ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, The Grand Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 223 pp. $26 cloth (ISBN 0-465-02725-3).
Turn a map of the world upside down. Your eye will travel automatically to the center of the Eurasian landmass, probably coming to rest somewhere near the Russo-Kazakhstan border. The new world and Australia become little offshore islands. Japan and Great Britain are hardly noticeable.
Strange as it may seem, the twentieth century is ending with the world's only global power sitting on one of those offshore islands and controlling the giant Eurasian landmass by holding the peripheries: Japan and the islets to its south as well as the two peninsulas that comprise western Europe.
Eurasia constitutes the world's grand chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski argues in his latest book by that name. After the United States, the next six largest economies and the next six biggest spenders on weapons are in Eurasia. All but one of the world's overt nuclear powers and all but one of the covert powers are Eurasian. So are all of the potential political and economic challengers to the United States.
For the United States, the object of the game is to arrange the pieces on the board so that we never lose our ability to control, or at least influence, this landmass. While the ultimate objective of American policy should be to shape a truly cooperative global community, at least for another generation, if not longer, no Eurasian nation must become capable of challenging America. Put more diplomatically, this country must "employ its influence in Eurasia to create a stable continental equilibrium, with the United States as the political arbiter" (p. xiv).
Brzezinski has an ability to view the planet through intriguing new prisms. He starts by explaining that the United States represents the first truly global power. China and the Mongols never dominated the world, nor did Rome.(1) Even during the height of European colonialism, the global supremacy was one of European civilization, not power. Power on the European continent remained fragmented. No one empire was global, not even Britain. Britain never controlled Europe; it balanced it.
Contrast this with the scope of modern American hegemony. The United States not only commands all of the world's oceans and seas but has developed an
assertive military capability for amphibious shore control that enables it to project power inland in politically significant ways. Its military legions are firmly perched on the western...