March 13, 2006


Planning for a peaceful world: An interview with Thomas Barnett (Steve Martinovich, March 13, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

With the publication of Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating, Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett has once again crafted a strategic vision for the future that is as compelling as his highly-regarded The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century. Where in TPNM Barnett identified the key issues he believed were needed to be resolved before we could expect a peaceful global community, that the United States needed to stop thinking of the world in Cold War terms and to craft a new military, political and economic rules to deal with the new reality, in BFA he goes one step further and ambitiously builds on those ideas to create a specific strategic roadmap to reach that world of peace and security. Dr. Barnett recently sat with ESR to discuss his new book and the ideas behind it.

ESR: For those readers who may not be familiar with Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating, how would you characterize what you are trying to do with it?

Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon's New Map constituted my system-level diagnosis of the security world in which we find ourselves post-9/11. It also established my voice/character as someone (hopefully) worth listening to on the subjects of global change and grand strategy. Blueprint for Action attempts to drill down to the level of the nation-state, proposing a slew of strategic choices for our country in terms of the new rules, new organizations and new relationships we'll need to build -- as I like to call it -- a "future worth creating." I define that future as the progressive expansion of the global economy in a deeply connective and sustaining way around the planet, or the shrinking of those regions that currently are poorly or unfairly connected to that economy and thus present us with the most security issues. So, again, PNM gave you the map, while BFA gives you plan for improving that global environment to the point where America gets to declare, as we did in 1989, victory in a global war on terrorism in a way that we can all be proud of.

ESR: In the terminology you use, the nations that are economically and politically connected to each other are the Functioning Core while those disconnected are Non-Integrating Gap. What are some of the bigger issues and problems you foresee in bringing the latter online?

The toughest nut involves improving the security in those countries that need a substantial amount of time to develop their people capital in order to attract foreign direct investment (the precursor being the shift from -- typically -- extreme reliance on the exporting of a couple of raw materials that are easily controlled by small elites or fought over by rival small networks). The most vexing criticism I get from sharp thinkers is, "Okay, I can see how your extension of connectivity works for a bunch of countries in the Gap whose main turn-off for investors are the neighborhood in which they live, but how do you deal with the serious losers that have little to offer once you get rid of the bad actors on top -- you know, the guys who rise up because that's the way it's always been there?"

And that gets to the larger realization, which is both good and bad, that the Gap gets shrunk in chunks. It's not just a matter of declaring Singapore in, but in figuring out how Southeast Asia achieves the critical mass of security, political, network and economic connectivity en masse.

The important point being that great chunks of the globe reach tipping points, despite the Islamophobes insistence that the Middle East is unique and will prove intractable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 13, 2006 10:01 AM

only "islamophobes" (i.e. those suffering from a mental disorder) could possibly think different civilizations have had very different historical experiences and may never emulate the west. perhaps, china and the mid east will become democratic societies at some point or perhaps they will not. if the bush administration would like to direct efforts at facilitating such change thats fine. however, democracy and economic interdependence are no guarantee of peace. we would do well to remember that.

Posted by: Brian at March 13, 2006 11:54 AM

They do guarantee peace, just not a future for most of those societies. Europe is peacefully dying.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 12:43 PM

Brian, nothing can guarantee world peace but isolationism and fascism are pretty good guarantors against it.

Best to keep on truckin' along with the president.

Posted by: erp at March 13, 2006 12:45 PM

Brian, nothing can guarantee world peace but isolationism and fascism are pretty good guarantors against it.

Best to keep on truckin' along with the president.

Posted by: erp at March 13, 2006 12:48 PM