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Archive for September, 2010

Tom Barnett Waves Goodbye to the Blogosphere

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett has left the building…..

Hiatus for now, decisions to follow

I’m going to shut down this blog for the foreseeable future.

My career and workload have evolved significantly since the recession hit, and I just find that I can’t justify the time and effort required to keep the blog running.  Other opportunities/responsibilities beckon, and that array doesn’t value/support this endeavor, so while I’ve enjoyed it, this is simply an adjustment I need to make.

I will keep the site up for now.

I will continue to keep writing at places that can pay.  I just realize that I’ve come to the end of a career model that says I can play LoneWolf@eponymous.com and make that work.  A bit sad, as it’s been fun, but as someone who hates to repeat himself and loves to always move onto the next experience/model, I likewise enjoy the pressure to reinvent myself.  I just can’t move down that path while simultaneously maintaining the old one–not enough hours in the day….

Sad to see Tom shut down his fine blog but I respect his motivations. Furthermore, while Dr. Barnett always had his detractors on the margin, it is undeniable that he and his ideas about grand strategy had a significant impacton both the public and the policy elite where “the Brief” from The Pentagon’s New Map enjoyed a cult status for a number of years. It was Tom more than any other “thought leader”, whose globetrotting briefing sessions brought military theory and strategy to a general public confused about the tumults of the post 9-11 world.

I’d like to take a moment and thank Dr. Barnett for several acts of kindness over the years, for the friends I have met as a result of sharing a common interest in his work and the stimulating exchanges we have had from time to time that still influence my thinking on strategy and policy. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will still be hearing from Tom in op-eds, magazines, journals, books for years to come.

Honor, Fear and Interest

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010


The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Robert B. Strassler (ed.)

As noted earlier today by Crispin at Wings over Iraq, Dan Drezner has written one of his better posts:

“The Top Three Reasons You Should Read Thucydides

3) You will recognize some recurrent patterns in history. Thucydides will help one develop a better appreciation for life in 5th century BC, but it will really help one develop an appreciation for the aspects of human nature that are unchanged through time. 

For exhibit A, consider this recent Kindred Winecoff post with respect to American soldiers, war crimes, and nativism. The relevant section…

Agreed. Human nature has not changed much since 400 BC nor has politics become more nuanced than in the days of the polis. I am also dubious that America, or most nations, for that matter, have produced leaders recently who were of the caliber of Pericles or Lysander. On the other hand, Nicias, Alcibiades, HyperbolusCritias and various bumbling Spartan Navarchs, the world appears to enjoy in spades.

It is often said that history is philosophy from examples, but in Thucydides, history is also strategy from examples. I agree with Professor Drezner that Thucydides belongs on the shortlist of books military officers should read; I’d feel a lot better when the next international crisis erupted,  if our politicians read him too. If our elected officials could at least internalize “honor, fear and interest”, it would make our foreign policy debates markedly less stupid and public expectations of policy more realistic.

Summer Series 2010: The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Summer Series 2010: Reviewing the Books! continues……

The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt

This summer I read the autobiography of America’s greatest near-great president. It was partly a memoir but mostly idiosyncratic, stream of consciousness commentary by TR, who seemingly grew bored with attempting a dry recounting of his life within the first few dozen pages and launched into a series of never-ending and generally entertaining digressions. Teddy regales the reader with honest beat cops in New York slums, crooked saloonkeeping politicians, rugged cowboys in the twilight of the Old West, ramrod straight Army officers, genteel Harvard men, desperados, captive madmen, wild animals in locales from the silence of nature to the sound of battle with orders barked over the cries of wounded men. Every story involves a fistfight, a gun, a test of integrity and manly honor where respectable men who are “right square” do their duty without complaint and few concessions, except perhaps to a glass of whiskey “taken for medicinal purposes”.

My God, to have a president like that again!

Theodore Roosevelt was an accomplished historian and polished writer and was capable of scholarly work, such as his first book on The Naval War of 1812, or of focused popular history as in his books on the West or his account of his fabled volunteers in the Spanish-American War, The Rough Riders ( I have a 1920 edition); his autobiography is not that kind of book. While historians regard Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir as the greatest written by an American president, Roosevelt’s has a different quality. His voice comes through on the pages; it is more like he is sitting in a chair in his study at Sagamore Hill, talking to you directly, gesticulating, shouting, laughing, leaping up like a jack-in-the-box, leaning forward, face fierce with emphasis and good humor.

Roosevelt would have been a natural blogger.

The autobiography has it’s weaknesses. Despite his ability to cunningly turn a phrase, TR could have used the services of a stern editor. There are parts of this book, particularly in his recounting of minor legislative battles with creatures of the New York political machines that wander at times into redundancy and tediousness. Roosevelt’s periodic expositions into public morality and social problems of his day have a weird conflation of victorian prudishness and liberal noblesse oblige that can run so contradictory that the modern reader wonders which sentiment represents Roosevelt’s real views and which have been judiciously added for public consumption. Outspoken and impetuous in person, TR’s autobiography bears the imprint of an author who has repeatedly gone back and toned down or qualified original judgments or recollections and excised names to spare others embarrassment. Roosevelt was in many ways, a product of his era and his class.

The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt is not a great book but is still a good read after over a hundred years since Teddy Roosevelt last sat in the Oval Office. That’s praise enough.

Education, an Internet Connection and Autotelic Learning

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Sugata Mitra desribes this as an example of a self-organizing system, but a more concrete way to look at it is using technology, collaborative grouping and small doses of emotional-social reinforcement to facilitate autotelicism in students. The key cognitive info is between a third to two-thirds of the way into the video:

The social component ( both student groups and the “granny cloud” of remote adult facilitators) is not a mere frill. Children, like adults, are not Vulcans The neuronal connections related to learning content information tend to be strengthened by emotional and contextual associations.


More here from Stowe Boyd on the counterintuitive results of brain research about learning.

Chicago Boyz at National Review

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

ChicagoBoyz.net has hit in the last few weeks a) The Glen Beck Program, b)  Rush Limbaugh and now, c) National Review. Jeez, a conservative trifecta if there ever was one.

James Bennett, who is in my experience, an extremely smart man and the author of The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, collaborated on the featured cover article in the latest edition of National Review.

 Lexington Green has the details:

Jim Bennett Article on Cover of National Review

Bennett NR cover

The current issue of National Review features an article by my future co-author Jim Bennett:

For decades, America had been on a course toward a more centralized society. But 1980 – with the arrival of Reagan and the departure of Carter – marked the point at which the nation reversed course. Thenceforth it would be headed in the opposite direction, toward a new vision of individualism and decentralism.

I have read Jim’s piece in draft, and I strongly suggest you read it.

I second.

Congratulations to Mr. Bennett!

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