The Post had promised to review PNM but never did, but now comes through on Blueprint for Action (which is cool since PNM was a WP bestseller in Dec 04). Not the full-up, singular review but a group review where BFA is paired with two other books.
But the guy reviewing it makes up for that by a ways: Joseph Nye, easily one of the most influential political scientists in the world for several decades now (his Power and Interdependence with Bob Keohane is the first great book on globalization--years before anyone else described it well--and his writings on "soft power" have had huge influence as well).
Joe, you must know, connected with me in a variety of ways when I was at Harvard. I took his graduate survey course on international relations (co-taught with Stanley Hoffman). I also taught as a teaching fellow in his famous undergrad course on international conflict. Finally, he advised my PhD diss, along with Houchang Chehabi (Iranian and specialist on Iran) and Adam Ulam (whom I worked for at Harvard's Russian Research Center).
I get a solid two paragraphs from Nye in the review. Here's the clipped version that covers only the BFA references:
Through a Glass Darkly:
The world's last superpower tries to find its way in the post-9/11 landscape.
Reviewed by Joseph S. Nye Jr.
Sunday, January 15, 2006; BW05
THE AMERICAN ERA: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century
By Robert J. Lieber
Cambridge Univ. 255 pp. $28
BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION: A Future Worth Creating
By Thomas P.M. Barnett
Putnam. 440 pp. $26.95
LAWLESS WORLD: America and the Making and Breaking of
Global Rules from FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush's Illegal War
By Philippe Sands
Viking. 324 pp. $25.95
Sept. 11, 2001, was like a bolt of lightning that illuminated a new foreign policy landscape. During the last quarter of the 20th century, the information revolution and the acceleration of globalization had shrunk distance. Suddenly, Americans were vulnerable to nonstate actors based in a poor weak country halfway around the world. Rather than simply signifying economic growth, globalization had created a new security threat. A transnational network of terrorists killed more Americans in one day than the government of Japan did with its surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Not surprisingly, this new world called forth a new grand strategy to relate America's capabilities to its interests and values. George W. Bush had run as a traditional realist who eschewed nation-building and wanted to focus his foreign policy on the great powers. But after 9/11, he soon devised the National Security Strategy that instead focused on terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and rogue states and asserted America's right to act preemptively, with or without the backing of allies or international institutions. The wisdom of that strategy is the subject of these three new books. Robert J. Lieber, a Georgetown political scientist, and Thomas P.M. Barnett, a Pentagon consultant, supported the Iraq War and approve of Bush's grand strategy, though they criticize what they describe as the inept way in which it has been implemented; Philippe Sands, a professor of international law in London, disagrees, both about the Iraq War and the underlying premise for Bush's new course: that the alliances and institutions America had created after 1945 were inadequate to deal with the al Qaeda menace.
Lieber's argument ...
In Blueprint for Action, Barnett is both more critical and more ambitious in his discussion of that course. In his words, "a grand strategy requires a grand vision," such as the one he sought to provide in his recent bestseller, The Pentagon's New Map. Now he is back with a blueprint by which the two-thirds of the world that he calls the global economy's "Functioning Core" can rescue the remaining third of humanity, trapped in what he calls the "Non-Integrating Gap," with the ultimate goal of universal inclusiveness and global peace. Politically bankrupt regimes in the Gap tend to support or attract transnational terrorist activities, he argues. But the United States can act as a Leviathan, or a proxy for the international community, in defeating and deterring rogue regimes. Barnett has a six-step plan to accomplish this: First, the U.N. Security Council acts as a grand jury to indict countries; second, the Core's biggest economies issue " 'warrants' for the arrest of the offending party"; third, the United States leads a "warfighting coalition"; fourth, a Core-wide administrative force (with the United States providing 10 to 20 percent of its personnel) puts things back together with the help of the fifth element, a new International Reconstruction Fund; followed by a sixth step, criminal prosecution of the apprehended parties at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. "That's it, from A to Z," Barnett notes cheerfully. "Bad states go in, better states come out." But when he applies this formula to, say, North Korea, the analysis is not very convincing.
Barnett writes in a breezy, self-referential style that tells the reader about the jokes he has cracked at various Pentagon briefings. He likes to engage in "big think"; consider him a sort of Thomas L. Friedman for colonels. Whenever someone promotes risky large ideas -- like allying with Iran and accepting the inevitability of that country's possession of nuclear weapons, or creating a new U.S. alliance with China, Russia, India and Brazil that would become more important than NATO -- he is bound to attract criticism. But interspersed with some zany ideas are trenchant criticisms of the Bush administration's strategy, as well as some highly original insights.
Philippe Sands's book ...
Joseph S. Nye Jr. is Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University and the author, most recently, of "The Power Game: A Washington Novel."
COMMENTARY: Nice to mention PNM as bestseller. Nice recap of Core and Gap and the basic strategy of shrinking it. Most excellent to get a run-through on the A-to-Z. He blanches re: my more vigorous approach to North Korea (fine, Joe's a big believer in international institutions). The inevitable "breezy" line because I don't write like an academic (forgiven, since that comment is mandated by his Harvard contract whenever he reviews non-academics like me). "Self-reverential" is kind enough, especially when paired with the Friedman comparison (much like Ignatius way back when, and it's a good niche description of me). The "risky ideas" commentary is okay, since he puts out the ideas fairly enough (I like being described as controversial and iconoclastic in my thinking, which Joe as much as says with his "will attract criticism" bit). "Some zany ideas" is a given, given his age and mindset, but I'll take the "trenchant criticism" and "highly original insights." Overall, a very positive review, in my mind, especially when the other two books don't seem to excite him much. I am greatly pleased, especially since it's from somebody I admire so much and who is so important in the field of international relations.
Find the full review at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/12/AR2006011201685_pf.html.