Book Review #5: “Disunited Nations” by Peter Zeihan

Thanks to one very long internet rabbit hole, I found an incredible lecture by Peter Zeihan which changed my entire perspective on Geopolitics. Actually, it’s better to say that it actually presented me with a perspective that seems more clear than any I had heard before.

Peter Zeihan’s premise in Disunited Nations is that the world order that was set up by America after WWII — which involved America bribing up an alliance by trading economic and national security for allies in exchange for their commitment to fight the Soviets if and when the time came — no longer made sense after the Soviet Union collapsed. He argues that we have largely been going through the motions ever since, and that many allies have continued to benefit from a global order that is no longer in America’s interest — especially since we are the least involved economy in the world (we don’t import or export that much).

Disunited Nations basically makes all the same points that he’s been making in his talks, but boy is it packed with so much information that I had no knowledge of before. He devotes whole chapters to major geopolitical players like China, Russia, and Japan, but also Brazil, Turkey, and others. He issues report cards to each country at the end, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses based on mostly geography, demographics, and history. The chapters on Argentina and Turkey were probably my favorites, because it was almost all new information for me.

That all might sound like boring subject matter, but Zeihan manages to cram so much information into bite-sized morsels of knowledge that even a lay person can understand. The seemingly strange actions of every nation discussed both historically and currently is made so clear that their actions make so much more sense. Perhaps I am simply naive and lack the credentials to evaluate Zeihan’s thesis critically, but it seems to me that the connections he makes between all the players on the world stage are shockingly reasonable.

When I say shockingly, that is because part of his thesis includes a rather optimistic prognosis of America’s future, despite what he sees as a catastrophic global realignment of power that will almost certainly mean war. He argues that America — being lucky inheritors of the world’s best farmland and the most contiguous waterways and two oceans that keep us safe, coupled with a spending-prone Millennial demographic — will be fine. The rest of the world, however, will be far less so. If you are even remotely interested in world affairs, or about America’s future, this is well worth the read.

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