Top positive review
A history of the mess we're in
12 July 2018
In this book Burleigh describes how our present world has been shaped by the clash of rising and declining powers. He sees our current era as defined by what he calls two shocks. The first, at the start of the '90's, was the ending of the Cold War, which left America standing alone as the only surviving world power, whilst the second was the financial crash and Great Recession of 2008, which, in the West, resulted in increasing inequality and social division. Over this period the Middle East became a crucible of conflict and war. Meanwhile, Europe and America continued to be the promised land for refugees escaping violence corruption and poverty in their homelands,
Burleigh's chapters provide succinct summaries of the political, economic and social histories of the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, China, the USA and the EU. I felt his outline of Iranian history and diplomacy was particularly helpful in understanding the complex factors fuelling conflicts across the Middle East. He is scathing about the West's prospects under President Trump - "no geopolitical thinker but rather a capricious bullying narcissist.....America and the world's problems require patience, knowledge and thought....". America's weakness opens opportunities for Russia and China to exercise their brands of power more widely on the global stage. The book is pessimistic about the EU's potential to contribute to a more stable and prosperous world. Burleigh views the European project as ponderous, much too divided and consumed by nationalistic tensions, e.g. Brexit, to make a genuinely global impact. A defining feature of the present is how the West is fading as the major driving geopolitical force in the world.
Burleigh's arguments are supported by copious references drawing on Anglo-American and European sources. His book is not intended as prophecy and doesn't suggest any easy simplistic solutions to resolve the issues it identifies. Rather, Burleigh succeeds in giving a coherent account of the complex forces shaping the world we live in today. He provides a comprehensive challenging analysis of international relations which offers much food for thought.