What We’re Reading: The Beginning of an Era and the End of the American Century

Weekly reviews of what's on our bookshelves.

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Not so long ago, some friends and I were debating when exactly whatever political era we are currently living through began. The end of the Cold War is a tempting answer, especially for those who, sincerely or not, celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union and trumpeted the end of history. But any honest reckoning would conclude that no longer having an ideological boogeyman never had much staying power. If that was ever truly the defining characteristic of the day, it was a short and kind of stupid day. Was it the global war on terror? This feels closer to the truth but is in fact even further from it. The ludicrously named and cynically marketed fight against “Islamo-fascism” was an expensive but ultimately fleeting definition of our collective political conscience. That we are still at war in not one but two majority-Muslim countries is a tragic testament to how poorly U.S. leaders understood radical Islamism and how utterly bereft of political imagination they were. Was it the Trump administration? The COVID-19 pandemic? The 2008 global financial crisis? For my money, it’s the latter, without which the former two wouldn’t have happened how they did. The recession didn’t change our […]

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Cole Altom
Cole Altom is the managing editor at Geopolitical Futures. He oversees the publishing department, which curates the website, develops Geopolitical Futures’ editorial strategy, consults with analysts, liaises with marketing and maintains the integrity of all published material. Before joining Geopolitical Futures, Mr. Altom worked at Stratfor for seven years, during which time, as managing editor, he handled special projects, served as personnel director for the publishing department, ran the internship program, managed website taxonomy, tracked website analytics, developed new content types and edited and copyedited published material. Mr. Altom earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science at Trinity University in San Antonio. He is a certified English teacher and is conversant in Spanish.
Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.