Friday, August 20, 2004

A Whole New Perspective on Life
Although I've mentioned a number of books in the course of my blogging, this is the first time I've felt compelled to review one here. The book in question might at first seem slightly off-topic, but I believe that anyone contemplating the future of the global energy industry needs to consider the ideas it contains. "The Pentagon's New Map," by Thomas Barnett, creates a coherent, comprehensive model of the world in which we now live, and in which we are likely to find ourselves for some time.

Barnett's worldview is the equivalent of a Grand Unified Theory for geopolitics in the 21st century, and he achieves this by looking ahead at least as much as he looks back. He takes into account the effects of globalization, regional demographics, energy and capital flows, jihadist movements, the War on Terror, the Iraq War, and almost everything else, with the possible exception of environmentalism, and distills them into a map and a set of dynamics and strategies that explain where we are heading. His concept of the "Core" (the countries in which globalization works) and the "non-integrating Gap" (those countries that are poorly connected and whose leaders may want them to stay that way) is brilliant in its simplicity.

Even better, Dr. Barnett lays out a positive scenario for the future that doesn't require pretending that the last several years never happened. As a professional scenario planner, I think that's a big deal. Ever since 9/11, I've really struggled to see a happier future we can actually reach from where we are. Barnett presents realistic, if difficult pathways toward a better world, as Pollyannish as that may sound.

I won't say that this book will change the life of everyone who reads it, though it has certainly shifted and uplifted my own outlook. While much of it deals with the military, it is by no means exclusively a military book. If, like me, you feel that our leaders have done a poor job of explaining our course to us and to the world, then you should find this book of particular interest. Highly recommended.

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