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PLAN OF ATTACK
By Bob Woodward
Simon & Schuster
467 pp; $28THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP
War and Peace in the
By Thomas P.M. Barnett
Putnam; 435 pp; $26.95
For geopolitical junkies not yet sated by the flood of 24-hour war news, Bob Woodward's minutiae-filled Plan of Attack and Thomas P.M. Barnett's provocative The Pentagon's New Map offer a perfect pairing. Woodward, the famed Washington Post investigative reporter, offers a close study of signposts passed on the way to America's current difficulties in Iraq. Barnett, a strategic thinker at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., paints a global picture, explaining how U.S. strategic policy should evolve.
Many of Woodward's tidbits have already been exposed in his own relentless campaign on TV. They include the infighting between war skeptic Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and hawks such as Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. President Bush, of course, comes across as unblinking in his resolve to oust the Baghdad regime.
But there are a few revelations that TV hasn't picked over. Woodward shows that the planning for combat was meticulous. Rumsfeld asked U.S. Central Command General Tommy R. Franks many justified, probing questions. Yet Rummy gave inadequate thought to postwar stabilization. And while the putative clash between Franks and Rumsfeld over troop levels for combat has been exaggerated, Franks felt that a much larger force -- twice the 150,000 coalition troops now on the ground -- would be needed in the occupation phase.
Early and less-than-stellar intelligence prompted CIA Director George J. Tenet to assure Bush it was "a slam dunk case" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But later, Woodward suggests, CIA intelligence improved, as the agency penetrated the Iraqi military and security forces and got data that were key to targeting. Iraqis, it seemed, were more willing to collaborate -- and less fearful of retribution -- once it was clear that the U.S. was determined to remove Saddam.
Overall, Woodward gives one a sense that the U.S. has a military that's competent and capable of adaptation -- but one still in need of transformation. Barnett, in contrast, offers a compelling framework for confronting 21st century problems.
Barnett sees the intervention in Iraq as the kind of "system perturbation" necessary to establish a new set of rules for international conflicts. There will never be a World War III, he says -- because the nuclear-era logic of mutually assured destruction rules out such a conflict. Nor, given America's military edge, is the U.S. likely to be attacked by large forces of another nation (not even by China, which he thinks is too connected to the world economy to risk war). The challenge at center stage now is military operations other than war, everything from fighting terrorism to peacekeeping. Until recently, these were a sideshow for the Pentagon.
Barnett has a record as a savvy prognosticator. As the Soviet Union was collapsing, for example, he predicted that the U.S. and Russian militaries would soon be cooperating. The idea was ridiculed at the Pentagon -- then later accepted. Here he goes out on another limb, arguing for a military far different from the one the U.S. has. Barnett proposes splitting the forces up into a small combat corps and a large peacekeeping cadre. He sees future conflict as being not merely between Islam and the West but between nations tied to a global economy (the Functioning Core) and those that aren't (the Non-Integrating Gap). His trouble spots include much of Africa, the Balkans, parts of Asia, the Caribbean, and the Islamic crescent.
Shrinking the gap requires a three-pronged approach, he says. First, there's occasional "preemption" of threatening regimes. Next, the U.S. should sometimes get neighbors to oust bad leaders, just as African countries put Liberia's Charles Taylor on ice. Most important -- and currently most neglected -- are efforts to end the economic "disconnectedness" that defines the gap. The free flow of investment, people, energy, and security, says Barnett, is critical to global stability. Measures that limit these flows, such as tight immigration laws, could backfire, he believes.
When describing the inner workings of the Pentagon, Barnett is insightful and often amusing. But it's too bad he doesn't share more of his economic analysis, derived in part from the Naval War College's pre-September 11 consultations on globalization and national security with securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald. The author hopes the U.S. can move beyond pursuing miscreants to offer a vision of a "future worth creating." He's optimistic because he thinks some nightmare scenarios used to justify the purchase of expensive military toys are contrived. We should all hope he's right. By Stan Crock