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.
Brendan Daly – 28th February, 2021
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”.
Peter Conrad – 18th January, 2021
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.
Anthony Cheshire SC – October, 2020
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.
Alison Broinowski – October 24-25, 2020
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.
Kevin Brianton – October 8, 2020
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.
Chris Johnson – September 15, 2020
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.
Camille Smith – August 26, 2020
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.
Reviewer: Steven Carroll – The Sydney Morning Herald, August 7, 2020