Originally published in The Diplomat
If you have a serious interest in Asia or in foreign policy in general – whether you’re a policy wonk, an academic, or just a good citizen – I have a suggestion for you. Send an email to all of those to whom you owe service, such as employers and children, and ask for a three-day leave. Then take Henry Kissinger’s remarkable new book, World Order, to a hilltop without cell phone or television reception and read it, nay, study it. I assure you that you will feast on it for years to come.
The book is erudite for a professor who long ago left the library stacks to become a public servant and, more recently, a super-consultant. For example, Kissinger points out, “Until the arrival of modern Western powers, no Asian language had a word for ‘Asia.’” (Few of us would be able to make such a statement given the number of Asian languages.) Hence, Kissinger suggests, in my words, that the concept of Asia is a Western construct. He uses this observation to highlight that Asia and, even more so, the East are much less homogenous than the West. Asia has no shared history – no equivalent of the Roman Empire or the Napoleonic Wars – no shared religion, and no set of shared, secular core values. Kissinger concludes that this is one major reason that the peoples of the region are much more given to the pursuit of national agendas than to pooling sovereignty or to forming strong, multilateral institutions or alliances.
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