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6:06AM

First review of BFA, and it ain't pretty (Publishers Weekly)

Dateline: HQ of Enterra Solutions, Yardley PA, 12 August 2005

Last time Publishers Weekly was a bit dismissive of the utility but reasonably appreciate of the effort. This time, it's just dismissive.




From Publishers Weekly

Military-strategy consultant Barnett follows his ballyhooed The Pentagon's New Map with this unconvincing brief for American interventionism. Echoing the now conventional wisdom that a larger, better-prepared occupation force might have averted the current mess in Iraq, Barnett generalizes the notion into a formula for bringing the blessings of order and globalization to benighted nations throughout the "Non-Integrating Gap." A "System Administrator force" of American and allied troopsóa "pistol-packing Peace Corps"ócould, he contends, undertake an ambitious schedule of regime change, stabilization and reconstruction in Islamic countries and as far afield as North Korea and Venezuela, making military intervention so routine that he terms it the "processing" of dysfunctional states. Barnett's ideas are a rehash of Vietnam-era pacification doctrine, updated with anodyne computer lingo and New Economy spin. Implausibly, he envisions Americans volunteering their blood and treasure for a "SysAdmin force" fighting for international "connectivity" and envisions the world rallying to the bitterly controversial banner of globalization. Worse, he has no coherent conception of America's strategic interests; "the U.S. is racing. . . to transform [the] Middle East before the global shift to hydrogen [fuel] threatens to turn the region into a historical backwater," runs his confused rationale for continued American meddling in the Muslim world. That Barnett's pronouncements are widely acclaimed as brilliant strategic insights (as he himself never tires of noting) bodes ill for American foreign policy. (Oct.)




COMMENTARY: I have to get used to this sort of review, which is essentially the anti-Bush Doctrine/anti-neocon/anti-Iraq review. It will consist of: "There's nothing new here, all these ideas proven totally bankrupt by Iraq, and--most pointedly--I can't believe anyone's listening to this guy." The fallback position will be: "I'm a realist who believes American should concentrate on its 'national interests' and eschew such wild interventionism."


Neil Nyren thought it was a rather stupid review, one that purposely misrepresented what I was seeking to argue, and I agree. I mean, when you read the "rehash of Vietnam-era pacificaction doctrine," you realize the reviewer turned off his brain on the work after getting all the way through the first ten pages or so. The larger realism I cite is simply this: this is the post-9/11 world, and the historical record is clear that we'll have to do a lot of failed states (both chaotic and non-functioning dictatorships that don't serve their peoples) or learn to live with the terrorism, fear, insecurity, civil strife, repression, etc. that they spawn. I think 9/11 made the living-with-all-this-crap aspect unworkable, but frankly, as I say in BFA (and I'm sure this person read the ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER based on this comprehensive review), we have to deal with all these things simply because of globalization's advance (love it but you can't leave it) whether we want to or not.


To deal with that reality, I espouse what Charles Krauthammer calls a "democratic globalism" (the high-end Bush stuff) but my path way of implementation, or my blueprint for action, is far closer to what he calls "democratic realism" (yeah, I expect to wage some wars and deal with some nasty dictators along the way cause it won't happen overnight--in Iraq, in China, anywhere). In many ways, both PNM and BFA seek to bridge those two philosophies (high idealism in the long run, a bit more brutally real in the short and mid-term). Krauthammer calls this "neoconservatism convergence," and if you read that concept and the others I just mentioned in his fascinating and quite brilliant Commentary piece a reader just sent me (Tim Beidel, ME), I think you'll understand why I can get a first review out of the gate like this and not be bothered with it one bit.


And I can say, for the first time in my life, that--based on the Krauthammer piece--I now understand why so many people consider me a neoconservative. That I'm a Democratic as well isn't the point, because we're talking foreign policy schools, not domestic political parties.


I thank Tim Beidel for alerting me to the Krauthammer piece (find it at: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12001023_1). It was the perfect antidote to this truly pinheaded review.


Why do I say pinheaded? The bit about me not having a coherent sense of national interests is complete nonsense. I realize I have to cite PNM to prove this (vice BFA, but hey, it's Vol. II by design!), but frankly, I dare anyone to point out a better or more explicit description of America's national interests (and I'm talking about where the rubber really meets the road) than the section, "The American Way of War." I tell you in that section exactly why and under what conditions we go to war. As usual, this reviewer cites "national interests" simply as an ass-covering technique to declare: "America shouldn't care about that part of the world much less go there."


And that's the supreme oddity of that phrase, "neocon," because, in practical terms, it has come to mean that you care about security "outside, over there" more than liberal interventionists--because you're actually willing to see America do something about it rather than burying its head in the sand.

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