My commentary follows below. Hereís the text:
The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas P.M. BarnettCOMMENTARY: My response to this review is basically to cite what I learned from Wall Street during the NewRuleSets.Project: when you integrate a sizeable chunk of humanity into the global economy, the entire process is marked by the adjustment of your old rule sets (social, political, economic, environmental, security, technological) to accommodate new rules concerning the new entrants to the market. The assumption that we integrateófor exampleóhalf of humanity in the expansion of globalization over the past twenty years without dramatically altering the emerging global rule sets that now bound us to one another in this process of coming together is just plain wrong. Everything changes subtly to account for the greater pool, the greater load, the greater capacity.
Author: James Moore
Posted: 5/22/2004; 4:03:30 PM
Topic: The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett
Msg #: 612 (top msg in thread)
The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett
Betsy Devine sent me a note about an extraordinary author and blog and book and set of ideas about global security and the role of the military.
The book is The Pentagon's New Map, and the author is Thomas P.M. Barnett, of the Naval War College.
Barnett's argument is that most of the trouble in the world now is bred in failed states and rogue nations that are not part of the globalized world economy and society. And that the United State's security depends on progress on two fronts: (1) Extend global social and economic connectivity to people and regions that are now "off the map"--or "in the gap" to use Barnett's terminology. (2) Reconfigure the US military to be able to move into countries like Iraq and Sudan and Afghanistan, and get them connected. This is the military's main new mission, Barnett argues, and will require a large force of what he terms "sys admins" ("nation builders" would be another more familiar but also more loaded term) to be stationed for extended periods in gap regions, in order to establish "transparency and individual choice about connecting to the larger world" (rather than the more ambitious "democracy" or "market economies"). A smaller portion of the military will do war-making when necessary--in a continually evolving, smart-bombing way--with less and less need for field forces.
This vision, Barnett says, is already being implemented by the Pentagon--but needs to be made more explicit and conscious so that it can be skillfully developed. Iraq shows the terrible result of using conventionally-trained troops as sys admins and nation builders. On the other hand, Barnett thinks that we need to go into places like Iraq and Afghanistan and the Sudan and the Congo and do such nation building. We need to strategize for it, recruit for it, and have systems and training and leadership and skills to do it well.
I like the comprehensiveness of Barnett's argument. I agree that failed states and places off the traditional map are our sources of major threat--and that our military needs to adapt to this condition. I like his focus on establishing peace, rather than solely on making war--and his recognition that these are different tasks. This idea is much like Kucinich's of a "Secretary of Peace" and a "National Peace College." On the other hand, I wonder whether such a US-centric vision of the future makes sense in a complex, decentralized world. Perhaps Barnett's is a more optimistic version of American exceptionalism, but one that is--like other versions--out of step with the decentralized, fragmented reality of our multi-cultural world. Still, his ideas are well worth considering. As Stewart Brand famously said, "we are as gods and might as well get good at it." Perhaps this is true--though often lately I wonder if we are not slipping into idolatry, and might do with more humility about our ability to be as gods.
More important, while Barnett's view is breathtakingly comprehensive, it is perhaps not comprehensive enough. To put it bluntly, our current version of globalization doesn't work. If we bring more folks into it, we will have to radically change the system or face ecological and probably social collapse. Edward Wilson, the noted ecologist, calculates that to support an American life style for the rest of the planet's population will require the resources of FIVE earths. So in order to have a sustainable globalization we in the US have to live on less than one-fifth of our current resource expenditure--as does the rest of the industrialized world including the newly middle class populations of India and China. Hmmmm.
The current version of globalization deals with the ecological limits problem in two ways: First, by locking in inequity--so that for some, "connecting" means working in Thailand in a shoe factory, or farming in Africa with GMO seeds licensed from Monsanto. Second, by borrowing resources from future generations--through allowing polution, over-dependence on oil, and destruction of globally important natural resources such as the Amazon rainforest and the ocean's fish and coral. Neither of these strategies can last.
Thus if we set up our military to "connect" people to the current system we simply extend an unsustainable status quo. This means entraping populations on the lower rungs of an unsustainable industrial economy, and increasing the total environmental threat posed by humans to themselves and the planet.
If we are going to connect anyone to anything, let's try to connect people to a sustainable future. This would mean that we would establish in the gaps our most far-sighted technologies and social processes. The gap regions would become laboratories for the future---places to which we might start to migrate as the old order becomes unworkable.
Hmmmm. Utopian communities, established by the military, in third-world outposts. Obviously this is far fetched--but then, how and where ARE we going to attempt to establish a sustainable future? And with what organizations as mid-wives? And based on what design science and wisdom?
All good questions to wrestle with--and thanks to Barnett for helping us do so at a new level of clarity and boldness.
And thanks to Betsy for bringing this book to the attention of the blogosphere.
It always worries me when we start with that thinking that says: this is what it costs to do this today (one America), and therefore if the entire world was like America, it would cost us 20 times more (weíre one-twentieth of the population). That logic is just a bit too static for me; a bit too extrapolating (something the Pentagon is constantly guilty of).
As for the environmental stress, everywhere you find solid rule sets bound by solid political communities, the environment eventually gets treated better over time thanks to development. Where it suffers most in this world is where rule sets are weakest because governments are weakest, or in the commonsóbut that only speaks to the need for establishing a truly global globalization all the faster.
As for locking in inequity, I honestly believe thatís bad economic history. I donít think we did that with Japan or Korea or Singapore or China or really any of the globalizers. To me, the lock-in argument is a resurrection of old Marxist critiques, and these simply do not stand the test of time. Moreover, my book makes the argument in several places that the Core cannot remain rich by keeping the Gap poor, but just the opposite.
This is probably an unfair response to a fairly nice informal review of my ideas, because I suspect Jim Moore has not read the book, so I donít want to make this response sound too defensive, because his questions and point are on the far edge of the book anyway, and that is exactly where I want to see the conversation go in coming months and years.