Beyond the Age of Innocence by Kishore Mahbubani Perseus $203 Kishore Mahbubani, former Singaporean ambassador to the United Nations and author of Can Asians Think, attempts to explain why the US is right to consider itself what Ronald Reagan famously called 'A Shining City on a Hill' - and what's behind the seemingly contradictory global rise in anti-Americanism. 'The curious paradox is that America has done more than any other country to change the world,' he writes. 'Yet Americans are among the least prepared to cope with the world they have changed.' Despite his international credentials, Mahbubani is clearly enthralled by the US - to the point of quoting the Spider-Man movie: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' Readers less inclined to see American foreign policy as primarily benign may take umbrage with Mahbubani's assessments. The America at the opening of the 20th century is viewed by Mahbubani as anti-expansionist. This is a view not likely to be shared by many people in the Philippines, Hawaii, Central or South America. He writes: 'Almost from the very beginning (apart from the slaves), American society has had no class barriers.' One can only imagine a book on 20th-century China containing a line such as: 'Almost from the very beginning (except for the 30 million who perished from starvation during the Great Leap Forward), Mao's economic policies have led to increased well-being among Chinese peasantry.' At times, however, the author breaks out the big guns. US policy-makers continue to follow simplistic scripts that fail to penetrate the feelings and desires of the combined 2.5 billion people who make up the Chinese and the Islamic worlds, he says. Mahbubani is equally critical of America's tendency to see global problems in military terms, offering warnings to Washington neo-conservatives who believe the emergence of the US as a benign empire would be welcomed by some. Beyond the Age of Innocence is a good primer on the long- and short-term effect the sole superpower has had on the world. Readers less inclined to view US power as a primarily benign force may, however, find Mahbubani's eyes just a bit too coated with American stardust.