The author of The World as It Is and former speechwriter for President Barack Obama offers a mix of personal history and reportage, exploring the extent of America's influence on the world as an exporter of unbridled capitalism and post-9/11 militarism.
In the book’s most appealing passages, Rhodes sits down with people very much like himself, chastened idealists who have come to know the world as it is but refuse to conform to its demands ... But in this hybrid work, the author’s quest often feels oddly curtailed. He does not go to Russia and travels to China only briefly, with the ex-president. He tarries longer in Hungary, but not, apparently, long enough to meet anyone who shares the illiberal views of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and thus help us to understand his immense popularity. Only during Rhodes’s visit to Hong Kong does the reader get anything like the feel for place that journalism affords. Much that he tells us about these places will be familiar to any attentive newspaper reader ... Rhodes may assign the United States too much blame for disseminating the toxins that now infect the world ... Once an insider, Rhodes is now a Jeremiah. He has made good use of his freedom; he may yet make better.
Little of the analysis is new or original, but it is certainly elegantly expressed ... There is a very personal element to After the Fall in which Rhodes admits to disorientation and a desire for purpose in the long spiralling descent from the Oval Office...The introspection, coupled with an itinerary of venerable European destinations, such as Paris, Budapest and Baden-Baden, sometimes gives the book the feel of a melancholy Chekhovian tale: the young courtier in the retinue of a revered, recently ousted monarch, touring old watering holes ... Some of the best passages arise when he is back together with his old boss, and we are given an insight into what Obama thinks of it all.
Here is vital reading for Americans and people anywhere who seek to understand what is happening 'after the fall' of the global system created by the United States and shaped increasingly by China under Xi Jinping. The book’s analyses of recent events and apparent trends are based on facts, as the author finds them, presented in an offhand, nearly conversational manner. Other experts may disagree with the interpretations of Ben Rhodes but must take account of the realities he describes. A trimmed-down version of After the Fall could serve as an eye-opening supplementary text for AP, college, or adult ed courses on world affairs.