Friday, March 07, 2008

The Great Game in the Second World

A Game Where Resources Dwindle and Partners Shift

In the 21st century the empires strike back. The United States, the European Union and China dare not call themselves imperial powers, Parag Khanna argues in “The Second World,” his sweeping, often audacious survey of contemporary geopolitics, but they are busy reshaping the globe to suit their interests. The game is afoot, with the natural resources and potential wealth of countries like Ukraine, Turkey and Brazil as the prize.

Mr. Khanna is the director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute. He strides the world in seven-league boots, armed with a powerful thesis: in the postcolonial, post-cold-war era, three superpowers have emerged with a ravenous appetite for energy and natural resources. Restlessly, they look to the second-tier economies of Latin America, the former Soviet bloc, the Middle East and Asia for partners or patsies. This argument was laid out recently in The New York Times Magazine in an excerpt it published from the book.

No shots will be fired. Instead the three imperial rivals will woo and coerce, relying on distinct styles. The United States offers military protection, along with the promise of democracy and human rights. The European Union dangles the prospect of membership in, or affiliation with, the world’s most successful economic club, provided that applicants undertake specific reforms. China talks trade, investment and infrastructure projects, with no annoying demands for political reform in its would-be client states.

“To a large extent, the future of the second world hinges on how it relates to the three superpowers,” Mr. Khanna writes, “and the future of the superpowers depends on how they manage the second world.”