Current Affairs

Insights, Maps, New Strategies

A week or so ago, I picked up a copy of The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett. I’ve very much enjoyed reading this book — although it’s hardly been the best leisure entertainment for the Christmas season!

Barnett’s story (he was formerly Senior Strategic Researcher and Professor, Center for Naval Warfare Studies, U.S. Naval War College) is complex on one level but simple on another. The simple part is that the world, driven by surges of globalization, has divided into “the Core” and “the Gap” — essentially the developed countries vs. the seriously underdeveloped or rogue states.

Tonight, I happened across CSPAN’s video archive of Burnett’s recent presentation to the Highlands Forum earlier in December. The full video is over two and a half hours long — but the first 90 minutes contains the heart of his analysis.

His discussion of the Leviathan (to win wars) vs. the Systems Administrator (to win the peace) is particularly valuable. He highlights how the world since 9/11 has changed the role of the US Department of Defense and the US military.

For example, while we have a mechanism for dealing with economically bankrupt states in the Gap (the International Monetary Fund), the US and the world lack a mechanism for dealing with politically bankrupt states — and it’s not the UN Security Council. It’s also not the US military — even though we’ve been pretending that’s the case.

Unfortunately, his use of words to describe these two forces seems wrong to me. (I worry that nobody wants to join a Systems Administrator function!) If it were solely my choice, they’d be the Warfighters and the PeaceMakers, respectively!

His recast of the Powell Doctrine — from use of overwhelming force for warfighting to use of overwhelming force to make the peace — seems particularly appropriate in the context of Iraq.

If you have the time, this video is highly recommended. Oh, and his book is too! Even better, Barnett’s got a weblog!

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