Summary of the Book
As 21st century is drawing to an end, the United States has emerged as the sole superpower with no rival in the international system based on its superior economic and military powers. However, a critical issue still remains with reference to the U.S. global strategy and its exceptional position in the international system. Zbigniew Brzezinski has been able to address this issue in his path-breaking and an incisive book titled “The Grand Chessboard.” (Brzezinski, 1998 p 1). Brzezinski analyzes the American provocative and bold geostrategic vision in the 21st century, and its supremacy on the Eurasian landmass. Brzezinski, (1998) pointed out that Eurasia was the center of world power five-century ago, and during this period, Eurasia dominated and penetrated the international system, dictating the world order, and attaining the special status of being the premier power. However, in the 20th century, the world witnessed a tectonic shift where a non-Eurasian state emerged as the only paramount power dictating the international political affairs. Moreover, the defeat and disintegration of the Soviet Union have been the final step in the ascendance of power to the western hemisphere. Lately, America has emerged as the first dominant superpower, although Eurasia still retains its geopolitical strategic importance, nevertheless, Europe has started exerting global political and economic power. Additionally, Asia and Eastern regions have been exerting political influence and achieving economic growth.
In the book, Brzezinski discussed the post-cold war geopolitical strategy, and emphasized on American global supremacy. Theoretically, America continues dominating the political and economic arena employing different strategies to minimize strategic risks. For example, the United States divided Eurasia into four regions in order to dominate the global systems. According to Brzezinski, (1998), sources of the U.S. economic growth are its democratic and open political institutions as well as an open market system that allow the country to boost its international political and economic reputations.
Despite the current U.S. dominance, the task facing America statesmen is the strategy to manage relationships and conflicts in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The U.S. major challenge is also to ensure that no rival superpower has been able to challenge or threaten its hegemony and well-being. The rise of the Islamic fundamentalist has also become a threat to the U. S superiority. For example, the United States is facing challenges in West Asian region. Brzezinski also focuses on the American stakes in Russia, Europe, East Asia and Central Asia. According to Brzezinski, (1998), the dissolution of the Soviet Union has created relationships and new rivalries that map out a new geopolitical realism. For example, China has become a major important state in the international arena playing stick and carrot game with the United States.
The salient point in the book is the rise of the American dominance in the contemporary global political environment that spells the country foreign policy. Brzezinski argued that the goal of the American foreign policy during the cold war was to thwart the menace of the Soviet Union and disorganized the global scenario. Moreover, American goal was to provide security for Eurasia to enhance American global domination and supremacy. The policy is also to stabilize a relationship with Eastern Asian and Western European countries to enhance international prosperity and stability. While cold war is over, and the United States has become a dominant force in the international system, nevertheless, America still requires maintaining its hegemony as the dominant super power through a grand strategy. The concept grand strategy is the ability of an entity to secure a long-term security, prosperity and peace. The grand strategy combines the fundamental traditional elements that include statecraft, history, diplomacy, warfare, and international relations. While the United States has been able to dictate affairs of the international political system since the collapse of former Soviet Union, nevertheless, the country is presently facing challenges to maintain a grand strategic force based on the rise of new state actors and non-state actors in the international system. Coupled with China that has become a threat to the United States economic dominance, some non-state actors are also emerging and serving as threats to the U.S. technological innovation. For example, many U.S. companies have lost millions of dollars with the rise of state-sponsored and non-state sponsored hackers who have become threats to the U.S. economic supremacy.
While the U.S. has emerged as the only superpower, however, the country still requires maintaining its hegemony to prevent an insurgency of dangerous bipolar or multi -polar worlds where each state is scrambling to take advantage of porous global systems. According to Brzezinski, it is pertinent for the United States to maintain a firm control of the international system by preventing other advanced countries to challenge its supremacy. While the Brzezinski’s manuscript is easier said than done, maintaining the global economic and global dominances is becoming a challenge for the American statesmen. For example, globalization has made many companies in the United States to relocate to the low-costs countries with the goal to increase their revenue. While these companies are the registered American companies, however, more than 90% of their manufacturing operations are in the low-cost countries such as China, Mexico, India, and Vietnam. The issue has made many low -skilled Americans jobless leading to a rise of new international political economic systems. Typically, China has become indispensable to the American economy since China supplies low-cost labor to the American companies, thus, American-China cordial relationship is vital to the international peace and security. A challenge to the American economic power can be detrimental to the U.S. economic global dominance because if China refuses to supply their labor in the future, it can lead to a collapse of some American companies thereby threatening the U.S. economic global dominance.
Brzezinski maintained that America was able maintaining its dominance by alienating irritants Saddam Hussein, and dealing with Kim Jong II, and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia as well as fostering mutual relations with Japan and German that had been the major actors in the Second World War. However, the rise of the terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists has become a threat to U.S. military superiority, which diffuses the U.S. geopolitical superiority, and jeopardizing the country interest in the Gulf region.
Nevertheless, the book has been able to give an in-depth on the logic behind the U.S. strategic security formulation during and after the cold war. While the United States is maintaining the international global security by placing military troops at the strategic locations, the salient point is the method to pull out of these locations without provocating the international peace and security amidst of the aggressive posture of Islamic fundamentalists and rising of Islamic states. Brzezinski maintains that American military expenditures are much higher than the rest of the world, however, the United States still needs to continuing providing the military securities to maintain control and dominance over the black sea oil amidst of threats from Iran and Turkey. The United States still requires planting its military in the region to maintain its hegemony. In essence, the United States will never let go its supremacy because the country has stretched its economic, military and political dominations too far. However, a cooperation with other state actors is still pertinent to the international peace and security.
The Grand Chessboard is one of the best books for scholars of international relations because it enhances a greater understanding of the rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union and military and economic dominance of the United States after the cold war. Moreover, the book enhances a greater understanding of the academic community about the rise and fall of Eurasia, how the power has shifted from Eurasia to the United States. While the book has been able to provide a comprehensive analysis of the contemporary international system, the author fails to discuss the strategy that America can employ in maintaining international peace and security with a rise of non-state actors. Moreover, the book fails to discuss the cyber warfare, which is a new strategy that state and non-actors employ in waging war in the contemporary international system. Although, America may be a superpower militarily, and economically nevertheless, the U.S. is still unable to engage in the cyber warfare with a country such as Russia. The book also fails to understand that the traditional military forces are becoming obsolete because a rise in the act of terrorism has become a new method that non-state actors employ in waging war. While the book enhances a greater understanding about the U.S. military and economic dominance, nevertheless, it fails to discuss how the United States can employ in maintaining its military dominance with a present rise in the act of terrorism and cyber warfare.
Nevertheless, the book has enhanced a greater understanding about a collapse of Eurasia and dissolution of former Soviet Union that has led to the rise of the United States as the only superpower in the international systems. However, a continuity of the American global force depends on the country continued preparedness in Eurasia. Moreover, China has become an important regional power challenging the U.S. economic superiority. While the United States has been the dominant force in NATO, however, NATO’s role has to change because NATO is required taken into a consideration of the United Europe, which is emerging economically and politically. Moreover, NATO is required taking into a consideration of Central Asia, Russia, and India that are becoming the global force in the international system.
Brzezinski, Z. (1998). The Grand Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives. Basic Books.
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