Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Search the Site
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
« Feel insecure about global security? No need | Main | China should not be ignored in global economy »
Sunday
Mar122006

I miss Lady Liberty

I've worked in national security since the end of the Cold War, and I've got to say: I miss the old Statue of Liberty.

You know her, the one that used to welcome "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." That's the monument I grew up with, and she symbolized America's open door.

Old Lady Liberty's got a new job now representing national fear, and it saddens me deeply to see her image perverted that way.

Perhaps you haven't noticed this change, but I encounter it every day in reports and PowerPoint slideshows from national security agencies, military commands and defense contractors galore. It's a head shot of the statue bathed in the image of the American flag, and today it's the ubiquitous visual shorthand for homeland security/defense.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that symbols are targets in a war of perceptions, and the global war on terrorism is definitely that - a fight to define what we stand for in relation to radical extremists.

But therein lies the rub. We stand for a world connected through trust, transparency and trade, while the jihadists want to hijack Islam and disconnect it from all the corruption they imagine is being foisted upon it by globalization (aka, America's "plot to rule the world").

In that war of ideas, I'd still like to see Lady Liberty standing outside the wire instead of hiding behind it, and here's why: I don't have a homeland. My people left that place a long time ago.

I don't have a homeland because I don't live in a place - I live an ideal. I live in the only country in the world that's not named for a location or a tribe but a concept. Officially, we're known as the United States.

And where are those united states? Wherever there are states united. You join and you're in, and theoretically everyone's got an open invitation.

This country began as a collection of 13 misfit colonies, united only by their desire not to be ruled by a distant king.

We're now 50 members and counting, with our most recent additions (Alaska, Hawaii) not even co-located with the rest, instead constituting our most far-flung nodes in a network that's destined to grow dramatically again.

Impossible, you say? Try this one on for size: By 2050, one out of every three American voters is slated to be Hispanic. Trust me, with that electorate, it won't just be Puerto Rico and post-Castro Cuba joining the club. We'll need either a bigger flag or smaller stars.

That's one image we present the world: the America that's just gone through its largest influx of new immigrants in history (the 1990s).

Contrast that reality to Europe or Japan, two other pillars of the West that face either demographic decline through rapid aging of their populations or - gasp! - the frightening prospect of letting in a whole lot more people who don't look like them. France is just for the French, right?

And yet, who's thrown up the most firewalls since 9/11? Who's made it so much harder to come to their country - even just visit? Who's wrapped Lady Liberty up in the flag?

Feeling any safer?

Instead of recognizing our strengths, we've chosen to define them as weaknesses.

We've replaced Lady Liberty with an army of airport screeners known as TSA, which I'm pretty sure stands for Thousands Standing Around.

Frankly, following 9/11, we zigged when we should have zagged. We looked inward instead of outward.

We pulled an Oprah, imagining this whole struggle was about us ("Why don't they like me?") when it's really all about them: a third of humanity standing noses pressed to the glass, wondering when it will be let into this global economy in a fair and just manner.

One of the hats I wear now is that of senior managing director in a start-up information technology firm.

In that business, everybody knows that any network is only as secure as every other network to which it's connected - every single one. The same holds true for countries in this age of globalization.

So either we extend trust, transparency and trade or we pretend we can find security by walling ourselves off from the world, thus accepting Osama bin Laden's offer of civilizational apartheid.

Me, I want my old Lady back.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>