Thomas P.M. Barnett Quotes

  1. Despite living in this post-9/11 age of transnational terrorism, the risk of death during air travel has plummeted to the point where we now measure it in the ‘per billions’ of passengers.
  2. Women waited 144 years before earning suffrage. If a mature, multiparty democracy was so darn easy, everybody would have one.
  3. An economically confident America has – since becoming a world power at the start of the 20th century – tended toward global engagement. It is during times of economic stress (1930s, 1970s) that America has become more withdrawn.
  4. An Obama administration truly looking to break with the molds of the past would stop treating Africa as an obligation and start treating it as globalization’s next great opportunity, understanding that Chinese – along with Indians and Arab sovereign wealth funds – are natural partners in this process.
  5. There is no battle space the U.S. Military cannot access. They said we couldn’t do Afghanistan. We did it with ease. They said we couldn’t do Iraq. We did it with 150 combat casualties in six weeks. We did it so fast we weren’t prepared for their collapse. There is nobody we can’t take down. The question is, what do you do with the power?
  6. Barack Obama inherited a bankrupt economy, a bankrupt government, and a bankrupt foreign policy.
  7. The Air Force has it far worse than the Navy in terms of existential fears, primarily due to the rapid rise and unbelievable dissemination of drones, where seemingly now every military unit has their own miniature air wing of what would have recently passed as toys.
  8. You can’t drag people from understanding to action. A customer isn’t actually at the last mile if you’re the one dragging her to the finish line.
  9. Having grown up on ‘Star Trek,’ I’ve had one great dream since childhood, and that is to see my life end somewhere other than here on Earth.
  10. Washington has a tendency to hold other powers to standards that it routinely flaunts – plain and simple.
  11. The Department of Homeland Security is a strategic feel good measure. It’s going to be the Department of Agriculture for the 21st century. TSA – thousands standing around.
  12. Wikistrat is my ninth start-up, so I’ve been through this process a few times. You have to go with what works. The power of example is compelling, so model the ideas that you want someone to understand.
  13. We need to remind ourselves that our ultimate goal is not to reduce greenhouse gases or global warming per se but to improve the quality of life and the environment. We all want to leave the planet in decent shape for our kids. Radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not necessarily the best way to achieve that.
  14. Here’s my favorite bonehead concept from the 1990s in the Pentagon: the theory of anti-access, area-denial asymmetrical strategies. Why do we call it that? Because it’s got all those A’s lined up I guess. This is gobbledygook for ‘If the United States fights somebody, we’re going to be huge. They’re going to be small.’
  15. If America is addicted to foreign money and foreign oil, then China is addicted to foreign supplies of just about every commodity known to man – save highly polluting coal.
  16. To ask a country with 750 million people living on less than a dollar a day to optimize their development for the environment as opposed to getting food in the mouths of these people and giving them a decent lifestyle, that’s just a little bit too much to ask.
  17. Most Americans have little idea of how far our nation’s worldwide standing had fallen by the end of the Bush administration; no matter how bad you thought it had gotten, it was worse.
  18. Once Europe’s colonial empires were sent into deep decline, thanks to World War II, America became globalization’s primary replicating force, integrating Asia into its low-end production networks across the second half of the twentieth century – just like Europe had integrated the U.S. before.
  19. Homeland defense doesn’t generate any force requirements beyond having enough National Guard to save lives in natural disasters and to baby-sit nuclear power plants on Code Red days.
  20. So long as the global economy continues to recover, that remains Obama’s No. 1 claim to successful leadership. Nothing else even comes close.
  21. During the cold war, it was easy for the Pentagon to justify its budget, as the Soviets essentially sized our forces for us. We simply counted up their stuff and either bought more of the same or upgraded our technology.
  22. Frankly, the only thing China has in easy abundance is people and dirty coal. Neither is the asset they’re made out to be.
  23. America has remained highly engaged in global affairs throughout decades of growing energy dependency, so it’s hard to imagine it would disengage if its quest for energy self-sufficiency failed – especially amidst a world of heightened resource competition.
  24. Crafty politician that he is, Obama was smart enough to set low enough standards for his administration to claim ‘victory’ by the summer of 2011 or so.
  25. I don’t think, post 9/11, we’re going to wait for real obvious things like Country A attacking Country B – because Country A doesn’t attack Country B any more.
  26. In the end, for all of Obama’s grand rhetoric on ridding the world of nuclear weapons, history has doomed him to preside over the emergence of two rogue nuclear regimes (North Korea and Iran).
  27. Historians are going to look back on rising China and say America, at least under the Bush years, did not get that wrong.
  28. Is there anything about cyberspace that particularly screams Air Force? Not really. If cyber warfare is going to be as all-encompassing as it’s made out to be by its vigorous proponents, then it will disseminate throughout the services even more than the drone phenomenon has.
  29. Run with what works: Sell to the people who believe in you and are willing to take the chances and make the experience happen.
  30. Some Western demographers have posited, due to the female shortage created by the one-child policy, that China will be forced to field a vast force – as in tens of millions strong – of wifeless men who’ll gladly wage wars around the planet to burn off all those unrequited hormones.
  31. If you can get out in front of people with your ideas and your execution, you’ll attract the people who need to be pulled in.
  32. The Marines are like my West Highland Terrier. They get up every morning, they want to dig a hole, and they want to kill something.
  33. Great powers reserve the right to police bad actors in their neighborhoods.
  34. Every U.S. president enters office promising stronger ties with our southern neighbors, only to thereupon largely ignore them.
  35. The most important thing you need to know about the Pentagon is that it is not in charge of today’s wars but rather tomorrow’s wars.
  36. Transnational terrorism, in the form of the Salafi Jihadist movement, is fundamentally a function of globalization.
  37. China’s headlong rush to industrialize was pursued with the most Marxist of prejudices – bending nature to man’s will. That’s a desperately hard trick to pull off when one fifth of humanity, having previously subsisted on 7 percent of the world’s freshwater supply, decides that it wants to instantaneously increase its caloric intake.
  38. I have long argued that, if China and the United States were interested in pursuing a strategic partnership, Africa is the best place to start, as neither enters the situation with past colonial baggage, and both possess interests that are quite complementary.

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