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6:29AM

A *starred* review from Kirkus on Great Powers

See it listed on their front page now for the 15 December issue as a starred non-fiction review.

Full review is behind subscription firewall.

Big deal to get a star. Didn't get one for either previous book. It signals expectation that the book will be big.

Publicity said it would be okay to post here, so here it is:

GREAT POWERS

America and the World After Bush

Political consultant Barnett (Blueprint for Action: A World Worth Creating, 2005, etc.) evaluates the Bush administration's failures, offers prescriptions for correcting them and pleads with America not to mess things up now that everything is going our way.

His excoriating first chapter limns "The Seven Deadly Sins of Bush-Cheney," starting with Lust (for world primacy). A sensible grand strategy, even for a superpower, must attract more allies than it repulses, he notes, yet the Bush administration broke treaties and advocated preemptive wars, then complained when Russia and China refused to help in Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Proceeding with catchy titles, Barnett delivers "A Twelve-Step Recovery Program for American Grand Strategy" in the second chapter. We must begin by admitting our powerlessness over globalization, he writes. We opened that Pandora's box long ago, and it's ridiculous to denounce other nations' cheap labor and protectionist trade policies, because that's how American growth began. Unlike many world-affairs gurus, but in line with Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World (2008), Barnett is an optimist, pointing out that free-market capitalism is now the world's default system, the middle-class is increasing and poverty is diminishing. Attacking Bush's fixation on the "global war on terror" (Sin No. 2: Anger), he stresses that it's merely one of a half-dozen world problems, more easily solved by rising prosperity than military action. Naïveté, not anger, led to Bush's painfully unsuccessful efforts to spread democracy. Looking back, Barnett reminds readers that America was a one-party autocracy until the 1820s and that freedom doesn't happen when a government grants it but when an increasingly assertive, and prosperous, citizenry demand it. China's rise mirrors the American model more than we realize, he contends, and Iraqis won't demand a bill of rights until they have jobs.

Stands out for its in-depth analysis, historical acuity and delightfully witty prose.

Taken aback a bit by the word "autocracy," because that overstates my position. I think you could say that early America was certainly elite-dominated in its steps toward truer democracy, and that that elite had a serious mistrust of letting the masses run wild. But my point was more that we were, for all practical purposes a single-party or nonparty state for the first half-century, as you don't see the first mass political party (in a manner we would recognize) until Jackson and you don't have two roughly equal mass political parties vying for the presidency until Jackson's "third term" ends with Martin Van Buren's four years--or 1840.

Clearly, Neil Nyren was right in starting the book with the "Seven Deadly Sins of Bush-Cheney" and the 12-step recovery for American grand strategy, because the pair do pull you in, and then I've got you for the history. That trio alone (with the preface) is 159 pages, or what a lot of writers would crank as a "slim volume." But then I turn around and give you the five realignment chapters--so serious value for your money!

Naturally, I love the last line of the review, as Neil predicted I would.

Between this and Publisher's Weekly you basically find praise for every aspect of the book, with my favorite notes being about great organizational structure, conversation style and delightfully witty prose--oh, and the historical acuity.

In combination, I am amazed to get through these first two big institutional review with no hits taken. Neither review said anything bad. On PNM, I took hits on both with one being overall positive and the other far less so. Ditto for Blueprint. So, by comparison, this book sailed through these first two, crucial bailiwicks, garnering the coveted "star" from Kirkus.

On a brain-dead day (sinus infection), this is happy news indeed.

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