Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Thoughts on the Blueprint.

I’m about a third of the way through Dr. Barnett’s latest book (Blueprint for Action.) Prior to slapping down $16 and change my sole source of Barnettesian (yes I’ve invented a word) theory was his web log. When I hefted the 400+ pages from the bookshelf at my local Borders (I don’t do Amazon. I like to feel, open and explore a book before dividing myself from hard earned cash. I also value the environment a building packed full of letters and words provides over the cold intangible computer screen) there was a moment of hesitation.

No the hesitation didn’t entail standing there in the middle of a bustling bookstore with Blueprint in my right hand and a portrait of Andrew Jackson in my left weighing the value of one versus the other. What it entailed was the knowledge that I’m relatively new to thinking beyond my own environment. Where as Dr. Barnett wields his knowledge with practiced ease I’m still trying to understand mines balance, direction and application.

In essence, if my mind is a vast plantation then the acreage I’ve fenced off to grow these thoughts, opinions and understandings is a fertile one with various spots of healthy crops reaching for the sun but also more blank plots of hungry soil awaiting sow.

By reading something as encompassing as the Blueprint I risk focusing (and limiting) my understanding in a one dimensional sense. In effect, I sow the entire field with one seed. And, consequently, reap one crop. I limit my options. I make the same mistake the hard political partisans in this country make. Hold on to one ideal for dear life and scoff at anything that even approaches disagreement.

This isn’t to suggest that I see TPMB’s ideas as erroneous or limiting. Quite the contrary, so far. It’s also important to note that the various blogs I read have a similar residual effect on my views (tdaxp, CA, Zenpundit, GG , AG , MP and every other blog listed in the “wisdom” margin.) The difference, of course, is that the blogs present ideals in a fragmented sense where as a collective (as Blueprint or Coming Anarchy or the (I presume) soon to be Brave New War for example) entail a focused and powerful intellectual affect.

And, so it is, I tiptoe into the tepid intellectual currents of Barnett. And the reading is glacial. This is not a consequence of the narrative or the ideas presented in the book. The good doctors ability to present the complex is very effectively whittled down to that of an everyman, understandable yarn. At times I have to remind myself I'm reading theory and not fiction. His concrete certainty should be a dry, condescending narrative and yet maintains the cadence and ease of popular fiction.

At this point many will think "Ah, but Soob, you're pandering to Barnett." A fair but completely baseless thought. If I thought Barnett's attempt was shit I'd espouse as much, without a thought to my qualifications regarding the heady material he puts forth. That aside:

The glacial effect is a self inflicted reaction. Every so many pages I find myself looking up, gazing off into nothingness and spinning about in my head something I’ve read. For example I spent 15 minutes ping ponging the inclusion of Brazil as a Core state. I’m still in the “why?” stage. Argentina? ok, I guess. Chile? Sure. Brazil? Erm…

His “fuck it then” (my words) take on Iran is incredibly refreshing (especially given the fact that it’s at least 2 years old) and, sadly, the least likely aim of the current administration whose want is, likely (in line with Robbian thought [See what I mean about influence?]) to hammer out a lasting “legacy” by obstructing Iran’s nuke grab rather than shifting our policy to one that essentially accepts nukes and consequently modifies Irans political outlook (anti-Israeli) to one of a more globally productive fashion. There aren’t too many political commentators that realize the divide between Sunni Arab apocalypticism and Shia Persian jingoism.

As I wade through Blueprint I’ll, no doubt, plop down further ideas here.


Sean Meade said...

i found BFA slow-going the first time, too. much slower than PNM.

but, after i had become more familiar with Tom's ideas, it read much more easily the second time.

all that to say: it's dense, baby ;-)

Jay@Soob said...


No doubt it's a lot of "this" at the expense of a whole lot of ponder. Not a bad thing, really. Thanks for swinging by.

Steve said...

Why Argentina and not Brazil (I know nothing about either)?

Younghusband said...

I thought PNM was much better than BFA. PNM also is much more "theoretical" in my opinion. Though I am no longer a Barnettzealot (I can invent funny words too!) I would recommend all to check out PNM.

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

I found his conversational, everyman style to be tedious. I can handle it in the shorter bursts on his blog -- although his long dream sequences on the blog are just as tedious.

None of the above speaks to the ideas behind what he writes, only the style. I want more of a recipe like those found in good cookbooks; I want him to get to the point more quickly than he does. I expect that his style may often stand in his way.

aelkus said...

I agree with Curtis. Bruce Springsteen-type everyman prose doesn't cut it when you're talking about geostrategy.

I respect Barnett and his theories--he represents a huge theoretical advance in the study of globalization, war, and politics, but I don't like his solutions. I'll probably have an post or article up soon on that.

mark said...

PNM is a conceptual book. It is/was a paradigm shifter and in it Tom tried to shift a lot of paradigms. Therefore it reads with a lot of power ( hey -YH - does this make me a "Barnettzealot"? ;o) )

BFA is different-it is policy prescriptive esentially. More real-world details in geting to a functioning A-Z Rule-set. More minutia. More room to lodge stronger objections about specifics. In PNM, Barnett talked. In BFA he walks.

Jay@Soob said...

Further reflection reveals the argentina/brazil comparison is non-sequitur. However, Barnett's core theory being based on global connectivity combined with his Sysadmin approach being based on using that connectivity to essentially reform Gap states doesn't fit well with Brazil's South-South economic strategy.

YH, in an intellectual cage match: Kaplan or Barnett?

Curtis, his style might well be responsible for is NYT bestseller status.

AE, I'm looking forward to your post.

Mark, in a grand-strategic thepry cage match: Barnett or Robb?

aelkus said...

Better yet--a six-way battle royale between Robb, Kaplan, Lind, Boyd, Van Creveld, and Barnett.

I would pay good money to see that.

mark said...

Tom and John have complementary analytical approaches that could translate well as tag-team match in professional wrestling against the representatives of Big Army.

Mano-a-mano though, Sean Meade, as the "manager" would naturally hit John with a folding chair causing a disqualification and extended commentary by Vince McMahon

Younghusband said...

Kaplan versus Barnett posts galore at CA:

Dr. Barnett’s Kaplan Jihad
Barnett vs. Kaplan: Similarities and Differences
Barnett and Kaplan and Kissinger
More Smackdown
Kaplan’s Blueprint for Action

Also, a couple of years ago Curzon and I asked NPR for a face-to-face between Kaplan and Fisk.

A.E. said "Robb, Kaplan, Lind, Boyd, Van Creveld, and Barnett."

Get rid of VC and Lind and put in Huntington and I will send you my credit card number now.

Sean Meade said...

Mark is 100% right. i would hit John with a chair ;-)

fwiw, Tom's on the record that the weblog is his least polished communication, on purpose. the officers who continue to hire him back, his most important audience, seem ok with his style.

what do y'all sayto this analogy? Sean:Tom::CA:Kaplan

(not that i compare my weblog chops to CA. though i don't always agree with them, the quality and quantity of their product is excellent, far above my work.)

aelkus said...

Younghusband, how's this?

WWF Poli-Sci Battle Royale:

Team 1:
Robb, Boyd, Lind,

Team 2:
Huntington, Kaplan, Van Creveld

Team 3:
Barnett, Fukuyama, Arquilla

Team 4:
Clausewitz and a few dozen huge defense contractors.

aelkus said...

Or perhaps Kaplan would be better paired with Niall Ferguson?