An insider's forceful road to peace

During the summer of 2001, Thomas Barnett, author of The Pentagon’s New Map, directed a joint project between the Pentagon and Wall Street to explore how the spread of globalization affects national and global security.

Barnett worked for the Pentagon. His stock-market partners were from Cantor Fitzgerald, and their meetings were held on the 107th floor of One World Trade Center.

That gives Barnett, a professor at the Naval War College, an ironic authority in discussions about the ramifications of Sept. 11. But it also means that he was a step ahead in recognizing a threat from countries that remained — through willfully isolationist regimes — cut off from the world.

Barnett supports the war in Iraq as a way to remove an isolationist government and increase connectivity in the region, and he supports President Bush’s foreign policy in general. But he criticizes Bush’s enunciation of that policy, primarily the lack of a happy ending, or, in Barnett’s words, a “future worth creating.”

Barnett writes for — and often down to — a general audience in his attempt to explain and sell a truly bold vision for American foreign policy in the next century. His vision calls for a broad use of the U.S. military to extend globalization to all “disconnected” societies.

The map to which the book’s title refers outlines the successful progress of globalization. Countries that have integrated with the world or are clearly on the way (India, Russia and China) make up the “core.” The rest of the world — the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America — are called the “gap.”

Barnett says core nations play by agreed-upon rules and thus should not be viewed as threats (in other words, the Pentagon should stop dreaming of a “great power” war with China or anyone else). The enemy of globalization is not radical Islam, but a broader condition — disconnectedness.

Barnett calls The Pentagon’s New Map “an autobiography of a vision,” and perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the view of the debate within the Pentagon in the decade since the end of the Cold War. Several recent books about terrorism and Iraq try to answer the question, “Who knew what, and when did they know it?”

Barnett doesn’t try to do that. But he does show how the Pentagon missed the real threat in the past decade.

After the end of the Cold War, he writes, the Department of Defense found itself becoming increasingly irrelevant. Without the ability of states to challenge its power, the U.S. military struggled to find a new role. Many analysts inside the military saw this post-Cold War period as a time of chaos, a description Barnett believes reflected their outdated view of world affairs.

The author depicts a Defense Department that was unsupervised by President Bill Clinton in its search for a new strategy. Clinton’s early fight over gays in the military chastened the president, Barnett writes, and the president was more interested in expanding trade internationally than in directing the military. Within the Pentagon, meanwhile, a serious debate raged: On one side were supporters of “transformation” — Barnett calls them “cold worriers” — who wanted a more technologically advanced force to confront future great powers. On the other were those who wanted to use the military to manage the smaller conflicts throughout the world.

According to Barnett, who was in the second group, the cold worriers set spending priorities, but the reality of the 1990s meant that the military was fighting small conflicts while building up for the “big one” in the distant future. “The result was like having our cake, but putting it in the freezer to eat — maybe, just maybe — in a couple of decades,” Barnett writes.

Barnett believes that the military needs both. He recommends an explicit division of the military into two forces with different personnel, equipment and missions. The “Leviathan” side would be smaller, more high-tech, and used to overthrow bad actors such as Saddam Hussein. The “Systems Operator” force would be larger but lower tech, and used for reconstruction and peacekeeping. The Leviathan would often act unilaterally, but the SysOps force would encourage cooperation from international allies.

For Barnett, completing the reconstruction of Iraq is the first step on the road to world peace. Of course, there is still plenty to be done, including a larger role for the military. After all, Iraq, North Korea and Iran still need to be dealt with, as do terrorists in Colombia and dictatorships in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

If you are going to dream, you might as well dream big.


Book reviewed
The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century
Author: Thomas P.M.Barnett
Pages: 383; Price: $25.95
G.P. Putnam’s Sons;
New York, 2004