Jewish World ReviewJan 18, 2005/ 8 Shevat, 5765
A map to save the world ... 10 minutes with strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett
It's impossible to sum up Thomas P.M. Barnett's book "The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century," but let's try. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
Basically, what the senior strategic researcher at the U.S. Naval War College has done is to draw a map of the post-9/11 world and try to show the U.S. military how to deal strategically and tactically with the new threats posed to developed nations of the West ("the Core") by countries in "the Gap" the underdeveloped, under-governed, terrorist-spawning countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caribbean Rim that Barnett says are economically "disconnected" from the beneficial effects of globalization.
Barnett's ideas on how to shrink the Gap and connect its member states to the global economy, and the debates about American foreign policy they have engendered, are available in depth at his Web site thomaspmbarnett.com. At C-SPAN's Web site (www.c-span.org) his highly entertaining 90-minute PowerPoint performance can be viewed. I talked to the registered Democrat Dec. 28 by phone from his home in Rhode Island.
Q: You say the goal is to shrink "the Gap." Are the tools a combination of military, economic, diplomacy, what?
A: I'm arguing from the Pentagon out. That's where I need to start this conversation. What I say to them is, "You're there on the war-fighting force" I call that the Leviathan force. "That you've got down. Now you need to be able to fight the second half. And that means you need to be able to effectively wage peace, not just war. You need to be able to do post-conflict stabilization. You need to be able to do nation building and crisis response the small stuff, the stuff that we didn't really plan for but now is turning out to be how the victories are really going to be secured.
I argue that there's a second-half force, I call them "the System Administrator force," that would have a military component in it, but also would have a predominant civilian component. That's where I would fold in the disaster relief, the judges, cops, municipal experts and planning experts. It would be a robust mix of military crisis response and kind of a leading-edge development aid and disaster relief. So you get a disaster like this tsunami wave that came through South and Southeast Asia, that's exactly the kind of thing I would send my sys-admin force to.
I talk about it first and foremost from the military perspective. You've got to be able to wage not just the war, but you've got to be able to wage the peace. ... Ultimately, the Gap gets shrunk by the private sector, overwhelmingly.
Q: What makes your ideas so controversial? It sounds like you want to let good, old-fashioned Adam Smith free trade work its magic.
A: Right. The controversy comes in where you say, "I think there's a role for the military to in effect play globalization's bodyguard." You can't really see the Gap get shrunk until security situations in regions get dealt with. The Middle East is very poorly connected to the global economy.
There are a lot of unresolved issues there, and we've decided on the basis of 9/11 that we're going to finally do something about the Middle East because we don't see the terrorist situation improving unless the Middle East somehow joins the world. And since the opponent in question has the avowed goal of in effect disconnecting the Middle East from the outside world because he wants to institute kind of a 7th century definition of paradise, in effect we're running a race. We're trying to connect the Middle East up faster than the Osama bin Ladens of that region can disconnect it.
Q: It's ends and means we're talking about, right? Does it make sense, is it practical, is it moral, is it smart to have the U.S. and its military be the means of creating that big-world free-trade zone?
A: Right. I flip that argument and I say, "The U.S. has an unparalleled capacity to wage war. Nobody else has that capacity. There are situations inside this Gap that are crying out for resolution. Kim Jung Il let a famine occur in North Korea that killed maybe 2 million of his people. Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of his people. What's going on in Zimbabwe is a crime against humanity in many ways. What's going on in Sudan is horrible. Would the world like to see these situations dealt with? If they would, can they imagine it occurring without the U.S. military being involved? If they can allow that to unfold, what is the system," I ask, "that needs to be put in place where the U.S. in conjunction with other great powers can decide this is what needs to be done and this is in effect the A-Z system that allows us to deal with a Zimbabwe or Sudan in such a way that people don't feel that it's America going in and establishing quote-unquote 'an empire'?"
Q: What is going on in Iraq is a good lesson for what we are doing wrong, right?
A: What Iraq revealed to us was based on the military we've been buying for the last 15 years, which in turn is based on our preferred definition of a future war what we field right now is what I call a first-half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game.
We ran up the score, had our victory parade at halftime, and we discovered that it's a much longer game than that. But how we conducted that first half so alienated those who would be our natural allies for the second half that we're kind of stuck with this. It's a learning process for us and certainly one for the Defense Department.
I don't think it's a bad thing that we went there, because I think we did something very good in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. It's hard to keep a sense of perspective 3,000 dead on 9/11, civilians on our shores; 1,100 or so dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, added up, is not even half that over a three-year period. From the perspective of a professional in the national security business, I prefer the lower numbers spread over time and I prefer professionals to fight this war. And I prefer it to be an away game
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald