Play by the Rules

A short history of the decline of the United States as well as a look into the future – a future dominated by Asia, and in particular China.
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In the heady days after 1945, the authority of the United States was unrivalled. But seventy-five years later, its influence has already diminished. The world has now entered a post-American era – defined by the rise of Asia and the return of China, as much as by the decline of the United States. This book is a short history of that decline; how high standards and treasured principles were ignored; how idealism was replaced by hubris and moral compromise; and how adherence to the rule of law became selective. It is also a look into the future – a future dominated by greater Asia and China in particular. We are in the midst of the third great power shift in modern history – from Europe to America to Asia.


Reviews for Play by the Rules:

From architect of global power to rogue imperial power

Joe Gill – Morning Star, March 2021

‘Pembroke provides a useful historical survey of America’s journey from architect of the global order at the end of World War II towards a rogue imperial power that increasingly defies or decouples itself from all legal constraints to its actions.’

As Michael Pembroke outlines in America in Retreat, his new book on the “decline of US leadership,” US power is increasingly impotent in the face of global forces that it cannot control, most obviously China’s inexorable economic rise.

Pembroke shows how the tectonic forces of economic integration and trade from China to south and east Asia, Africa and the Middle East are remorselessly replacing the US as the dominant economic world power.

America in Retreat: How the US let China get ahead in the race for world domination

Brendan Daly – 28th February, 2021

A lucid and succinct chronicle of the US’s decline in status as world leader and the rise of China to take its place

Michael Pembroke’s nimble, lucid, and succinct America in Retreat consists of two main parts: tracking how the US betrayed its international supremacy during the last 75 years and charting the unassailable rise of China since the turn of the century. Arguing that its dubious position as the global epicentre of Covid-19 encapsulates the current weaknesses of the US, Pembroke, a former Australian supreme court judge, insists that we’re living through a post-American era and that the tectonic shift in power from the US to China represents the “defining truth of our times”.

America in Retreat by Michael Pembroke review – grisly history of a bully-boy nation

Peter Conrad – 18th January, 2021

After the riot at the Capitol on 6 January, embarrassed American politicians lined up to declare: “This is not who we are.” Having read Michael Pembroke’s account of the country’s international thuggery in the last 70 years I’m inclined to reply: “Sorry, no, this is what you always were – loutish, lawless and violent by default.”

Current events have added a startling and acidly ironic epilogue to Pembroke’s narrative. The storming of the Capitol was Trump’s Bay of Pigs, his My Lai, his Iranian hostage crisis and his Benghazi, all compressed into a few ugly hours. True to his “America first” agenda, in declaring war he dispensed with foreign enemies and instead dispatched his followers – the devoted deplorables whom he sneers at as “low-class” – to trash the citadel of his own government.

Play by the Rules

Anthony Cheshire SC – October, 2020

In Play by the Rules, subtitled The Short Story of America’s Leadership – from Hiroshima to COVID-19, Michael Pembroke charts the rise and fall of America’s moral leadership on the world stage

Pembroke’s writing style is highly readable and engrossing, even when describing detailed historical events. I read this book over a weekend, but I am still reflecting on much that it had to say. I recommend it as an ideal summer read for those craving a non-fiction book with relevance to current events; and as a Christmas present for all but American unilateralists and ardent Trump supporters.

Nothing great in US decline

Alison Broinowski – October 24-25, 2020

Tweet-freak President Donald Trump is an American creation. His spokespeople too, with their “alternative facts”, are the progeny of the modern United States

Clear, eloquent, meticulously referenced, and forensically argued as you might expect of a lawyer’s book, Play by the Rules concentrates on its chosen US subject.

Daily Review: A legal approach to the decline and fall of the United States

Kevin Brianton – October 8, 2020

When COVID-19 was beginning it spread throughout the United States, President Donald Trump turned his ire on the World Health Organisation. The White House charged that the WHO was slow to respond to the threat and overly influenced by China.

Pembroke has presented a strong case that the United States is on a downward path, and China will continue to rise. The book puts many current political debates into context, such as the Victorian Government, accepting funds for infrastructure from the Belts and Road Initiative from the Chinese Government. It raises some real questions about the wisdom of the approach of the Australian Government to banning telecommunication companies such as Huawei.

America on the world stage, past and present. A review of Michael Pembroke’s ‘Play by the Rules’

Chris Johnson – September 15, 2020

In the early pages of his new book, Michael Pembroke writes about sentiments in 1945 of: “An American outlook on the world that shone briefly and brightly after the war: one that represented unquestioned moral leadership. The country was admired for its virtue and envied for its peace-and-plenty economy. At that time it did not claim any privilege, any special dispensation, absolving it from the rules and conventions of international law that applied to other nations.” Then, the author simply asks: “What happened?”

Play by the Rules – The Short Story of America’s Leadership: From Hiroshima to COVID-19 is a well-crafted and concise read about the moral decline of a once great nation. A decline that has led to diminished authority on the world stage and to the ushering in of today’s unfolding global power shift.

Weekly Times

Camille Smith – August 26, 2020

FOR anyone who believes Donald Trump is singlehandedly destroying the American dream and disrupting global peace and prosperity, this book is worth a read.

Michael Pembroke’s gripping rundown of US foreign policy decisions from 1939 to present day shows hubris and exceptionalism were well entrenched in Washington even before Trump’s ridiculous reign. He is just incredibly poor at hiding his motives.

Non-fiction reviews: Play By The Rules and other titles

Reviewer: Steven Carroll – The Sydney Morning Herald, August 7, 2020

In this fascinating survey of US leadership from Versailles to the present day, there is an intriguing moment in 1945. Henry Wallace, FDR’s choice as Vice-President, was sidelined by his own party and anti-communist Harry Truman became Vice-President, and, with FDR’s death, president.
‘In this fascinating survey of US leadership from Versailles to the present day, there is an intriguing moment in 1945. Henry Wallace, FDR’s choice as Vice-President, was sidelined by his own party and anti-communist Harry Truman became Vice-President, and, with FDR’s death, president. Within months the Cold War began, but with different leadership things might have unfolded differently. In this lucid study, Michael Pembroke charts the rise of the ”American century”, the subsequent decline of US power and the rise in the 21st century of China and Asian economies. Among other things, he examines US ”exceptionalism”, the divisions among various leaders in regard to it, and the variegated quality of leadership, ending with the dangerously confrontational policies of the Trump administration.’
Steven Carroll,

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