The World: A Brief Introduction PART I: THE ESSENTIAL HISTORY From the Thirty Years War to the Outbreak of World War I (1618-1914) From World War II Through World War I (1914-1945) The Cold War (1945 - 1989) The Post-Cold War Era (1989 -Present) PART II: REGIONS OF THE WORLD Europe East Asia and the Pacific South Asia The Middle East Africa The Americas PART III: THE GLOBAL ERA Globalization Terrorism and Counterterrorism Nuclear Proliferation Climate Change Migration The Internet, Cyberspace, and Cybersecurity Global Health Trade and Investment Currency and Monetary Policy Development PART IV: ORDER AND DISORDER Sovereignty, Self-Determination, and Balance of Power Alliances and Coalitions International Society War Between Countries Internal Instability and War Within Countries The Liberal World Order ACKNOWLEDGMENTS WHERE TO GO FOR MORE NOTES INDEX PREFACE Every book comes with a story that helps to explain why the author committed the time and effort to produce it. In this case, the story starts on a summer’s day over a decade ago fishing with a friend in Nantucket. My friend’s nephew joined us on the boat, and I asked him where he went to school. “Stanford,” he told me. He was a computer science major, soon to begin his senior year. I went on to ask him a number of specific questions about what else he was studying beyond coding. Anything in economics? History? Politics? His answers revealed he had taken the minimum number of courses outside his major and those he did take had little to do with the basics. What was clear was that this intelligent young man would soon graduate from one of the best universities with little or no understanding of his own country or the world. And he would do so at a moment when the fate of his country and the world were inextricably linked and more was in flux than at any time since World War II and the years just after. This troubled me. A search of graduation requirements at most American institutions of higher learning revealed it is possible to graduate from nearly any twoor four-year college or university in the United States, be it a community college or an Ivy League institution, without gaining even a rudimentary understanding of the world. A recent survey of over eleven hundred American colleges and universities found that only 17 percent require students to take courses in U.S. government or history, while only 3 percent require them to take coursework in economics. Don’t get me wrong. Virtually every college or university offers multiple courses in international relations or American foreign policy, many of them well taught and comprehensive in what they cover. But unless a student chooses to major in these subjects, these courses are not required for graduation — and in many cases not even then for those who do choose to major in a related area. One survey of the top American colleges and universities showed less than a third required history majors to take a single course in U.S. history or government! Core courses that all students must take are an endangered species. What most institutions require is that each student take one or more courses in various designated areas, such as the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts. In larger institutions, there may be as many as one hundred courses to choose from in each area. Thus, it can be possible to fulfill an American history requirement without learning about the American Revolution or the Civil War, or to satisfy a world history requirement without understanding World War II or the Cold War or, more fundamentally, why the world matters and how it operates. Studying a foreign language is valuable, but it is not a substitute. In high schools, the situation is even more pronounced, in that many schools do not even offer basic courses in international relations or global issues. My purpose is not to explain how all this came to be, although I would say high schools have increasingly given short shrift to civics and social studies because of resource limitations and pressures to satisfy mandates related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM. Another explanation is the difficulty in reaching agreement as to what should be taught. The reluctance of institutions of higher learning to assert what they believe a graduate should know and have under his or her belt is an unfortunate development. It would be far better if they would do so, and individuals could then choose to go to the school whose requirements best met their interests and objectives. And then there is the fact that approximately one-third of Americans who graduate from high school do not attend any college and that only some 40 percent who do achieve a degree. All this, however, is a conversation for another day. What matters here and now is that an increasing number of young people in the United States and elsewhere are essentially uninformed about the world they are entering. That said, this book is for men and women of all ages. Many of us who attended college did not focus on these issues, or even if we did study them, we forgot much of what we were taught. What’s more, what people of my generation learned decades ago is increasingly inadequate or even obsolete. A great deal of history has transpired in recent years. The Cold War, which was accepted as a permanent given when I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and defined the world for the four decades after World War II, is over, as is the Soviet Union. China is a world power. New technologies and issues, from the internet and artificial intelligence to climate change, have emerged. The time has come to stop thinking of an education as something we receive in our youth, finish by the time we are in our early to mid-twenties, and live off for the next fifty years. We need to regularly top off our intellectual tank as we drive down the proverbial highway of life. My aim in this book is to provide the basics of what you need to know about the world, to make you more globally literate. “Global literacy” as used here is not about the number of people around the world able to read. (In case you are interested, though, it turns out that some 85 percent of adults worldwide are able to read, a number that sounds better than it is because it still means 750 million men and women cannot.) Rather, global literacy for our purposes has everything to do with how much (or little) people know about and understand the world. Global literacy is essential, because we live in a time in which what goes on outside a country matters a great deal. Borders are not impermeable. The United States is bordered by two oceans, but oceans are not moats. For better and for worse, the so-called Vegas rule — what happens there stays there — does not apply in today’s global world. The World is designed to help you build a foundation to better navigate the headlines and filter the flood of news coming at us all. One objective is that readers will become less vulnerable to being misled by politicians with partisan agendas and by others claiming to be authorities when in fact they are not. All of us make decisions and voice opinions — be it as voters, students, teachers, parents, friends, consumers, or investors — that affect the country’s (and hence our own) relationship with the world. With a better understanding of the world and the challenges that await, you will be a more informed citizen, one better able to hold your elected representatives to account and to arrive at sound independent judgments. Just think about some of the questions that connect to the headlines. Is free trade something to support or oppose? Are tariffs a good idea? Should the United States attack North Korea and Iran, live with their nuclear programs, or negotiate? To what extent and at what cost should the United States or any country try to promote democracy and human rights and prevent genocide? How real is climate change, and what should be done about it? Should I volunteer for the armed forces or go to work for an international agency or nongovernmental organization (NGO)? Is it patriotic to buy goods produced in my own country and not elsewhere even if it is more expensive to do so or the quality is not as good? What precautions are worth taking against pandemic disease or terrorism? What do we owe refugees and others who want to enter our country? Are China and the United States bound to become enemies and enter into a relationship reminiscent of what existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War? There is no limit to the number of questions that could be raised dealing with the world where the answers could have profound consequences for our lives. We exist in a moment when history is being made. The fact that we describe the present in terms of the past — for instance, that we live in the post — Cold War world — tells us where we have been, not where we are heading. The tectonic plates of international relations are moving. History did not end with the Soviet Union’s collapse. This is a critical time to understand what is taking place in the world, why it is taking place, and how it will affect our lives. A second reason for knowing about the world is that every country, and the United States in particular given its large role and responsibilities, requires citizens who are familiar with the world and can operate successfully overseas. These men and women can literally be a country’s foot soldiers, or they can be involved in the worlds of diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, foreign aid, and homeland security. Such opportunities need not be limited to government. We are also talking about journalists, academics, and businesspeople as well as those who opt to work for one of the many NGOs involved in promoting education, health, or development. A third rationale for global literacy stems from economic self-interest. Take the case of the United States, which accounts for only one out of twenty people in the world. While the U.S. share of global economic output is a considerably higher percentage (on the order of 25 percent), this number is coming down. Every other country accounts for a smaller share of global output, and every other country except China and India constitutes an even smaller percentage of the world’s population. Understanding foreign markets is one requirement for remaining competitive, and knowing what is going on elsewhere is essential to all kinds of business and investment decisions. Americans arguably have an additional reason to become globally literate, in that the United States has played a leading role in the world for the past three-quarters of a century. The United States has been the world’s principal architect as well as its general contractor. What the country chooses to do (and not to do) in the future will have an enormous impact on others and on the world at large, which in turn will have a large impact on what goes on within the United States itself. Notwithstanding the case for Americans becoming more knowledgeable about the world, I have endeavored to write these pages in a manner that makes them equally relevant to those from other countries. American foreign policy is uniquely American, but the world it seeks to shape is not. The World focuses on the ideas, issues, and institutions essential for a basic understanding of the world. I also shed light on each region of the world, the major powers, the challenges associated with globalization, and the most relevant history. The book may not seem all that brief, but virtually every chapter, and in many cases parts of chapters, could sustain a book by itself. What survives includes little of the theory central to most textbooks written for introductory courses in this area for the simple reason that much of the theory that dominates the academic study of the field is too abstract and too far removed from what is happening to be of value to most of us. If there is a parallel to what is provided here, it is the study of language. This book will not make you “fluent” in international relations, but it will make you conversant, able to make sense of developments in the world and proposals to shape them. Although the day-to-day details of what is going on will inevitably change, much of what is discussed in the coming chapters will remain relevant. The book is thus envisioned as something evergreen that will remain useful even as history continues to unfold, as it inevitably will. The book is divided into four sections. The first emphasizes history and is global in scope. Chapters are devoted to what is essential to know about the period of several hundred years leading up to World War I, the three decades from World War I to the end of World War II, the four-plus decades of the Cold War, and the current period. History, Mark Twain is alleged to have said, does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. We need to learn history’s lessons to increase the odds that the future will improve upon the past. The second section of the book begins with an introduction to the world writ large and includes chapters on the six principal regions of the world: Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas. Each chapter examines the importance of the region, provides its core history, and explains its dynamics. The third and longest section of the book addresses global challenges, including climate change, terrorism, cybersecurity, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and trade. Depending on how well these challenges are managed, they can be a source of disorder or stability. This requires examining global governance in each of these realms. Just to be clear, global governance (which is really a fancy name for international cooperation) is not to be confused with global government, the notion of a single international entity or authority that has more power than individual governments. Such an authority does not exist and most likely never will. A fourth and final section deals with world order, the most basic concept of international relations, as well as what brings it about and what threatens it. This part of the book delves into some of the principal sources of stability in the world, including the notion and reality of sovereignty, deterrence, the balance of power, alliances and less formal coalitions, and the role of international organizations, democracy, trade, and international law. It also assesses disorder in the world and ends with a discussion of what all this means for the current international era. and covers the many ways interested readers can follow up this book and keep up with what is going on in the world. The World can be read from start to finish, or it can be read in bits. I imagine some readers might want to begin with the last section, on world order, and work backward. Whatever route you decide to take, my goal is that you finish the book with a better grasp of how the world we live in came to be, how it works, and why it matters.