Book Review: Beyond the Age of Innocence

Beyond the Age of Innocence

Mahbubani, Kishore

Public Affairs, New York, 2005

This book, written by the former Singapore ambassador to the UN, is one of the best books I have read in terms of identifying the role of the US in recent world events.  The premise is quite straightforward – America, as an entity, is unaware of the impacts of their decisions and actions in the wider world.  The writing style is at times one of educational impact, at others simply frustrated, but generally helpful.  This is a voice of an outside observer who has been in America long enough to see through the superficial layers and who knows he is butting against a brick wall, but who thinks some good will come of it anyway.

The book starts with the theory that America built up reservoirs of good-will throughout the world, peaking with the Marshal Plan and the unprecedented step of working for the larger good rather than taking advantage of the defeated countries.  The Cold War led to a change in policy which, while paying lip-service to the prior ideals, started to erode the good-will as observers outside the US saw the double standards, such as preaching democracy but supporting “friendly” dictatorships against incipient, possibly “unfriendly,” democratic movements.  Examples are given of dealings with Asia, Latin America, and the Islamic sphere of influence of further ways in which actions, at times even internal actions, of the US have led to widespread hardships in other areas of the world, which increasingly erode what good-will was left.

The book ends with some basic ideas of how to stop the momentum and stabilize the situation.

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