Global futurist Parag Khanna shared the outlines and key themes of his new book, How to Run the World: Creating a Course to the Next Renaissance, at a New America Foundation event last week.
The video of the event is here — and a Q&A I did a few weeks ago with Khanna appears here on Amazon’s site.
But one of the fundamental questions I have about Khanna’s observations about a much more complex array of actors and players in international interactions, like the Gates Foundation which he mentioned frequently in his presentation, is whether he is misdiagnosing the situation.
I think that the proliferation of large scale NGOs and the surge of diplomatic activity by nations such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and others may not be examples of the ‘mega-diplomacy’ Khanna observes and advocates but rather examples of what happens when a hegemon collapses. All of this seemingly rich and diverse activity may be manifestations of America’s loss of control, its diminishment on the international stage — where other players fill voids, coopt parts of the sprawling infrastructure of America’s foreign policy framework, and test the reset boundaries of power in a world of US strategic contraction.
I fear that we won’t know whether the world we are moving into is more stable and better run given this flood of new institutions and states into global stewardship roles than that we had in the past — but Parag Khanna seems to embrace it. I tend to think that America has a chance to reinvent its leverage and while probably not returning to the kind of definitive control it once enjoyed can still be more definitive than most.
But the jury is out on America being able to recreate a global social contract with other nations and players in the international system — and what Parag Khanna identifies as both a diffusion of actors and speeding up of interactions in what he calls “mega-diplomacy” may just be a back door to a more anarchic, less stable global order.
In other words, we may be as Khanna believes on the way to some version of a neo-Medieval global arrangement, though the term is tough to use because it comes with so much distracting baggage, but if we get there — there’s no assurance of a Renaissance at the other end.
— Steve Clemons