Embracing Defeat, Part I: Barnett’s Two Strategies

Note: This is part of a series of reviews for Blueprint for Action. The introduction and table of contents are also available.

Tom Barnett has been embracing losing.

Now it is time for him to embrace defeat.

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The original , written by Dr. , is the story of Japan under the American Occupation. It argued that Japan recognized the destruction of the war as a result of an independent foreign policy, and so concluded that the way forward had to involve a dependent foreign policy. The rise of Japan since has proven the wisdom of this policy.

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Japan, by embracing defeat, was applying a common military doctrine: don’t reinforce failure. Just as a wise general doesn’t lose more lives taking a hard pillbox, when there is an easier way to victory, a wise nation’s policy should flow like water, away from the tough high points and to the easy lowlands.

In Blueprint for Action, Dr. Thomas PM Barnett embraces strategic defeat, urging America to save her strengths by avoiding what is difficult. He specifically rejects ‘s vision of a “pagan ethos,” because it is too hard.

Just as Barnett says America won’t win in Iraq — globalization will win in Iraq, Barnett the solution for the Gap isn’t American occupation, but rather international cooperation.

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In this he is correct. However, Barnett’s defeatism, which has unfoled with his philosophy, has yet to rearrange some of his original concepts.

Tom Barnett‘s grand strategic vision is shrinking the Gap, expanding the Zone of Peace into the whole of the Zone of War.

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Dr. Barnett gives two strategies for shrinking the gap. The first is the “Reverse Domino Theory,” which is familiar to anyone who has read ‘s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and its extended final chapter, The World is Flat. In the Reverse Domino Theory, the rising connectedness of one country spills over into others, such as Chinese investment in nations that supply raw materials to the Middle Kingdom.

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The second strategy, “The A-Z Rule Set for Processing Politically Bankrupt States,” fleshes out one paragraph in Barnett’s previous book, The Pentagon’s New Map

Perhaps the most important institutional challenge we fave in shrinking the Gap is the lack of international mechanisms to encourage and manage much-needed regime change there. The Gap suffers numerous bad leaders who have greatly overstayed their welcome, and the Core needs a series of international institutions to guide this process, such as Sebastian Mallaby’s “International Reconstruction Fund” be created along the lines of the International Monetary Fund. This organization would focus on pooling expertise and resources, such as peacekeeping forces, to facilitate the professing of failed states once bad leadership has been removed, How to identify such leaders for removal? Here is the example of the joint UN-Sierra Leone war crime special court shows the way. Once the court indicated Liberia president Charles Taylor for his activities in Sierra Leone, his fall was predetermined. This is exactly the sort of approach we should use for the Castros, Mugabes, and Qaddafis of the Gap. Let their own regional neighbors hurl the first charges, and then let the Core step in and force their downfall

As outlined in Blueprint for Action, the Rule Set starts and ends with the United Nations (from Security Council to International Criminal Court), has a lot of room for Inter-Governmental Organizations in the middle (from the G20 “Star Chamber” to the International Reconstruction Fund), with the American invasion and hand-over smack in the middle.

Because of American weakness, Barnett cedes critical portions of shrinking the gap to non-Americans, subsuming much of American foreign policy under a “global test.”

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Barnett’s philosophy naturally tries to maximize gains with a minimum of expenditure. Yet he stops here, not taking his philosophy to its logical conclusion.

How should Dr. Barnett embrace defeat even more? Stay tuned, and find out!



This has been Embracing Defeat, part of a series of reviews for Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action. The posts in Embracing Defeat are:

I. Barnett’s Two Strategies
II. Blood and Will
III. The Born Gimp
IV. Embracing Victory