Monday, November 24, 2014

Book: Henry Kissinger's "World Order"

It was time for me to get serious so my next book was Henry Kissinger's "World Order".  Kissinger discusses the concept of world order throughout history, exploring how different cultures have different takes on it, and how it has changed through the years (centuries ...millennia actually).  I ended up learning a lot about history - a good thing - but I was a bit disappointed at the author's attempt at predicting how world order will change in the future.

Kissinger points out three different models of world order: The Western (first European then an Americanized version) westphalian model, the Chinese-centric model, and the Islamic model.   He describes the Western and the Islamic is some detail but glosses over the Chinese (strange since it was Kissinger that open up China to America in the 70s).  The book follows the historic narrative showing how the Western model has changed overtime including the major change that occurred when America started putting in its two cents worth.  The Chinese and the Islamic models really haven't changed much over the centuries.  The Chinese is very leader-centric i.e. the Emperor controls the order of all under the heavens and that's that.  The Islamic model flows from Mohammed and the Koran and thus has remained constant since the creation of the Koran.

In the latter chapters Kissinger looks at technology - computers, the internet, and atomic weapons - and explores how these things may change the world order in the future.  Here he gets vague.  He mentions the irreconcilable differences between Western and Islamic models but does not speculate as to how, if ever, the differences will be handled.  In a way the last few chapters just showed that we don't know what to do and the future is a mystery ... even to those in the know.

I liked the writing style of the book.  It flowed well and didn't feel muddled or stuffy like many history books can.  The book, which came out in September of this year, is surprisingly up to date.  Current events like ISIS and Ukraine are mentioned and overall feels contemporary.  I'm sure history will make sure that doesn't last too long.

One little aside.  If I have heard an author's voice, I sometimes catch myself reading their books in their voice.  For this book, reading the book in Kissinger's low, slow, heavily accented speaking voice slowed me down enough that I had to finally break that weird habit I've had for so many years.

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