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Play by the Rules

The Short Story of American Leadership from Hiroshima to Covid-19

In the heady days after 1945, the authority of the United States was unrivalled and, with the founding of the UN, a new era of international co-operation seemed to have begun. But seventy-five years later, its influence has already diminished. The world has now entered a post-American era, argues Michael Pembroke, defined by a flourishing Asia and the ascendancy of China, as much as by the decline of the United States.

This book is a short history of that decline; how high standards and treasured principles were ignored; how idealism was replaced by hubris and moral compromise; and how adherence to the rule of law became selective. It is also a look into the future – a future dominated by greater Asia and China in particular. We are in the midst of the third great power shift in modern history – from Europe to America to Asia.

Covering wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, interventions in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, and a retreat from international engagement with the UN, WHO and, increasingly, trade agreements, Pembroke sketches the history of America’s retreat from universal principles to provide a clear-eyed analysis of the dangers of American exceptionalism.

‘Perceptive and compelling, often heart-rending, sometimes downright terrifying …’

– Noam Chomsky on Korea: Where the American Century Began

‘… Beautifully written … the phrase ‘as gripping as a thriller’ really applies: once I’d started reading I could not stop, literally so.’

– A. C. Grayling on Korea: Where the American Century Began

More books from this author: Michael Pembroke