After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order By Emmanuel Todd Columbia University Press, $29.95
Emmanuel Todd's After the Empire has been a bestseller in France for most of the last year--which should tell you a lot about the book even before you read the first page. In substance and rune, Todd's writing bears a strong resemblance to that of conservative intellectuals, like Robert Kagan, who proclaim the inevitability of American dominance. But Todd's thesis is the exact opposite of the neocons'. Our military aggressiveness is the calling card not of a superpower, but of a waning empire. Todd, who is the kind of French intellectual whose picture hangs in the windows of fancy Parisian bookstores (I know I've seen it), foresees the rise of a new Eurasian power, with France, of course, at its heart.
The United States, Todd contends, is no longer a global economic dynamo. Under the facade of what we have been led to believe as a healthy, high productivity, low-tax, low-inflation economy lies a rotten core. Real industrial production has been replaced lay a dependence on vague Enron-like "services" Our trade deficit, which seems to break historical records each quarter, makes our world-famous rates of consumption unsustainable. Further, it makes us dependent on the whims of international financiers who could pull the rug out from under our economy at any moment. We are in, he says, for a massive worsening in our economic fortunes which will drastically lower our standard of living. Our oversized military thus is a lagging indicator, a sign of our weakness, not strength, and our current aggressive foreign policy stems from our need to hide our vulnerability mad to maintain our reputation as, in Secretary Albright's words, "the indispensable power."
In the future, Todd asserts, the real power will rest with Europe. The continent will evolve into an united force and its steadfastly protected industrial base will allow it to rapidly reestablish its military might. Further, borrowing from former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Todd asserts that Europe benefits from its position at the epi-center of the economic and political world: Eurasia. Over time, Europe's and Russia's cultural affinities will converge. By contrast, the Cold War-era ties which bind the Atlantic world together will be severed because of the vast divide separating "European and American civilizations." Todd's rhetoric reaches a feverish pitch when he refers...