It's Barnett's world now...

If one were a strategist determined to pinpoint the greatest potential threats to American security, what might one’s framework for viewing the world look like? It very possibly might look like Thomas Barnett’s.

What does a framework such as Barnett’s say about the conflict in Iraq?

Forget the debate surrounding how we came to be in Iraq. The direction in which the world is moving, globalization, makes such conflicts inevitable if the U.S. and other republican nations are serious about their national security.

We are transitioning away from the old worldview of U.S. national security, a view in which the most dangerous enemy is, like ourselves, a great world power. We have been "searching" for such an enemy since the end of the Cold War. There are several problems inherent in this search, and the fact that there is no such immanently dangerous enemy is far from the worst of these. It is the assumption underlying the search that is the problem, the assumption that only a large modern state can threaten our security.

September 11th, 2001 highlights the fact that this is not the case. Our Cold War concept of containment will be ineffective in this new world. And we can not simply turn away from the problem. Even if we were to, say, become energy dependent from the Middle East today, still the U.S. would not be safe from the new threats to future generations. What Barnett refers to as the non-integrating Gap, or “disconnected” states, must be faced as a threat to our security. So long as globalization is occurring, and whether one likes or dislikes the globalization trend, there does not appear to be any signs that it will be going away soon … so long as globalization is occurring, the Gap will remain the primary threat to our security. (And so long as we feel our security is threatened, we face the real possibility of giving up our hard earned freedoms to relieve that threat.)

So long as there is globalization, those who will not or can not partake will lash out against the powers driving globalization anyway and anywhere they can. From the Arabic Fundamentalist Islamic framework, the war against globalization, by any means possible, makes sense. There is no legitimate political arena for their worldview. There is no respect for their ancient and grand culture. Even those who talk most about understanding their framework do not really want to see even the most Westernized Arab states chairing international commissions on feminist issues or capital punishment.

We must understand these trends: The republican world can not give the Arab culture the respect it wants, needs and deserves. Globalization IS occurring. The cultures of these Gap regions will, justly, resist. The means by which they resist will not be political, as they have no legitimate voice in that arena. It will not be a conventional military response, as they have no projectable force. The means by which they resist will become increasingly radical, by any means possible, terrorist. The threat to our security from terrorist acts will continue to increase.
The conflict seems inevitable, the stuff of tragedy.

Now that events such as September 11th, 2001 have shifted our security perspective to such far away places as Afghanistan and Indonesia, now that we are fully aware of the problems that face us in rebuilding Iraq, now it can be said that we are beginning to see Thomas Barnett’s world. It is not an easy world with which to deal, but it is one with which we must necessarily deal. Iraq is the beginning of a new era of U.S. engagement in the world, one that will involve a great amount of economic aid (in places such as Northern Africa and Central Asia) as well as a pro-active military stance. I want to emphasize this point, that it is a battle the military alone can not win. There will be much civil and economic work to do as well.

This is just a glance into Barnett’s world. I encourage those who are interested to seek out his material. It is widely available on the net.

Posted by akaGoethe at August 14, 2003 2:18 PM