Blast from my past: Barnes & Noble interview re: "Pentagon's New Map" release
Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 12:02AM
Thomas P.M. Barnett in Blast From My Past, Pentagon's New Map

An Interview with Thomas P. M. Barnett

Barnes & What is the main theme among the many addressed in your book?

Thomas P. M. Barnett: I specialize in thinking about war -- the seam, so to speak, between war and peace. The shorthand I use for everything else is globalization. Globalization is an all-encompassing compass, if you will. It is why the factory shuts down, why you go back for another degree at 45, why you switch jobs. America must wage a war on terrorism, but if there is a great criticism of this administration and America in general right now, it is that we are waging this war on terrorism without understanding the larger context of everything else. I wanted to write the book because unless we explain it so that it is understood, people on one side are going to shout "Empire" and on the other side are going to shout, "You're not defending America." Neither of those positions gets near to discussing the task at hand or what we need to achieve. The idea of empire is a caricature. If we want to get terrorism to go away, we need to connect the disconnected -- to make them a part of globalization.

B& What is the meaning of "Map" in the context of your title?

TB: I mean it both figuratively and literally, in a sense. The military uses the term because it likes to view information in a visual fashion. It's just like the original warriors of ancient times who drew plans with sticks in the dirt. Maps are vital for the military. "The Pentagon's New Map" is the new map of globalism. And on this map, where globalization has not spread, there has been violence.

B& Globalization is a key theme in your book. Please elaborate on it.

TB: What we need to do with the globalization map, so to speak, is to identify the big sources of violence, position ourselves around them, and shrink them over time. We are the only ones who can go somewhere and do things and help. Through our power, military and economic, we can establish stability. We are not interested in empire. When we export security to places that lack it, we do not seek to extend our rule.

Globalization does not come with a ruler -- it comes with rule. We extend rules, not our rule. The map I am talking about is a new map for the globalization for the new century. It is a new understanding of how nations come together. It is not the old balance of power that existed in the 19th century. It's different.

B& You spend a lot of time distinguishing between those countries and their people that are part of globalization and those that are outside of it. You relate that to the idea of the map, too, don't you?

TB: Yes, the map also has that feeling of a road map. The key question that doesn't get asked enough concerns the makeup of that global map. Where is it leading? The new map says that two-thirds of humanity is in what I like to call "the club." One-third is not. In the end, what shrinks this vital gap is money and investment. That's how we got China on board.

B& How did 9/11 change the basic defense posture of the United States?

TB: Since we created the Department of Defense in 1947, we have prepared for a war with a great power. But 9/11 transformed all that. We had to go to high-tech and completely alter the way we looked at things. We learned that traditional definitions of war do not exist anymore. We are a military made to fight other militaries, but the fact is there is no one left to fight on a scale like ours. Now the grand historical struggle is between those are willing to integrate into the new global economy and those who are not. What we had driven home to us on 9/11 is that groups like al-Qaeda want to hijack societies like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and disconnect them from the future. There is pain in what I call the integration process of these societies outside the globalized world.

B& You point out that, surprisingly, only a very small portion of the oil that America consumes comes from the Persian Gulf. Where does the Persian Gulf oil go?

TB: Only 40 percent of our energy is oil and only half of our oil comes from abroad. Only one-fifth of what we import is from the Persian Gulf. So, the oil we import from the Persian Gulf is only in the single digits. What people need to know is that the Persian Gulf provides oil for the global economy. We get most of our imported oil from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, West Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Chad, and the North Sea. The important thing is that global energy markets have regionalized. Remember, OPEC includes Mexico and Venezuela. It is important to realize that Persian Gulf oil -- 60 percent of it -- goes to developing Asia. Those countries are overwhelming consumers of oil and Persian Gulf oil.

B& You write about the flow of oil as being central to your theory of the new kind of war and globalization. Could you elaborate on that?

TB: Remember, the key thing is that oil has to flow, investment has to flow, people have to flow, and security has to flow. Again, to emphasize that theme, war falls within that context of everything else. There are the four great flows, so to speak, that define globalization's ability to expand: They are the flow of energy, the flow of people, the flow of investment, and the flow of security. Without security, energy won't move, people won't move, money won't move. So the notion that if America pulls back its military from the world, this will somehow lead to less conflict and more stability is wrong.

Security that American military strength provides is as important as any of those other flows. If you remove that security, you will feed the disruption of the flow of people, investment, and energy. Walls will go up and globalization can be killed. That is one thing that the American public does not understand. Our export of security is one thing -- it does not mean exporting arms. It means paying attention to mass violence around the world. The Department of Defense is the world's largest consulting force. It goes to where the "client," so to speak, lives. The American public only wants to hear about the exit strategy. But "the boys" are not coming home until we make globalization truly global. People don't want to hear about that long-term effort.

B& The last few years have been so harrowing. Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

TB: I am optimistic about the future. But I don't see how you can expect other people to sacrifice or put trust in government unless you are telling them a happy ending. The failure of the Bush administration is not the action or the deeds but the words that are failing. And we need more out of a Democratic contender than to blame a Bush administration. Bush needs to define a happy ending, and he needs to define a finish line in the war on terrorism. Yes, we are all against empire, but what we need to know what he is for.

People might say a "happy ending" is naive, but there is enough in the book for me to show that I am not "a wooly-headed peacenik." I come from the world of national security -- I work at the Naval War College -- I can say that there is a happy ending if you have the courage to recognize the path that lies before us and the tremendous opportunity that lies beyond. The society is on the verge of eliminating war as we know it. That is what the book seeks to describe.

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