Thomas Barnett Interview and Book Review

Over the last four days, I’ve given you a thematic look at Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, the next book by Pentagon’s New Map author Thomas Barnett, that goes on sale February 5th.  Because of the meatiness of the material, I mostly stuck to summary, trying to synthesize some far-ranging ideas into easily digestible bites.

In today’s conclusion, Great Powers – Reflections, I offer a more analytic take.  An excerpt

First off, it’s an incredibly ambitious project.  In 408 pages (at least in the uncorrected pre-publication proof), Barnett provides a soup-to-nuts retrospective and prescriptive look at the entire geopolitical universe.  He covers early American history, the good and bad of the Bush administration, and a strategic and economic look at every region of the world.

While I read with my political scientist hat on, I don’t think there’s much I could have cut if I’d had my editor’s hat on.  I may have gotten it down to 350 pages by consolidation of themes but that may well have come at the cost of necessary repetition of ideas across thematic areas that, as good teachers like Barnett know, is necessary for students to finally “get” an idea.

Aside from perhaps Thomas Friedman, there’s not a more optimistic thinker who’s worth reading.  While by no means a Pollyanna, Barnett sees the world as in much better shape than most of his counterparts in the national security policy community and sees it becoming progressively better.   The things that keep most strategists and economists up at night are mere bumps in the road that, if properly managed, will lead to a more peaceful, prosperous planet.

While I’ve got plenty of quibbles along the way, being possessed of a more skeptical nature, Barnett’s fundamentally right on the big things.   While it no doubt causes much pain and displacement in the short term, globalization is both inevitable and fantastically good in the long term.  Further, Russia, China, Iran, and other regional powers don’t have to be our enemies.

In 5 Questions for Thomas Barnett, I conduct a short interview with the author.  His answers are more thorough than I’d expected and defy excerpting. Read it for yourselves and comment to your heart’s content.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.