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Great Powers: America and the World After Bush Hardcover – February 5, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Barnett (The Pentagon's New Map) offers a comprehensive catalogue of the failings of the Bush administration and a strategic roadmap for American foreign policy in this sweeping text. The author takes a broad approach to the contemporary political landscape, surveying U.S. history from the Revolution through the end of the Cold War and applying lessons from that history to the present. Drawing on a variety of secondary sources and his personal and professional experiences as a national security specialist and consultant, Barnett argues in favor of cooperation with rising powers such as China and India and continued movement in the direction of globalization; he distills his central thesis down to the contention that America must dramatically realign its own post-9/11 trajectory with that of the world at large. Barnett writes in a conversational style. Despite the text's vast scope, it has a clear, straightforward structure, even featuring a glossary of key terms, and it provides an accessible and engaging foray into global grand strategy. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (February 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399155376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399155376
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marc Korman on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Tom Barnett's Great Powers: America and the World After Bush is an engaging, detailed discussion about the world today and the coming decades. I did not agree with all of Barnett's assessments or recommendations, but I respected his thought process. Particularly engaging was Barnett's discussion of the American military, what he refers to as the Leviathan. Barnett discussed the role of the American military in the world, the true challenges it faces and what it does not face (China for instance), and how other nations should more openly rely on our Leviathan force.

But I part ways with Barnett on many of his other thoughts. First, his description of what a grand strategy is struck me as strange. I am not a geopolitical expert, but when I hear the phrase grand strategy I recall George Kennan's Long Telegram, which essentially stated the US strategy for the Cold War before it even began. What Kennan set out was more or less followed, with some variation, by ever US president form Truman to Reagan. But Barnett seems to say that grand strategy can be an accident of history. He discusses the development of the "American System," which has transitioned to globalization. But unlike Kennan's strategy, which was first implemented by the State Department, he seems to acknowledge that this "strategy" could be considered accidental or unintentional. Is that a strategy?

I am also not fully convinced that we should be viewing every nation on earth, and every struggle, as a microcosm of the American experience. Barnett is right that the US had developmental growing pains and we should not be surprised to see other nations having similar problems as they develop towards, we hope, democratic/capitalist nations.
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Format: Hardcover
Barnett provides a soup-to-nuts retrospective and prescriptive look at the entire geopolitical universe. He covers early American history, the good and bad of the Bush administration, and a strategic and economic look at every region of the world.

Aside from perhaps Thomas Friedman, there's not a more optimistic thinker who's worth reading. While by no means a Pollyanna, Barnett sees the world as in much better shape than most of his counterparts in the national security policy community and sees it becoming progressively better. The things that keep most strategists and economists up at night are mere bumps in the road that, if properly managed, will lead to a more peaceful, prosperous planet.

Suffice it to say that Great Powers isn't summer beach reading. The prose is breezy enough; the author has polished it over years of lectures, PowerPoint briefings, and blog posts. But the subject matter is weighty and you'll want a highlighter and a pen to underline things and write notes on the page. You'll find yourself nodding in agreement at times, finding that the author has captured your thoughts perfectly, explaining them in a way where it finally makes sense. At other times, you may think he's mad and want to shout obscenities at him.
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Format: Hardcover
Barnett's earlier books, especially The Pentagon's Mew Map, took much of the fear out of the War on Terror and replaced it with a challenge to America to engage with the other economic powers in the world to complete globalization and lift two billion more people out of poverty. His latest book, Great Powers, tells us why it's something we can and must do not only for those two billion people but for America's future. Particularly interesting are the parallels he draws between America's history and the state of things in many developing countries. Our government and our laws took generations to fully develop and its no suprise that the same is true elsewhere, China and Russia included. This book is a roadmap for the US for the next several generations. Barnett is nothing if not a hardheaded realist. He says that the military is still going to play a large role overseas in small wars but that the real goal is to get poor countries to attract capital and develop substantial economies of their own. This requires multinational trade and development efforts; the more countries the better. This not only lifts people out of poverty but takes away the rationale for terrorist activity.

To make the leap countries need to educate their children, boys and girls, adopt the business rules and institutions that permit foreign business to deal with them and gradually transition to governments that will work for the people not the ruling class. In Barnett's world, prosperity is king. By engaging with the other big economic players in the world the US can lead a team that can make this happen. If you are feeling sorry for the state of the world these days, this book will lift your spirits with its very believable "Yes we can!" message.
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Format: Hardcover
I think after reading this book that Thomas Barnett has created a masterpiece that focuses on the future, by reminding Americans of their past. Here is why: Barnett took the empirical evidence from works of hundreds of noted historians and primary sources and began to make a comparison of American history to today's world and more importantly to the world of tomorrow. All the while he continued to blog, writing his thoughts and collecting snippets of material from those 180+ who by way of responding, enlisted in his "Corp of Discovery" to chart a vision of the future. In the finest tradition of the Medici Effect, Tom Barnett collected all the intersecting ideas and points of information, mulled them over in his mind, shared them with his many readers, listened to their voices, gave presentations around the world and heard back from his audiences. Out of this mass of information he created Great Powers.

When I read Tom's work I am struck how much his view of American history dovetails with my own views. I am of the infamous boomer generation, but by fate was raised by my grandparents, who probably gave me as large a dose of "the Greatest Generation" as they had instilled in my mother, so I always seemed to feel more comfortable in my views of the world in that earlier cohort group. Today, as I teach my modern American history classes, I realize that lessons I have tried to instill into my students appear in Great Powers. So much has written about our history, concentrating on the greatest events or on our failures, as has been the case in the recent decades of navel gazing and self-loathing treatises. Tom boils it down to the really important events and persons responsible for today's rapidly connected world.
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