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7:11AM

Reviewing the BFA Reviews (Kirkus Reviews)

Dateline: in the Shire, Indy, 19 August 2005

With The Pentagon's New Map, it was Publishers Weekly that was neutral to positive and Kirkus Reviews that was snarky in the extreme ("Strangelovian"). With Blueprint for Action, the opposite seems to have happened: PW was dismissive and KR is complimentary. Here's the KR review in full, with my comments to follow:



Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating, by Thomas P.M. Barnett (Putnam, 20 October)

Geopolitical wizard and military insider Barnett (The Pentagon's New Map, 2004) returns with more prescriptions to make the world safe for the Empire.


That world comprises regions that are not to be found in any atlas, at least not for sale to civilians: the Old Core of the West, embracing the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia; the rising New Core, made up of (economically) progressive states in Asia and Latin America; Seam States "lying on the edge of the global economy," including Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Algeria; and the Gap-not the clothing chain, but the rest of the world, a belt of sick and failing nations "that needs to be shrunk one threat at a time." Trouble is, to shrink it will require military action, and before that can effectively happen, the military will need to be reorganized. A case in point, by Barnett's account: Gen. Eric Shinseki was booted when he said he'd need 200,000 troops to take Iraq, while his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, seems to think that a well-motivated squad of high-tech soldiers could do the trick.


Barnett, who as a Pentagon consultant walks between the opposing camps

daily, diplomatically suggests that both were right: The break-things-and-kill-people military can number only a few exceptional fighters these days, but the make-the-peace military, the one Barnett calls SysAdmin, needs all the help it can get. Yet the military trains for "the least likely form of threat we face," namely "midrange conventional military threats from other nation-states." Barnett notes that the fight will be in places that America has dabbled in but then abandoned, and he asserts that "the Department of Homeland Security was the one great strategic mistake we've committed so far in the global war on terrorism," which is unlikely to win him friends in the White House.


Provocative reading for the interventionist, expansionist and policy-wonk

set.


COMMENTARY: Typically, the para-long reviews don't pack much descriptive info, but this one does, and it's all accurate. Best part of this review is that sense of "this is insider dope of highest order." Surprised a bit to see so much explanation of Core and Gap, but I think many reviews will do this, thus creating strong links back to PNM. Since that only helps sales on both, one can't complain, and yet it crimps the ability of reviewers to cover the full range of the material in BFA--to wit, both reviews so far can't make it past first chapter. Granted, it's a doozy and truly the center of gravity in the book, but to me, Chapter 3 China-centric material is the calling card.

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