This is an important book that fizzes with ideas: for example, its take on the revolutions of 1989, as being unique in history because on the whole the victors left (to make new lives in the West) and the losers stayed behind, is an original and profound point. There is a smart insight or elegant paradox on almost every page... However, the third section about populism and intolerance in America is less persuasive than the other two... On so much, though, the book poses in stark terms the dilemma for those who took for granted the ideas that created the postwar western world.
Krastev and Holmes offer an intriguing slant on the rise of populism and the disarray of what used to be called the liberal world order. But their account is too schematic and much that is relevant to understanding the retreat of liberal democracy is under-discussed or ignored. The Iraq War is mentioned in passing at several points, but the reader would hardly realise how – along with military interventions in Afghanistan and Libya – it has projected throughout the world an image of the West as being incapable of thinking and acting strategically. It is not so much that these missions failed ruinously. Rather, they never had any coherent objectives. Western governments have waged war without forming any intelligible connection between available means and definable ends.