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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 18:28 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 18:28 | SYDNEY

Thomas Barnett's important idea

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11 March 2009 14:11

My colleague Michael Fullilove was a tad harsh in his recent review of Tom Barnett’s new book, Great Powers: America and the World After Bush.

Yes, Barnett’s style can be irritating in places. And yes, many of the ideas in this book are familiar from the author’s earlier works. But Barnett deserves credit for promoting and developing at least one original and important analytical idea – the distinction between essentially stable, globalised ‘core’ nations and the dangerously unstable ‘gap’ of fragile states – along with a corresponding policy recommendation which will only grow in relevance: that the US will have no choice but to partner with China and others in the provision of global order, as its own relative power diminishes.

The fact that China seems in no hurry to be genuinely cooperative – as a recent incident at sea reminds us – and will be a prickly and self-interested partner at the best of times does not detract from this fundamental insight.

It’s a shame Barnett lets down his good ideas by sometimes overstating the case (such as suggesting that future US-China cooperation could amount to a NATO-style alliance). But I still think this book is worth a look.

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