Thomas P.M. Barnett is a contributing editor for Esquire. In addition to this, he has authored the book The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, and has written for multiple news outlets, including Esquire, Wired, and the Washington Post.
His hands-on experience involved him working as strategic planner on national security affairs since the end of the Cold War. He also started his own consulting practice, Barnett Consulting, back in 1998.
Simon Owens: You seem to have a lot more credentials than the average blogger. Do you find that this gains you a lot more respect in the blogging world?
Thomas P.M. Barnett: Not so much in the blogging world per se. I just think my blog tends to attract a higher percentage of professionals than other blogs. Our data from the blog, as well as from others, suggests that my blog tends to attract readers who don’t read a lot of other blog, although I think that will be less true with time. The real attraction with my blog is, in my opinion, my willingness to be transparent about the evolution of my thinking. I think the mechanics of my analytical process attracts reades as much as the content. Then again, the fact that I chronicle my work as a strategist and consultant is interesting to readers as well, and that’s obviously something you can share if you’re a professional vice someone who’s into the material more as an avocation.
Simon Owens: How did you go about becoming an editor for Esquire, and have your articles there raised a lot of controversy?
Thomas P.M. Barnett: I was named the “Strategist” in the inaugural “Best and Brightest” edition back in 2002. That led to an invitation to brief the staff. That led to my first piece in the magazine, “The Pentagon’s New Map,” in March 2003. The huge response to that article led to my getting a literary agent. That led to a book contract, and I signed up Mark Warren, the executive editor of Esquire, to be my editor on the book. After those two great collaborations, it seemed naturally to write more articles for Esquire, which I did, and when the Naval War College asked me to leave in December 2004, Esquire and Warren pre-emptively named me a Contributing Editor, as they were eager to have me keep writing for the magazine no matter what else I pursued. I’ve been awfully happy with that decision.
The articles promote a certain amount of controversy, but that’s good for book sales, the blog, and getting gigs to give speeches, so it all works rather synergistically. The key for my writing in Esquire has been, they ask me to write exactly as I speak. That was a huge leap for me, and it’s why the two books have been successful, I think.
Simon Owens: This sounds like a corny question, but given your expertise, I have to ask: Is world peace possible?
Thomas P.M. Barnett: The global nuclear threat I grew up with is gone. State-on-state wars of the classical variety (A invades neighbor B) has gone the way of the dinosaur, save for a few states in Africa. We still see the need for the U.S. and coalition partners to play Leviathan regularly, but those wars we’ll win easily, leaving the postwar peace for us to get better at. Those postwar situations will be like most of the remaining violence in the system: featuring transnational and subnational actors, but no real opponent nation-states. That means we’re down in the weeds, strategically speaking. Yes, our soldiers will be lost, though the numbers will never come close to matching the sort of frequency we suffered in WWII, or even Vietnam, which is–of course–better but not good enough. And yes, there will still be plenty of killing going on in the world, but primarily within dictatorships and failed states, so we’re basically down to the last rotten cases, fairly concentrated in those handful of regions I call the Non-Integrating Gap. None a serious direct threat to us, save through the extension of transnational terrorism, but all very tough nuts to crack in terms of bringing lasting peace, which only comes with sustainable economic development. I believe we can master even all of those remaining situations within a generation’s time, if America and the rest of the Core commit themselves to “shrinking the Gap” and integrating all those states currently disconnected from, or poorly connected to, the Functioning Core of the global economy (old West plus rising East and South).
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own?)