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Who should you be reading? Parag Khanna


Parag Khanna is an exciting young author who I might dub the next Fareed Zakaria, if I didn’t think that Khanna might blow away Zakaria (at least, in the long run.)

Khanna is a whiz kid. He’s 30-years old and his accomplishments include:

  • Currently completing PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics
  • BS in International Affairs, minor in Philosophy from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University
  • Masters Degree from Georgetown’s Security Studies Program
  • Senior geopolitical advisor to US Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Global Governance Fellow at the Brookings Institution, managing the World Economic Forum’s Global Governance Initiative, to assess the level of effort and cooperation among governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations in implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
  • Worked at the Forum in Geneva, where he specialized in scenario and risk planning.

For more, check out his bio.

Given his record, it’s surprising Khanna has waited this long to publish his first tome, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order. Khanna provides a new framework from which to view geopolitical matters, in his “study of the 21st century’s emerging geopolitical marketplace[, which is] dominated by three first world superpowers, the U.S., Europe and China. Each competes to lead the new century, pursuing that goal in the third world: select eastern European countries, east and central Asia, the Middle East Latin America, and North Africa. The U.S. offers military protection and aid. Europe offers deep reform and economic association. China offers full-service, condition-free relationships. Each can be appealing; none has obvious advantages. The key to Khanna’s analysis, however, is his depiction of a second world: countries in transition. They range in size and population from heavily peopled states like Brazil and Indonesia to smaller ones such as Malaysia. Khanna interprets the coming years as being shaped by the race to win the second world—and in the case of the U.S., to avoid becoming a second-world country itself. The final pages of his book warn eloquently of the risks of imperial overstretch combined with declining economic dominance and deteriorating quality of life.”

Niall Ferguson has a worthwhile review of the book here, and if you’re interested more in the book than Niall, Charles Gati has a review that reads more like a summary.and there’s a review by Ray Bonner here.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment, but I have been checking out some of the reading material available on Khanna’s website:

The Empire Strikes Back: Khanna’s take on the European Union (spoiler: glowing). The EU offers a lot of bennies to prospective countries, and Khanna sees Turkey as only the first step out of Western Europe, with the former Soviet states to follow.

United They Fall (PDF): This article was published on the eve of the appointment of the new Secretary-General of the UN. Khanna begins the piece by detailing the sickness impairing the UN, producing ugly incidents like sex trafficking, female slavery ring, sexual abuse, and oil-for-food fraud by UN personnel, not too mention inaction in the face of multiple genocides. He concludes that for the UN to survive (and possibly, thrive…) it needs the US on board and it needs a strong leader with the diplomatic chops to cut through the bureaucratic mess and Tammany-Hall deal-making, which so impeded effective decision-making and action in the past. The man for the job? Bill Clinton! He makes a compelling a case, and while Clinton didn’t throw his hat in the ring this time around, I think it was largely because of Hillary’s anticipated run for President. Maybe next time…

There are two more I checked out, but I am going to save those for the next post, which will look at Khanna’s thoughts on the US in the 21st century.

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Filed under: World

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