaken. He has seen everything from the American prism. Take for instance this observation: “The largest military occupation in the world is neither in Iraq nor in Afghanistan but in Kashmir, where more than twice the maximum number of troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined(over six hundred thousand) is deployed in what so many poets and travelers have ironically referred to as a Himalayan Paradise … India has ignored UN resolution calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir … Since 1990 alone, more than fifty thousand people have been killed in Kashmir violence,far greater than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. (P.87-88). The author does not bother to cite the source of his assertion. Perhaps he thinks what matters is nor fact or scholarship but as they say, “your stand depends on where you sit”.
The surmise of the author is simple; 21st century diplomacy is coming to resemble that of the Middle Ages. Why? Because, “success in this new world of mega-diplomacy hinges on bringing the key players together”. Simplistic, radical, utopian or impetuous? Make your choice as you like.
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