home > archive > 2004 > this article
The Pentagon's New Map
A vision for the future
By Steven Martinovich
As commentator Mark Steyn has argued, on September 11, 2001 many of us realized that the rules of September 10, 2001 were no longer valid. Perhaps no one more so than Dr. Thomas Barnett, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, who for the past decade has been examining the world after the Cold War. Sensing that rules that have governed the world disappeared along with the Soviet Union, Barnett has formulated a new set of rules for our new reality.
Originally outlined in a 2003 article in Esquire, Barnett's magnificent The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century argues that the moral mission of the United States is to extend the benefits of globalization to the one-third of the world that is disconnected from the global community. America's new strategy isn't to prepare for the next great clash of civilizations, as commentators like Samuel Huntington have theorized, but rather to create a more secure world by eliminating the seeds of conflict.
In Barnett's world, Earth is essentially made up of two groups. The first is the Functioning Core, nations like the U.S., Canada, much of Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India and several other nations. The second is the Non-Integrating Gap, made up of the Middle East, most of Africa, parts of Central and South America and parts of Asia. The Core is defined by economic, political and military stability while the Gap is home to poverty, authoritarian regimes and conflict. Led by the U.S., Barnett argues, it is the Core's mission to shrink the Gap and usher in a new era of relative global stability.
Not surprisingly much of the work will be the responsibility of the United States as it is the only nation powerful enough to act anywhere it chooses. Before it can be successful, however, a massive reorganization is needed. The centerpiece of this reorganization is the Pentagon, an institution Barnett says remains mired in Cold War thinking. Although it is slowly shifting its emphasis from fighting The Big One to the new asymmetrical threats of 9/11-style attacks, the transformation is far from complete. There will be future wars that the U.S. will be drawn into; conflicts were a massive Cold War style force will be of little use.
This new military -- one that would eventually see the present force split into two radically different organizations -- would then be used to provide security to Gap nations. It is only with security, Barnett argues, that globalization will be able to take root. As Gap nations are slowly added to the Core, these regions will become safer and by extension the threats to global security will diminish. The United States -- with help from other nations -- will play the role of global policeman and occasionally, when necessary, global SWAT officers.
Understandably this vision of the future will provoke accusations on both sides of the political fence that Barnett is describing nothing less than an American empire. American soldiers will be used to enforce a global capitalist order for the benefit of the West, they argue, in the same way that British redcoats once safeguarded colonial provinces. Barnett dismisses that notion as simplistic and insulting.
"America does not shrink the Gap to conquer the Gap, but to invite two billion people to join something better and safer in the Core. Empires involve enforcing maximum rule sets, where the leader tells the led not just what they cannot do but what they must do. This has never been the American way of war or peace, and does not reflect our system of governance. We enforce minimum rule sets, carefully ruling out only the most obviously destructive behavior. We push connectivity above all else, letting people choose what to do with those ties, that communication, and all those possibilities. Many in the Gap, and not just a few in the Core, will choose to opt out."
For the most part Barnett praises the Bush Administration for realizing that a new strategic vision was necessary, including formally adopting the policy of preemptive attack. He does, however, find fault in the Administration for failing to explain clearly to both Americans and their nation's allies how this new strategic vision will work. "It may seem facile to say that this administration has made the right strategic moves only to tell its story poorly to the world, but perceptions matter plenty in this highly charged period of world history." Given the strained relationship between the U.S. and its allies, it's clearly not enough simply to do the right thing; you have to convince people you're doing the right thing.
Eschewing the gloomy predictions of a world in constant chaos, Barnett instead offers an optimistic view of a future that many of us will be alive to see. We will have to pay a price to see this future, both in blood and money, but if we do nothing we'll have to pay and receive nothing for our troubles but more strife. Regardless of whether you agree with Barnett, The Pentagon's New Map is a remarkable and revolutionary achievement that should provoke discussion about the rules governing our post-9/11 world. The Pentagon's New Map is a once in a generation achievement that demands not only our attention, but also our action.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
Buy The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century at Amazon.com for only $18.33 (32% off)
Other related articles: (open in a new window)
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.