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The Strategy Bridge: "The Past as a Prologue: The Future of the U.S. Military in One Graphic"

Where have I heard this before?

I wasn't the first to draw this map. Adam Siegel did at the Center for Naval Analyses.  When he went off to get his PhD, I was asked to expand his focus on naval ops to include army and air force. That effort begat The Pentagon's New Map effort.

Now, many years later, similar effort yields similar picture and similar conclusions, which is why I always said that this wasn't an idea or theory but an inescapable reality that was splitting our force in two. We could either embrace it or try to ignore it, but the world out there wasn't going to change along with our fluctuating fascination for, and addiction to, Big War.

So here's the new map - same as the old:

It's part of a strong 2015 piece by Daniel Sukman (strategist in the U.S. Army and a member of the Military Writers Guild)

And yes, he does make the link back to my earlier work:

Interestingly, this review of operations since 1980 confirms the Non-Integrating Gap theory proposed by Thomas Barnett in his seminal book, The Pentagon’s New Map. According to Barnett, areas of lesser development — Latin America, the Middle East, and areas of the Pacific — constitute this gap. Moreover, use of the military element of national power tends to occur in these areas. Nations outside of the gap tend to resolve conflict without outside intervention.

To address global requirements, Barnett introduced the concept of the Leviathan and Sysadmin force. In Barnett’s paradigm, the focus of the Leviathan force is major combat operations. The focus of the Sysadmin force is other missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to “Phase 4” nation building activities.

The creation of the Sysadmin and Leviathan force as envisioned by Barnett may not achievable in an era of fiscal constraints. However, the joint force should prioritize the ten missions outlined in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review per geographic area of responsibility. Using the past as a prologue indicates the feasibility of this approach.

Just bumped into the reference on Twitter, and wanted to catalogue here.


"Filling the Gap Between War and Peace: Creating a Stability Command"

Non-professionals talk more about the geostrategic Gap, while professionals speak more about this capabilities/institutional gap, which I proposed to fill with the SysAdmin force - always described as:

  • More civilian than uniform
  • More USG than DoD
  • More ROW than USA, and 
  • More private-sector than public sector (hence my later career stops at Enterra and now iJET). 

NOTE: when the author, Hardy Merrill, later finds my SysAdmin end-strength estimate for post-invasion Iraq too high, it may be that he's discounting my quartet of caveats above.

Later on (Blueprint), I did speak of a de facto stability command, which would be the footprint equivalent of SOCOM's current operational reach (I got the idea from senior SOCOM officers), and - nye sluchaino - would eventually match up fairly well with ISIS's global caliphate map.

H/T Phil Wisecup, a great naval officer and an old friend and neighbor.

A solid historical analysis and a well-structured argument by this Capt. Merrill out of Bragg. That opening factoid of 11 big wars versus 320 small ones is a stunner, when you think about it.

I include a link to my 2005 TED talk because Merrill cited it three times in his essay.

A Small Wars Journal and Military Writers Guild Writing Contest Finalist Article

Filling the Gap Between War and Peace: Creating a Stability Command

Hardy P. Merrill

Clausewitz tells us that low-intensity conflict is continuous, while “Absolute War” or “Total War” is like a volcano requiring years of preparation.[1] In its short existence, the United States has participated in 11 full-scale wars and 320 low-intensity conflicts.[2]  Considering Western powers’ avid study of Clausewitz, why has no one built a lasting, autonomous and networked force for handling small wars? We accept that there will always be another war, and we have built the force capable of dominating “Total War.” It is time to build a standing force that bridges the gap between war and peace.

In The Pentagon’s New Map, Dr. Thomas Barnett provided a rough road map for establishing a transition force in 2004. To be successful, the force must transcend the conventional structure of line wire diagrams at the tactical level. To accomplish this, we need to address organizational structure, military culture and design. Addressing these factors will provide us with the Comprehensive Approach that Joint Publication (JP) 3-07 preaches to achieve peace in the 21st Century. This paper will propose a Joint Force Command centered on stability operations that will fall under the umbrella of the Department of Defense (DoD) ...

Read the entire essay at Small Wars Journal.



"Pentagon's New Map" and "Blueprint for Action" coming out in German/Germany this November

The ad:


The links:



Will enjoy this translation in particular, as I can still read German from my PhD work.

In Changsha, China right now for some meetings/discussions with Hunan Academy of Social Sciences, but publisher asked me to post right away.

For all of you who asked why no German versions? all these years, apparently it took the flood of refugees/migrants from the Gap for the ideas to receive some direct attention in Germany. Yes, I realize that most of the media coverage concerning me has been inaccurate - to say the least. But now readers can decide for themselves.

Looking back on my arguments about Europe having to take in far larger numbers of immigrants to avoid a too-rapidly-aging demographic profile: I run into Europeans all the time who say, "That's easy for you to say but we have to deal with these people! And pay for it all!"

Well . . . having run that very experiment in my own family (three biological kids later augmented by one Asian and two Africans) . . . yeah, I do know a thing or two about the complications, costs, challenges, etc.

And I still make the same arguments. In this world, you go diverse or you're going down.

Fortunately, despite the nativist white blacklash here in the States, that's how the vast majority of Americans feel too, according to this Economist-published polling:


More than half of Americans answered "better" (dark blue) and more than 90% said "better/no difference" (latter being light blue) while less than 10% said "worse" (pink).

The numbers from European countries (larger pink "worse" blocs) are far more "drawbridges up" - as the Economist put it.

Thank God we have always been a synthetic country/citizenry/identity. 

 Yes, I also realize the titles are a bit jacked-up in translation. First think you learn as a writer: you don't get to title your articles/books.



Check it out: "The Past as a Prologue: The Future of the U.S. Military in One Graphic"

The author is Daniel Sukman -- strategist in the U.S. Army and a member of the Military Writers Guild

Interesting and ambitious look at US military operations since 1980, positing logical operational postures for the Combatant Commands on that basis.  Starts off with a fascinating world map, and then goes through the COCOMs individually.  Very nicely executed.

The conclusion caught Dave Emery's eye, so he sent it to me.


The New Map…The Non-Integrating Gap aligns with U.S. Operations over the past 30 years

Interestingly, this review of operations since 1980 confirms the Non-Integrating Gap theory proposed by Thomas Barnett in his seminal book, The Pentagon’s New Map. According to Barnett, areas of lesser development — Latin America, the Middle East, and areas of the Pacific — constitute this gap. Moreover, use of the military element of national power tends to occur in these areas. Nations outside of the gap tend to resolve conflict without outside intervention.

To address global requirements, Barnett introduced the concept of the Leviathan and Sysadmin force. In Barnett’s paradigm, the focus of the Leviathan force is major combat operations. The focus of the Sysadmin force is other missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to “Phase 4” nation building activities.

The creation of the Sysadmin and Leviathan force as envisioned by Barnett may not achievable in an era of fiscal constraints. However, the joint force should prioritize the ten missions outlined in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review per geographic area of responsibility. Using the past as a prologue indicates the feasibility of this approach.



Pop!Tech 8 artwork by Peter Durand of Alphachimp


The "Pentagon's new map" recast as USMC's "arc of instability"



Mr. Ignatius, I called it the "Department for Everything Else"

Nice piece by David Ignatius at WAPO about the "power gap" in the US foreign policy establishment.  He describes it as basically the missing link for all the complex security situations out there where the traditional "big war" US force isn't appropriate:

Here lies one of the biggest unresolved problem for U.S. national-security planners today: How can America shape events in an unstable world without putting “boots on the ground” or drones in the air? Does this stabilizing mission belong to the experts at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)? Or to the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, which was created in 2011 to deal with such problems? Or to the facilitators and analysts at the U.S. Institute of Peace, which was created in 1984 to help resolve conflicts peacefully? Or maybe to the covert-action planners at the CIA, who work secretly to advance U.S. interests in key countries?

The answer is that all of the above would have some role in shaping the U.S. response to a potential crisis. But in practice, the overlapping roles mean that none of them would have ultimate responsibility. Thus, in our imaginary NSC meeting, no one takes charge.

Actually, I called it the System Administrator force at first, and I said it would ultimately be more civilian than uniform, more USG than DoD, and more private-sector funded than fueled by foreign aid.  

That was in The Pentagon's New Map, which Ignatius praised so much in a December 2004 WAPO column that he got me fired from the Naval War College a few days later (so yes, I have known what it was like to have your government career axed by a flattering MSM piece).  

I haven't had a full-time job since - and never will again (by choice).  As the old Roman proverb goes, A slave with many masters is a free man.

Then, in Blueprint for Action, I argued that my Sys Admin force needed a bureaucratic center of gravity in the USG for all the reasons Ignatius cites in this recent column, and I called the Department of Everything Else.  And yeah, it was all about the "power gap" he describes there: 

I’ve talked recently with officials from all these agencies, and what I hear is discouraging. They’re each heading in their own direction, working on their own particular piece of the puzzle. The pieces get assembled in well-managed U.S. embassies overseas, where the ambassador makes the country team work together. But similar coordination happens too rarely in Washington.

The U.S. Institute of Peace, headed by Jim Marshall, prides itself on being a small, nimble organization with a cadre of specialists who can travel to crisis zones and meet with different sects, tribes and parties. But the organization likes its independence and doesn’t want to be an arm of the State Department or any other bureaucracy. It’s a boutique, but that means its efforts are hard to multiply. And its presence can create confusion about who’s doing what.

State’s new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations has the right mission statement. But it’s only 165 people and shrinking, and it doesn’t even have the heft to lead the State Department’s activities, let alone the full government’s. The bureau’s chief, Rick Barton, wants State to designate a “center of gravity” for each budding crisis, so that there’s at least an address for mobilizing resources. It’s a good idea but just a start.

USAID has been America’s lead development agency for decades. But it’s also a perennial area of bureaucratic dispute, and many analysts argue that the nation gets less bang for its development buck than it should. It’s hard to imagine USAID being the strategic answer. The same goes for the CIA, which under John Brennan wants to refocus on its core intelligence-collection mission, rather than covert action.

It’s a cliche these days to talk about how America needs more emphasis on “soft power” and its better-educated cousin, “smart power.” Meanwhile, for all the talk, the problems fester and the power gap grows.

What I was told by many government types back then was that I was right, but that it could not happen until an entirely new way of thinking emerged on the subject - USG-wide.  

Well, I spent the next decade trying to spread that thought both here in the US and in about four dozen other countries.  I gave that talk about a thousand times (literally) to about half a million people - live and in person.

And I still try to spread that vision.

What I've said to people all along is that we simply need to suffer enough failure to finally realize that the old packages don't work.  We can go in and blow everything up (Powell Doctrine, Bush in practice), or we can pretend a mafia-style decapitation/assassination campaign will work (Israel for decades, US under Obama).  

But the real solution still hangs out there, waiting for us to get serious about finally addressing it - instead of chasing this "pivot" fantasy against the Chinese.

So no, the problem isn't going anywhere, and neither is the solution - sad to say.

But eventually it happens, because eventually we'll fear the change less than the repeated failures.

Hat tip to Jeffrey Itell for alerting me on the Ignatius column.


The global security system's latest "gap"

New location, old story.

Been saying for about a decade now that Long War eventually migrates to Central Asia (less likely) and Africa (more likely), because it's "losing proposition" would eventually wear out its welcome in the Middle East (latest version now unfolding in Syria).  Will it succeed in Africa?  Only in the harshest locations above and around the tenth parallel that divides a predominately Muslim north ("cowboy" in American parlance, which sounds better than "herder") and a predominately Christian/animist south ("farmer" or any location-fixed economic activity). These two characters have never been friends anywhere and anytime in this world - no matter what Rodgers and Hammerstein said.

What is the dynamic we see?  We see a crisis du jour (Tuaregs in North Mali) attract co-ethnic mercenaries with nothing to do after Libya (and flush with small arms).  We also see an extremist Islamic uptick as an identity unifier.  Then, to no surprise, al-Qaeda shows up.  Where is this place?  Unbelievably remote.  Hillary Clinton called it "one of the remotest places in the world." (How many times have we heard that?).

Next, the words "save haven" pop up and we have a Western intervention seguing into all the usual insurgency/counterinsurgency dynamics.  The Long War doesn't go away because America takes most of its "ball" and goes home (or to East Asia); it merely keeps shifting location - as it has done for a couple of decades now (check out AQ Central's many addresses over the years - all garden spots).

This is the small-wars world we live in (subject of my upcoming "think again" piece in Foreign Policy).  We can get all jacked about China but, quite frankly, that's a self-liquidating problem (China's slowdown and other internal contradictions, plus the natural security balancing in East Asia like Japan moving to spend more on defense and logically go nuclear eventually).  

America thinks it's in charge of all this, so when we decide the "decade of wars is over" (Obama), then by God, they're over - right?  No American troops, no headlines (that matter) and no wars (that count).  Instead, we now "stand up" to those dastardly Chinese because it fits our fiscal fights and the Pentagon's need to find a distant and relatively benign "floor" to its budget ("Let's plan for an imaginary super-cool high-tech war with the Chinese so we can buy stuff like crazy - or as crazy as Congress will let us be for now.").  Thus we "heal the force" by getting rid of bodies (personnel) and restocking our toys.  China is the perfect cold-war-like foe for that. Chances of real war?  Virtually zero.  But, man, what a force sizer! (Actually not so good, but you make do with what you have in tough times, right?).

And meanwhile, the Long War keeps unfolding.  No argument on Obama's symmetricizing the fight (our SOF v. their terrorists), but since we're no longer in the business of "healing post-conflict societies/nations/etc" because in the past we insisted on doing it all ourselves (and all our own way) and that's too costly now (plus, we could never cooperate with those dastardly Chinese), those places just get shot up by our SOF and drone and get left with the smoking holes.  If these places are lucky, there's something for the Chinese to come in and extract.  If not, they are simply left behind by an uncaring world that will show up to kill bad guys and nothing else.

This is Colin Powell's dream world; no wonder he admires Obama so:  "I'm just here to kill bad guys and when there are no more bad guys to kill, I move on."  That's the Powell Doctrine in a nutshell (insert "overwhelming force" HERE).

But Obama is the great peacemaker.  We know this because he has a medal to prove it.  He stops America's over-stretched ambitions on nation-building and replaces it with worldwide targeted assassinations, and we are pleased with his wisdom.  But his total lack of caring for what happens next in those places where the smoking holes are all we leave behind?

History will judge that as both strategically unwise and incredibly cruel.

"Lead from behind" is a brilliantly descriptive phrase.


Interesting take on my use of "connectivity"

From Arvada Press in Colorado, where, oddly enough, I just spoke last week.

Column is entitled, Get the spirit of connectivity with your community.

Clearly self-aggrandizing exerpt, but you'd be surprised how many such converations I've had over the years.

One of the more important books I’ve read in the last 10 years is a geopolitical-strategy book called “The Pentagon’s New Map” by Thomas P.M. Barnett.

Barnett, who regularly consults for the Pentagon, goes into an intricate explication of his central thesis, which is “disconnectedness defines danger.”

What that means is that states, regions or tribes that are cut off from regular contact with the highly developed portions of the world are the states and regions that pose the greatest threat to the world around them.

Consider that al-Qaida grew and thrived in the largely abandoned and desolate regions of tribal Afghanistan, and you’ll understand.

It’s a fascinating thesis, and one worth understanding for anybody who has a lot of brain-space free to devote to geopolitics.

But I think it also has profound implications on a small scale. Consider what we know about the people behind the rash of mass shootings lately: These are not people engaged in the society around them.

People who disconnect like that miss sensing the common chords that bind us together as a society, and that is sad.

And in some extreme cases, that isolation causes people to lose their sense of compassion, their awareness of the motivations and contributions of the people they run across every day.

In this state, it becomes easy to twist small offenses into overarching problems that demand dramatic and violent action.

Next week, walking through the doors of every single school will be some child who is in the process of disconnecting.

For whatever reason, they are not plugged in to the social life of their school, nor do they have even the handful of companions that psychologists tell us provide safe haven for young people.

I’m not just talking about being unpopular; I’m talking about is something that goes a little beyond the not-so-trivial trivialities that make up a normal adolescence.

I’m talking about profound isolation.

But that isolation at school isn’t always definitive.

Many people plug in to community with their family, or with church groups, club sports or even performing groups.

All of that is great because people who belong to something tend to thrive.

Even if that “something” is as simple a unit as a mentor and a mentee, that human connection is often what launches the average into the realm of extraordinary.

So give a little thought to how you are going to “plug in” this year, even if your year is not defined by the school calendar.

I can’t tell you how to find your community, where you will feel valued — only you can do that.

But I can tell you, whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent or a community member, the webs we forge between us have a way of reinforcing themselves over time.

Our connectedness becomes one of our most valuable assets.

If I were to define my sense of love, community - even my religious code, it would sound a lot like this author's musings.  My further delineation of the golden rule:  I don't want to be alone, and I don't want anybody else to suffer that fate against their will or better efforts.  

All we have is time - and each other.


For the Record: Excerpt from "Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of the Leaderless Resistance"

Book is by George Michael of Air War College.  I wrote the following blurb for the backcover:

As globalization continues to process a lot of populist anger over injustices - both perceived and real - stemming from its rapid expansion into traditional cultures, the world is going to suffer a lot more of the 'leaderless' terrorism that Michael explores in this wonderfully evenhanded book.  Those hunting for solutions - in addition to the 'bad guys' - would do well to add this to their reading list.

--Thomas P.M. Barnett, Chief Analyst, Wikistrat

In the conclusion, after a section on PLA Colonels Qiao Lian's and Wang Xiangsui's book, Unrestricted Warfare, Michael offers a summary of my thinking:

Global Integration

In a sense, Qiao and Wang's advocacy of unrestricted warfare on multiple dimensions is similar to Thomas P.M. Barnett's notion of "war within the context of everything else." A former Pentagon defense analyst, Barnett argues that in the contemporary world security must encompass several different dimensions, including economics, politics, trade, international law, and, most important, connectivity. His major study, The Pentagon's New Map, advanced a grand strategy for the United States. In Barnett's scheme, the world is divided into two broad regions.  Countries in the "Functioning Core" are integrated into a world system and operate under "rule sets." They arbitrate their differences through international bodies, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and are less likely to go to war against other countries in the core.[PNM] In contrast, countries in the "Non-Integrating Gap" do not follow these rule sets and are the setting for most of the problems that bedevil the world today.

The real enemy, according to Barnett, is disconnectedness, the separation of people - especially globally. Life in the Gap is, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, poor, nasty, short, and brutal, he says.[PNM] An unabashed economic determinist, he believes that people integrated into the global economy are far less likely to succumb to radicalism. As he puts it, the only viable exit strategy for the US military in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan is to leave those countries with more jobs than when the operations began.[GP & Zakaria's Post-American World]  With no resevoir of discontent, extremist and terrorist groups will find few recruits and pose no existential challenge to the system. Although Muslim rage may be fueled by issues such as the status of the Palestinians and US foreign policy, Barnett argues that it really stems from the Middle East being one of the most disconnected parts of the world. In short, Barnett's long-term strategic goal is the integration of all into the global economy, to drain the resevoir for international terrorism. Multilateral efforts could eliminate the Gap altogether, making globalization truly global.[PNM] Barnett sees globalization as inevitable, because it is the ultimate "non-zero-sum game" - meaning that all sides win.  The entire world will benefit from greater connectedness, he believes, through economic growth and higher standards of living.[BFA]

Lending credence to Barnett's thesis, researchers at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland have discovered that countries that are more tightly integrated into the global economy experience less instability.[Ted Gurr edited volume Peace and Conflict 2008]  Nearly 80 percent of all international crises in the post-Cold War era have involved at least one unstable or failing state.[Peace and Conflict 2008] The physical security of the United States is now threatned not so much by the strenth of other states, but by their weakness, since weak and failed states often serve as sanctuaries for transnational terrorist groups.[PNM & Takeyh/Gvosdev cite]  Despite current global problems, Barnett is optimistic about the future and believes that the terrorist threat can be managed effectively:

I don't see the Salafist threat as particularly profound. It has not done well, particularly in the last several years by my calculations . . . I see them more as a friction. I expect to see more of its as globalization more extensively penetrates the Middle East ast a much faster pace. The Salafists are a response to globalization, a reflection . . .

If we pursue the strategy [of expanding "the core" and shrinking "the Gap"], I don't see how it could fail. If we pursue the strategy, then we can participate in it more and we can shape the process and shape the regimes and the global pillars that arise from the process [May 2008 interview by Michael]

According to Barnett, economics got ahead of politics during the 1990s, and technology got ahead of security, causing the world to become too connected too quickly.[PNM] New technology had led to the emergence of "superempowered individuals," who Barnett believes have the potential to wreak unprecedented damage or "system perturbation."[Friedman's Lexus & Olive Tree, GP] Although the United States cannot be defeated at the nation-state level, Barnett points out that it can still be humbled and even defeated at a system level if the US government is induced to disengage from the Middle East, through acts of terrorism in the style of 9/11.[PNM] Another terrorist attack on that scale could further destabilize financial markets and have a negative ripple effect throughout the economy. Nevertheless, he believes that modern societies have advanced precisely because they have mastered network complexity, usually in response to disasters and scandals that have periodically perturbed their systems and exposed vulnerabilities.[GP]

The encroaching process of globalization, Barnett avers, will undoubtedly engender opposition from those who feel threatened with a loss of identity and culture. The goal of such actors is a "civilizational apartheid" - removal of their areas from the process of globalization. In some ways, though, greater connectivity could increase the number of terrorists. For instance, inasmuch as the "virtual umma" is built on the Internet, increasing access to the medium would increase the potential to radicalize a large number of disaffected Muslims.[irregular warfare book cite]

Despite disruptions along the way, Barnett believes that globalization, if managed effectivey, is a force for good that improves the life conditions of many people. In order for his grand strategy to become a reality, the United States must take a leading role, with other "great powers" pitching in.[GP] Some observers, through, presage an end to US hegemony. What is more, some fear that centrifugal forces could actually tear the United States apart.[pages 158-60]

Michael follows that segue with a section on Sam Huntington, Pat Buchanan, William Lind, Martin van Creveld and Robert Kaplan entitled "Fragmentation."

The next section is called "The Viability of Leaderless Resistance," and here's the last bit referencing my stuff:

Societal fragmentation could increase the frequency of small-scale violence and the prevalence of lone wolf terrorism. But some observers believe the threat of leaderless resistance is overstated. Thomas Barnett finds the discussion about fourth-generation and fifth-generation warfare to be overwrought, depicting, as they sometimes do, a future in which Mad Max-like warriors roam a wasteland. Far from seeing al Qaeda as winning, Barnett sees a movement in retreat, as time and time again it has shifted its center of graveity from one locale to another in response to evictions and military reprisals. Likewise, he see little future for terrorism in "the core." As he points out, terrorism in core countries tends to be sporadic and unsupported by the populace. Perpetrators are often disaffected loners, such as Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, who "we see shuffling in orange jump suits and chains . . .  on their way to a court appearance." Rather than representing a "political storm," they become a social nuisance. This is in contrast to terrorists in the Gap who often thrive in a "wild frontier" environment.[BFA] [pages 165-66]

A pretty fair capture of what I wrote, although I always get this thing where my writings on connectivity leading to peace are countered with the notion (cited from others) that initial connectivity can actually lead to a rise in instability, which is, of course, a point I made ad naseum in my three books. After all, I called it The Pentagon's New Map, indicating that I argued globalization's spread would map out where conflict is going to occur.

Michael did a fair job of laying out my grand strategic vision while making clear that globalization's spread is inevitable all on its own at this point ["unabashed economic determinist . . . Barnett sees globalization as inevitable ..."], whether or not the US leads.  Too often my emphasis on what the US should do gets translated as "defeat the US and defeat globalization," which, as I note often in my writings, I don't believe is possible at this point in history, in large part because it's Asia that now leads in globalization's expansion. Where I argue the US role is crucial comes in how that inevitable globalization of globalization unfolds - i.e., how much violence is attached to that process and what are the pol-mil outcomes.

Naturally, opponents to President Obama's "strategic pivot" to East Asia are going to complain that the US is "abandoning" the Middle East, thus securing the radical Islamist "win" on some level (per my description above), but, as I have written time and again, I don't buy that one bit.  I see the "pivot" as an ass-covering drill by the Democrat Obama intent on closing down Bush's wars (along with a certain indulgence of US populism that blames a lot of America's current woes on "dastardly" China's rise), as well as a budget-floor-locating drill by the Pentagon eager to cut back on the Green (Army, Marines) and favor the big-war Blue (Air Force, Navy) that was "unfairly" penalized by the Long War and Bush's far-too-delayed embrace of COIN. True to form, globalization keeps pulling America's attention back to the Middle East in the form of the Arab Spring.

In short, our attention is pulled to wherever globalization's continued expansion hits traditional cultures not quite ready for it. East Asia gets a certain amount of our attention due to the deficit of regional integration schemes there, but these are not issues to be settled by great-power war - as much as plenty inside the Pentagon dream of such nasty business there.  But growing pains are growing pains, so East Asia gives us enough "crisis" to attract our attention even as other developing parts of the world are where the sub- and transnational action are at.

Having said all that, I did mean what I said in the blurb: I do think globalization's continued expansion gets you more leaderless terrorist activity, not so much because they're superempowered (because we all are), but because that's all that's left as globalization penetrates and absorbs the remaining traditional cultures (on view right now with the Arab Spring and in Africa's widespread economic boom and the socio-economic churn created by that). 

Of course, so long as the US offers the mentally ill easy access to military-grade automatic weaponry and ammunition, we'll have things like the Aurora shooting, which is plenty scary. The ease of doing that in our society eventually has to attract the attention of more organized foreign terror groups along the lines of the Mumbai incident.  I expect that to happen at some point, forcing the US and the West in general down some of the same domestic security paths that Israel long ago adopted (as did the UK in response to the IRA). This adjustment will be uncomfortable, but not life changing.  And it will have no impact whatsoever on globalization's continued advance. It will simply be the price of America's grand strategic success in spreading globalization these past seven decades - along with a sad reflection of our societal love of guns and violence.


Blast from my Past: The New Map Game (2005)

Event was held in the spring of 2005.  Jeff Cares' firm, Alidade, in Newport, ran the game with me as head judge.

Four teams (US as Old Core rep, China as New Core rep, Brazil as Seam State and Iran as Gap), and we had about 12-15 players on each team (the people who signed up for the event)  Jim Fallows came and observed the China team throughout.

We had a dinner the night of day one, where I did my big PNM brief.  Then full day of play, where I previewed Blueprint at the end.  Then half-day the final day, where Steve DeAngelis and I did a combo from the stage discussing the emerging partnership between the New Rule Sets Project and Enterra Solutions.  Months later Steve bought my company and me along with it.

The game itself extended about a decade or so into the future, with various moves every X years.

I wrapped things up with comments on day three.  The Alphachimp guys were drawing throughout.  Here's the one they drew for my closing comments:

Thinking of my ongoing criticism of Obama:  we came out of the exercise saying we wanted something that's Carter-like but with Reagan's backbone (I had mentioned Reagan, but the artist put down Dole), or a Republican Carter administration.  Interesting to consider now with Obama:  just a bit more Reagan and he'd probably be about right for the times.  The other big lesson:  China refused to get in a war with the US - no matter the scenarios we threw at the China team.  It was one of my many data points that said, China will disappoint at a near-peer competitor--as far as the Pentagon is concerned.

Odd tidbit:  years later we find out that one of the participants is one of those sleeper Russian agents finally unearthed and sent back home a while back.

The New Map Game site is still up and have all these drawings, links to press stories, gamebook and final report.

Click here to download the final report.


A German take on "The Pentagon's New Map" as "critical geopolitics" 

Passed along by a German correspondent.  It's a think tank-style critical review of the New Map as an example of spatially expressing a threat (Hamburg U, Institute for Geography, 2005).

A bit much into the symbology for my taste (e.g., the deconstruction of the New Rule Sets Project logo and investing a lot of meaning into Esquire artwork), but a very serious effort at understanding and critiquing what I sought to accomplish by centering my analysis around a world map.

It's found here on the web:

I also make it downloadable here for posterity's sake.

My German's only so-so at this point, but I caught the gist of the criticism.  At a couple of points it felt a little bit like Susan Faludi doing a number on my psyche, but fair is fair, and again, this is a serious attempt at interpretation.

In general, the New Map is interpreted in Europe as an example of "Neoliberal geopolitics."  For an example, see this Austrian piece.


The primary question today

FT column by Philip Stephens that asks the question, "To what degree will the big powers locate their foreign policies in a shared understanding of collective security?"

The Old Think says this is impossible, and that national interests demand zero-sum competition--especially over raw materials. The New Think understands international economics in the age of globalization, meaning globally integrated production chains rule out zero-sum competition over resources ("I'm going to fight you tooth and nail for resources, pissing you off incredibly, and THEN expect to conduct relatively free trade with you that monetizes my victory?"  "Aha," says the Cold Warrior.  "They will somehow enslave their regions to accept this long-term unfavorable transaction, scaring them into become economic vassals with their military might!"--I know, it's almost too stupid to even type but there it is.).

Stephens here, unfortunately, feels the need to resurrect a bad historical analogy: the 19th century Congress of Vienna (ah yes, pre-nuclear analogies for an increasingly post-nuclear world). Naturally, Stephens fears a world of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, because that's such a standard scare tactic ("Look! Over there, two dozen new nuclear powers!"). Stephens knows this is just around the corner because he went to an IISS conference where State's James Steinberg and Henry Kissinger both said so (the "dangerous game changer"!).

Then he moves onto the intelligent stuff, which he likewise credits to both Steinberg and Kissinger (apparently, the usual credo of proliferation cited, both speakers moved onto to reality): the rise of economic interdependency accompanied by environmental and resource interdependencies.

Naturally, everybody laments that rising Asia seems stuck in myopic nationalism--a good critique.  Their rise forces them to grow up very quickly, without the benefits and wisdom afforded by Eurasia's World Wars.

Nonetheless, the IISS, in a new study, feels comfortable enough to lecture rising Asia to pick up the pace and realize that "interdependence should be driving demand for more collective action."

Then Stephens hits the nail on the head:  the pol-mil cooperation venues haven't kept pace with the rising network and economic connectivity--my primary theme of the need for new rules in PNM. Within that observation I locate the crux of the matter: China and America's pol relationship remains stunted because of the mil residual called Taiwan--thus my call in Blueprint to "lock in China at today's prices" (and yes, as I warned back then, that price has gone up since!).

Stephens whines on a bit about the lack of improvement in transatlantic relations as promised by candidate Obama.  I couldn't care less.


Blast from my past: "Mr. President, Here's How to Make Sense of Our Iraq Strategy" (2004)

Mr. President, Here's How To Make Sense Of Our Iraq Strategy

One of the architects of the Pentagon’s New Map of the world offers a most important guide to a) why the boys will never be coming home and b) why this is the first step toward a world without war

By Thomas P. M. Barnett

EsquireJune 2004, pp. 148-54


Is this any way to run a global war on terrorism? The new conventional wisdom is that the warmongering neocons of the Bush administration have hijacked U. S. foreign policy and sent the world down the pathway of perpetual war. Instead of dissecting the rather hysterical strain of most of that analysis, let me tell you what this feedback should really tell us about the world we now live in. And as opaque as the administration has been in signaling its values and true motivations, I will try in this piece to explain what Iraq should mean to us, why all the pain we have encountered there is the price we must pay to ensure a peaceful century, and why this is the birthing process of a future worth creating.

There is no doubt that when the Bush administration decided to lay a “big bang” upon the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein and committing our nation to reconnecting a brutalized, isolated Iraqi society to the world outside, it proceeded with virtually no public or international debate about the scope of this grand historical task. I, however, see a clear link between 9/11 and President Bush’s declared intention of “transforming” the Middle East.

In the March 2003 issue of this magazine, I published an article called “The Pentagon’s New Map” [available at], which was about work I had spent years doing at the Naval War College and the Pentagon to figure out the true threat environment for the United States in a post-cold-war world. The answer? Most of the world is peaceable and functioning. I call that the Core, and it is basically the parts of the world, including China, where globalization has taken root to some degree. The rest of the world, which had never been considered by the Pentagon to be a direct threat, much less the gravest threat we face, is made up of the countries that remain disconnected, either because of abject poverty or political or cultural repression: the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. This I call the Gap. The primary goal of the foreign policy of the United States should be, in my view, to shrink the Gap. Nothing about our Iraq experience has changed this view.

The only way America can truly achieve strategic security in the age of globalization is by destroying disconnectedness. We fight fire with fire. Al Qaeda, whose true grievances lie wholly within the Persian Gulf, tried to destroy the Core’s connectedness on 9/11 by triggering what I call a system perturbation that would throw our rules into flux. Its hope was to shock America and the West into abandoning the Gulf region first militarily, then politically, and finally economically. Al Qaeda hoped to detoxify the region’s societies through disconnectedness.

But the president decided correctly to fight back by trying to destroy disconnectedness in the Gulf region. We seek to do unto al Qaeda as it did unto us: trigger a system perturbation that will send all the region’s rule sets into flux. Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime was dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world—from our rule sets, our norms, and all the ties that bind the Core together in mutually assured dependence.

Disconnecting the great disconnector from the Gulf’s security scene is only the beginning of our effort, because now Iraq becomes the great battle field for the soul of the whole region. That second victory will be far more difficult to achieve. Our efforts to integrate Iraq into a wider world will pit all the forces of disconnectedness in the region against us. Therefore we must enlist the aid of all the forces of connectedness across the Core—not just their troops but their investment flows and their commercial networks.

America needs to demonstrate to the Middle East that there is such a thing as a future worth creating there, not just a past worth re-creating, which is all the bin Ladens will ever offer Muslim populations—a retreat from today’s diminished expectations. If America cannot muster the will—not to mention the Core’s aid—to win this struggle in Iraq, we will send a clear signal to the region that there is no future in the Core for any of these states, save Israel.

History’s clock is already ticking on that great task. As the world progressively decarbonizes its energy profile, moving away from oil and toward hydrogen obtained from natural gas, the Middle East’s security deficit will become a cross that not even the United States will long be willing to bear. The bin Ladens of that region know this and thus will act with increasing desperation to engineer our abandonment of the region. Like Vladimir Lenin a century earlier, bin Laden dreams of breaking off a large chunk of humanity into a separate rule-set sphere, where our rules hold no sway, where our money finds no purchase, and where our polluting cultural exports can be effectively repelled. Bin Laden’s offer is the offer of all would-be dictators: Just leave these people to me and I will trouble you no further.

By taking down Saddam Hussein and turning Iraq into a magnet for every jihadist with a one-way ticket to paradise, America has really thrown down the gauntlet in the Middle East; it has finally begun exporting security to that part of the world for real. In the past, we always had ulterior motives: to keep the Soviets out, to keep the oil flowing, to keep Israel safe. But reconnecting Iraq to the world is so much bigger than any of those goals. It is about creating a future worth living for a billion Muslims we could just as easily consign to the past.

Powell Doctrine, R.I.P.

What does this new approach mean for this nation and the world over the long run? Let me be very clear about this: The boys are never coming home. America is not leaving the Middle East until the Middle East joins the world. It’s that simple. No exit means no exit strategy.

One of the worst strategic concepts the Pentagon ever came up with was General Colin Powell’s notion that America should never intervene militarily overseas unless and until an exit strategy is clearly defined. The legacy of that dictum has poisoned the U. S. military’s strategic planning ever since, generating the force we have today—perfect for drive-by regime changes and understaffed for everything else.

Fortunately, the Powell doctrine has died with Operation Iraqi Freedom, and with it dies America’s decades-long tendency to blow off all the suffering and instability that plagues the Gap, or what we used to call the Third World. What is so amazingly courageous about what the Bush administration has done in trying to generate a “big bang” throughout the Middle East is that it has committed our nation to shrinking a major portion of the Gap in one fell swoop. By doing so, I believe this administration has forced America to finally come through on promises repeatedly offered during the cold war but never delivered upon. The irony, of course, is that the administration is guilty of such grotesque dissembling over its rationale for the war that it is unable to fully take credit for this historic achievement. And its dissembling has also aroused the passions of the empire crowd.

The concept of an “American empire” is very chic right now in literary and academic circles, and since the Bush administration never seems to offer a sufficiently comprehensive answer to the question weighing on most Americans’ minds (“Where is this all leading?”), many of our best and brightest have connected the relevant dots and declared Washington the de facto Rome of a new imperial age.

This is all nonsense and bad history to boot. Empires involve enforcing maximal rule sets, in which 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. Our goal must be to extend the Core’s security rule set into the Gap and, by doing so, shrink the Gap progressively over time. This is not about extending America’s rule but about extending the genuine freedom that collective security provides. All this talk about empire mistakenly seeks to impose a nineteenth-century simplicity upon a twenty-first-century complexity. In short, this era’s version of globalization comes with rules, not a ruler. To deny that achievement is to discount the vast improvement America brought to the system administration of globalization following World War II compared with earlier, deeply flawed efforts by Europe’s monarchies—Britain included.

There is no doubt that many governments in the Core still view the world system as a balance of powers, and so any rise in U. S. influence or presence in the Middle East is seen as a loss of their influence or presence there. Too many of these “great powers” are led by small minds who prefer America’s failures to the Core’s expansion, because they perceive their national interests to be enhanced by the former and diminished by the latter. They prefer the Gap’s continued suffering to their own loss of prestige, and they should be ashamed of their selfishness.

But America is far from alone in this great historical quest. As we realign our global military-basing structure to better reflect our continuing role as military Leviathan throughout the Gap, we leave behind old friends in Western Europe and embrace new ones in Eastern Europe. We increasingly trust East Asia to police itself while we export security to West Asia. We even go so far as to imagine and work toward future bases sprinkled throughout the African continent, a region long abandoned by the West to suffer decades of endemic conflict and disease.

The New Strategic Paradigm: Disconnectedness Defines Danger, or, Kiss Those Dictators Goodbye

So, why all the dissembling on the part of our political leadership? Well, the truth is, we are just coming to terms with a new grand strategy for the United States, the historical successor to containment, and our government doesn’t yet have the words to explain this vision to the world. So we come off as dishonest, which is a terrible mistake, because this vision describes a future worth creating: making globalization truly global. This is something to be proud of, not something to run from.

The defense community spent the entire post-cold-war period scanning the strategic horizon, desperately searching for the fabled “near-peer competitor” that would someday replace our late beloved foe, the Soviet Union. About eight years ago, most defense strategists fell in love with China, convincing themselves that here was an enemy worth plotting against. Since then, the great bureaucratic push to “transform” the U. S. military into the high-tech warrior force of tomorrow has focused almost exclusively on that conflict model—basically China’s invasion of Taiwan in 2020.

It was a beautiful dream, one easily sold to a Congress whose only interest in national-security planning is “Will you build it in my district?” It also corresponded to the Bush administration’s view of the world prior to 9/11, which focused exclusively on great powers while expressing disdain for the Clinton administration’s feeble attempts at nation-building in Third World wastelands. Frankly, it made everyone in Washington happy, because casting China as the future enemy provided the national-security establishment with a familiar villain: big, bad, and communist.

Naturally, the defense and intelligence communities reshaped themselves for this “new” challenge. We hired China experts by the barrelful and scripted all our war games to feature a large, unnamed Asian land power with an unhealthy interest in a small island nation off its coast. You want to know why we don’t have a clue about what goes on inside the Gap? Because our military strategists spent a decade dreaming of an opponent that would not arise, for a war that no longer existed. We’re the drunk looking for his lost car keys under the streetlamp instead of near his car a block away, because “the light’s better over here.”

The new rule set here is a simple one: We need to refocus all of our war-planning and intelligence systems from the Core to the Gap. This doesn’t mean we still don’t maintain a hedge against possible Chinese mischief. It just means a new strategic paradigm rules the roost: Disconnectedness defines danger. You want to locate the real danger in the system? Focus on those countries or regions most disconnected from the global economy, not those desperately working to integrate themselves with the outside world—like China.

What the intelligence failures on Iraq and al Qaeda should tell the Bush administration (and any that follow) is that it’s time to get explicit with the American people and the world about how there are simply two very different security rule sets in the world today: one that corresponds to the stable and overwhelmingly peaceful Core, and another that corresponds to the violence-ridden and increasingly unstable Gap. What scares most people about the Iraq war is the sense that the Bush administration lied to them in order to whip up sufficient popular support for taking down Saddam Hussein. The White House comes off like the cop who yells out, “He’s got a gun” and then airs out the “suspect” with a barrage of shots, only to discover later that he was just pulling out his wallet.

Without reopening the entire debate on Saddam, who I think we’ll all admit had multiple priors and a number of outstanding warrants for his arrest, just take a minute and ask yourself why this administration felt it needed to hype its case for “present danger” to such an unseemly degree. The majority of Americans had already expressed support in polls for removing Saddam simply because of all the bad things he had done and continued to do to his people. So why all the unnecessary drama?

I’ll tell you why. The international system today lacks any sort of recognized institutional rule set for processing a politically bankrupt state. We have one for economically bankrupt states, and it’s called the IMF bailout and rehab process. We may argue incessantly about that rule set, but at least we’ve got one. So when an Asian financial “flu” disabled a number of states in 1997, the system processed that entire crowd within a couple of years.

What do we have for the Saddams and Mugabes and Kim Jong Ils of the world? Just a toothless UN Security Council whose only “weapon” is sanctions that inevitably kill innocent civilians while doing nothing to change the behavior of the regime. The UN is at best a legislative branch for the global community, whereas the U. S. is clearly the closest thing we have to an executive Leviathan able to prosecute criminal actors across the system.

The new rule set on this one is relatively straightforward but difficult to achieve; we need an IMF-like international organization that is set up to process dangerous Gap leaders who have ruled beyond their expiration date. It’s not a long list, but imagine how much better a world we’d have if we could somehow manage to ditch all these dictators in a manner the entire Core could buy into—even the French.

As for the American public, what the intelligence failure on Iraq should translate into is a new and frank understanding of the limits of arms control. Again, different worlds (Core, Gap) require different rule sets on security. Getting any state from the Gap into the Core means, first and foremost, getting that state to accept the Core’s fairly clear rule on security with regard to WMD—basically “just say no.” I know it’s hypocritical for nuclear powers to tell smaller states to “Do as I say, not as I do,” but on WMD I think that it’s better to err on the side of order over justice.

What Americans need to understand about the potential (and real) proliferation of WMD inside the Gap is that all the arms-control treaties in the world won’t do a damn thing to stop it. All such treaties reflect the conventional wisdom of life inside the Core, where mutually assured destruction has basically ended great-power war. That logic, or that security rule set, simply does not penetrate the Gap. So when states or transnational actors inside the Gap make moves in the direction of acquiring WMD, the new security rule set called preemptive war not only makes sense, it is imperative. If the Core lets the Gap’s lawlessness on WMD infect our long-standing stability on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, then we will be doing nothing less than throwing away the cold war’s most important peace dividend.

Pentagon vs. Pentagon: Why We Will Soon Have Two Militaries, Not One

The second reason why so much of the world is unhappy with the current state of affairs in Iraq is that it’s now clear that the Bush administration did a terrible job of thinking beyond Saddam’s takedown. In effect, it is guilty of planning for war within the context of war when it should have been planning for war within the context of everything else. This is an acute and continuing problem for President Bush himself, who has gone so far as to color his reelection campaign with the imagery of his being a “war president,” when both the public and the world at large clearly want evidence that his administration isn’t myopically focused on this global war on terrorism but instead has learned to locate that much-needed security effort within the larger political, social, and economic context of globalization’s advance—or everything else.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t lay all the blame for this sad state of affairs on the Bush administration alone. The Pentagon has spent the last decade and a half willfully ignoring its growing workload throughout the Gap. We’ve spent the entire post-cold-war period engaging in what are derisively known throughout the defense community as “military operations other than war” (MOOTW, or Moo-twah to insiders), and yet we have adamantly refused to rebalance our forces—especially our National Guard and Reserves—to account for this dramatic uptick in the Gap’s demand for our services. Simply put, we currently have a military that can do two or three Saddam-style takedowns every year but cannot pull off even one Iraq-style occupation.

But that is changing rapidly, and for the better. Already, senior Defense Department leaders are pushing for the creation of a “stabilization force” component within the U. S. military. A year ago, such a proposal would have been summarily rejected, but today it strikes most serious defense analysts as a crucial task of defense transformation. In this new era, our military interventions will be judged primarily by whether or not we leave the country more connected to the outside world than we found it, not whether we generate an instant democracy or win the war in record time.

The importance of this new direction within the Pentagon cannot be overstated, because it signals a “back to the future” outcome that will return America’s national-security establishment to the structure that served our nation so well prior to the historical aberration known as the cold war. Before we created the all-encompassing Department of Defense in 1947, America had two very distinct security establishments at its disposal: a Department of War and a department of everything else called the Department of the Navy. The War Department served as the “big stick” force that we busted out as required, while the Navy Department (especially the embedded Marines) served primarily as the “baton stick” force that we employed around the world on a regular basis.
Why did America fuse these two entities into a unified whole? As the cold war was beginning, defense strategists correctly foresaw a decades-long hair-trigger standoff with the Soviets over nuclear weapons. In effect, national defense (War Department) and international security (Navy Department) became interchangeable and virtually indistinguishable; to defend America was to deter the threat of global nuclear Armageddon.

As one small part of humanity that survived the madness of the cold war, let me be the first to applaud that historic decision. But let’s be clear: The dangers to system stability that we face today do not involve global nuclear war among great powers; they involve undeterrable rogue regimes and transnational actors located exclusively inside the Gap, with the exception of the cold-war tailbone known as North Korea.

What the Iraq occupation is making clear throughout the defense community is that we currently have a Department of War and a Department of Everything Else—the latter underfunded and overworked—coexisting uncomfortably inside the Department of Defense. Over time, a great divorce will occur because no house divided against itself can long stand. This progressive bifurcation of the U. S. military into a Leviathan force focused on waging wars and a System Administrator force focused on winning the peace has been years in the making, but it took the painful lessons of Iraq to really get the ball rolling.
What this splitting of the force will mean to future presidential administrations is clear: greater flexibility in dealing with the world as we find it. The Leviathan force will remain your father’s military: testosterone-fueled, lethal, and not subject to civilian law. The Sys Admin force will end up being more your mother’s military: supportive, nonlethal, and willing to submit to recognized authorities such as the International Criminal Court and the UN—Teddy Roosevelt meets Woodrow Wilson.

What this bifurcation offers the rest of the world is twice as many opportunities to contribute to America’s current scattershot efforts to export security throughout the Gap. The Leviathan is the classic come-as-you-are coalition of the willing, and since this flies-on-eyeballs crowd will feature Special Operations Forces as the pointy end of its spear, any nation able and willing to contribute its own small contingent of tough hombres can join this bandwagon on a first-come, first-to-serve basis.

But contributing to the war-fighting half of the pie won’t be the only way to gain a seat at the table, because the follow-on Sys Admin effort will allow those nations unwilling to field combat forces in certain situations to nonetheless participate in the peacekeeping force that must necessarily stand watch over the longer haul. Having both forces is crucial for this reason: There is a strong temptation for any administration—especially the pointlessly vindictive Bush White House—to tell allies that if they do not join in the war effort, they cannot participate in the rebuilding that follows. What having both forces means is that we will be able to tell potential allies not only to “come as you are” for the war but also to “come when you can” for the peacekeeping.

As we have learned in Iraq, America can lose about 150 soldiers in six weeks of combat and/or lose about 500 soldiers to terrorism to date in the ensuing occupation. Either way, it hurts just the same. If any country is willing to help out on one side of the war-peace equation, we should simply be grateful for the sacrifice offered, not picky about the timing.

Here’s what this splitting of the U. S. military means to the American people: The National Security Act of 2005 tentatively sits on the far side of this national election. I fully expect that if Bush is reelected, this piece of legislation will be profound, moving America down the pathway of seriously reordering its national-security establishment for the better. Does that mean a Kerry administration wouldn’t do the same? Not at all. In fact, that administration may well be the far better choice to pull off such a dramatic reorganization, given the growing distrust of many Americans and the world regarding the Bush administration’s integrity on matters of security.

My point is not to tell you how to vote, but simply to make sure you ask the right questions. If you think “preemptive war” and all that violence in the Gap are going to go away simply by voting Bush-Cheney out of office, you’re kidding yourself. The next administration is going to have its hands full with international-security issues no matter how much it may want to focus on other things. So don’t let either ticket off the hook on how it proposes to reshape our national-defense establishment for the big tasks that lie ahead.

As Americans seeking to choose our next president, we all need to understand better the stakes at hand, for it is not the danger just ahead that we underestimate but the opportunity that lies beyond—the opportunity to make globalization truly global. America stands at the peak of a world historical arc that marks globalization’s tipping point from a closed club of the privileged few to a planetwide reality. Making that strategic vision—that happy ending—come true will end war as we know it.

America has made this effort before and changed the world. Now is the time to rededicate this nation to a new long-term strategy much as we did following World War II, when we began exporting the security that has already made war only a memory for more than half the world’s population, enabling hundreds of millions to lift themselves out of poverty in the last couple of decades alone. It is our responsibility and our obligation to give peace the same chance in the rest of the world.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is the author of The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, just published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. From November 2001 until June 2003, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


Brief Reminder: From the diamond to the hourglass

Classic PNM slide:  our capabilities "thick" at the state level during Cold War, but in post-Cold War era, we tend toward the extremes (renewed fear of system-level weapons and focus on non-state-actors).

RMA refers to the Revolution in Military Affairs; GWOT refers to Global War on Terror.


Brief Reminder: A booming export market for the SysAdmin (1970s-1990s)

Old PNM-era slide (and pre-PNM, actually, so used probably 2001-2004) where I showed the rise in combined contingency response days for the four services.  For the 1970s, I exclude the obvious war in Vietnam (mega-contingency, I guess), then show how the rise in the 1980s was Mideast-centric, and then show how Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia and Haiti account for all the subsequent elevation in the 1990s.

Naturally, the 2000s then left the chart in terms of overall volume.

Point of the slide: showing the growing global market for SysAdmin-type operations.


Blast from my past: PNM's "New Rules for a New Crisis"

[NOTE:  As I slowly rebuild old pages from the old site, I will use this weekly feature for that purpose.]


Deleted Scene #22

Chapter Five: The New Ordering Principle

The Missing Section Entitled: "New Rules for a New Crisis"

Commentary: This twenty-second "deleted scene" was the originally planned third section of the chapter (coming after "The Rise of System Perturbations" and before "The Greater Inclusive"), which Mark Warren cut simply to reduce the size of the chapter. My sense was that he felt the chapter already had more than enough theoretical material and did not need this long detour on rule sets. I include the section here because I really do like the material quite a bit, even as tough as it is to lay out before the reader without lapsing into theoreticalspeak. Plus, this section was my sole capture from the one workshop I ran for the Office of Force Transformation during my stint there, so I feel like the bits of wisdom I pulled from that effort (and all those big brains that attended) should find a home somewhere!


I should note who were the attendees at that workshop in March of 2002. Here's the list:

1) Arthur Cebrowski, Office of Force Transformation
2) John Garstka, Joint Chiefs of Staff C4 Directorate 
3) Stuart Umpleby, George Washington University 
4) Douglass Carmichael, Big Mind Media 
5) John Petersen, The Arlington Institute 
6) David Gordon, National Intelligence Council 
7) Stephen Schlaikjer, Political Advisor to Chief of Naval Operations 
8) Shane Deichman, JFCOM 
9) Ahmed Hashim, Naval War College 
10) Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum/N.Y. Post 
11) Jeff Cares, Alidade Consulting 
12) Richard Landes, Center for Millennial Studies 
13) Kori Schake, National Defense University 
14) Joshua Epstein, Brookings Institution 
15) Mitzi Wertheim, The CNA Corporation 
16) Tony Pryor, International Resources Group 
17) Hank Gaffney, Center for Strategic Studies 
18) Yaneer Bar-Yam, New England Complex Systems Institute 
19) Lee Buchanan, consultant 
20) Bill Halal, George Washington University 
21) Adam Siegel, Northrop Grumman 
22) Cdr. John Dickman, CNO Strategic Studies Group 
23) John Landry, National Intelligence Council 
24) Jerry Hultin, Stevens Institute of Technology

Here is the agenda of the workshop:


Check-in and continental breakfast

Barnett briefs the System Perturbation slide package

GroupSystems warm-up
INSTRUCTIONS: The scenario is this: you are asked by the Mayor of New York City to pen a paragraph on the significance of 9/11 for inclusion in a time capsule to be buried beneath the permanent memorial being erected at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. In the next 5 minutes please enter your thoughts on the laptop in front of you. At the end of five minutes, you will be encouraged to read the entries of others and enter additional comments on those texts.

SESSION I: Does 9/11 serve as existence proof for the concept of System Perturbations as a identifiable category of international crisis?
INSTRUCTIONS: After some introductory slides on this notion, you will be asked to participated in a GroupSystems brainstorming activity of approximately 5-7 minutes, answering the question, "Please give us examples of System Perturbations in history and explain what each example tells us about this concept." Following that activity, Dr. Barnett will lead a discussion on this question for approximately 30 minutes. At the end of that discussion, you will be asked another GroupSystems brainstorming question, "What are the lasting perturbations to the global system from 9/11?" You will be asked to enter your ideas into 6 separate "buckets": 

  1.  Economics
  2.  Politics
  3.  Technology
  4.  Environment
  5.  Cultural/media
  6.  Security.


Coffee break

SESSION II: Can/should System Perturbations serve as a new ordering principle for U.S. national security?
INSTRUCTIONS: After some introductory slides on potential outcome scenarios for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), you will be asked to participated in a GroupSystems brainstorming activity of approximately 5-7 minutes, answering the question, "Give us your description of the defining global conflict paradigm for the next 10-to-20 years." You will be given four, admittedly overlapping "buckets" to choose from in terms of placing your entry:

  1.  Division by competency/success
  2.  Division by culture/civilization
  3.  Division by great power-led camps
  4.  Division by ideology.


Following that activity, Dr. Barnett will lead a discussion on this question for approximately 30 minutes. At the end of that discussion, you will be asked another GroupSystems brainstorming question, "What are the new rule sets that emerge as a result of 9/11 and the ongoing GWOT?"You will be asked to enter your ideas into 3 separate "buckets":


  1.  Security within our borders
  2.  Security at our borders
  3.  Security beyond our borders.


SESSION III: Who are the dominant crisis trigger agents in the current global era?
INSTRUCTIONS: After some introductory slides on potential downstream institutional consequences for DoD as a result of 9/11 and the GWOT, you will be asked to participated in a GroupSystems brainstorming activity of approximately 5-7 minutes, answering the question, "What will future enemies of the U.S. learn from 9/11 and the GWOT?" You will be given three "buckets" to choose from in terms of placing your entry:

  1.  Super-empowered individuals
  2.  Transnational networks
  3.  Nation-states.
Following that activity, Dr. Barnett will lead a discussion on this question for approximately 40 minutes. At the end of that discussion, you will be asked another GroupSystems brainstorming question, "What are the long-term institutional ramifications of the home game/away game dichotomy?" You will be asked to enter your ideas into 3 separate "buckets":
  1.  A future Department of Homeland Security will someday rival DoD in importance
  2.  DoD will remain the predominant national security player in all spheres
  3.  DoD will bifurcate into a classic warfighting force and a constabulary force
 (Back to the pre-WWII future).


1200-1300 Lunch break (served in the conference room)

SESSIONS IV-IX: Building the System Perturbation model piece by piece
INSTRUCTIONS: After some review slides on the six proposed categories of the System Perturbation, you will be asked to participate in 6 sequential 20-minute sessions exploring each category. Each 20-minute session will begin with a 5-minute GroupSystems brainstorming activity where you will be asked to offer new or better definitions, examples, analogies, etc. for the category. Following that, you will participate in a facilitated discussion for 15 minutes before moving on to the next category. The six proposed categories are:

  1.  Agents
  2.  Triggers
  3.  Medium
  4.  Transmission
  5.  Barriers
  6.  Consequences.


1500-1515 Coffee break

SESSIONS X-XII: What is to be done by whom?
INSTRUCTIONS: After some introductory slides on the concept of burden-sharing and new linkages with regard to System Perturbations, you will be asked to participate in 3 sequential 30-minute sessions exploring three broad questions:

  1.  In responding to future System Perturbations, how much responsibility falls to DoD versus the rest of the US Government?
  2.  How much falls to the public sector versus the private sector?
  3.  How much falls to the United States versus the rest of the world?
Each 30-minute session will begin with a quick GroupSystems vote, followed by approximately 20 minutes of facilitated discussion, and ending with another GroupSystems brainstorming activity where you will be asked to suggest useful steps the US Government could take in the coming years to meet the challenges associated with future System Perturbations such as 9/11.


SESSION XIII: The Elevator Drill
INSTRUCTIONS: You will be given an opportunity for one last comment, the scenario for which will be revealed at this time.


Here are the slides that resulted from the workshop:

Finally, here is the deleted scene itself ….

Deleted Scene: Barnett's Rules on System Perturbations


Since I am constantly going on about "rules," it only seems fitting that, along with this definition of a new crisis type, I offer some rule sets regarding how it unfolds and what are good strategies to deal with it. Truth be told, what I will offer here are more observations than rules, but in keeping with my rule that no audience likes a wishy-washy visionary ("Oh, I dunno, it could sort of be like that"), let me display the usual arrogance of the grand strategist and pretend what I am about to tell you are hard rules.

How did I come about these rules? I did the usual thing one does in my business: I held a workshop and invited all my friends, plus some newbies to shake things up. You invite your friends because you want a good conversation, and because you know what they are capable of in terms of big ideas. These are the people that will not fight your ideas and premises tooth and nail because you have a reputation with them. But you do not want a lovefest. Although I always say my workshops are all about making me smarter, you do not want to go overboard in that arena, like it is some communist party congress and your brilliant observations are constantly interrupted by [stormy applause]. No, you want some agitators in the group, or some people who will, by their very nature, anger plenty of others in the room.

The agitators need to be serious experts in the field you are stealing from. I say "stealing from," because I do not pretend to generate original thought, by and large. As my mentor Art Cebrowski likes to describe me, I am a true synthesist, which is a polite way of saying I never really come up with any ideas of my own. But Art is right: I basically weave ideas and concepts together from other sources, other fields, other cultures. I am a concept arbitrager, who learned this skill less from any one field of study than from simply learning a number of languages over the course of my life (French, Russian, German, and Romanian). Can I speak any of them today? Not really. But what I can do almost instinctively is learn new languages quickly -- I mean really plunge into a field and come back out with enough terminology and understanding to manage a dangerous version of its spoken language. I say "dangerous" because, inevitably, my use of that language angers the purists, which is my snotty way of saying people truly expert in the field. That gets me back to the agitators.

I invited a few people truly conversant in complexity and chaos theory to the workshop, knowing that my use of System Perturbation would offend their sensibilities. I mean, they already have loads of fairly firm rules about their ideas, and both these terms (system and perturbation) have specific meanings to them. I wanted to respect their expertise, but only up to a point, because I am engaging in conceptual arbitrage here -- moving concepts from one field to another. Since my field, political science, is essentially a bastard science with almost no good rule sets, it is hard to offend anyone in my neck of the woods. But when I start talking System Perturbations and using words like medium, transmission, etc., I invariably anger the complexity guys, because they believe that, by using their tools, you really can explain the world and how it works -- almost from A to Z. Of course, most of their computer models tend to zero out human emotions, reducing everything to rational choices by rational people, but since I have never really visited their world of rational people always acting rationally, I think I can only do so much damage with a few of their concepts.

Now, the rules I will present here really are not based on complexity or chaos theory, but based on observations I arrived at after listening to a bunch of social scientists discuss the concept of System Perturbation as a new definition of security crisis, with a smattering of complexity theory types in the room to goad and taunt them about their lack of true expertise in the subject-matter. Naturally, I conducted such a deviously designed workshop inside the Beltway, which such behavior is considered quite normal.

What I got from the workshop was a ton of disparate ideas about how vertical and horizontal scenarios play out among vertical and horizontal political systems. That was the weird thing about this workshop: I introduced the concept of vertical and horizontal scenarios and pretty soon everyone in the room was talking about vertical and horizontal societies or political systems. I like those phrases better than "authoritarian" and "democratic," because those phrases come with so much baggage and are so all-inclusive, whereas my workshop participants seemed to use the phrases vertical system and horizontal system with far greater freedom. For example, both China and Russia could be described as having far more horizontal economic systems than political systems, meaning their economies are increasingly built more around ties among firms and among individuals thanbetween the political leadership and firms, or the more vertically arranged patterns of authority and activity under past communist rule. Their political systems may still be quite vertically arrayed, from top to bottom, but their economic systems are far more horizontal.

You might ask, Why not just call them authoritarian market economies? Clearly I could do just that, but I prefer referring to vertical and horizontal systems because, that way, I can talk about how different aspects (i.e., economic versus political, or social versus security) of China might respond to a System Perturbation differently. I think China's economy and society are more horizontal in form than vertical, but I believe the Communist Party and People's Liberation Army remain extremely vertical in form, so a System Perturbation hitting China hits different sectors differently. Why is that important? Well, here I go back to the dinosaurs and mammals notion: a System Perturbation may disrupt or destroy different aspects of different systems across China. For example, SARS was more challenging for the political leadership than for the economy, which in the end proved awfully resilient whereas the Party looked awfully stiff. The mass media displayed a surprising amount of horizontal form, whereas the military assumed its usual stonewall stance. You get the idea. I just want more flexible concepts because I am still fumbling my way around this new strategic concept.

Before I give you the rules, let me spin out this description of vertical and horizontal systems a bit more by offering a series of examples. I will say horizontal systems tend to be replete with elites, meaning they possess multiple types of powerful people: political, business, military, technology, mass media, cultural icons and heroes, and so on. Vertical systems, on the other hand, really only have one elite -- the political leadership. You can tell you are in a vertical system when the political leader is also the military leader, is also the richer landowner, is also guiding hand of the economy, and so on. In vertical systems, you have to join the government to have power and wealth, but in horizontal systems, you typically have to leave the government to get wealth.

A second difference I have touched upon before: horizontal systems rotate leaderships with routine regularity, while vertical systems tend to have permanent leaderships. As such, horizontal systems tend to feature market-dominated economies, while vertical systems tend to feature state-dominated economies.

A third package of differences concerns the nature of communications and dialogue. In the horizontal system, you tend to see universal networks, where everyone can connect up to everyone else. This facilitates a question-based dialogue, where basically all subjects are on the table. The government in a horizontal system tends not to make any effort to steer that discourse, but only to deal with downstream behavior that may result. You want to yell "fire" in a crowded theater and people get hurt in the resulting stampede? Well then, you are going to be in trouble.

Vertical systems are just the opposite on communication. Their networks tend to be drill-down networks, or connectivity that runs from the leader to the led. Instead of letting any and all conversations occur, vertical systems typically feature upstream content control, because the dialogues that are permissible are severely restricted in terms of taboos. In short, it is a world of "don't go there, girlfriend!" I use the feminine here with purpose, since far more of the taboos involve women and restrict their behavior. What do young Iranian women do overwhelmingly when they get on the Internet? They race to Yahoo chat rooms to discuss sex, dating and marriage? Why do they have to go to such effort? These subjects are not discussable in public Iranian society under the mullahs. So what do you talk about in a country like Iran? You mostly talk about what you cannot talk about. That is what I did in the Soviet Union when I lived there briefly: I had lots of conversations with Russians where we talked about all the subjects you could not talk about. We did not actually discuss those subjects, we just talking about Russians' inability to talk about them. Vertical systems are a sort of strange, Seinfeldian universe in that way: all of your conversations really are about nothing.

Now that I have explained my terminology, let me lay out the five questions I seek to answer with these rules:

1) Who's really in charge during a System Perturbation? For example, is the agent which triggers the vertical shock really running the show?

2) What's really at risk during a System Perturbation? Are all systems equally at risk of disruption and crisis?

3) Where are the boundaries of a System Perturbation? Where do these horizontal waves tend to dissipate? What are the natural barriers to transmission?

4) When do we gain the upper hand in a System Perturbation? Which is another way of saying, How do you come out on top after one?

5) How do we deal with other states during a System Perturbation? Who naturally tend to be our friends and who are our natural enemies?

Let me assigns three rules to each of those five questions, starting with question 1 and working my way down.

Who's really in charge during a System Perturbation? 

Rule #1: Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios. I got this one from a senior personal aide to the Secretary of Defense, who made the observation during a brief I gave him and a slew of his colleagues. His point was simple: a terrorist like Osama bin Laden can put together the people, money, and logistics to hijack three planes and fly them into buildings, but that vertical shock will trigger significant long-term responses from the threatened nation-states. The responses from these states are true horizontal scenarios that stretch on for years, like the global war on terrorism. A serious campaign like that takes an enormous amount of resources, which really only nation-states can muster. So, a super-empowered individual like Bin Laden can certainly pull off a "heist" here and there, but the "police" are able to spend years hunting him down. As my old boss Art Cebrowski likes to say, the terrorist has few resources, but lots of will, whereas the state tends to have lots of resources, but difficulty maintaining will, or vigilance. So it is a cat-and-mouse sort of game over the long run: he has to be shifty, we have to be relentless.

Rule #2: Vertical scenarios choose us, but we choose horizontal scenarios. This concept stems from an observation made by an historian of millenarian movements, or groups with apocalyptic agendas. Richard Landes of Boston University says, look back through any nation's history and you will find defining moments, or what he calls "chosen trauma." These events shape the ethos of the society because people there have chosen to mark them as key turning points in their collective history. In the United States, our chosen trauma include the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Gettysburg, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and now 9/11. Not every bad thing that happens triggers this response. America could have chosen to respond to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to launch a global war on terrorism, but we did not. In general, a chosen trauma can be summarized by the phrase, "Remember the ______!" So Americans "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember the Maine!" But we do not really chose to remember Columbine or Oklahoma City in the same way. The point of this rule is simply to remind us that we have the ability to say no to responding to a vertical scenario, and that when we do decide to respond, like with a global war on terrorism, that is not a choice forced upon us, but one we make freely -- thus signifying control. It is one of those things we all learned in kindergarten: anyone can hurl an insult or a rock, but you only have to fight when you want to.

Rule #3: Once the vertical scenario plays itself out, control reverts back to nation-states, so long as they stay on the offensive. You could say this one also comes from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, because that has been the basic philosophy they have advocated in America's global war on terrorism. In other words, once the dust cleared after 9/11, it was America's task to keep hounding Bin Laden and Al Qaeda until they are completely destroyed as a threat. Our enemy's goal is clear: they need to keep hitting us with vertical shocks that cumulatively depress our stock of rules, our collective sense of individual security, and our belief in the stability of our system. A vertical shock like 9/11 immediately creates a sense of rule-set void: people are thinking, "We are clearly short of the right rules because if we had had them, this disaster never would have happened in this way." If an Al Qaeda can maintain a certain frequency of shocks, America never really fills that void back in with new rules, because we would be constantly scrambling to understand -- yet again -- "how something like this could happen?" But if we maintain a constant pressure on the enemy, those vertical shocks are few and far between, allowing us to fill in any voids created by our original sense of shock and horror. This is the essential difference between America and Israel since 9/11: we have never been hit again, but Israel keeps suffering the vertical shocks of suicide bombings, thus Israeli society suffers systematic brutalization and thus responds more brutally with time. My point: you take the offensive, you limit the need for brutality in your response. You get the bad stuff over as quickly as possible.

What's really at risk in a System Perturbation?

Rule #4: In response to System Perturbations, horizontal systems tighten up vertically, but vertical systems tighten up horizontally? After 9/11, a horizontal system like the United States will tighten up its rule sets by forging more comprehensive cooperation between local, state and federal agencies, or along vertical lines of authority. Horizontal systems like the U.S. naturally fear that their distributedness is their weakness, when in reality, it is their strength. But tightening up along vertical lines only makes sense, sort of defense-in-depth philosophy that is more logical than, say, states coming together per se. In a vertical system you tend to see the opposite sort of response: when the Great Leader finds his rule under attack, he starts reining everyone in because he is never quite sure who to trust. So you see crackdowns on untrustworthy groups and more palace guards. That was basically Saddam Hussein's tack across the nineties after the U.S. booted Iraq out of Kuwait: he kept creating new, ever more trustworthy troops to surround him, and he put those troops under his most trusted relatives. More generally in response to 9/11, we saw plenty of vertical political systems around the world use the excuse of the global war on terrorism to target dissidents, separatists, and the like, reclassifying everyone as a terrorist and seeking the U.S.'s blessing for that designation. So what is at risk here is basically the civil rights of citizens the world over, because a vertical shock can easily send even the most horizontal systems over the top in their search for security.

Rule #5: Vertical scenarios scare horizontal systems more, while horizontal scenarios scare vertical systems more. People living in horizontal systems typically enjoy significantly larger amounts of freedom, and so it is easier to slap a vertical scenario like a terrorist attack on an open society than a closed one. Naturally, people living in more horizontal systems understand that vulnerability and fear vertical scenarios, or the bolt-from-the-blue, far more than horizontal scenarios, or some slow-developing problem against which you can mobilize your network of resources. 9/11 really shocked America, even though the death total was fairly small when you compare it, say, to deaths from car accidents each year (40 to 50 thousand), but those death unfold in small increments, spread out across the land, whereas 9/11's victims died all at once. Plus, Americans understand the risks of driving; we know those rule sets. But 9/11 triggered the response of "People just shouldn't have to die that way," meaning it offended our sense of rules regarding warfare. Bolts-from-the-blue like 9/11 tend to haunt U.S. strategic planners, because we know there is little we can do to prevent an enemy from getting that first sucker-punch in on America, whereas in a long, knockdown drag-out fight, we are very confident that we will prevail. Vertical systems tend to fear horizontal scenarios more, say, like the slow build-up of resistance to rule. Soviet Russia went nuts over individual dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, because they feared he would slowly "poison" the minds of an entire generation, making both rule and reform impossible. They were right to be afraid. Similarly, the political leadership in China runs scared when a Falun Gong movement develops secretly on its own, using the network connectivity of the Internet to spread its gospel. When several thousand Falun Gong disciples showed up one morning on Tianammen Square, what was frightening to the Chinese leadership was less their non-violent protest than the their obvious self-organizing capabilities. So if horizontal systems fear political assassinations, vertical systems live more in fear of grass roots movements. 

Rule #6: Vertical scenarios harm vertical systems more, while horizontal scenarios harm horizontal systems more. This rule simply says that Rule #5 is basically wrong, despite what people in both systems tend to believe. In reality, vertical strikes can do little damage to truly distributed systems. If someone wipes out the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court one afternoon, nothing would really change in our country in terms of our ability to maintain rule. Yes, it would be a huge shock, but it would not be hard to replace all those leaders rather quickly. I could find you 535 ex-senators and representatives living within a ten-mile radius of the Capitol itself who could easily step back into rule, tell me how hard it would be to find nine lawyers in Washington who think they are smart enough to sit on the Supreme Court! But even beyond those facile examples lies the reality that we have 50 "farm teams" around the country, each complete with their own set of executives, supreme courts, and legislative branches. You if you wipe out our national leadership you do not really kill our capacity for leadership, because we have got more political leaders than we can count! What really stresses out horizontal systems like the U.S. are the horizontal scenarios that never seem to end, like a Great Depression, which really only ended when the vertical shock of Pearl Harbor put the country on another pathway. In contrast, vertical systems like Saddam Hussein's regime can really be dismembered quite profoundly simply by taking out the leadership. Remember the "most wanted" deck of cards? That said we really needed to nail only about 50 bad actors in Iraq and we would have eliminated the bulk of the Baath party rule.

Where are the boundaries in System Perturbations?

Rule #7: Vertical scenarios are always preceded by horizontal scenarios that generated the preconditions for system shock. This one I definitely stole from the complexity guys. Their basic point is that no vertical shock occurs in a vacuum. With 9/11, there were a host of horizontal scenarios on our side that led to all that lax security and our government's downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda. So looking for that one "smoking gun" is always an illusion, despite the fact that we always pretend to ourselves that we have really found one, like the FBI "Phoenix Memo." To believe that one little memo should have turned the tides on all those long-term horizontal scenarios is just fantasy. You cannot turn conventional wisdom on its head without a serious shock. On Al Qaeda's side, 9/11 was the culmination of a slow build-up of capabilities and demonstrated strikes over the years. This group did not appear out of nowhere, nor did their grievances.

Rule #8: Vertical scenarios are invariable followed by horizontal scenarios that generate preconditions for future shocks. This one sort of says, "Be careful what you wish for." Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and hopes it will shock the U.S. into rapid defeatism. Instead, we respond with the Pacific Campaign, or a methodical dismantling of Japan's empire. Hitler thought Germany might conquer Russia with the same blitzkrieg that overwhelmed Poland and France, and he got the Battle of Stalingrad and the Siege of Leningrad instead. Al Qaeda thought America would be shocked into isolation after 9/11, and got a Bush Adminstration hell-bent on transforming the Middle East. Of course, as part of that transformation, we invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. That was the "big bang" America put on the Middle East as a whole. But that vertical shock invariably creates its own horizontal scenarios like leaving tens of thousands of U.S. troops trapped in Iraq for the long haul, pulling in jihadists from all over the world to try and kill the "infidels," and forcing the U.S. into an accommodation with the UN it had long sought to avoid regarding postwar Iraq. What new vertical shock comes out of that maelstrom of horizontal scenarios? Good question.

Rule #9: The potential for conflict is maximized when states with differing rule sets are forced into collaboration/collision/clashes. This rule basically defines America's dilemma in pursuing this global war on terrorism: we will constantly be getting into bed with countries whose rule sets do not go well with our own, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or even Syria. How does America cooperate with essentially non-democratic states to spread democracy? Then again, if you want converts, you better work among the sinners, yes? But even tougher questions abound in response to 9/11. You could say, for example, that in pursuing this war on terror, America is basically adopting the Israeli approach of an-eye-for-an-eye, which is problematic for most Americans. Israel may, for religious and cultural reasons, be comfortable with that Old Testament approach, but America is basically a New Testament-style democracy, where the "golden rule" of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" drives most of our rule sets. As I stated earlier, I think the Core-Gap division forces some genuine bifurcation in our security rule sets, and yet, there is no pasting over the reality that this war on terror will cause very profound rule set clashes within America itself.

When do we gain the upper hand in System Perturbations?

Rule #10: A strong offensive strategy can force a certain amount of structure on the most asymmetrical of enemies. Because I believe state-on-state wars are fundamentally a thing of the past, I have strong expectations that the enemies -- whatever form they take -- will be both fairly distributed in their organizational structure and seek to wage war on us in the most asymmetrical means. This enemy could be an Al Qaeda, or a SARS, or an anti-American intifada in Iraq. In these situations, defensive strategies inevitably fail, because all the initiative is left to your enemy. Some might say, "But if you cut off one head of the Hydra, then ten more with appear!" But to be perfectly blunt, I hate arguments that take you down the path of saying in effect: "Whatever we do, let's not piss off the terrorists." If you don't take the fight to the enemy, the enemy brings the fight to you, so we can do this in Manhattan or in Iraq -- and I prefer Iraq. You can counter with, "But what all those soldiers dying in Iraq?" Those lives are no more, nor any less precious than the almost 3,000 we lost on 9/11. But the big difference is that there are soldiers, not civilians. Taking the fight to the enemy forces that enemy to adapt himself to whatever offensive strategy you pursue. If you shoot on sight, then he will hide. If you track him across networks, then he will have to stay mostly off-grid. If you plant yourself in Iraq and Afghanistan, then you will fight him in Iraq and Afghanistan, not New York and Washington.

Rule #11: Our individual plays unfold with utmost speed, but in ignoring any "game clock," we remember that our strength is our inevitability. America's strategic tempo in this global war on terrorism must be deliberate, not rash. We need to line up allies before we strike, not be forced to bribe them afterwards. We want to make clear every time we act, what rule sets we are upholding or proposing. In sum, it is a "rash" U.S. military establishment the advanced world fears most: reckless, trigger-happy, and prone to unilateralism. An inevitable military Leviathan, on the other hand, is what the global system needs most: decisive in its power projection, precise in its targeted effects, and thorough in its multilateralism. So while we will strike with amazing speed, and coordinate our operations with eye toward rapidly dominating any enemy we take on, our strategic choices must be made with great care. Living in an interconnected world, America must understand that almost any time it intervenes militarily overseas, it sets off a series of horizontal scenarios both good and bad. The rest of the Core will invariably have to live with all those resulting scenarios, so they cannot just be forewarned, these countries must be consulted, enlisted, and convinced to the best of our abilities, and that takes effort up front. So tactical and operational speed are doubleplusgood because they save our soldier's lives¸ but strategic speed is fundamentally bad because of its negative effect on the global security rule sets we seek to enhance with every intervention we undertake.

Rule #12: Our efforts to dissipate horizontal scenarios will invariably trigger unintended consequences that take on a life of their own. In the Y2K scenarios, we called this the "Iatrogenic Zone." Iatrogenic refers to "unexpected side-effects that result from treatment by a physician." People who own computers know this one instinctively, whether they realize it or not. Iatrogenic is when you try to download this nice little program from the web to fix this itsy-bitsy problem on your computer, and three hours later you are looking at a complete wipe of your hard drive for your troubles. America's occupation of post-Saddam Iraq places the global war on terrorism in the Iatrogenic Zone. The USA Patriot Act, in many critics' minds, places the Justice Department squarely in the Iatrogenic Zone, where they fear the new powers to fight terrorism will represent a cure worse than the disease. But again, while I cite this rule I see no need to slavishly submit to its logic. All "slippery slope" arguments end up pushing you toward inaction versus action, defense versus offense, and disparate tactics instead of real strategy, so you do not want to go too far with this one.

How do we deal with other states during System Perturbations? 

Rule #13: There is no statute of limitations on cultural blowback, so avoid providing future foes with chosen trauma. Middle East experts will tell you 9/11 is twenty years of blowback from Afghanistan and the mujaheddin we supported there, half a century of blowback from the creation of the state of Israel, and even eight centuries of blowback from the Crusades. Like in your marriage, no "past sins" are ever forgotten, so it is crucial that in our responses to any System Perturbation, we do not simply plant a host of new historical grievances in the hearts of those we hope ultimately win over and integrate into the Core. This is, of course, the great danger of the Big Bang strategy of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime. My Muslim colleagues from that part of the world have told me repeatedly that, immediately following 9/11, America had the chance to win over not just a small percentage of the Muslim world, but a very large one -- depending on its response. These same friends tell me now that that share of potentially winnable Muslims is far smaller, and far more difficult to win, precisely because we have provided them with a newchosen trauma. What is our solution now? As Thomas Friedman likes to argue, America's best hope now is to do whatever it takes to make Iraq a beacon of freedom and progressive change in the Middle East. In effect, we need to turn that chosen trauma into a chosen triumph -- not ours, mind you, but the Iraqi people's.

Rule #14: In response to vertical scenarios, horizontal systems naturally come together, as do vertical systems. This one we saw in spades following 9/11, as the world's free states rushed to our support and joined our substantial multinational coalition that toppled the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan. Horizontal systems naturally saw a common threat in the attacks, meaning something that could just as easily happen to them. But vertical systems, in general, saw something very different in 9/11. First, since many such states are not our friends, they saw America receiving her comeuppances for past sins. Second, since a few of these states have long been identified as state sponsors of terrorist groups, they knew they could soon be on receiving end of any general U.S. response. Of course, when President Bush identifies an "axis of evil" by name, then the U.S. simply drives this countries even closer together, furthering their collective disconnectedness from the rest of the world. I do not see anything wrong with that, because I believe in calling a spade a spade. It is just that once you generate such a list, expectations are immediately raised about what you intend to do about that list, so follow-through is crucial. In that way, you could say that the "axis of evil" is a self-declared "domino theory" for the global war on terrorism: America sets itself up for having to deal with the entire lot to demonstrate significant milestones in the war. Is this an aggressive approach to shrinking the Gap? You bet.

Rule #15: Transitional states are forced to choose during System Perturbations, and their choices reveal which direction they are truly heading. By this I mean that the world is full of states trapped somewhere between truly vertical and horizontal system status -- China, Russia, Iran, to name a few. For these states, a System Perturbation represents a real moment of truth: to which "side" do they move? This is what Thomas Friedman describes as the choice between the "Lexus world" and the "olive tree world," and it is what I call the choice between the Core and the Gap, or -- most fundamentally -- a choice between connectedness and disconnectedness. I think we learned plenty about Russia, China, India, and several other New Core members following 9/11. In the case of those three countries, despite the fact that the Pentagon had more than a few nasty things to say about each prior to 9/11, all came down firmly on the U.S. side following this huge loss in our security. They chose. How did Iran choose? Saudi Arabia? Here I fear we are talking about states moving in the wrong direction, although there are better signs from Riyadh following the fall of Saddam Hussein. With SARS, China clearly had a choice to make, and it did so clearly, again reinforcing the perception that the nation is moving deeper into the Core. With our Big Bang in Iraq, America has forced a lot of countries to choose all over again, and we will know the outcomes according to the uniforms that ultimately appear in any UN-sponsored peacekeeping force for Iraq.

* * *

One of the main reasons why I think we are far enough along in our understanding of System Perturbations to start identifying some of the rule sets is because 9/11 was not just an existence proof for the concept, it started a whole new discussion on -- even a whole new lexicon for describing -- the nature of system-level security crises. Look at how the phrase "9/11" has become a touchstone for shocks that remake rule sets. The Chinese have repeatedly referred to SARS as "our 9/11." Australia suffers a great loss of life due to terrorist strike against its citizens touring in Bali, the biggest number of Australians killed in one hostile act since World War II, and they refer to it as "our 9/11." India's Parliament is bombed by terrorists, and many Indiana refer to it as "our 9/11." Russia is confronted by terrorists holding a theater full of hostages in Moscow, and its tragic outcome is described by many Russians as "our 9/11." In each instance, people are talking about security suddenly revealed as inadequate, rule sets suddenly sent into flux, and political systems deeply perturbed.

Understanding how System Perturbations unfold is crucial, in my mind, for understanding war within the context of everything else. This understanding is not only good for helping us stabilize the Core progressively over time, but also in shrinking the Gap, a process that is likely to be regularly punctuated by significant System Perturbations perpetrated by the United States itself, the most revolutionary country the world has ever known. To that end, the Pentagon needs to rethink its ordering principle, as does the entirety of the U.S. national security establishment. The wars we wage and the peace we win across the 21st century will be shaped decisively by how America comes to define crisis in the age of globalization.



Brief Reminder: Triangulating "The Pentagon's New Map"

This was my set-up slide in the old “Blueprint”-era brief.  In it, I provided a triangulating argument to orient the audience to other, more famous books.  I’d start with Friedman’s book, saying it was economic determinism, then I’d draw a line over to Huntington’s “Clash,” dubbing it social Darwinism.  Then I’d add the triangle and say I sought to add the third, pol-mil leg to that implied stool by splitting the difference between them:  yes, I believed in Friedman’s determinism, but yes, I also believed that globalization’s spread would trigger conflict along the “border”—so to speak, or along the Seam between Core and Gap.  My book’s “conceit,” I would say, was that it predicted where conflict would occur in the world on the basis of globalization’s expansion—hence it was the “Pentagon’s” new map and not Google’s or Goldman Sachs’ map (even though, in truth, their maps aren’t all that different looking).


Blast from my past: Barnes & Noble interview re: "Pentagon's New Map" release

An Interview with Thomas P. M. Barnett

Barnes & What is the main theme among the many addressed in your book?

Thomas P. M. Barnett: I specialize in thinking about war -- the seam, so to speak, between war and peace. The shorthand I use for everything else is globalization. Globalization is an all-encompassing compass, if you will. It is why the factory shuts down, why you go back for another degree at 45, why you switch jobs. America must wage a war on terrorism, but if there is a great criticism of this administration and America in general right now, it is that we are waging this war on terrorism without understanding the larger context of everything else. I wanted to write the book because unless we explain it so that it is understood, people on one side are going to shout "Empire" and on the other side are going to shout, "You're not defending America." Neither of those positions gets near to discussing the task at hand or what we need to achieve. The idea of empire is a caricature. If we want to get terrorism to go away, we need to connect the disconnected -- to make them a part of globalization.

B& What is the meaning of "Map" in the context of your title?

TB: I mean it both figuratively and literally, in a sense. The military uses the term because it likes to view information in a visual fashion. It's just like the original warriors of ancient times who drew plans with sticks in the dirt. Maps are vital for the military. "The Pentagon's New Map" is the new map of globalism. And on this map, where globalization has not spread, there has been violence.

B& Globalization is a key theme in your book. Please elaborate on it.

TB: What we need to do with the globalization map, so to speak, is to identify the big sources of violence, position ourselves around them, and shrink them over time. We are the only ones who can go somewhere and do things and help. Through our power, military and economic, we can establish stability. We are not interested in empire. When we export security to places that lack it, we do not seek to extend our rule.

Globalization does not come with a ruler -- it comes with rule. We extend rules, not our rule. The map I am talking about is a new map for the globalization for the new century. It is a new understanding of how nations come together. It is not the old balance of power that existed in the 19th century. It's different.

B& You spend a lot of time distinguishing between those countries and their people that are part of globalization and those that are outside of it. You relate that to the idea of the map, too, don't you?

TB: Yes, the map also has that feeling of a road map. The key question that doesn't get asked enough concerns the makeup of that global map. Where is it leading? The new map says that two-thirds of humanity is in what I like to call "the club." One-third is not. In the end, what shrinks this vital gap is money and investment. That's how we got China on board.

B& How did 9/11 change the basic defense posture of the United States?

TB: Since we created the Department of Defense in 1947, we have prepared for a war with a great power. But 9/11 transformed all that. We had to go to high-tech and completely alter the way we looked at things. We learned that traditional definitions of war do not exist anymore. We are a military made to fight other militaries, but the fact is there is no one left to fight on a scale like ours. Now the grand historical struggle is between those are willing to integrate into the new global economy and those who are not. What we had driven home to us on 9/11 is that groups like al-Qaeda want to hijack societies like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and disconnect them from the future. There is pain in what I call the integration process of these societies outside the globalized world.

B& You point out that, surprisingly, only a very small portion of the oil that America consumes comes from the Persian Gulf. Where does the Persian Gulf oil go?

TB: Only 40 percent of our energy is oil and only half of our oil comes from abroad. Only one-fifth of what we import is from the Persian Gulf. So, the oil we import from the Persian Gulf is only in the single digits. What people need to know is that the Persian Gulf provides oil for the global economy. We get most of our imported oil from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, West Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Chad, and the North Sea. The important thing is that global energy markets have regionalized. Remember, OPEC includes Mexico and Venezuela. It is important to realize that Persian Gulf oil -- 60 percent of it -- goes to developing Asia. Those countries are overwhelming consumers of oil and Persian Gulf oil.

B& You write about the flow of oil as being central to your theory of the new kind of war and globalization. Could you elaborate on that?

TB: Remember, the key thing is that oil has to flow, investment has to flow, people have to flow, and security has to flow. Again, to emphasize that theme, war falls within that context of everything else. There are the four great flows, so to speak, that define globalization's ability to expand: They are the flow of energy, the flow of people, the flow of investment, and the flow of security. Without security, energy won't move, people won't move, money won't move. So the notion that if America pulls back its military from the world, this will somehow lead to less conflict and more stability is wrong.

Security that American military strength provides is as important as any of those other flows. If you remove that security, you will feed the disruption of the flow of people, investment, and energy. Walls will go up and globalization can be killed. That is one thing that the American public does not understand. Our export of security is one thing -- it does not mean exporting arms. It means paying attention to mass violence around the world. The Department of Defense is the world's largest consulting force. It goes to where the "client," so to speak, lives. The American public only wants to hear about the exit strategy. But "the boys" are not coming home until we make globalization truly global. People don't want to hear about that long-term effort.

B& The last few years have been so harrowing. Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

TB: I am optimistic about the future. But I don't see how you can expect other people to sacrifice or put trust in government unless you are telling them a happy ending. The failure of the Bush administration is not the action or the deeds but the words that are failing. And we need more out of a Democratic contender than to blame a Bush administration. Bush needs to define a happy ending, and he needs to define a finish line in the war on terrorism. Yes, we are all against empire, but what we need to know what he is for.

People might say a "happy ending" is naive, but there is enough in the book for me to show that I am not "a wooly-headed peacenik." I come from the world of national security -- I work at the Naval War College -- I can say that there is a happy ending if you have the courage to recognize the path that lies before us and the tremendous opportunity that lies beyond. The society is on the verge of eliminating war as we know it. That is what the book seeks to describe.


Marine Corps Gazette: The Gap as "Arc of Instability"

Story from May issue, scanned and sent to me.  Crude image, but the shape is familiar.

Not the first time the Core-Gap map was redubbed:

That's how US News & World Report did it, but there I got credit from Mark Mazetti ("Pax Americana," 6 October 2003):

Ultimately, what is envisioned is a fundamentally new role for the U.S. service member around the globe--at once soldier, diplomat, international negotiator, and guardian of economic security. The military's mission thus becomes far more nuanced and more difficult: bringing regions like the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East into what U.S. Naval War College professor and Rumsfeld adviser Thomas Barnett calls the "functioning core" of globalized nations. At the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, Admiral Cebrowski has even discarded the term "warriors" when referring to U.S. troops. He prefers instead "enforcers," with a mission nothing short of "enforcing the norms of international behavior" in the world's most dangerous places.

Readers will remember I had an entire section in Pentagon's New Map called "Why I Hate the Arc of Instability."