Skip to comments."Pentagon's New Map" author Thomas Barnett forced to depart War College.
Posted on 12/29/2004 3:07:26 PM PST by AndyJackson
Naval War College Professor Thomas Barnett has been one of the leading thinkers behind the Revolution in Military Affairs and the transformation of the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. He is the author of the bestselling book "The Pentagon's New Map," which is a clear exposition of our new post-war political/military environmnet. He has appeared on CSPAN and in many other prominent forums.
Of course, Dr. Barnett has attracted some of the hatred directed at Donald Rumsfeld. While some of this is from liberals a lot of the enmity against Rumsfeld derives from Pentagon insiders who cannot figure out that we actually won the cold war. Nevertheless, I was angered and appalled to read that Dr. Barnett is being forced out of his position at the Naval War College because of those vested interests routed in past force structures. This is wrong. We cannot afford to suppress the debate over the future of our armed forces in this manner.
I quote from his weblog below.
Facing unemployment on Christmas Eve
Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 24 December 2004
I know, I know. Yesterday's cryptically poetic sign-off was supposed to hold until Sunday. But you should know by now that I never keep those promises. If I'm near a PC and there's access, I will write. [Then there's the small pile of six articles I'm really dying to blog.]
I woke up this morning realizing I don't have a job anymore, I'm not exactly rolling in cash (understatement), I've got four kids and two car payments and a good-size mortgage, and it's Christmas Eve, which now means I get to watch everybody open presents tonight and tomorrow morning wondering how I'm going to pay for it all (okay, an overstatement there).
I guess I'm in a little bit of a shock. I mean, I knew, in a long-term sense looking ahead, that the path I was on would make it hard for me to stay at the college. I knew that.
But looking back in a long-term sense, as one is wont to do at the end of a year (it's all that "year-end" and "year in review" stuff), I guess I'm stunned to realize that PNM's success meant I had to leave the college. That just wasn't a decision point that I could accurately spot, even as the logic of its emergence was stunningly clear.
The choice is basically this: don't write the second book and stay, or write the second book and go. I understand the college's position, but let's be very clear here: if I had written a book that no one read and sold the usual academic total of about 500-1,000 volumes, then the question of the second book would have never been raised. And frankly, even if it had, the money involved would have been so small that it wouldn't have mattered. In that instance, the choice between a steady paycheck and the lack of one would have been easy. There would have been a barrel, and I would have been straddling it uncomfortably.
So, in reality, it's all about the money for both sidesat least when the choice is put to me in terms of write-book-versus-keep-your-job. Did it have to come down to that choice for the college? I understand the notion of better safe than sorry, and I watched Anonymous score on his book and he had to go, so I guess I understand than when I score decently on mine, I have to go too. It is a weird territory to be both a government analyst and a successful author. I know that. No matter how honest you are in that process, people are going to wonder about you, and some are going to think the worst simply because they can't imagine anything else.
I know I've done nothing wrong to date, and I've got a tall stack of legal documents (God, it's good sometimes to be so anal) reflecting a huge number of decision-points all along the way where superiors and lawyers signed to that effect (not to mention six and a half years of personnel reviews that make it sound like I walk on water). But no one is willing to sign to that effect regarding the future, and that's why this relationship no longer works. Again, I understand the reticence on the college's side: it's one thing when it's an academic book and it's another thing when it's a New York Times bestseller that everyone's talking about inside the Pentagon. It's simply a different standard. All of us can claim we had no idea about how big the first book would be, but none of us can claim that about the second. It doesn't matter how honest you've been up to now, the danger is simply the appearance from here on out, and I can't control nor prevent suspicions driven by personal enmity. I've changed some in this process, but how I'm treated by everyone has changed dramatically, and to deny that change is to pretend the success of the first book didn't happen. So even if I wanted to do research at the college in the way I've done in the past, how others would treat me in this process likely makes that goal an impossibility. I can't go back to what I was before PNM. I simply have to move on.
So as time passes and the sense of shock and anger over the decision point fades, there won't be any hard feelings on my part toward the institution. It did well for me and it certainly did well by me. But in the end, their definition and my definition of "did well by me" started to diverge dramatically. What I saw as demand from the rest of the Defense Department, military commands, the rest of the U.S. Government, media, the private-sector, the college began to see as a diversion of my talents. I assumed the college would welcome the PR, the stature, the reputation of being home to someone in such demand, and it did to a certain extent. But that demand creates fissures that eventually overcame that sense of shared pride, and that process was fundamentally driven by the success of the book.
It's the oldest story in the book, and it reflects a fundamental reality that I've preached about for years: failure is easy to handle (especially for a nice Irish Catholic boy like myself), success is hard. Failure you trust, because you just know you deserve it! Success, that's what creates doubt.
And that's what's inescapable here. The book changed everything. A modest book doesn't, but PNM does. It creates opportunities, exposure, demands, requests, and pressures, and eventually that culmination of events changes the conversation with your employer. They want certain things, you want certain things, and then you're told you have to choose.
Fair enough, I chose the second book.
I've got ten days to reconsider. The college, in the personage of one senior leader, is wise enoughand kind enoughto demand that interregnum. And I will think about it long and hard.
But I think all that thinking will lead me to the same conclusion: the second book is something I feel very strongly about, and the feeling I get from that beats the feeling I get from the college about my future there. And that's the real sign here. That's when you're supposed to leave one job situation and take up the challenge of another: you feel like the old place just doesn't do it for you anymore and that something else that's possible will do it for you much better.
So I try not to kid myself. The college forced the choice but I forced the college to enunciate that choice, through PNM's success and the sense that the second book could expand things even further. I'm certainly not some passive rider on this train of events. I set the whole damn thing in motion simply by wanting to reach the larger audience with a message I felt compelled to craft.
Why work through the emotions?
First, it pays to be as clear and honest with yourself as possible. Self-delusion is always dangerous, but especially so at big decision points like this.
Second, to walk away from any job situation always takes getting your blood up on some level: you have to hate the old in order to embrace the new. But being self-aware in the process means you should be able to get past that point as quickly as possible. I don't hate the college. I loved working there. It changed me dramatically from what I was when I came here to what I am now as I leave, and I'm very grateful for that. The circumstances of detachment could have been better, but the timing and the outcome is essentially good: it worked until it stopped working. You can't ask for anything moreexcept of course, no hard feelings and a sense of mutual respect. And I trust both are there, just waiting to be recognized.
Third, I need my head clear of this sort of turmoil to write the second book. Having my status in doubt at the college was stressfulfor both sides. This break will be clean and simpleagain, it worked until both sides found that it could no longer work. The college had things to protect, and so do Isomething I will be thinking about as I watch my kids open presents over the next 24 hours.
Fourth, I do like a sense of drama in my life. Just before I wrote PNM I had throat surgery that was simply horrendous in terms of the recovery: unbelievable pain with swallowing and a very hard time with the pain killers (which tend to depress me emotionally the older I get). When I came out of the far side of that experience, I was scared, but I was also about as clear-headed as I could be. I had thought long and hard about mortality, in part because of the terrible two-weeks of recovery and in part because I knew my father was engaged in the long slow process of death at age 80. So when I came out of that emotional journey, I was more than ready to write the book. In many ways, I fundamentally sought out the surgery at that point in time to have that experience at that point in time. I was watching my Dad suffer horrifically from sleep apnea (it contributed mightily to his death spiral), and the surgery was designed to head off that possibility decades in advance. In my mind, having the surgery was detaching me from that scenario pathway, and in that sense allowed me to process my Dad's coming death so that my head would be clear to write the book. I just needed a break from all that dread and fear and sense of impending loss. I needed to fence off a creative space in which I both ignored those emotions and yet somehow tapped into them to say the things I knew I wanted and needed to say in the book. PNM was to be my book for the ages, the book that defined my sense of legacy, the statement that would allow me to face death knowing I had had my say. And in some ways, I wanted it to be my Father's statement as wellthrough me. I wanted him to feel that sense of accomplishment through me as he faced death, which I knew scared him terribly as it scares anyoneeven when armed with tremendous faith in God.
You start a paragraph like that thinking you're writing one thing and then you realize something so much more profound by the time you manage to hit the return key.
But that, in a nutshell, is why I choose the second book over the college. Writing like that, where the mix of personal and professional is willingly blurred, not only pleases me, it grows me as a person.
I can't write any more impersonal government reports. I simply can't express myself anymore in the third person. I knew that on 9/11. As I sat down to my PC that afternoon, just before they closed the base, I stared into my screen at the draft final report of the third workshop of the New Rule Sets Project, held just weeks before on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, and I could not type a single word. I tried time and time again over the subsequent weeks, and each time my fingers got on the keyboard they simply froze. I felt the report would be so meaningless. I felt I had so much more I needed to say and history needed to hearspoken in the first person.
That's why I leapt at Mark Warren's suggestion in that Greek restaurant in NYC the week before I started writing PNM; he said, "you have to make this book an autobiography of your vision." After the process of the surgery and the mental journey of processing my Father's impending death, I was ready to hear that messageand act on it.
By both passively and actively setting in motion the various trajectories that led to yesterday's culminating meeting about my future at the college, I created not only a similar turning point in my life, I made a profound choice about who I am going to be and what I am going to say and how I am going to say it.
And as scared as I felt this morning when I woke up, I feel very much at peace now for having written this.
I love Thomas Barnett!! THIS STINKS!!
What a bright individual.
I love his Pentagons New Map idea.
BTTT. My Dad went to Navy War College in 1977-78. I haven't kept up with what's going on there, but I'll read this through later or tomorrow.
I know a faculty member at Naval War College. He has been an associate prof ever since he left my university . . . something like 15 years ago!
After PNM it seems like he would be rolling in money. Does he not receive the proceeds for that? Either way, this sounds like shabby treatment of a brilliant man.
A reasonably successful book will pay the bills for a while, but this is not "Hunt for Red October," and besides we need him on the inside.
This will be a rough patch for an important military thinker. On the bright side, it will be temporary. He will make larger contributions later and elsewhere. He can then look back at his NWC days and say, "Thank you".
Make every "knock" a "boost".
The problem is that he has made a lot of arguments for why there is not a lot of need for a really big army with a lot of really heavy armor. So, no, he is not popular in some circles.
I ended up buying a C-Span CD of Brian Lamb's interview with Barnett. Its great and I highly recommend anyone interested in some solutions to world problems - as both Barnett and Rumsfeld are - get a copy.
What I would really like to see is C-Span run his "lecture" again so I could tape it - its got the "specific solutions" and "government organizational proposals" that the Lamb interview doesn't get into.
I first became aware of Barnett listening to CSPAN and looked him up. Then I felt really stupid that I didn't already know about him.
I was never impressed by the PNM. I am glad they told the guy to do his job or write another book, take his choice.
This guy obviously feels the need to write down everything that come to his mind in a very self indulgent manner.
And your problem with it is??
And your problem with PNM is?
I'm not sure that http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/topten.htm (top 10 cold war myths, from Feb. 2001) was so spot-on. But then again, who else knew?
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