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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Thomas P.M. Barnett, Pt. 2 of Great Powers

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HH: It’s the second in a series of conversation I am having with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett about his brand new book, Great Powers: America And The World After Bush. If you missed last week’s conversation, we covered the first two chapters. And you also missed my reintroduction to you of Dr. Barnett. He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling The Pentagon’s New Map, which changed a lot of people in the Pentagon and the government’s understanding of how the world works, and how strategy ought to be developed. His brand new book, Great Powers: America And The World After Bush is an ambitious look backwards and forwards at grand strategy throughout American history and moving forward. Dr. Barnett, welcome back. We’re covering Chapter Three tonight, perhaps the most ambitious chapter I have ever read in a political book, a geopolitical book, because you seek to summarize 220 years of American history in 70 pages.

TPMB: Well, and it’s the chapter closest to my heart. It’s really the core of the book in the sense that I thought if I was going to give Americans a deep contextualization of where we are in history, all the amazing things we’ve done and accomplished by spreading this globalization process, built, modeled very much on our system, I’d have to give them a history. And the book, the chapter really started because I read Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation, which I thought was just a brilliant, brilliant book, where he kind of gave you that sense of hey, this is who we are, this is the way we’ve always been. It was a history of the Revolution and the 19th Century. And this was the way we inevitably kind of turn out. We’re an expansive, aggressive in spreading our ideas sort of people. And I wanted to capture that in a comprehensive history. I wanted to unpack a statement I had made for years in the brief. I would stand up in front of people and say very cryptically, America is the source code of globalization, and I’d expect them to understand what the heck I was talking about, so I thought well, I’m going to write a little history of America, maybe 5,000 words. 35,000 words later, I was done.

HH: Well A) my hat is off to you. I am a great consumer of American history, and Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, and John Meacham’s new book on Jackson, and many others, Union 1812, I tell my law students they can’t understand the Constitution unless they understand early America. And I now believe they can’t understand American foreign policy, or that DNA source code, unless they also understand. So good start. Let me go to a summary. As I wrote my notes, we are…China is to us today as we were to Great Britain from 1828-1917. Fair summary?

TPMB: We are the rising power. We were the rising power like China is now. And we modeled ourselves on kind of doing the system’s great power, dominant power, one better. And China aims very similarly.

HH: And you see, I think it’s very provocative throughout the chapter. You go back to the period from 1812 through the First World War, and you compare events that happened then about which we are less than judgmental now to those which are happening now. For example, you call our first Tibet, Andrew Jackson’s removal of the Seminoles from Florida. Bracing, I mean, very provocative.

TPMB: Right, right.

HH: Explain to people what you mean.

TPMB: Well, you know, I like to compare Jackson to Putin now in the sense that he comes from a national security background, rose on a popularity for their ability to bring order and kind of progress their country’s power very dramatically. Both of them were brutal to their enemies, rewarded their friends with the political largesse. Both have no problem engaging in ethnic cleansing. Jackson clears out the southwest at the time, Alabama and Mississippi. Why? He wants access to that land. He wants to spread slavery. He wants to spread cotton. He’s an unabashed pursuer of America’s global power using the element of his age, cotton, in the same way that Putin is a brutal, you know, he has no problem doing ethnic cleansing in Chechnya, no problem making his country powerful now on the basis of oil and gas. And when you look at it like that, you can contextualize some of these players that we find ourselves dealing with today, and you can realize in some ways, they exhibit past behavior that we once did, and we can start contextualizing what they’re trying to achieve. And remember, as I like to say, everything you needed to know about globalization you can find in American history, because we are globalization in miniature.

HH: Poor Martin Van Buren, though. You compare him to Medvedev, and Van Buren was actually much more accomplished than Medvedev.

TPMB: Yes, yes. It’s the point about picking your replacement.

HH: I like that. I actually thought it was elegant.

TPMB: Which strong presidents do. I mean, Reagan did, in effect.

HH: Yup.

TPMB: Teddy Roosevelt did, in effect.

HH: Now Page 81, “In construct, then, America was built for speed for the cutting edge and for both producing and attracting ambition, our promises of equal opportunity not equal outcome. And so in our supreme optimism, we are this perpetual start up company of nations built around ideals that assume an unlimited market for personal growth.” You know, I agree with that, Thomas Barnett.

TPMB: That’s one of my favorite paragraphs in the book, if you want to know.

HH: Oh, it’s just gorgeous, but it’s Reagenesque, and I wondered…

TPMB: It is.

HH: Do you fear it’s being whittled away, these days of economic distress and unease?

TPMB: Well, you know, Reagan kicked off, I wasn’t much of a fan of Reagan being a college student at the time, which was unusual, because college students actually voted for Reagan 60-40 in that time frame. But I went to the University of Wisconsin, which was a fairly radical place at the time. Reagan kicked off thirty years of deregulation. And I would argue history’s going to judge what he did to the global economy almost in as big a light as what he accelerated with the Soviet Union, what he and Thatcher did. I mean, their deregulation, their opening up of things, their spreading the markets. Clinton did a good job of this as well. I mean, we radically and rapidly spread our ideas of kind of unfettered markets, so-called Washington consensus of the 1990s, across the planet. Was it ready for it? No, but better to get as much out there when you have the opportunity afforded by history to press your case, break through the line, deal with the aftermath as it comes. Now we’re in one of those situations, first global recession since 1982. But this time, we’re in a real global economy, and so we’re going to reach for more controls. Will we inevitably trim them back and kind of reach for another Reagan character down the road a bit? I think so, because we go back and forth on this stuff.

HH: I’m talking with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett. His new book, Great Powers: America And The World After Bush, provocative, eminently readable, and persuasive in many, many aspects which I hope my colleagues on the center-left read, especially with regards to free trade, because…

TPMB: Yeah.

HH: …there’s a paean on here, a continual endorsement on your part of the necessity of open markets and vigorous, vigorous international trade.

TPMB: Absolutely.

HH: And some are shying away from that right now, Dr. Barnett.

TPMB: Absolutely, and it pains me to see it, but again, we went through thirty years of deregulation. Is that going to continue ad nauseum? No. We had a twenty six, seven year run of a global boom. Could that continue forever? No. Bad habits tend to accumulate. People on Wall Street have short memories. It’s a young man’s game. Pretty soon, they’re inventing new instruments that go a little over the edge. They naturally exploit them. We’ve got to clean up a bunch of stuff just like, say, a Roosevelt, Teddy, comes in and cleans up things in his time frame.

HH: Teddy and Truman are clearly your standards for exceptional American presidential leadership.

TPMB: Theodore Roosevelt is, you know, and I’m kind of amazed other than Edmond Morris’ brilliant two volume biography, that he hasn’t gotten just that much more treatment by American historians. And we don’t really have great kind of movie presentations of him. This is one of the most fascinating people that’s ever assumed the presidency, master of about a dozen languages, could speak with leaders in their home languages, wrote dozens of scholarly books, wrote one of the best Naval histories of the time. It was mandated to be in the officers’ quarters of every ship on the Navy. This is before Alfred Thayer Mahan even writes his first books and achieves his fame. Roosevelt had already done it. He had led amazing amounts of reform from the lowest political rungs on the ladder all the way up to the most kind of grand strategic ambitions as assistant secretary of the Navy, founded a conservation movement, led special operations forces in battle. I mean, the guy was just unreal. And what I found so fascinating about him on a personal scale is that you know, you think about the Western, the American reconstruction after the Civil War, and Heather Cox Richardson makes a brilliant point in her book, West After Appomattox, great history, it’s not the North imposing on the South. It’s the East integrating the West that gets us the Western man, the Western ideal, the Western center of gravity on our political system, and the middle class ideology that sustains us still. What I love about Roosevelt is he’s a perfect embodiment of that, born three years before the Civil War, Northern father, the famous Roosevelts, the Dutch from New York, Southern mother, okay, ashamed his dad didn’t serve, and actually bought his way out of service of the Civil War. His mother and his first wife die on the same night, okay? And this guy pretty much has a total mental breakdown, disappears, can’t deal with his newborn daughter, gives her to his sister, heads west, and heals himself and becomes the quintessential Western American male. He is a cowboy, okay, and that’s how he defines himself, and that’s how he unifies and comes out of the disaster of his personal life, almost embodying the very same reconstruction that American goes through after the Civil War. So he’s just a fascinating character, and Truman is, you know, close.

– – – –

HH: And I turn now to a couple of those. One of them, your appreciation for Lincoln’s legislative legacy, and this is a lot overlooked because of his generalship and his command of the Civil War. But you write, “He unleashed,” he didn’t write this, but I conclude it, I wrote it in my notes, that you praise Lincoln for unleashing continentalization in much the same way that Reagan and others unleash globalization…

TPMB: Right.

HH: And to me, it’s a profound insight. We have done to this continent what we are now doing to the world.

TPMB: In effect. You know, you trace that kind of American system of conquering the continent back to a Hamilton, very ambitious guy, it’s picked up by Henry Clay and the Whigs who used railroads and canals. Lincoln grew up idolizing Henry Clay, thought he was going to become, as a one-term congressman, he dreamed of becoming the DeWitt Clinton of Illinois…

HH: A famous governor of New York, yeah.

TPMB: …of New York who set in motion the Erie Canal, which I will tell you, visiting my mother in law in Terre Haute, you can find remnants of the Erie Canal going all the way to Terre Haute, almost exactly to the Illinois border. His dream was to make an Illinois system of canals. So I mean, he had this mindset of there’s no limit on opportunities, we need to integrate this economy and we need to push it westward, we need to be all we can be. And he frontloads, very cleverly, the reconstruction of the United States, a handful of just monumental legislation, 1862, a single Congress. He does the Homestead Act, where he basically gives away 10% of America over the next 35-40 years. Out of the 32 million people who come to America between 1862 and 1890, one out of every 16 settles on land thanks to that act. He creates the Pacific Railroad Act, which you know, first trans-continental railroad, Morrill Act, which provided public lands for land grant colleges like the one I went to, University of Wisconsin, the Legal Tender Bill, which is an amazing one. I like to remind people we did it 136 years before the EU came up with a single currency, because before 1862, it was all bank notes…

HH: Right.

TPMB: And there were 8,000 or so different bank note varieties floating around the United States. This guy had to raise about a half a billion dollars fast to deal with the Civil War. He creates what are called, and still understood, as the greenbacks, you know, the bucks. And then he does the first Treasury bonds, the early forerunner of the Internal Revenue Service. I mean, it’s just, he does an amazing amount of construction in terms of the modern state as we understand it. And it really kind of lies somewhat fallow until you get to a Teddy Roosevelt who regrades the competitive landscape, the trust busting, you know, all the new agencies to do product liability, product safety and all that kind of pure Food And Drug Act, Meat Inspection Act, acting on Upton Sinclair, the jungle sorts of things, in many ways, sort of where China is now. And if I was going to say China needed, it’s one thing desperately, they need a Teddy Roosevelt, and they need him quick.

HH: Now what’s very interesting to me, I second that, is that your assessment of Wilson is as subtle and as unrestrained in its criticism as well of his praise as is necessary. Did you read Jonah Goldberg’s book, American Fascism by chance?

TPMB: No, I did not.

HH: It’s worth your time at some point, because he’s got the same, this is what you need to know about Wilson and why he failed when he went abroad with his system, and why he could not be political. But I want to jump up to Nixon and Reagan, because again, I didn’t expect this in Great Powers. I’m an old Nixon guy, worked for him 1978-1980, and again when we built his library. So I know this, but your appreciation for Nixon is very surprising to me, and how he set up Reagan. Explain to people.

TPMB: Well, Nixon was arguably the turning point of the Cold War. You really have to think of the Second World War as unfinished business in many ways, in Europe, unsettled question of Berlin, unsettled question of a divided Germany, the great possibility of war, the build up of nuclear weapons on both sides, the brinksmanship that went on. And Nixon came in and really looked at that system, and he said I’ve got to free up our ability to maneuver in this system. We’re kind of trapped into this dialogue and into this dynamic with the Soviets, and then we’re trapped into this Vietnam thing, which I think he correctly understood was not going to be the big strategic be all and end all that it had become as a result of kind of too blindly militarizing George Kennan’s concepts of containment. So he went at the nervousness of the Russians with regard to the Chinese, and made that great opening largely to get him more maneuverability vis-à-vis the Soviets on that basis, because it was so effective, it so frightened the Soviets. He quickly concludes the World War II uncertainty that remained in Europe. And by getting the Soviets to basically sign their first true treaty with the United States my old mentor at Harvard, Adam Ulam, basically says that’s the end of them. That’s the end of the world’s socialist movement. They cut their first deal with the Devil, it is done.

HH: And by the time I got out to San Clemente in 1980, we wrote The Real War, he has a chapter in there, I don’t know if you’ve read this, where the moment hard-headed détente got dollars into circulation, they were doomed, and you pick up on that in Great Powers.

TPMB: Right, I mean, he infects them with the dollar, and its meaning, its meaning, it’s price, okay? The Soviet system, as long as it was isolated, could produce largely garbage that nobody valued. But because there was no external pricing discovery, the Soviets could say this was worth whatever it was worth. And because they had a captive nation, a collection of nations, they could basically dictate to those nations what the value of their goods were. As soon as the dollar started sneaking in there, it created an inflationary effect, and it created an alternative currency inside the Soviet Union, the so-called hard ruble versus the pretend ruble, which was so bad, you know, the Soviets admit to us now that they looked at CIA estimates of their own defense spending, because they were interested to see how much they were actually spending on their defense. That’s how little they knew about their own system. So he sets them up in such a way that when Reagan comes along, and they’re already addicted to oil exports by this time, Reagan engages in collusion with the Saudis to bring down the price of oil. He’s attacking them across the board in a very clever, cheap outsourcing kind of way. We don’t do Vietnams. We pay the local rebels to do the insurgencies for us, is Reagan doctrine. He’s got the Soviets pressured all over the system, including in Afghanistan. They’re tremendously extended, they have all these subsidies to Eastern Europe, they’re exposed to these export earnings through oil, he depresses the oil on them, and then at the same time, he’s going look, I’ve got this Star Wars. You may not believe it, you’re not quite sure if I believe it. You just know we’re the cleverest people on the planet, and we beat you to the Moon. You’ll never be quite sure if we can actually pull this off, I’m going to ram this down your throat as a possibility. And then the worst thing he does for them, which I think he’s very underappreciated for, and where Nancy Reagan gets a big assist, is after his near-death experience at the hands of Hinkley, he starts to think about his legacy, and then he does to the Soviets what they always said they did to us – he denies them an enemy, and unleashes Gorbachev upon their system.

– – – –

HH: It’s an 85 page chapter on American history, Dr. Barnett. But without it, I gather, it’s your assumption the reader’s simply going to be lost as to the arguments you’re going to make further in.

TPMB: It is the intellectual anchor. I mean, I can contextualize Bush to a certain extent, I can try to give you a sense of where we need to go forward, but if I start describing these big realignments in the subsequent chapters and I haven’t given you a sense of our accomplishment up to now, you know, then I encounter the sort of hostility I get on Diane Rehm’s show, not from her, she’s a wonderful host, but from her callers today who are so vehemently attached to the notion of American empire and who are we to claim exceptionalism. I mean, what we did to Europe after the Second World War, we financed their recovery, Marshall Plan, we had them outsource their security we take care of them vis-à-vis the Soviets. Fast forward to 1980, the West is 10-15% of humanity, it controls 70% of the productive power in the global economy. We set such a shining example on that small population base, we attract the attention of Deng Xiaoping in China, he says I’m looking at this system, I’m looking who’s winning, I’m looking who’s losing, the Soviets. I’m going to marketize, I’m going to open China up. When that happens, you know, the international liberal trade order that FDR sets in motion, that Truman defends with great wisdom and great restraint, not only being the guy who uses nuclear weapons, but the guy who first refuses them and defines limited war on that basis, that International Liberal Trader Order becomes the West, hugely successful, becomes globalization with China’s vote, around 1979. Now we’re looking at what? I mean, a lot of debt to be sure, we’re overstretched militarily and we need to recalibrate those things, but for the first time in human history, Britain, France, Germany, Russian, in Europe, not at war, no prospects of war, prosperous, integrating, peaceful. In Asia, India, China, Japan, Korea, all prosperous, moving in the right direction compared to what they had before, all of them peaceful, no real discussion of great power war. We have ended in a historical sense, I mean, I’m not going to say it’s never going to happen, never be possible, but we have created the end of great power war for all practical purposes across the Eurasian land mass for all of the great powers.

HH: And this is the greatest recommendation I give to the book is its ringing defense of the International Liberal Trade Order is one I hope is exported to the far reaches of the Democratic Party, and that they really think on it, because it’s in peril right now. And I want to go to the man who’s not here. If you read through these 85 pages, I don’t know that Jimmy Carter is mentioned. He might have been. But he’s just not there. Why not?

TPMB: Well, Carter like Ford, although Ford gets credit, although it’s really you’re really crediting Henry Kissinger for the Helsinki Accord and the Helsinki movement.

HH: Yes.

TPMB: …and all that packaging which is something I point out we need to do for the Middle East, because we don’t focus on human rights enough in the Middle East, especially women’s rights. But Carter, you know, Carter is in essentially a healing period. And a certain amount of reflection from the admittedly over the top ambitions inside the domestic political scene with Nixon and the so-called imperial presidency, which has a short shelf life. He does get credit for starting some of the defense build up, but I mean, what happened with him was that we sort of decided we weren’t going to pursue the Soviet rivalry in the same way, and they became emboldened across the late 1970s, and that’s when they made their last, big grasp…

HH: You do chart that, but you don’t connect it up to Carter’s refusal to play the game, even if badly. He just kind of sat it out.

TPMB: Yeah, no, and in many ways, that’s what I disliked about the dynamics that was happening with Bush after Katrina. I felt like he had become so disabled, he reminded me almost of Carter kind of trapped in the White House obsessing over the hostages. And we have to be careful not to let our presidents go down those paths.

HH: But after that, of course, comes the surge, Dr. Barnett.

TPMB: Excuse me?

HH: After that comes the surge.

TPMB: Well you know, I do give Bush credit for the surge, but in many ways, there was an outsourcing function there where the generals stepped up in a big, big way.

HH: All right, let’s leave that aside, because I want to make sure we cover the history.

TPMB: Sure.

HH: You write in here that we always underestimated the Soviets, overestimated the Soviets and underestimated our own economic power. And when we come back from the break, I want to talk to you about whether or not you think we’re doing that again vis-à-vis the jihadists.

– – – –

HH: I left the last segment, Dr. Barnett, by saying look, one of the arguments of Chapter Three in Great Powers is that we always overestimated the Soviets, underestimated our economic power. Are you setting up an argument that we’re doing the same thing now vis-à-vis the jihadists and the theocracies of the Middle East?

TPMB: Right. I mean, one of the things I point out in a later chapter is if the Middle East has us over a barrel of oil, and they don’t really have us particularly, but the world, you know, then America has the rest of the world over a bread basket, because we’re basically the OPEC of grain now. I mean, we forget about that, that we’re such a huge supplier of the movable feast that makes this world run, and in a global warming scenario, we’re likely to be even more important along with Canada. So we tend to underestimate our body strength, our rough, raw material strengths, and then we consistently underestimate our ability to innovate. And that’s the resilience argument I make in a later chapter about our cities, our networks, they’re built to survive, they’re built to handle complexity, they’re always being tested by growth strains, by our own bad designs in certain instances, but to kind of cede control over our economy and our sense of future and our sense of ability to master the complexity that is globalization by saying these guerrillas, these global guerrillas, as John Robb calls them, or these insurgents, a global insurgency, another buzz phrase, al Qaeda is going to run the world, I think it just vastly overestimates their networks. And truth be told, their ability to disrupt our systems almost never, very rarely, rises above the white noise of what we do to ourselves on a regular basis.

HH: Well, let me stop there. At one point in this chapter, you write, “The outcome of the resulting worldwide struggle between us and the Soviets was never really in doubt.” And here’s the key line. “…just occasionally threatened by the illogic of great power war in a nuclear age,” which is a reference, of course, to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we came damn close to blowing the whole thing up.

TPMB: Right.

HH: The difference between then and now is that Khrushchev was a rational actor who did not want to die, whereas we now may have suicide nations in the phrase of I think Reuel Marc Gerecht or someone else, that we have to contend with who are off the map when it comes to great power calculation. Tell me why I’m wrong.

TPMB: I’m impressed by that argument if you’re talking transnational actors, nihilists who have no hope of making their home happen, they’re just never going to win. Those guys have got nothing to lose by making a weapon of mass destruction happen. If your reference is slyly to Iran, then I’m very reticent to extrapolate suicidal nations from suicide bombers, because I saw Japan do suicide bombers like crazy. That was my dad’s big fear serving in the Pacific in World War II. But when push came to shove, they were not a suicidal nation. You know, Iran’s been around for about five hundred years. I don’t like to make that sort of assumption. But quite frankly, we’ve got to be willing to pull that lever if that’s what it comes to.

HH: Dr. Barnett, they weren’t a suicide nation after they were pulverized by Harry Truman. That…they were a suicide nation up until that point. Does that…

TPMB: They reached the limits of their pain.

HH: After nuclear weapons. We don’t want to go there, though.

TPMB: And where you have your best conversation on this subject is the question of can we demonstrate clearly to the Iranians absent some sort of direct conflict with them what are the true limits of that?

HH: Exactly.

TPMB: Right. And that’s where it does get tricky. But the stand off we have with the Middle East is certainly no worse, and I would argue a whole lot better, than the stand off we had between us and the Soviets in Western Europe, where the Soviets had huge conventional advantages, and they had pretty sizable nuclear forces, where you could argue they had numerical superiority there. In the Middle East, you’re talking an Israel that has a superior conventional force. I mean, to me, only the hysterics really argue that Iran has a better force. It hasn’t been used in a long time. The Israelis use theirs on a regular basis, train at a hugely high standard. The Israelis have a couple hundred nuclear warheads. Iran may get two or three over the next eight to ten years. But is that a situation we cannot deter? I would rather roll up their influence in Gaza, in Syria and Lebanon, and make them feel that pressure and that pain through that sort of containment, in combination with a vigorous threat in terms of deterrence, and a firm siding with the Israelis that says in effect, our nuclear umbrella is your umbrella as well. And on that basis, you know, I think we’re logically heading, I don’t think we can stop it, toward something in the next eight to ten years that probably features a quartet of nuclear powers – Turkey, the Saudis, who we suspect a certain amount of cooperation between those two right now, in addition to Iran, in addition to Israel. If I want Israel recognized, there’s my opportunity, because you can’t have that situation, the external world won’t allow it, the Russias, the Chinas, the Indias who rely on that stability and that energy coming out of there. There’s your chance to create the détente-like moment, and force certain hands, and finally get some real peace.

HH: Well, we’re going to have to come back, that’s a full program I’m sure down the road, but I want to put to you your prediction on Page 155, because it’s optimistic, I want people to know you make it. You compare Ahmadinejad’s Iran to Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. You actually predict Ahmadinejad’s defeat in the elections this year. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen, or that it’s consequential. But I like the first argument. Do you really think this regime can collapse as quickly as Gorbachev’s did?

TPMB: I think they’re into their second and third generation. We see this a lot in revolutionary powers. They’ve not really been successful in replicating themselves anywhere. They buy their allegiance with Hezbollah and Hamas. Theirs is a marriage of convenience, but there’s no real ideological devotion to Tehran. Tehran doesn’t represent the center of any larger revolution. Where they’ve tried to export revolution, they’ve failed dramatically. They’ve lost the people, hugely. I mean, people who travel in Iran will tell you the same stories of me, Lenin and the Soviet Union in 1985, you know, the mullahs pretend to rule, the population very young, highly consumeristic, needs unmet. That’s the kind of place, and that’s one of the reasons why my company and I are so ambitious to make the Kurds kind of a bastion of markets and capitalism in the region, because we think we can do more to mess up Iran, I would argue, by making that strong connection in Kurdish Iraq, and letting the Turks exploit that connectivity to that underserved market. I mean, that’s where I think you can really start divorcing the people from the rulers, and marginalizing the theocracy there.

– – – –

HH: I’m broadcasting them at different hours in the course of the day, first second and third, so that the audience has a chance to hear some of it so that they can catch the enthusiasm for the book and pick it up. And then you can always go to the podcasts, and Duane does a great job with the transcripts (yes, he does, doesn’t he?) to be able to find out what we’ve talked about, if you want to backfill or forward fill. Dr. Barnett, I want to conclude this short segment by reading from Page 156.

TPMB: Okay.

HH: “If you had told the Sovietologist back in his late 1980s grad school days that we would fast forward to a future where the European Union was successfully integrating former Warsaw Pact states, and where the Chinese economic interests were penetrating Central Asia, and the biggest problem we’d faced along the way were a minor conflagration in the Balkans, the usual Russian nastiness in the Caucuses, and resurgent nationalism and authoritarian rule in Moscow, I would have considered you fantastically optimistic, perhaps even under the influence.” You know, that’s a remarkable and important perspective to put on every now and then.

TPMB: It is.

HH: And expand on it a little bit.

TPMB: Well you know, I’m going to college, 1980-1984, and I remember distinctly the film The Day After, and the amount of dread and fear and realization that we were still trapped in this sort of possibility. And then you go forward, jeepers, just seven years, and boom, it is all gone. And so when we look at the threat represented by radical Islam, and we realize compared to the Soviet terror networks and the sponsorship, and the Soviet spy system and the amazing mole system they had here in the United States, relative to that, we are facing the most pathetic anti-globalization roadblock, road bump, speed bump, compared to anything else we’ve faced prior. Staring down fascism, staring down communism, this is the easiest package we’ve got yet, and that globalization which is driving that resistance is a rapidly and expanding into the Middle East. We should be more optimistic about where we’re going. We should be more confident in what got us here, and we should have a lot more pride and a lot more faith in the markets that have driven our expansion and our wealth, and have lifted hundreds of million of people out of poverty in the last 25 years globally. I mean, it’s just, if that’s exceptionalism, then no apologies for it, and we are the first multinational political and economic and security union. It doesn’t mean we invented globalization. It means we have the most experience, and we should recognize the rules that we make to make this country so well and so efficiently, and we forget it when we have a crisis or we have a downturn. Those are still our greatest exports to the planet. So the choices we make now during this tremendous economic crisis says a lot to the world about where the world is going. We underestimate the power of our example, which is why it’s so crucial to maintain some faith in markets.

HH: On that note, Dr. Barnett, thank you. Great Powers: America And The World After Bush, must reading. Our third conversation sometime next week, check at Hughhewitt.com.

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