Book Review: The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
My commentary follows below. Hereís the text:
By Thomas P. M. BarnettCOMMENTARY: I really donít have that much trouble with this one, because Cochran let me refute the big point he made about the vision costing too much. Iím pretty clear in the book about there not being that many bad regimes inside the Gap that require dismantling, and to take the costs associated with Iraq and extrapolate them is just to resign ourselves to never doing better. I emphasize throughout the book that what really shrinks the Gap is foreign direct investment, a huge theme of the book that this review seems to willfully ignore (perhaps, not surprisingly, given the focus of the siteís content). In short, heís reading the book as war within the context of war alone and ignoring the everything else that permeates both the book and the vision. And that bit about other ìreviewersî calling me ìweird,î ìstrange,î and ìStrangeloveanî is just plain sloppy on Cochranís part: all three of those descriptions come from the snide Kirkus Review and there alone. But those bitches aside, I thought the review was just fine.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 435 pages, 2004
Reviewed by Terry Cochran
America declared a ìwar on terrorî after September 11, 2001. This phrase resonated with a fearful public feeling the need to lash out at evil-doers. It also provided a marvelous sound bite for our commander-in-chief. The only problem was that no one would ever be able to figure out when that war was won. There was no enemy army to vanquish, no foreign land to liberate. Now comes Thomas P. M. Barnett with an answer to that question.
In his book The Pentagon's New Map, Dr. Barnett writes that we will win the war on terror only when we expand the stable security ìrule setî of the world's functioning core into those areas that are currently not a part of it. He argues that until that happens, there will always be al Qaeda-like forces seeking some sort of ìpermanent civilizational apartheid.î He further suggests that our enemy in this war on terror is ìneither a religion (Islam) nor a place (the Middle East), but a condition--disconnectedness.î
In this fascinating new book, sub-titled War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century, Barnett divides the world into a ìfunctioning coreî and a ìnon-integrating gap.î The Core includes the globalized world of the United States, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Russia, China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and much of South America. The essentially lawless Gap includes the world's trouble spots, where instability and poverty have combined to produce flash points requiring intervention. These areas include the Middle East, the Balkans, central and southeast Asia, Africa, and dark places in the Americas like Haiti and Colombia.
Barnett, a professor at the Naval War College, argues that different rule sets are required for the different regions. He suggests that war is unthinkable among states in the Core, because globalization has tied them together so well that the mutual benefits of economic success will block any overt combative actions. Military might will only be necessary to expand the rule sets of the Core into the states in the Gap.
In this theoretical construct, Barnett applauds the Bush wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as necessary attempts to transfer failed states from the Gap to the Core. He is quick to point out, however, that Bush has scared other world leaders by not offering a vision of a future worth creating. Further, he clearly sees that the Bush administration jumped at drive-by regime change in hopes of speedy success, but with little or no planning for the eventual transformation of the so-called liberated societies.
The author argues against war within the context of war, as it is currently practiced. Instead, what he advocates is ìwar within the context of everything else.î Much like law enforcement practices in the Core states, he envisions the use of force in the Gap as the rightful act of society, protecting itself from those who choose not to follow accepted rules. In fact, he even calls for the reorganization of America's military into two new groupings, in more of a police department paradigm.
One, the Leviathan force, would provide SWAT style capabilities, with the power to strike into the Gap at a moment's notice and wipe out rogue states or terrorist camps with ease. The other, the Sys Admin force, would become the "cop on the beat" and stay behind to maintain security and stability in these foreign lands until such time as new Core-oriented states could be developed. In his world view, the United States must take the lead in this endeavor, because only we have the power to do so. He does not worry that there would be no exit strategy because he sees no exit possible.
His description of the current state of the world is compelling, but his plan for the future is a scary one in many ways. This book has been described by other reviewers as ìweird,î ìstrange,î and even ìStrangelovean.î Like many experts at major healthcare facilities, the good doctor's diagnosis may be bang on the mark but his prescription may kill the patient just as quickly as the disease would.
Like some heavily-armed Socrates, he would encourage discussion with leaders in the Gap, but then follow discourse with destruction, if significant disagreement remained. Or like a Mother Theresa with missiles, he would raise the living standards of the poorest societies by decimating their current governments and starting over. Even those who support Barnettís ideas will be troubled by major practical roadblocks which are likely to inhibit any real-world implementation of them.
In a recent email exchange, for example, I suggested to the author that staffing, financial, and global partner issues would derail his plans, even if his concepts were widely accepted. As shown in his responses, he feels those issues ìcan be managed if the right investment choices are made within a coherent strategic visionÖ.î
Cochran: ìIt is implied in your remarks about long-term commitment and ëno exit strategyí that we will need a much larger force for a long time to come. Since the military is straining at the moment to cope with even today's workforce pressures, how will they ever be able to do more without a draft? Sure, the Leviathan force could be all-volunteer--the ëbest of the best,í perhaps--but any large-scale occupation or Sys Admin force will require a major build-up, wonít it?"
Barnett: ìDonít believe the force needs to be bigger. Reserve component is good example. Huge number of those people (which as whole constitutes 40% of force) are trained for skills we will no longer use (e.g., great number of artillery). Weíve got the people; the force is simply imbalanced. Continued transformation of the warfighting force makes it smaller and smaller; that which remains goes Sys Admin. Seeding the Sys Admin force means we attract coalition partners for the back-half work. Most militaries in the world are built for Sys Admin work, not warfighting Leviathan stuff. Frankly, we can't find anyone to play with us in Leviathan game anymore, save a few familiar allies. Rest of the world, based on my talks with their militaries, are quite attracted to the Sys Admin concept. Simply put, that force will marry up with lotsa forces from other countries. In the end, not a bigger force.î
Cochran: ìIf we are to ramp up to even greater strength with even longer-term deployments, then even higher taxes will be necessary. Bush is the only ëwar presidentí who has refused to ask the American people to participate. How can the military expand without more money? And what politician will ever be brave enough to risk asking for it?î
Barnett: ìPeople cost the biggest chunk of force. If not bigger, then not more expensive.î
Cochran: ìYou speak of sending in a SWAT-like team to take out bad actors like Kim Jong Il, but you don't really address how that would come about. In fact, you appear to endorse use of some all-knowing Rambo to pre-emptively kill off anyone who might try to block ëprogress.í The Israelis use such tactics out of immediate fear for their lives, but wouldn't wider 'routine' usage of such methods breed more fear than security? If many of the Core nations condemn Israel's actions, wouldn't they also condemn ours? Much like the Bush-generated anti-Americanism of the past 15 months? How can globalization stay on track, if the ties binding the Core are severely weakened?î
Barnett: ìThe list of countries with bad leaders to remove, as I note in the book, is rather small. Once Core shows willingness and system to achieve it, most will leave on own accord, so long as we let them take their loot, like Charles Taylor in Liberia. It's all boundable, and the demonstration effect of first successes drive the bandwagoning effect on our side and enemyís.î
In conclusion, Barnett is nonpartisan to a fault. He points out errors of several administrations. Likewise, his views are likely to attract negative comments from all sides. Liberals will decry the use of American blood and treasure to solve problems overseas, especially when areas like education, healthcare, and urban poverty cry out for help at home. Conservatives will be concerned about creeping ìone-worldî government and about investing American resources with no immediate return in sight. Pentagon financial types will be outraged at tampering with their hard-fought budgetary successes.
Barnett writes that he set out to find that happy ending of a future worth creating. He describes todayís world with precision, but stumbles, I believe, in showing how to get from here to there. This book should be required reading, however, for all who are concerned about our nation's future. Love the book or hate it, as you see fit, but know what it says. This is a debate worth having.
Terry Cochran is a web site designer and author from the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. He served in the U.S. Army, 1968-1971, including a tour of duty with the DaNang Support command. You can mail your comments to Terry@interventionmag.com