Bremmer’s Superpower: Three choices for America’s role in the world presents 3 options for US foreign policy. His starting point is that there has not been a clear US foreign strategy since the end of the Cold War, and that, to stop being just reactive in our increasingly volatile world, one is needed. He makes strong arguments to defend each option and unpacks their implications for the rest of the world.
- In his option 1, Independent America, the US stops engaging with others’ problems and focuses on investing at home to become the ultimate too-big-to-fail country. He argues that it is not an isolationist approach (e.g., trade is promoted).
- In his option 2, Moneyball America, the US engages internationally only when/where expected returns on investment for its security and economy are high.
- In his option 3, Indispensable America, the US is strongly committed to international leadership and engages abroad to promote its values as a way to strengthen its security and prosperity.
While his heart is with option 3, Bremmer chooses option 1, the most rationale choice in the current geopolitical context. Disappointing, I found. Also scary because he is a big influencer. The 200-page book is a good read. But you can also watch a 3-min teaser or a one-hour discussion with Kevin Rudd to get the gist, and some interesting perspectives on the US-China relationship.
Davenport and Kirby’s Beyond Automation: Strategies for remaining gainfully employed in an era of very smart machines gets the message right: it is not about me or the robot (automation), it is about me and the robot (augmentation). The authors argue that automation is the default mindset in most industries today. Automation threatens: it is about people losing their jobs. And more and more people are concerned: in the 19th century automation meant machines doing the dirty and dangerous, in the 20th century machines took away the dull, but machines in the 21st century take over decisions. “Many of the things knowledge workers do today will be automated soon”. By opposition augmentation is exciting: it starts with what humans do now and looks at ways to expand their work using machines, following different paths. Fascinating stuff.
It is always good to glance at the G7 communique. The big headline this year is the strong signal sent to investors by the G7 countries’ commitment to decarbonize their economies by the end of the century. Other items of interest include a strong push for promoting UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in supply chains (an opening to promote our child rights and business principles); 2 pages on health with a continuous commitment to ending preventable child deaths and improving maternal health; continuous support as well to fighting hunger and malnutrition; and a new push for women’s economic empowerment referring to childcare access. What caught my eye was the support to the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Facility – an Ebola-triggered Jim Kim proposal which received modest traction with the G20 in 2014, but that G7 members now ask the G20 to support. More World Bank power for global public health coordination?
My quote of the week is from (departing) Nigeria Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her Lunch with the FT: “Male colleagues who had left [the World Bank] repeatedly came back to wander the corridors, in search of consulting jobs. Their whole identity and everything tied up with the institution. [Women] move on rapidly. They have other lives. That is the same way I feel. I can move on and I have a life.”