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Handicapping the Gap: Spain's 3/11

Cleary, the terrorist attack in Madrid was impressive, not just in its destruction and multiplicity of effects, but in its timing. In many ways, it was a preemptive strike designed to topple a government which had stuck its neck out to support the U.S-led coalition that had successfully removed Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq. Its message was simple and direct: pull out of the coalition or we will continue to target you. The al Qaeda message traffic on this leading up to the attack was quite explicit: we need to target this election.

The surprise winners of the Spanish national elections were the Socialists, who seemed as shocked at this unexpected turn of events as the center-right party they ousted. Everyone knows that the Spanish public overwhelming opposed the governmentís decision to join in the Iraq coalition, and yet most experts expected Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznarís party to remain firmly in power. Pre-3/11 polls showed the Popular Party to be just that, but the terrorist strikes apparently set off a seismic shift in the voting.

To me, thatís a real System Perturbation: a dozen backpack bombs buys al Qaeda a national election in one of the most advanced economic powers in the Core: small investment, big return. But the real extent of this System Perturbation is not yet known, because clearly the attack was meant to perturb political rule sets far beyond Spain, a key pillar of Old Europe. The 3/11 attacks are meant to drive a wedge between the Old Core pillars of Western Europe and the United States. They warned, in effect, that to follow the U.S. lead in this global war on terrorism is to invite catastrophic terrorism on your soil.

I am reminded of the Monty Python skit where the Mafioso tries to threaten the commanding officer of a military base: ìNice place you got here. Sure would be a shame if it caught on fire.î The parodied goal there was, of course, protection money. With Europe, al Qaedaís goal is disconnectionófrom the U.S., from the multinational effort to rehabilitate Iraq, and from the Middle East as a whole. In effect, theyíve told Europe, ìNice union you got here. Sure would be a shame if it caught on fire.î

There are roughly a dozen national elections scheduled across Europe over the next couple of years, but the biggest upcoming target of opportunity isóof courseóthe Olympic Games in Greece, a Seam State long derided for its lax efforts on stemming terrorism. Already, U.S. athletes have floated the notion of boycotting unless certain security considerations are better handled by the Greeks, who frankly are so behind in their overall construction effort that security experts are naturally worried about their ability to focus on the little things that separate a secure site from one not so secure.

Two countries to watch in coming weeks and months with regard to any ripple effect from Spainís about face are Italy, where similar popular sentiments abound and the PMís position isóalmost by historical definitionósomewhat dicey. Then thereís Poland, whose military leadership of a truly international force in Iraq is a real political and diplomatic stretch for them, since Warsaw is not used to engaging in such prominent leadership overseas. More specifically, the Poles had hoped the Spanish would up their role in the coalition unit, allowing them to quietly recede in terms of leadership. Now with the new Madrid government openly threatening to pull out, Warsaw could get panicky, although early indications are that they greatly desire to appear strong and steadfast.

With Old Europe seemingly wobbling, al Qaeda might well look to target the last of the trio of Old Core pillars, Japan. Thereís no need to conduct terrorism on their soil, now that Japan has gone through with the very difficult decision to send troops into harmís way in Iraq. So just about any reasonably successful strike against Japanese soldiers is guaranteed to register asóand you should get used to hearing this phraseóìthat nationís biggest single case of combat casualties since World War II.î That was the case for Italy when they lost roughly a dozen and a half personnel a while back in Iraq. It may sound like a stunning threshold, but it isnít. It just says that, except for the U.S., the Old Core pillars of Western Europe and Japan are so far removed from their warfighting past that any loss of life is a historical novelty sure to shock the populace.

Itís that sort of vast gulf in experience that al Qaedaís terror network is targeting right now. Bin Laden had long believed that just one Black Hawk down was enough to scare off the Americans (based on the Somalia experience), and heís discovered just how wrong that impression becomes in a post-9/11 world. But such calculations are far more reasonable for an Italy, Spain, and maybe even a Poland.

What does this say for the United States? It says that a ìbloody noseî strategy may well work for al Qaeda with many Old Core states, and perhaps some of the smaller New Core states as well, like Poland. So rather than spend our time trying to figure out what it will take to keep Old Core allies along for the ride, maybe the U.S. should focus more on what it takes to win the significant support of such New Core pillars as Russia, India, and China, all of whom are far less squeamish about both inflicting and suffering ìsignificantî combat casualties.

With the al Qaeda network now targeting soft targets across Iraq in a strong attempt to scare off anyone from the outside seeking to forge new economic ties between themselves and the long-isolated Iraqi people, a strong display of commitment by major New Core powers could have a profound demonstration effect. In my mind, the biggest diplomatic loss America has suffered to date in its efforts to internationalize the military presence in Iraq was when the Indian parliament basically said no to providing 17,000 peacekeepers a while back. If we were to get such strong displays of commitment from India, Russia and China, it would be far harder for wobbling European states to excuse themselves from the fight.

Recent setbacks like Madridís 3/11 and the massive hotel bombing in Baghdad play into President Bushís desire to campaign as a war president, a strategy that, if it doesnít backfire with the American public, is certain to isolate America further in a Core that desperately wants to see a global war on terrorism waged within the context of everything else and not just the American presidential election.


The Concept of Seam

A key notion of mine with regard to the Core/Gap divide is that numerous ìseamsî mark the various divides that separate these two worlds within a world. The most straightforward expressions of this concept are Seam States that lie along the boundary between the Core and Gap. Now, admittedly, while I made a point of capturing roughly 95 percent of U.S. non-humanitarian crisis responses (1990-2003) within the Gap (meaning I drew my Gap boundary in order to keep the vast majority of those responses within the resulting shape), I did have some leeway in deciding exactly where the line fell.

Frankly, this seam was never much of an issue when I first drew the map, because that image was used solely within the context of a PowerPoint briefing designed to be seen by upwards of several hundred audience members in spaces as large as hotel ballrooms. That meant I kept both the map and the shape of the Gap itself rather bold and iconic. In other words, I would not (and really could not) say in every instance whether a country fell inside or outside the Gap. To me, the definitions of Gap and Core themselves were the key issue, not some strict roster of whoís in and whoís out.

Then William McNulty came into my life. Heís the guy who makes the vast majority of the maps for the New York Times, which is why my Core-Gap map made famous by Esquire and soon to appear in my book looks so much like a Times map. Esquire hired McNulty to create the map they used in the original article. When Mark Warren (my hired-gun editor) and I were working with Putnam in putting the book together, it seemed only natural to reuse McNultyís artwork, which I found very attractive (he, on the other hand, off-handedly remarked to me once in an email that I should basically fire the guy who did my graphics, something I tried not to take personally as the author of all my own stuff).

Of course, McNultyís stuff is so sharp and clean looking precisely because it is printed on paper and designed to be read close up, plus itís for the staid Times, so the lurid sort of colors I use in my PowerPoint brief are nowhere to be found. To say the least, though, I was very excited to have McNulty on the case, because I knew his version would give the map a whole new authority compared to my splashy, animated PPT rendition.

Then McNultyís dreaded emails started pouring in. He kept asking whether or not this or that state was inside or outside the Gap boundary. Unlike my PPT map graphic where individual country boundaries went unmarked, McNultyís map labeled each state, forcing me to decide on a case-by-case basis who belongs to the Gap and who does not. So I made some choices. In South America, I decided that everyone other than Argentina, Brazil and Chile were basically in the Gap. In southern Africa, I isolated South Africa from the rest of the continent, designating it for the Core (just barely). In Europe, I extended the line around most of the former Yugoslav republic, grabbed Romania, the Caucasus and all the Central Asian states. I did not go all the way eastward to include Mongolia though, and made a point in South Asia to include everyone but India, which, as a result extends into the Gap like the grand peninsula it is. In East Asia, I basically grabbed everyone save China, Taiwan, the Koreas (trapping North Korea in the Core) and Japan. Finally in the Pacific, I included all the island nations except Australia and New Zealand.

Not an exact science, obviously, but the resulting shape did strike me as a decent expression of globalizationís advance, or frontier. But the main point was, by encompassing 95 percent of U.S. crisis responses since the Cold Warís end, I had captured virtually all the major violence expressed across the system in the current expansive era of globalization. This is the natural global demand pattern for U.S. security exports once the Soviets had left the strategic scene.

Some of the seam that resulted from all these individual decisions was easy to define. For example, the Mediterranean itself is a key seam between Europe and Africa/Middle East. In my mind, then, several states that line this historic sea are classic Seam States, such as Morocco, Spain, Greece and Turkey.

Now one way I describe the importance of Seam States is to say that most of the terrorists we fear operate and are based within the Gap and thatóif they had their wayótheyíd bring their violence into the Core. To do that, these terrorists need to cross seams, both physical and virtual. For example, a border is a physical or geographic seam, whereas an airport and its attendant customs office is more a procedural or virtual seam. Truly virtual seams are what youíd think they are: stuff like the Internet, bank transfers, mail, etc.

Another way I like to highlight the Seam States is to say they represent the fundamental battle lines in this global war on terrorism: theyíre like the middle ground on a chess board, or the countries most likely to be either lost to the Gap or pulled into the Core. As international trade studies consistently show, proximity still determines a lot of economic transactions across the globe.

When al Qaeda struck New York and Washington on 9/11, they struck deep into the Core, pulling off a terrorist attack of great strategic depth and requiring a significant stretching of their necessarily complex logistical lines (complex because of the need to stay hidden from view). Up to that point in history, many security specialists, including me, remained relatively unimpressed with the fears voiced by some terrorism experts that eventually Middle East terrorist groups would develop the capacity to reach all the way to the U.S., because the heyday of terrorism in the 1980s saw their reach limited primarily to southern Europe, suggesting that even penetrating that shallowly into the Core was a real strain for them.

Why 9/11 was a real System Perturbation that threw the Coreís security rule sets into flux was because it destroyed that sense of strategic complacency. So the Core performed a significant rule set reset, tightening itself up, especially in terms of air travel. As a result, no significant follow-on terrorist attacks have occurred in the U.S. since 9/11, which is certainly an impressive accomplishment on our part.

But that tightening of security rule sets has forced al Qaeda to return to the Seam State focus that marked transnational terrorism in the 1980s, suggesting that once again the Mediterranean basin will be a hot spot of trouble, just in time for the 2004 Olympics in Seam State known as Greece.


The only question is...

. . . how we welcome them.

"The Hispanic Challenge" by Samuel Huntington (Foreign Policy, March/April 04 issue)

According to my old professor Sam Huntington, not everyone should be welcome here. Sam's new book (sure to be controversial) is titled: Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity. If you think Sam went off the deep end with Clash of Civilizations, you may consider this to be rock-bottom of an otherwise brilliant career.

Let me say first off, Sam Huntington probably goes down as the 20th century's most important political scientist, not to mention one of the most controversial. More personally, he was my favorite professor at Harvard. Frankly, I felt like such a fish out of water there (with class mates like Fareed Zakaria, Andrew Sullivan and Mark Medish, you tend to feel inferior from the get-go), and most of my attempts to speak out in seminars were greeted with complete indifference ("Huh?" was a common response). But Sam was the first andóin some waysóonly prof who seemed to get me, who seemed to be able to hear my voice at whatever unique frequency I was speaking at. His grading of my papers were a revelation to me: someone understands my way of thinking!

So when I criticize the guy, you need to understand it's nothing personal, because I think he is legitimately described as a giant in my field of political science, plus he's a personal hero of mine.

Having said all that, I fear Prof. Huntington has outlived his productive years. The last good book he wrote was about The Third Wave of Democratization. Then he seemed to lose his way in the post-Cold War world, primarily because he seems to fear multiculturalism like the Black Death (no pun intended). In this latest book on how "the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages" (I quote the intro to the FP article, which is adapted from the book), Sam seems to have lost all perspective on what this country really is all about, instead choosing to cringe at the "brown peril" that seems poised to destroy us.

Sam has become this frightened old white guy from New England who's scared stiff of all those brown Catholics coming up from the south. The ironic part of the article is that he credits all those white Anglo-Saxon Protestants with setting in motion the U.S. that we know today, but then assumes that by letting in too many Latino Catholics, we'll end upóapparentlyóbecoming a racially divided version of Brazil or Quebec.

"Would the United States be the country that it has been and that it largely remains today if it had been settled in the 17th and 18th centuries not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is clearly no. It would not be the United States; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil."
I guess I just don't read U.S. history in the same way as Sam does. While I credit the Anglo-Saxon source code, I see this country evolving so far past those origins that a huge gulf exists today between that European tradition and what we have created here in the U.S. My sense is that Huntington felt okay about the future so long as it centered on the Anglos-Saxon-led West keeping the Slavic and Asian commies at bay, only to become deeply disillusioned and scared when the New World Order that followed seems to favor a globalization-fueled mixing of the races (I say this as someone adopting a baby girl from China in coming months).

The Latinization of America is not only a good thing (opening up our minds and hopefully our nation's membership to Latino societies to our south), it is a deeply necessary thing due to the aging demographics we face over the coming decades. So get used to southern governors who know Spanish becoming president of the United States, because over time that will be the norm.

As I say in the book, "they" are coming no matter what, the only question is how we welcome them. If you listen to Sam Huntington, it is question of danger, but in my mind, it's a question of opportunity. I see a United States that encompasses maybe 75 states by the year 2050, and I see many of those states coming from Latin America. It won't be out of fear but out of logic that we open up membership in these United States once again.


Who wants to be the 51st state?

My "Stunning Prediction" That America Will "Annex" Much Of Latin America In The Next 50 Years!

Here I reference the review of my book, which was posted yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I loved the review, which was very complimentary (it certainly beats the Kirkus review found at Barnes and Noble page; which called me "Strangelovean" for similar reasons), and the bit about me predicting a Teddy Roosevelt-like grab for new states will be just fine in terms of getting media attention for the book, but it's a misread of what I said.

Now, first off, you have to understand that, like every other reviewer, is working off the "bound manuscript" version of the book, which is nothing more than the first polished draft that Mark Warren and I turned into Putnam (on timeóa first in publishing history I was told) in mid-November of last year. We then spent the next four months editing the text, but Putnam, due to the tight production schedule (they moved the book's release up a month after reading the first draftónice!) rushed that "uncorrected proof" (as it says on the cover) into print so as to be able to give reviewers and media people something to chew on before the release date of 26 April. Point being: Mark and I went over the text, smoothing out a lot of material, including the (apparently) soon-to-be-infamous paragraph on "annexing" (I never used that word!) in the last, concluding chapter.

Here is what I really meant by introducing the concept that America would add new states in the next several decades: I think that not only does the Core as a whole need to be open about bringing new members into the fold from the Gap, but that the United States itself has to rethink the notion that somehow, these "united states" are/is a closed club. I mean, we added states for about 170 years, and then stopped during the height of the Cold War because doing anything like that during those decades would be like pursuing some American version of what later became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

But I honestly believe this country needs to open its mind up to the possibility that we can and should admit new "member states" in coming years. We're doing this on an economic basis with a NAFTA, and hope to do it with a CAFTA and a FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). On a very profound level, we've done it in the past in terms of security rule sets by creating a NATO and then saying in effect, "attack any of them and you attack the U.S." If that isn't making a foreign state one of your own security-wise, then what the hell is?

All I am suggesting by throwing out this bold prediction that the U.S. will grow in size and membership in the future is that we need to move beyond this sort of piecemeal integration. Mexico, for all practical purposes, is a collection of member states belonging (some more than others) to a U.S.-centric economic union, as are the Canadian provinces (again, some more than others). I say we need to move beyond this partial membership and open up the doors for states, especially in our hemisphere, to join the United States for real. When states in the region entertain the notion of "dollarizing" their economies (using the U.S. dollar as their own and foregoing any national currency), they are asking to be let in economically. Panama has done this for years, and BTW, is the only Latin American economy to feature an active 30-year fixed home mortgage market as a result. Argentina and others have considered this move in recent years, all of which only speaks to the attraction of membership in U.S.-led economic unions of all sorts, because belonging to our "club" means access to our markets.

I know bringing up these ideas strikes many as radical (primarily in terms of giving any small state two senators, but Rhode Island's duo only do so much damage, so how bad could Haiti's be?), but my goal in doing so is simply to open up the minds of Americans about what "shrinking the Gap," as I call it, will ultimately entail. There is so much anti-globalization feeling brewing around the world and in the U.S. right now, when in reality we need to be going in the other direction: not closing our doors by enlarging our definition of "who's in" and "who's us" (more on that later when I talk to Sam Huntington's new book). The Census Bureau predicts that two-thirds of U.S. population growth by 2050 will come in the form of Latinos immigrating into our nation. With that Latinization of the U.S. proceeding apace, is it so bizarre to think that the U.S. could expand in membership to include partsóor allóof Mexico (itself a collection of "united states"), or other small countries in Latin America?

I mean, the European Union admits new members by the boat load and no one there finds it so bizarre (although notice how they stop when they reach the Muslims in Turkey and the Slavs in the former Soviet republics), so why can't the U.S. get back into the business of being open for new members? What is so sacred about 50 stars in our flag?

Here is why I bring it up with regard to Haiti: we should simply be done with these periodic interventions that have been going on for a good century and simply invite Haiti into the United States. Tell me Haitians wouldn't jump at the chance. It's like going from playing with the Milwaukee Brewers to joining the roster of the New York Yankees with the stroke of a pen! Imagine what a stunner that would be! What a system perturbation! What a fluxing of the global rule set!

Just think about what a shock it would be for Fidel's Cuba, or any Latino Gap state suffering from some terrible dictator, if America put that option on the table. Imagine the sort of change we could trigger in our hemisphere atówhat I could argueówould be reasonably low cost (again, Rhode Island is only so corrupt, so how bad could adding Haiti be?).

Of course, you might see a few other statesólike toddlersóflop themselves down on the floor immediately, demanding to be picked up and held by "mommy" U.S., but I think it would nonetheless be worth it. Such a dramatic move would shout out to the world, "We are open for new member states!" And nothing would better signal an America that is not withdrawing from the world.

Yes, I know this is a fanciful vision right now, but I wrote that paragraph in the book (tease, tease) so as to shock the reader into thinking something new and different about how this country defines itself in the era of globalization. Anyway, it's such a "revolutionary" idea only because it's such a retro idea. Admitting new states is not about some 19th-century Niall Ferguson-definition of American "empire," but a 21st century notion of broadband integration. America has stood, for well over two centuries, as the world's first multinational economic, political and security union of member states. We not only have a great product, we have long served as the original source code for globalization's increasingly mature expression and growth over the past several decades. If all we ever do with such states as Haiti is send the troops and nothing else, that does smack of imperial order. But inviting such states into our very exclusive fold (we last admitted a new state, poor island chain Hawaii, in 1959óalmost a half century ago) says something very different about these United States. It says we really believe in a future worth creating not just for ourselves, but for all who would join us.

Remember this: our government's official name is the "United States." Not America, not the United States of America, not USA. We are the only country in the world without a place name. Where is the United States found? Wherever there are states united. We are the only nation in the world build solely around a conceptónot any "sacred land," not any "chosen race." We need to remember that. Everyone is welcome here.

Well, almost everyone . . .


Handicapping the Gap: Haiti

Our decision to go back in was no big surprise. As soon as desperate people there started signaling a willingness to hop on boats and make for U.S. shores, you just knew the White House would have to bite the bullet and deal with the situation. When I saw that the Coast Guard had turned back two boats with 140 on board, I could almost hear the Marines cowboying up for their next great Caribbean adventure. Aristide's later whining about being tricked out of the country was fairly silly. He knew his time was up. And anyone on our side bitching about how we removed him from power should simply be happy we managed to do so without having to shoot anything - or anyone - up.

My definition of a truly "failed state" is one that "fails" to get any great power interested in its sad plight, so by that idiosyncratic measure, Haiti isn't really a failed state, but our interest is driven more by geographic proximity than by real desire to do better there. If Haiti was located off the coast of Africa, then fuhgetaboutit!

This Bush Administration intervention is unlikely to do any more good than the Clinton one that preceded it. The U.S. is simply not serious about making any long term commitment to the Caribbean's Gap states, except to cherry-pick members for the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA. In theory, I approve of such cherry-picking, as I say in the book, but eventually we need to get around to the Haitis too.


Handicapping the Gap - Again

In addition to the series of entries I want to pursue between now and the release of my book, or what I'll call "The Back Story of the Pentagon's New Map," I want to start another product line that's more current events focused. This one will see me returning to my infamous "list" of troubled states around the world, which I first generated with the PNM article for Esquire roughly a year ago.

When I wrote "The Pentagon's New Map" for Esquire in March 2003, Mark Warren, the executive editor of the magazine, had me gin up a list of trouble-spots around the world ("Handicapping the Gap"). It was fairly easy to do, because I write such lists up and send them as emails to colleagues on a regular basis. I often trade such lists with my old mentor at the Center for Naval Analyses, Hank Gaffney, simply as a way of keeping sharp on the full range of global events.

When I generated the first draft of the list, I just cranked it out like any old email and sent it to Warren, telling him it was just an outline of sentence fragments, and that he could use it as raw material to create genuine paragraphs. I did that because I assumed that was what he wanted in the end, and I thought I'd give him first crack at generating just the right tone for the article, since it was his idea in the first place. Well, he tried to do just that several times, but ultimately gave up, saying he was never happy with the style once the terse bullets were refashioned into paragraphs. So he simply went with the raw email text I sent him in the first place. I was sort of shocked by this at first, because the tone was so unexpurgated and blunt, but Mark decided that was exactly what the piece needed.

Anyway, the list almost got as much attention as the article. I received emails from all over the world going on and on about this or that line in each entry, often from interested parties living in the country itself. Two German newspapers (Freitag und Die Zeit) both ran op-eds that took their cue from individual lines. Freitag's story (23 May 2003) was entitled, "And then there's AIDS" ("Und ausserdem gibt es da AIDS"), which was a tag line I stuck on to my entries for Congo, South Africa, Russia, China and India. Die Zeit's piece (22 May 2003) was entitled "Der Babysitter kommt im Kampfanzug" ("The Babysitter Comes in Khakis/Military Uniform"), referencing my line that the former Yugoslavia republics would continue to constitute a "long-term babysitting job for the West."

Those were the two stories I know about from abroad. Most of the emails I got presented arguments for why one country or another should be considered part of the Gap or not. That was the touchiest subject for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Esquire's first thought was to have me identified in the byline as Assistant for Strategic Futures, Office of Force Transformation, OSD. But when my boss in OFT, Art Cebrowski read through the world round-up list of comments, and saw that line about Saudi Arabia ("The let-them-eat-cake mentality of royal mafia will eventually trigger violent instability from within."), we quickly decided amongst ourselves that I would just go with my Naval War College byline. That made me feel instantly better. I knew Mark Warren liked the bluntness of the tone, like it was a raw intell feed (it was reprinted in several such Internet list-serves), but I could just see me defending myself over every little line if the OSD byline was used, and I didn't want the headache. As I said at the time, "It's good to be double-hatted."

Another problem with the handicapping list was that many in the world took it as proof that the Bush Administration actually has a list of countries to invade as part of the Global War on Terrorism (as if!). When the German intellectual magazine 'Blaetter fur deutsche und internationale Politik' reprinted the article translated into German (May 2003 - thus triggering the newspaper coverage in Germany), the editors introduced it by basically saying that the "Handicapping the Gap" list answered the burning questions of "Who's next?" and "Where next?" They also noted that Colin Powell, when interviewed previously, vigorously denied the existence of any such "list" ("Nein, es gibt keine Liste.") It was both hilarious and sad to me that German intellectual circles felt themselves so desperately in the dark that they grabbed for my "handicapping" list as "proof" that the Bush White House had a roadmap of military invasions hidden away somewhere ("Oh, but if you, lowly OSD functionary, care to publish it in Esquire, be my guest!"). But all that was said was that this administration was doing a poor job in explaining the reality of the world as we find it today - that fundamental difference I describe as the Core versus the Gap, or where globalization has taken root and where it has not.

Of course, the legend of the "list" has only grown with America's decision to re-intervene (yet again) in Haiti, because (as many email senders have pointed out to me in recent days), Haiti was at the top of my list. My original entry for Haiti read as follows:

"Efforts to build a nation in 1990s were disappointing - We have been going into Haiti for about a century, and we will go back when boat people start flowing in during the next crisis - without fail."

Wow, that was a bold prediction that saw me really sticking my neck out! Like prognosticating that somehow the Red Sox would once again find a way to lose a play-off series to the Yankees!

Thus, having reminded you of my unwavering capacity to see into the future, let me start another review of the planet and recent events. Consider it an updating of the "Handicapping" list. I will start with Haiti today and move onto to other states from the original list in subsequent posts, although I won't confine myself to just those states (next up - one of my Seam States to watch, Spain).


A Beginning

Since this is my inaugural blog, I should introduce myself and explain what I hope to accomplish here on this new site.

My name is Tom Barnett, and I am currently a professor at the Naval War College, where I teach occasionally but mostly do research for interested "clients" within the Department of Defense. For example, for 20 months following 9/11, I served as the Assistant for Strategic Futures in the Office of Force Transformation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where I put together the big PowerPoint brief that generated not just the article with Esquire ("The Pentagon's New Map") that many are familiar with, but likewise my forthcoming book (The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century) with G.P. Putnam's Sons.   Right now I am helping a Navy R&D lab think about its long-range strategic futures, plus helping the Office of Force Transformation plot out possible long-term evolutions of force structure (i.e., mix of ships and aircraft) for the U.S. Navy.

I also run my own consulting business on the side called Barnett Consulting.   It is a sole proprietorship where I occasionally take on contractors to facilitate my performance of certain jobs.  For example, right now Barnett Consulting is working with the United Way of Rhode Island (an old client), helping them examine their organizational response to the Station Nightclub Fire disaster of February 2003.  In this rather fascinating endeavor, I have enlisted the aid of my long-time collaborator and friend, Bradd Hayes, a fellow professor at the college.

As part of my work at the college, I maintain my own website here, based on the long-running NewRuleSets.Project that I have directed since early 2000.  That project began as a collaboration between my department at the college and the Wall Street broker-dealer firm Cantor Fitzgerald. The project, which I describe extensively in my book (and which you can read about at both this site [soon] and the college's site), revolved around a series of workshops atop World Trade Center 1 that brought together Wall Street heavyweights, national security officials, and academic subject matter experts to discuss how globalization was altering our definitions of both national security and international stability. Obviously, that series ended on 9/11, due to Cantor's catastrophic loss of life.  Within weeks, I went to work in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where I began building and delivering the brief that has essentially changed my life.

My instructions from Art Cebrowski, director of the Office of Force Transformation, were very simple.  He said basically, "Build me a brief that will described the emerging strategic environment in such a way that defense transformation is seen not just as an opportunity, but an imperative." It was his hope that my brief would elevate the discussion of transformation beyond what I like to call the "whack list," or those weapons systems and platforms (e.g., aircraft, vehicles, ships) that were to be cut as the military moved ahead on building the force of the future.  Art's supposition matched my own: 9/11 would mark a tipping point of great change for the role of the Defense Department in U.S. national security.  We needed to describe that great change and - by doing so - provide a compelling strategic vision of the future of war and peace in the twenty-first century.  Thus the Pentagon's new map was born, although I never called the work that until Mark Warren, the executive editor of Esquire, proposed that as the name of the article he wanted me to write for the magazine. He made that proposal upon seeing the brief himself for the first time in the fall of 2002.

But I get ahead myself.

What I really want to do in these first blogs is take you through the process from stem to stern: describing how - in the space of just about a year and a half - I went from total obscurity (outside of my narrow world of national security strategic planning where I am both lauded and derided) to having Putnam gin up 100k copies of my first book. It has been a fascinating ride, and I want to get it down on paper, so to speak, before I forget it all.

I learned that lesson a long time ago, when I penned several hundred pages of emails in 1994-1996 to family and friends around the world concerning my daughter Emily's long struggle with pediatric cancer. What I later put together with my spouse Vonne in an unpublished manuscript (The

Emily Updates: A Year in the Life of a Three-Year-Old Battling Cancer) began first as a sort of blog via email to a readership of about 100 people. When I read the material now, I am amazed I ever wrote any of it, because - frankly - I remember so little of it today.  But that material, which is used as a teaching text for medical social workers at Georgetown University, will someday be a real gold mine to my daughter as she seeks to understand her tumultuous past.  If I had never had the opportunity to do that first crude blog via email, all of that would have been lost.

I feel myself in a similarly tumultuous point in my life. I have a book coming out that may well change my life dramatically. My father is suffering a very dangerous health challenge. Vonne and I are in the process of adopting a baby girl from China this year.  In short, I am experiencing some classic "sandwich generation" times: big changes in my career, big changes with my kids, and big challenges with my parents.  I don't want to lose track of any of this, because it all has such meaning for me, and so I hope to get much of it down in this blog - just as I did with Emily's cancer fight.

So here's my plan for the next days, understanding that my schedule is fairly uncertain given my Dad's state of health:

  1. First I want to describe the long strange process of building the brief and how it evolved - briefing by briefing - as I spread the message throughout the defense community.
  2. I also want to tell the story of my interaction with Esquire and how that led to the article that changed my life.

  3. Then I'd like to describe the process of getting my book sold, because that is a fascinating tale in itself.   For example, Tom Clancy and I now have the same editor! I mean, just writing those nine words is a kick!  I've already asked Neil Nyren, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of G.P. Putnam's Sons for permission to post the book proposal (30 or so pages) that won me the contract with his company. As he recently wrote me, Heck, it got me to buy the book!"  But it did more than that, it really got me to write the book, which is the tale of my conversion from essay writer to book author at the hands of my agent, Jennifer Gates of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth of Manhattan.

  4. Next I want to describe the process of writing the book, and the special role played by Mark Warren, who signed on to become my personal editor. This has proven to be a match made in heaven for me, as Mark turns out to be my missing twin somehow born and raised (by wolves, he claims) in Texas.

  5. Finally I want to spend a lot of time describing the process since Mark and I finished the first draft (which is out to several hundred readers right now in what I call the "butt-ugly" bound manuscript, or advance copy version), or basically all the edits and the interactions that have ensued with Putnam as we prepare collectively to launch this book on 26 April. 

The first three I hope to get done in short order, whereas the last item will be where I begin blogging in real time for real - meaning I start posting on a daily basis about stuff happening on a daily basis.   As I do that, I and my webmaster, Critt Jarvis, will begin posting material from the book. Not the text, mind you, because that I sold to Putnam fair and square, but material that I wrote that did not make it into the book for reasons of pacing, etc. (although Mark may have different explanations ). I also hope, with Putnam's permission, to post all the endnotes from the book.

Critt and I have a number of other plans for the site, hoping the book's release will turn a lot of readers onto the ideas and challenges presented within.  So we hope to create a certain amount of space on the site to capture feedback, encourage some discussion, and get the ball rolling in terms of a web-based debate about - what I like to call - a future worth creating.

I am very excited by this challenge.  I love to write on a daily basis, and hopefully this venue will work for both me and you - the reader. I am looking for interaction and feedback, because such give-and-take with the audience - via those several hundred PowerPoint presentations over the years - is basically how I gathered or generated all the material that became the book.  I have been a verbal blogger all my life, but now I hope to expand that conversation pool a whole lot.

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