Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ten Questions with Thomas P.M. Barnett

Three days in release, and Thomas Barnett's new book, Great Powers: America and the World After Bush is number six and seven on Amazon's top ten, non-fiction list for the most popular books on politics and International Relations.

Part of my continuing focus on recommending this book will be to highlight an interview of Tom, by Mark Safranski, of Zenpundit at Small Wars Journal.

The stand out sentence that describes what Great Powers is about is best illustrated by this paragraph in Barnett's response to Mark's first question.

"What is “grand strategy” and why is it vital that America have the right one?"

So the book’s really about navigation, which is the essence of grand strategy, and I designed it to be an intellectual journey akin to John Boyd’s OODA loop: I want you, the reader, to observe where we are now in history (post-Bush), then orient yourself in America’s long-standing grand strategic arc (our American System-cum-globalization), then decide on a series of strategic realignments (economic, diplomatic, security, technological, social) I think we need to make as a nation in the days ahead, and finally act by doing what you can to bring it about.

I think everybody in this super-empowered age needs their own foreign policy, I just want my “300”--million, that is—all paddling in the same direction, because if we don’t move faster than the current, we are simply moved by the current.

To help understand this concept is this short primer. The John Boyd Roundtable, Debating Science, Strategy, and War

Another key area that has been written about on this blog, is China.

Part of Tom's response to question 9, incorporates thoughts that I have expressed before, A String of 600 Year Old Pearls and Chimerica? A Team of Rivals?

The strategic implications of a rising China has figured prominently in your writings and Great Powers is no exception. Why is China today more like Teddy Roosevelt’s America to our Great Britain and not like the Kaiser’s Germany?

But more to the point, China’s never—across its thousands of years—displayed any real ambition for empire beyond its historical borders, and if you check out the emerging middle class in China, there’s simply no stomach for it. Not too many parents over there are looking to send off their one child to die in some great power war that self-destructively eliminates its most important economic bond to the outside world—access to America’s markets and technology.So the simplest explanation of why China won’t be Kaiserian Germany or Nazi Germany is that we’ve already infected its society with the sort of consumerism and middle-class ambition that makes that path simply inconceivable to a populace with a reasonably clear sense of what’s possible in terms of great-power conquest in this world.

Read the whole interview for a primer on why this book is important to every American.
Ten Questions with Thomas P.M. Barnett

Other fellow bloggers have been adding their voice to recommend this book.

Information Dissemination who says this about: Great Powers: America and the World After Bush.

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