By Daniel Pink
WIRED selects Parag Khanna for its 2008 "Smart List".
Here's one view of America circa 2008: The US is a modern-day Roman Empire — overstretched, underperforming, slowly crumbling into history's dustbin. Here's Parag Khanna's view: Nonsense. The geopolitical wooziness Americans are feeling isn't decline. It's realignment.
In his book The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, Khanna, 31, describes a planet dominated by a trio of superpowers: the US, China, and Europe. In this tripolar era, America's fate depends on tough national choices, not lame historical analogies. If the US wises up — by tightening trade and energy ties to the rest of the hemisphere, pursuing economic innovation at home, and establishing a "diplomatic-industrial complex" — it can grow stronger even as the globe becomes less red, white, and blue.
Khanna himself is a peripatetic emblem of this post-American world. Born in India, he lived as a child in the United Arab Emirates, and attended high school in the US and Germany. He earned two degrees from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Then he punched his ticket at places that might earn him early admission at the Trilateral Commission: the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, and the World Economic Forum. "I think I'm the only person who went to Davos seven times by the age of 30," the smooth-talking wunderwonk says. "I'm not sure that's a good thing."
From Canada to Uzbekistan, Khanna identifies the unexpected flash points, overstated threats, and hidden opportunities the next US president might confront.