- Savage Century: Back to Barbarism
An extended essay on international relations, this book is full of foreboding about the future based in large part on an argument that many of the problems and portents that made the twentieth century so troubled and violent are still [End Page 588] valid today. Delpech, Director of Strategic Affairs at the French Atomic Energy Commission and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Studies, won the 2005 Prix Femina de l'Essai for this book and it is indeed a vigorous work that makes fruitful use of its comparisons between 1905 and 2005. Possibly there is not enough on economic and fiscal trends, but the political points are generally well made, not least the threat posed by aggressive Russian dreams of empire, Europe's need for the USA, the problem of Chinese ambition ("Taiwan is the Alsace-Lorraine of the twenty-first century" [p. 133]) and the issue of North Korea. Given the lazy habit of lumping together views at the national level, those who enjoy disparaging the French might note the blunt message on the last:
The path the West should follow is exactly the opposite of the one travelled up to this point. We must increase the diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang, which is a possible interlocutor only for hoodlums and criminals, and force Beijing to take the North Korean problem in hand or pay the price for the regional effects of the increasingly unbearable blackmail by Kim Jong II.(pp. 151-2)
Chinese policy is seen as a problem for India, but Delpech suggests that, by 2025, an economically and socially weakened China may be set against an India that is much more self-confident than it is today, with India able to decimate the Chinese fleet beyond the Strait of Malacca. Delpech is also keen to argue the pressure posed by fear from natural catastrophes and major pandemics, which leads her to suggest that their use for military means might help make the next century one of fear.
Like most commentators of her type, Delpech is better on goals than means, but hers is an intelligent pessimism that deserves attention.
Exeter, United Kingdom