Think things are weird, dangerous and frightening now? Just wait, counsels Kissinger Associates managing director and former Time editor Ramo (No Visible Horizon: Surviving the World’s Most Dangerous Sport, 2003)—the mayhem is only beginning.
The world is more complex than we can imagine, Ramo notes, and in a revolutionary era, the only thing to do is “think and act like a revolutionary.” He adds that those who don’t “have a particular name: victims.” But what should be the focal point of our revolutionary thinking? Everything, says the author, starting with the fact that all that we know is wrong, such that our decisions seem to yield the wrong results. Given that, why listen to leaders, pundits and experts who get it wrong, and why follow the old course of making “minor adjustments to current policies, incremental change to institutions that are already collapsing, and an inevitable and frustrating expansion of failure”? After setting the tone, Ramo leaps into the shark-infested waters of geopolitics. He observes that we are incorrect to believe that the triumph of the West in the Cold War was inevitable—the Soviet Union fell to “the internal implosion of a society due to faults, twists, and kinks that even today we cannot map clearly”—and that we are misguided in our thinking that our current antiterrorism efforts are doing much more than producing more active terrorists. The old assumptions about the balance of power are off, since the old deterrents are gone; suicide bombers cannot be swayed in the same way cautious diplomats can. Ramo adds that focusing on “objects” such as Saddam Hussein at the expense of “the swirling, furious energy of the environment around those objects (clan rivalries, greed, corruption, a region aflame with fundamentalism),” you are bound to get mired down in places such as Iraq—a good reason, he remarks, to be smarter and less confrontational in dealing with other nations, particularly China.
A smart essay in geopolitics and realpolitik that does not foresee a rosy future for conformists.