Book that I would NOT recommend: Disunited Nations: The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World

I noted this book shortly before it was released as someone I followed on Twitter recommended it. I forgot about it until someone brought it up again on Twitter, saying that if you haven’t read the book, you don’t live the 21st century. Ok, what a big endorsement! So I picked the book up and started reading. Oh boy, what a disappointment.

The author briefly discussed the past before going into details the state of a few countries such as China, Japan, France, Germany, etc…After each chapter for each country, he has a summary in the form of a report card that includes his position on each country on Borders, Resources, Demography, Military Might, Economy and Outlook. The introduction part is fine. My issues with the book started in the first chapter.

Overstating America’s involvement in WWII

“During the Imperial Age, the Europeans had been at each other’s throats” Peace among them had been possible only because of American involvement in World War II, American financial support in the postwar rebuilding effort, American strategic overwatch during the Cold War, and the de facto American subsidization of their economies since 1945 via the Order. Without the Americans, there could not be a European Union, much less a euro. And to thank the Americans, the Europeans decided to launch a common currency expressly designed to chip away at American preeminence in global trade and finance.

Excerpt From: Peter Zeihan. “Disunited Nations.” Apple Books.

While the US did contribute to the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, the claim that America was the sole deciding factor in World War II is a bit too much. The US didn’t get involved until the late stage of the war. More importantly, thousands of Europeans and Soviet Union citizens died to keep the Nazis at bay before defeating them. The condescending tone in the last sentence is cringe-worthy. It is at best debatable and likely incorrect. Not everything that everybody does is about the US.

On America’s role in “bailing out” Europe

The rise of the euro complicated European-American relations, particularly when the Europeans came to Washington hat in hand for help in dealing with the European Financial Crisis, a crisis that would have not been nearly as severe if not for the euro’s creation.

The problem I have with this is that the financial crisis started from the US and rippled throughout the world. Additionally, there is no substantiating evidence to back up the claim that EU crawled out of the crisis hole solely by virtue of the US.

On America’s military might over China

Any Chinese expansion that would replace (much less overturn) the American position doesn’t simply begin after a long American head start, but must overcome an American naval global footprint that would take over a century to establish through force of arms—a footprint that is not replicable without complete victory in a world-spanning war that somehow manages to leave the Chinese mainland untouched. This is meant less as a slam against the Chinese as it is a recognition of global naval realities. After all, aside from the Americans, no one floats even a single fully functional supercarrier, much less a supercarrier battle group, much less a global naval force.

Beyond carriers, China is indeed floating an impressive number of missile frigates and destroyers that combine reach and lethality, but what the Chinese fleet lacks is operational range. Of China’s three hundred–plus naval vessels, only one-ninth of them are major surface combatants that can operate over a thousand miles from shore (a little less than the distance from Shanghai to Tokyo) under ideal circumstances—ideal, as in no one shooting at them.

Excerpt From: Peter Zeihan. “Disunited Nations.” Apple Books.

The author made his claims about how the US is still superior to China in terms of military. However, if you read the book: The Kill Chain, which I reviewed here and which was written by the top advisor of John McCain, the then-chair of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, the picture cannot be more different. The author of the Kill Chain obviously knows what he was talking about as he was on the inside and he insisted that the US is going to be, if not already, behind China and time is running out. If I have to choose between Peter Zeihan and the guy who had access to classified military documents at the highest level in the government, I’ll pick the latter any day of the week. Here is what Christian Brose said, sorry for the long excerpts which, unfortunately, are necessary to make my point

“Cyberattacks would grind down the logistical movement of US forces into combat. The defenseless cargo ships and aircraft that would ferry much of that force across the Pacific would be attacked every step of the way. Satellites on which US forces depend for intelligence, communications, and global positioning would be blinded by lasers, shut down by high-energy jammers, or shot out of orbit altogether by antisatellite missiles. The command and control networks that manage the flow of critical information to US forces in combat would be broken apart and shattered by electronic attacks, cyberattacks, and missiles. Many US forces would be rendered deaf, dumb, and blind.”

“While these attacks were under way, America’s forward bases in places like Japan and Guam would be inundated with waves of precise ballistic and cruise missiles. The few defenses those bases have would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of weapons coming at them, with many leaking through. Those bases would have no defense against China’s hypersonic weapons, which can maneuver unpredictably, fly at five times the speed of sound, and strike their targets within minutes of being launched. As all of these missiles slammed into US bases, they would destroy fighter jets and other aircraft on the ground before US pilots could even get them airborne. They would crater runways, blow up operations centers and fuel storage tanks, and render those US forward bases inoperable. If any aircraft did manage to escape the Chinese missiles, it would be forced to relocate to another base in the region, which itself would come under attack. It would look like a US evacuation.”

“A similar dynamic would play out with America’s sea bases. Once the war started, US aircraft carriers in the region would immediately turn east and sail away from China, intent on getting more than a thousand miles away from the opponent’s long-range anti-ship missiles. But from that far away, none of the aircraft on the flight deck would be capable of reaching their targets without aerial refueling, so the Navy would find itself on the horns of the same dilemma the Air Force faced: its stealthy fighter jets would be pushed so far back that they could only get to their targets with the help of non-stealthy, defenseless refueling aircraft that would be shot down in large numbers.”

That assessment was echoed by a bipartisan commission of military experts that McCain had established through legislation that year to provide an independent examination of US defense strategy. They rendered their judgment to Congress shortly after McCain’s death in 2018. “America’s military superiority… has eroded to a dangerous degree,” they wrote. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”

Excerpt From: Christian Brose. “The Kill Chain.” Apple Books.

On America making all strategic decisions for Europe!???

The only way the Europeans have ever discovered to prevent this never-ending cycle of wars is to change the game. To bring in an external security guarantor who forces everyone to be on the same side. Who makes all major strategic decisions for everyone. Who enables access to raw materials without needing to resort to war. Who allows for the mass export of Germany’s always destabilizing volumes of manufactured goods to somewhere beyond Europe. That’s the United States. That’s the Order.

Excuse me?

False claim on Germany’s electricity source

Germany receives less than 10 percent of its electricity needs from green power.

One quick check on Google can prove that this is false

Graph shows renewables share in gross power consumption 1990-2019. Graph: CLEW 2020.
Source: Clean Energy Wire

Overly optimistic view of the US

“OUTLOOK: The Americans excel at missing opportunities due to domestic squabbling, but there is nothing in what’s left of the international system that will threaten the American heartland either militarily or economically before 2050.”

This is the theme throughout the book. Peter Zeihan is overly optimistic and borderline delusional about the US’ outlook. It is still the richest country on Earth, but claiming that the country faces no military or economic threats before 2050 is simply wrong. China is projected to overtake the US economically in the near future. It is now the second biggest economy in the world and the gap is closing. As mentioned above, China’s military IS already a threat to the US. and it’s not me that said so. It’s the people who served at the highest level of the government that did.

I jumped into this book with excitement and curiosity which were quickly evaporated by bold yet unsubstantiated claims, omission of human factors, delusional outlook on the US, false statements and the condescending tone towards others. This book is music to the ears of the folks who claim that despite what is going on in the country, the US is still the greatest in the world. To others who are more pragmatic, especially those with international exposure like me, it is less so. To be fair, the world needs America, but as much as America needs the world. Despite all the advances and great things that this country produces, it faces monumental threats such as eroding global standing among allies, rising income inequality, outdated infrastructure, a dysfunctional government, voter suppression, corruption, bitter and severe divide in America’s society, healthcare, etc…

Not everyone who points out America’s shortcomings has malicious intent. Many, myself included, are forthcoming and honest about what America can do better because we want the country to improve and to be better. I’d not be here if I didn’t like America. I do love it less now, but it doesn’t mean I want it to fail. I want to see it succeed and to do so, I prefer folks saying “Look, America has problems, but we can fix them and be better” to “To hell with all problems, America is still the greatest”. Since this book is blindly and condescendingly pro America, it may as well be labeled that way.

To be fair, the book has some good thought-provoking bits, but they are not worth the time spent on 300 pages and the frustration I detailed above. Long post short, I would NOT recommend this book.

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