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Beach reads: ‘The Pentagon’s New Map’

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Kai Ryssdal: Although it might sound like a contradiction in terms, there are business books out there that make for good summer reading. We’ve asked some of our commentators to send along titles that won’t make you sleepy, just smarter — all while you dig your toes into the sand.

Engineering professor Bill Hammack offers a non-fiction page-turner.

Bill Hammack: Thomas Barnett’s book, “The Pentagon’s New Map,” is a perfect confection of bite-sized ideas about our new global economy to nibble between dips. As I read this book, I rarely looked up for a second.

See, this book gives you the blueprint for who determines our new world order. And it features the tribulations of a classic hero, Barnett himself — a Naval War College professor bent on having American officials listen to his radical ideas.

I mean, who could resist a chapter that opens with a mock ad reading: “Enemy Wanted: Mature North American Superpower seeks hostile partner for arms-racing . . .” Or an explanation of Marxism and Capitalism featuring the hamburger-eating Wimpy from Popeye?

Barnett’s new world order boils down to states that form the core of the global economy on the one hand, and on the other, those that fall outside it, into the “gap.”

Core states and their free people get to partake of the modern world economy. Gap states breed terrorism, because without the benefit of a global economy, life for their people is “nasty, brutish and short.” So our number one mission is to bring gap countries into the world economy.

Forget fighting wars the old way, tank for tank and missile for missile. No, we must respond now with accountants!

Take the Treasury Department. It’s the warrior doing battle more and more by blacklisting banks and countries involved in terrorism. In Barnett’s brave new world, we use a double-fisted military force: a few marines to fight the wars, and lots of new masters of the global economy — lawyers, bankers, customs agents and MBAs to wage the peace.

You might quibble with how well the world will accept America as “rule-enforcer.” But this racy, frothy read is right in its key theme. Understanding the military-market link is not just good business, its good national security strategy, too.

Ryssdal: Bill Hammack is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana.

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