“The Book Is Flatulent: A Brief Review of Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World Is Flat” Op-Ed,” by Thomas Barnett, The Newsletter from Thomas P.M. Barnett, 20 June 2005, http://www.newrulesets.com/journals/barnett_20jun2005.pdf.
“Friedmanâ€™s excellent capture on why Iraq still matters–and still must be won,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 26 May 2006, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003299.html.
After Tom Barnett‘s scortched earth review of Tom Friedman‘s The World is Flat, I was defensive. I had enjoyed the book, and expected Barnett (whose work is obviously influenced by Friedman’s) to pen a positive review. Reading World was a wonderful vacation, and Tom Friedman and Tom Barnett are the two authors I advice my international relations students to read.
Friedman is stupefying in his efforts to interpret everything in terms of flatness (Southwest lets you print your boarding tickets online? “Yet another brilliant example that the world is getting flat!”; You can eat sushi in a small Midwestern town? “OMYGOD the world is sooooo flat!”) that by the end of the book you have no idea what the terms means anymore. Flatness is a euphemism for everything from “cool” to “new” to “high-tech” to “competitive” to “innovative” to “globalization” to “flat” (no, wait a minute, that last one doesn’t work . . . or does it?) am not kidding you, as you read this book you’re so trained, almost in a Pavlovian sort of way, to see the word “flat” that when you go more than a paragraph or two without seeing it, you start to get anxious.
I responded by giving a detailed description, with charts, of what Tom Friedman means by flat. I found Barclay’s Bank using the term the same way.
Happily, things have changed. From a recent Barnett blog post:
Friedman remains one of our best analysts on the Middle East. Itâ€™s been so long since he was known for just that, thanks to â€œLexus and the Olive Tree,â€ that you tend to forget that that is where he cut his teeth.
The killer line here: â€œEvery major transformation since Napoleon in this part of the world has been the function of an external jolt,â€ Mr. Ibrahim said.â€
That, in a nutshell, is why Bushâ€™s Big Bang strategy was so visionary and so bold–and so dead-on.
Put Friedmanâ€™s op-ed on Iraq together with Ignatiusâ€™ (above) on Iran and you basically have why I still support the Big Bang strategy and favor the soft-kill option of connectivity with Iran. Taken together, you might it call it a blueprint for action in the GWOT (except Iâ€™d add strategic alliance with China and building an East Asian NATO on Kim Jong Ilâ€™s empty throne; then itâ€™s on to Africa!).
These are seriously good signs: serious consensus emerging among the nationâ€™s top opinion leaders (a strategy of connectivity and System Perturbations) and among the nationâ€™s top military generals (the Long War and the â€œfirst war of globalizationâ€).
This makes me extremely happy.
Maybe even… thrilled.