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« Woodward's latest makes the Rolling Stone piece look tame by comparison | Main | Hiatus for now, decisions to follow »

Less absolutely, a deep reduction in flow/change in philosophy and a redirect to Twitter

Two triggers for yesterday's declaration:

1) interview with Canadian journalist (Globe and Mail; nice guy) where I found myself, as always, defending the SysAdmin concept from its usual caricatures (all military, all US or at best all West, and all public spending).  And you know, I just get tired of repeating myself after seven years, reminding everyone that I said from the start: more civil than mil, more USG than DOD, more rest-of-world than just US or West, and--duh!--overwhelming private-sector funded.  So what does Afghanistan tell us about Canada's future choices with its military?  It tells us that the West and the US in particular still myopically chooses to view the SysAdmin task as overwhelmingly military-centric, DoD-centric, NATO-centric, USG-centric, and official developmental aid-centric, and guess what? None of that, even piled on top of itself, constitutes a quorum for Afghanistan. The only package that works there will be heavy on Indians, Iranians, Turks, Russians and Chinese--in addition to the Pakistanis.  It will involve those countries building and defending networks and markets. Victory won't involve the creation of a democracy--at least not one we'd recognize any time soon. Instead, as usual, given our vast costs sunk thanks to our stubborn unilateralism and government-firstism, we'll view any such outcome along the lines of "We fought the war, but the X won!"  It's a stupid and petty mindset and eventually enough frustration with outcomes will drive it out of us, but such change tends to come generationally--go figure.  Anyway, I go on a long riff with this guy and I wonder why I'm still making these arguments in broadcast fashion to an audience that's apparently unready for it, when there are so many private-sector actors and non-US governments moving down this path with a vengeance--meaning better clients.  Why not run with them and pull back from this evangelical path here in the States, somewhat embodied in the time-intensive blog?

[As a side-rant, let me skewer the inane stupidity that says, "Barnett's SysAdmin concept was doomed from the start" by pointing you in the direction of Africa, where SysAdmin "forces" and "functions" are in evident display all over the place.  And guess what?  The vast majority of the work is being done by non-military, private-sector-funded non-Westerners, and IT WORKS JUST FINE DUMBASS!  But sure, if you want to reduce that force/function in all its complexity and breadth within globalization's advance to a small-unit operation in some remote Afghanistan valley and ask the question, What was Barnett thinking when he said a bunch of US Marines with guns could somehow "connect" Afghanistan to the world?  Then yes, all my vision was completely invalidated by that one apocryphal firefight!  Meanwhile, while you stare at your most American of belly-buttons, globalization continues to penetrate the Gap with stunning speed and integrating effect--and never the twain shall conceptually meet.  But understand this, I don't sell theory; I sell observed reality, which I name.  You can wallow in your caricatures and claim my defeat, and I will shake my head at your complete inability to read what I write and hear what I say--in every single brief I've ever delivered.

But I regress . . .]

2) As I move down this path, I run into days where I find the blogging requirement crowds out too much good personal and professional stuff.  Today I spent a long block of time thinking through cyber governance issues and it was great.  If I have the blog on the usual high-volume sked, that's impossible, as is a certain amount of parenting. Plus, after seven years of being in the evangelical mode, I simply want to move on.

Still, I like the site that I've built, and I like having a place to centralize certain things in terms of presentation and archiving.  I also want to put certain things out there regularly, like announcing latest columns and posts at Esquire and other stuff I write and publish.  Then there's always that simple desire to express myself and to record, diary-style, certain things I do (like a planned trip to China in October).

So I know I'm going to finally cave into my wife on the time-lost-to-the-blog complaint (there's the two new kids impact), especially since my career evolution (different role at Enterra as it matures and thus wider network of activities, which was my norm until a couple of years ago) demands both more focus and concentrated efforts and involves a lot of partners who are, as I stated yesterday, not much interested in this broadcast mode but desire more exclusive content more exclusively delivered.  And when I realize that my most circulated stuff on the Web is what I write for WPR and Esquire, then why maintain the blog at such a high level?  Simply put, it strikes me an outdated model:  I started it as pure analytical diary and it became too much the formal presentation as the field was quickly crowded by mainstream venues re-establishing their natural hierarchy (so every mag now has a blog and most bloggers of note operate within organized structures).

[Second side rant:  Why did I talk myself or let myself get talked into this pathway of formalizing the blog? Too many people complaining that I didn't take myself or my legacy seriously enough, which I think I do in my formal writings.  I just don't think I should have to adhere to that level of formality here.  I didn't in the beginning, and I'd like to go back to that and screw all the references and some of the visuals and instead go back to the analytic diary and pure self-therapy of writing for release.  Too many times in recent months I've found myself staring at the blog entry screen, saying to myself, "Type something profound, damn it!"  And you know what?  As soon as you say that you're doomed to be boring and trite and predictable. Plus it takes so long.]

So the question becomes, why not drop out from the old model and go to something more relaxed--as in, write what I want when I want, and shift the quick-and-dirty recording of semi-interesting articles via Twitter, where the lack of visual requirements and the restrictions on text length guarantees a modicum of effort and no more?

And so that is what I will do, and I'll see how that goes.  What I know is this: I don't want to fill this space like I used to.  I find myself needing to retreat mentally from that level of broadcasting/sharing.  I've spent 7 years doing the evangelic thing and it's been fun, but having done it, I will admit to a certain level of boredom with it--the usual seven-year-itch that seems to regularly relocate me in a geographic sense (from Wisconsin to New England to mid-Atlantic to New England back to the Midwest and now plotting a return to the mid-Atlantic).  I'm about seven years having left my job at the Naval War College (I really left in 2001 when I went to OSD, then again in 2003 when I left OSD, and finally--truly--in 2005, so let's split the difference) and I can feel the reinvention coming, which corresponds nicely to Enterra's nifty maturation and settlement into three core areas of exploitation (healthcare, supply-chain management of consumer products, and supplier-chain management of complex sustainment efforts in the defense sector).  So as things are simultaneously settling down and expanding and blowing up, I find that natural itch to reinvent and recast and rebalance.

And so that is the way it will be:  irregular posts here on stuff I really, truly, absolutely want to archive, with the rest going via Twitter, where I will limit myself--poetically--to as few syllables as possible (I thought I did pretty well today).  I will continue the archiving of formal pubs, along with their announcements here, and I will likely archive travel and other special stuff.

But I will abandon the volume standard that I settled into (totally self-imposed) and let the rest migrate to Twitter (the pointing dog stuff).  That just doesn't interest me like it used to; been there, done that--done. Plus, when I compare my original posts from the spring of 2004 to now, I realize that, back then, I mostly riffed and made scant reference to MSM materials (just using them as launching points), and now the bulk of my text are excerpts, which feels like I'm playing fact checker. [Another triggering realization: I had a lot of fun riffing on that Andy Krepinevich piece recently, but I hardly go long like that any more in the blog; instead, I spend too much time cataloguing--and reminding--and watching what I say.  But again, what gets reposted mostly is the more careful, edited stuff I write on WPR and Esquire, so why not go back to the casual standard here--as in, I write-for-myself-so-f@3k-off!  Because that stuff I can write very fast when I choose to, meaning no real burden.

Anyway, I had long feared/hoped this would happen when I finished the Great Trilogy, and that day has finally arrived.

So I kill the formal blog and reclaim the diary, my debt to society and history fulfilled in the dead-tree Trilogy.

But yeah, I will still rant mostly about globalization, because it's the most interesting thing I know.

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  • Response
    Dr. Barnett should realize how thick-headed some people are in this world. I am one of them. I really didn't "get-it" until sometime this year, sad!

Reader Comments (28)


Gotta admit that I'm pretty bummed that you'll be scaling back. This was my one 'must read' blog and I've gotten rather spoiled by having you aggregate recent news and then provide analysis. What's especially frustrating is that there's really not any comparable alternative for your POV. But that's just me being selfish.

I was hoping that you'd keep the blog alive to announce WPR/Esquire articles, appearances, media interviews, etc. Glad to hear that you'll be doing that along with some news links and (oh-so-brief) analysis via twitter.

Thanks so much for all your efforts (books, blog, interviews, etc) towards a 'future worth creating'. It's been a pleasure learning from you and I look forward to your future works (and rants). Also... best of luck with your latest endeavors personal & professional. God bless.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJakF

Hey Tom: I'll keep checking in on the blog be it high or low volume. =)

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertom Mull

Thanks Tom,

For planning to leave a trail of valuable bread crumbs, in the form of random posts for us to follow, you as you head down what ever new path you chose.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhistoryguy99

Well, thank you for your years of blogging, they were great to read each day.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Longshanks

Well at least we have the Ted Performance!
I love watching that tight delivery>
I look forward to what you do next!
New York New York

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

I have really enjoyed resding the 'review of the news' about economics and developing country issues. Tom if you come to Beijing in October and want to hear what Chinese state-owned companies are like to work with and where the air pollution issue is going in China I'd love to talk to you about those issues. Emall me.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Dunn

I was never sure why you kept on blogging at such a high pace since Great Powers was published...would've thought you would have moved on from here and scaled back a while ago. Everything we have received from you has benefited us even more than it has you. I don't blame you in the least for cutting back, since there are plenty other demands on your time and I know that anything else you have to put out will be worthwhile and profound. I've loved everything you've produced - you tell it as it is. Keep it up - but please devote time to family and Enterra! :)

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert L

Cycles are healthy. Some may read this as the end, but my glass is half full - and the new will no doubt leave me as impressed as the old has.

Good luck Tom.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGalrahn


I am sorry to hear about the demise of your blog as presently configured. Your unique analysis has certainly helped me and I suspect others like me, to make better sense of the complexity that is out there. Thank you for many fine essays but particularly for many salutary lessons not only in how to think but how to live.

All the best in whatever you may do.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Crook


Thank you for your posts. I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated your writing. If it is not too much of a trouble, it would be nice if you could continue to post your interesting "charts of the day".

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBalaji Krishnamurthy

Hello Tom,

I hope you'll remain prolific in this medium. You make such thoughtful and substantial contributions, and I've learned a ton from your blog since I first came across it this past Summer. And for what it's worth, a lot of us navel gazers really admire and appreciate your work.

So many of the leading thinkers cite and incorporate your arguments into their writings. The rest of us are very lucky to have access to your unfiltered, informed, tremendously qualified perspective. Heck, I'd pay a subscription fee if that's what it took...

Your blog has been spontaneous, thoughtful and insightful, all at the same time. No small feat. When you think of how poor the quality of debate has been in the media of late, the accomplishment seems even greater. Who cares if a few jackasses think different?

So by all means, re-balance, rethink, re-configure. But please don't stop posting.

Wishing you the best,


September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

Your insights, read along with my morning coffee have helped me to finally understand the world in a way that makes sense, and transcend the soundbytes of news as we are fed it.. I know of no other person who sees the big picture, and has the ability to communicate it so well. I will miss the blog, and the sense of optimism it gives me on a daily basis. Knowledge is the best shield against fear.
At the same time, I often wondered at the sheer bulk of the daily entries, and how much time that must have taken. (Just finding photos, getting clearances and inserting them takes time, I know!) And with the arrival of 2 new children, I saw this wave forming on the horizon. I'm glad you've pulled back from stopping altogether, and will continue to log on regularly just to see if you've posted something....even if it's about your sinuses!
Thanks for your incredible generosity over the years. It has been appreciated. And of course, all the best to you and your ever blossoming family.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichal Shapiro

Thanks for the years of hard work. I've learned a lot from reading your books, articles and blog. I think we all knew this day would come, so it's not entirely unexpected. But hey, you've given us a great framework to do our own analysis. I will definitely keep checking in (and I might even go check out that Twitter thingymajig!)

Best of luck.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom from Maine


I've really enjoyed reading your blog, but go ahead and scale back. I look at just a few blogs (yours at top), and I've been amazed at how much gets put out there. You need to balance your own life & work first. But I'll check back for any crumbs. Just keep working the issues.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Stewart

Truth be told, I've had trouble keeping up with the volume of your blog. The twittter idea is excellent and i'll enjoy the diary. You and your family live a very interesting American life that illustrates the unique best of our country. I await the book on your personal experiences with the medical system. And maybe you'll produce that movie some day. I want to be in it.

Best wishes.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick O'Connor

Every morning, after getting the update on the situation in the Near East from Juan Cole, I read your column. I started about the time PNM was published.

I've just finished the FDR bio and want to thank you for that recommendation.

You have provided entertainment, enrichment and understanding in a unique voice. It's been a great ride.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard P. Stearns

Good luck!

And I think switching the "pointing dog" posts to Twitter is an excellent idea. It did strike me as a lot of work to essentially link to someone else's work. I don't use Twitter (refused to), but I will now reconsider it just for the items you find interesting. At the least I will find a way to get your twitter feed through my normal feed reader.

As long as you keep this blog around for the occasional original work of yours and to let us know of your appearances, I'll be happy. Oh, and I liked your book reviews, too.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Theo

I have enjoyed reading this blog since about 2004 when I started by graduate work at a DoD grad school. Since then, I have moved into more pure science and away from the Sci-Mil interaction realm, so this blog was a a great connection to thinking in the Pol-Mil-Tech-$$$ world.

Enjoy the increased family time and remember that blogging is not a requirement for leaving a good legacy, but doing your best for your family is a must for anyone wanting to be fondly remembered in the next century.

Thanks for doing what you have done and will continue to do. I will subscribe to the feeds and follow on Twitter to make sure I keep on what you do post for the rest of us to share.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMattR.

Tom--I'm a long-time lurker here, and will miss you blogging. I WILL keep the page bookmarked as a favorite, cuz it is. You piece "The Embrace" brought tears, and I'm a pretty stoic guy. I often wonder how the whole Quran-burning, "Ground Zero Mosque" stuff strikes you. Maybe it's a lot of sound and fury signifying little, but I do worry abt the state affairs. All the best to you and your family.
--Charlie Stein

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Stein

Thank you for being so generous for so long. I have bought all of your books for both myself and as gifts and checked your blog nearly every day for years. I greatly value your insights, and if I shift from private sector to politics I will certainly take them with me. It is great to see that you will still be sharing some thoughts here

Best wishes to you and your family

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Scarborough

Thanks for everything brother, and I wish you and yours every possible success! I'll especially miss the film references.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Hey Tom,
As you know...been reading you for years now...never get tired of checking in...always find an interesting insight on world events and happenings....very few folks have your particular take..its so refreshing and optomisitc.
Even if you go more for the personal...journel style thats great the movie reviews and music..we share similar taste....Talking Heads..Eno...Furs...LOL...what fun!
Anyway...what ever you write I will read..I am hooked!
Keep up what ever you feel you should do...
Thanks SOOO much.....
ps...and I will wait for that great sci fi three part epic you will write some day....

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersue

Your posts will be missed. They have been a staple of my blog reading. But I have a sense that you are not retreating as much as you are reloading. More time to think, more time for family, more time for taking care of yourself. It's all good! Onward and upward. Good luck and God bless.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy J.

Dear Tom, it's always been a pleasure (and an opportunity to sharpen my own opnion) reading your blog. While I'll miss your daily entries, I would like to thank you for the inspiration you provided, and wish you good luck in everything you plan to do in the future. Greetings from Prague, and all the best. Tomas

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTomas

Hey Tom,
I'm sure going to miss the blog as my daily (or twice daily) reading.
The navigation you have provided in this upside-down world is invaluable to many of us.

Have you thought about charging an annual fee for your blog? If it's a "time is money" thing, then you might kill two birds here.

Anyway, all the best wishes for you and your family.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike


I'll happily read what you publish here and the Tweets. You have a concept that I still don't believe key people are getting yet. I have two ideas.

A. Make a series of TED like pieces that will get the wide distribution that is the true power of blogs, Twitter, FB, etc. Those videos could be the basis for an entirely new audience that haven't stumbled onto this concept of a long-term global strategy. It's setting the stage for actual learning. Over time they will become able to 'hear' the content. It's, after all, a generational concept that you advocate.

B. Take the time, somehow, to trap the decision makers, Clinton for example, in their offices, airplanes or helicopters by going to wherever the hell they are and getting their attention on a very personal level. She, very likely, won't see this 'Woman up" reference. But she'll understand it in a heartbeat if it comes to her face-to-face.

Please keep writing and give us more video. We are a TV nation. The next crop of leaders will be, depending on how you count, the third generation. Their very young children are already the fourth. We are used to TV. We like TV. With the latest of mobile devices we can watch a cloud-based video from nearly any location. TV/Video, well used, can help us understand complicated topics and lead a new generation, and leaders growing in the wings, in a different direction.

My thoughts for whatever they're worth...perhaps what you paid for them...nothing.

Thanks for the time and effort.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStuart O'Neill

I have to go 100% with the top comment by JakF. Your clear cut-through-the-crap thinking has helped me grow in my own thinking (that's an encouraging thing after 70 years). And your vision of a hopeful and exciting future brightens my morning coffee time. The waves you've created may seem like spitting into the wind but will probably become the conventional wisdom. Even if you never get full credit for your ideas, you should know there are so many of us who have come to appreciate you in your own time. We will never think of the world in the same way.

September 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGerry Myers

You whole work fits nicely with the "freedom framework." I have seen many posts and writings on the internet masking you as a neo-con, at the same time begging for interventions in Darfur, for example, and so I guess reality isn't too hot for some people.

But the critical distinction with your work, and why it jives with my conservative libertarian thought is that it integrates the Wilsonian thought with the "small government" built in. You want to essentially enable freedom, not necessarily have top heavy "Marshall Plans." You rightly don't seem to care to much for the repercussions in the short term, because you can get the best outcome in the long term.

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPetrer

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