I’ve recently been reading through an especially stellar new volume of essays: The World Crisis: The Way Forward After Iraq, which includes pieces by Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, Michael Heseltine, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, George P Shultz and Geoffrey Howe.
Perhaps it’s the overbrilliance of these gathered stars, but the only essays that have really grabbed me thus far have been Carter’s summary of the boggling scale of the US military-industrial complex and the threat America now poses to its own dearest values, and Kissinger’s synopsis of the history of world politics as we know it (arrogant, brilliant, and tinted with intimations of apocalypse—and that’s just Kissinger).
What has most stimulated my attention, however, is the list with which the book opens: Geoffrey Howe’s editorial distillation of his authors’ takes on, and advice to, the world. It’s not radical, but it is concise and thought-provoking. Here are the main points, in my paraphrase:
The Iraq invasion was a disaster, and the value of Afghan intervention has begun to look dubious. The US must be more multilateral. Terrorism is not remotely comparable to the wars between states of the 20th century. An official culture of scaremongering and the restriction of basic liberties is unjustified. The greatest modern security threat is nuclear proliferation. The US and Russia must slash their nuclear stockpiles. The UN and NATO must be reformed to reflect the increasing importance of non-western nations. Freedom and democracy must not, save in the most extreme circumstances, be promoted by force. The US and EU must reconcile themselves to the emergence of major new world powers. Good US-EU relations are the key to global security and prosperity. The US and Europe must jointly recognize the need for an Israel-Palestinian settlement. Russia must be drawn more closely into the western political and economic community. World energy supplies and security must be addressed as a priority. Global warming must be globally addressed. The dangers of increasing resentment over global inequalities must be addressed. Global communications may soon mean truly global political organizations. The UK must return to its traditions of cabinet and parliamentary government.
Statements of the bleeding obvious, wake-up calls to the world, or both? Well, by my calculation, Tony Blair now has at least six of these covered—which just leaves ten for the rest of us to be getting on with. How hard can it be?