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Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating Hardcover – October 20, 2005
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The world is a mess. Iraq is becoming another Vietnam. Iran and North Korea are trying to get nukes or may already have them. Al Qaeda is still on the loose. In the middle of this turmoil, Tom Barnett believes America stands at a threshold. It can withdraw into itself. Or it can seize an opportunity to forge the most peaceful period in human history, where war becomes unknown. Barnett is a former professor at the U.S. Naval War College and senior advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has been called "one of the most important strategic thinkers of our time."
Barnett maps out a sweeping new vision for the U.S. military in Blueprint for Action, the sequel to his influential previous book The Pentagon's New Map. He says the U.S. military has a massive doctrinal flaw. It has an unrivalled power to win wars. But it has little ability to win the peace. Witness Iraq, where virtually no thought was given to postwar stabilization and reconstruction. He advocates creating a new Department of Global Security in the U.S. government, tasked with putting countries back on their feet after an armed intervention by U.S. forces. He says the new department would also work to reduce economic and social instability in "disconnected" regions of the developing world. "It all starts with America and yes, it all starts with security," he writes. Barnett's vision is highly U.S.-centric and recalls the "white man's burden" philosophy of British colonial authorities. He advocates "regime change" in North Korea and Venezuela. And his solutions for the problems of the Third World are straight out of a banker's mouth: privatization, deregulation, globalization. But Blueprint for Action is an important account of the current thinking and debates at the highest levels of the Pentagon. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
Military-strategy consultant Barnett follows his ballyhooed The Pentagon's New Map with this unconvincing brief for American interventionism. Echoing the now conventional wisdom that a larger, better-prepared occupation force might have averted the current mess in Iraq, Barnett generalizes the notion into a formula for bringing the blessings of order and globalization to benighted nations throughout the "Non-Integrating Gap." A "System Administrator force" of American and allied troops—a "pistol-packing Peace Corps"—could, he contends, undertake an ambitious schedule of regime change, stabilization and reconstruction in Islamic countries and as far afield as North Korea and Venezuela, making military intervention so routine that he terms it the "processing" of dysfunctional states. Barnett's ideas are a rehash of Vietnam-era pacification doctrine, updated with anodyne computer lingo and New Economy spin. Implausibly, he envisions Americans volunteering their blood and treasure for a "SysAdmin force" fighting for international "connectivity" and envisions the world rallying to the bitterly controversial banner of globalization. Worse, he has no coherent conception of America's strategic interests; "the U.S. is racing... to transform [the] Middle East before the global shift to hydrogen [fuel] threatens to turn the region into a historical backwater," runs his confused rationale for continued American meddling in the Muslim world. That Barnett's pronouncements are widely acclaimed as brilliant strategic insights (as he himself never tires of noting) bodes ill for American foreign policy. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
<u>Blueprint for Action</u> is the follow-up to PNM and in many ways is a response to feedback that the presentation and book inspired. If PNM was the answer to "what the heck is going on" then BFA is the answer to "why the heck are we doing this anyway?" But most impressively, the "why" Barnett gives us is not some doom and gloom of what needs to be avoided, but what glory can be achieved.
Barnett is joy to read as a writer, especially since many of his contemporaries like to bog down their works with a lot of jargon and 50-cent words that can alienate the average reader. Barnett needs no such tricks to make his work impressive. Audacious and bold by its very nature, BFA not only gives the big picture view of "where do we go from here?" but delights readers with glib analogies and (often biting) humor along the way:
"I ended up lecturing at both Beijing University and the China Reform Forum, the think tank of the Central Party School in Beijing...
One Chinese professor went so far as to say that since my work could never be received well in America but would naturally be understood in China, I should quit my job... to engage in the formulation of grand strategy for the Chinese, who, he noted, had more than enough grand strategic issues to deal with right now!...
My reply to this intriguing offer was to say that if these reformers felt they had their hands full explaining the Theory of Peacefully Rising China to the world, imagine how busy I was trying to explain my Theory of Benevolently Warring America!" (pp 138-140) What I think I like best about Barnett's work, however, is that his grand strategy has practical application. He doesn't get stuck or lost describing only one part of the elephant. He truly sees the whole animal of political, economic, military, cultural connections across the globe and, with accuracy, can say `if you do this action, you'll get this result.'
He isn't seeing situations just from the American side, or the military side, or the Wall Street side. He puts the reader in the other guy's shoes (well, if you were being approached like this, wouldn't you react the same way too?) and draws on our own history to show just how those situations played out last time. Barnett not only gives us "A Future Worth Creating," but shows us that he knows how to navigate from here and now to there and then.
If you want a useful, realistic hope for the future, this is the book to read.
There is much to recommend in this book. Barnett has a good handle on all the latest forward thinking on globalization and the asymmetric, netcentric and fourth generation warfare that seems to travel in its wake. His contacts in and around the Pentagon have given him some useful insights into where the military thinks it will have to go in the future. His ability to describe a big picture is both educational and entertaining.
Unfortunately, visionary thinking of this type tends generally to have a very short shelf life. Basic assumptions can change as quickly as the next administration and the next financial crisis, nevermind the revival of old adversaries (Russia), the appearence of near peer adversaries (China) and the stubborn refusal of nuclear-armed basket cases to go away (North Korea). It is by no means clear that the future Barnett is only possible one, or even the most likely, let alone the approach that national leadership might take to it. The Pentagon's own forward thinking is inevitably tied to the particular vision of the administration that it serves and the willingness of the American people to pay for it. Don't bet on Barnett running the table; cautiously recommended.
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