Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World

Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World

by Kishore Mahbubani
     
 
More than half of the world's population lives in Asia and the Middle East-and is becoming more and more alienated from America. Now a uniquely qualified Asian writer explains-provocatively-why.

After publishing articles in leading American journals over two decades, Kishore Mahbubani was described as"an Asian Toynbee, preoccupied with the rise and fall of

Overview

More than half of the world's population lives in Asia and the Middle East-and is becoming more and more alienated from America. Now a uniquely qualified Asian writer explains-provocatively-why.

After publishing articles in leading American journals over two decades, Kishore Mahbubani was described as"an Asian Toynbee, preoccupied with the rise and fall of civilizations" by The Economist. Trained in philosophy in North America and Asia, and well-experienced in realpolitik as a diplomat on the world stage, Mahbubani has unusual insight into America's ever more troubled relationship with the rest of the world.

In Beyond the Age of Innocence Mahbubani reveals to us the America that Asia and the rest of the world see. We are a country that has given hope to billions by creating a society where destiny is not determined at birth. After the Second World War, we created a global order which allowed many nations to flourish. But when the Cold War ended, America made a terrible mistake. We started behaving like a normal country, ignoring the plight of others, indifferent to the consequences of our decisions on others. America was imprudent in its policy towards two large masses of mankind: the Chinese and Muslim populations. Guantanamo damaged our moral authority, but Abu Ghraib, paradoxically, may have demonstrated the accountability of American institutions. Still, disillusionment with America has spread to all corners.

To allow any lasting gap between America and the world, Mahbubani argues, would be a colossal strategic mistake for America and a huge loss to the world. But there is still time for the US to change course; and in this thought-provoking, visionary book, Mahbubani shows us how.

Author Biography: Kishore Mahbubani will assume his new post as Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore in August 2004. After having lived in New York for six years, he will return to Singapore with his wife and three children.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The author of Can Asians Think? spent several years in the U.S. as the U.N. ambassador from Singapore, gaining firsthand experience with what he dubs "the best human society ever seen in history." Yet Mahbubani also knows that much of the rest of the world doesn't see things that way, resenting the U.S. for its "betrayal" in retreating from the geopolitical scene after the end of the Cold War-and then seemingly stomping around at will. The lucid analysis of America's diminishing prestige is underscored by Mahbubani's insistence that this isn't merely a reaction to the Bush administration and its policies, but a "tectonic shift" in international perceptions. Although his suggestion that America should stop acting merely in its own short-term interests and develop a global perspective smacks of the obvious, considerations of specific tensions in Islamic and Chinese cultures are thoughtfully detailed. The emphasis on pragmatism does lead in sometimes unsettling directions: while Mahbubani lends credence to the idea that American "abandonment" of foreign concerns led to 9/11 and the Bali nightclub bombing, he also justifies the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square as a political necessity. For the most part, however, he celebrates America's generosity and the beacon of hope and prosperity it can represent for millions, and would be glad to see its luster restored. Agent, Mort Janklow. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Why does the world hate America so? Because, remark several of the many interlocutors to be found here, the US has lost any moral authority it might have once had. Parts of the world came to that conclusion early on; whereas, observes Mahbubani, former Singaporean ambassador to the UN, a 19th-century Saudi citizen (never mind that there was no such thing) would not have dreamed of traveling to Afghanistan to battle the British-"He would have probably replied: 'But the Afghans are not even Arabs!' "-Saudis now flock to battle America, the great Satan of the mullahs' rhetoric. Americans don't try to understand Islamic anger against them, and so "it comes as a shock to most American citizens to be told that their government may have, knowingly or not, radicalized Islam." Other parts of the world are recent converts to anti-Americanism; much of the slide in the standing of the US in Europe can be traced to Iraq, while one of Mahbubani's Chinese respondents finds that moment in the US treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners: "We Chinese have discovered that Americans are not really different from us. We thought they were special. Now we know they are just like us." Such discoveries will be a comedown for many American readers, but Mahbubani's chidings are well placed. Who would want to live in a village in which 4 percent of the inhabitants create 25 percent of the pollution? Who would want a neighbor who insists that it's up to him alone to define what "neighbor" means? Who could not despise a nation that, by going to war without UN backing, "tore a hole in the very consensus that had been an American gift to the world"? America, Mahbubani urges, needs to give up its insularity and startcaring about what the world thinks, and about living up to its promise. Its leaders would surely benefit from reading Beyond the Age of Innocence-but fat chance, so get ready for more hatred to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586482688
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
02/28/2005
Pages:
235
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.56(h) x 0.97(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >