The Leviathan & The System Administrator

This is a tale of the present and the future, where nation states fall into two basic categories: A) The politically stable, technologically developed, globalized, economically interconnected states – the Core, and B) the politically unstable, underdeveloped or even non-developed, non-globally connected states – the Gap. Who cares?, you might ask. Well, as Thomas Barnett writes in Esquire Magazine:

If we draw a line around the majority of [US] military interventions, we have basically mapped the Non-Integrating Gap. Obviously, there are outliers excluded geographically by this simple approach, such as an Israel isolated in the Gap, a North Korea adrift within the Core, or a Philippines straddling the line. But looking at the data, it is hard to deny the essential logic of the picture: If a country is either losing out to globalization or rejecting much of the content flows associated with its advance, there is a far greater chance that the U.S. will end up sending forces at some point. Conversely, if a country is largely functioning within globalization, we tend not to have to send our forces ambienbuy there to restore order to eradicate threats.

It’s also a tale of the military configuration needed to confront that world. A military of two parts. As the WSJ’s Greg Jaffe writes:

Mr. Barnett’s military is a far cry from the shape of today’s armed forces. Instead of a single force to wage wars and rebuild nations, Mr. Barnett envisions two. The first, which he dubs “Leviathan,” would be hard-hitting, ready to take on conventional foes such as Saddam Hussein on a moment’s notice. The second, more unconventional force of “System Administrators” would focus on bringing dysfunctional states into the mainstream through the type of nation-building operations seen in Iraq, the Balkans and Eastern Africa. It wouldn’t only mop up after wars but would travel the world during peacetime building local security forces and infrastructure.

Tom Barnett is a senior professor in the Warfare Analysis department of the Naval War College and author of The Pentagon’s New Map.

Original Esquire Magazine article: The Pentagon’s New Map
Greg Jaffe’s WSJ article: Quirky PowerPoint Carries Big Punch

(Via The Command Post)

14 thoughts on “The Leviathan & The System Administrator”

  1. The more recent article in Esquire appears in the June issue (on stands now–Carmen Electra on the cover): “Mr. President, Here’s How to Make Sense of Our Iraq Strategy.” Esquire makes it available online for free, and it’s on my site as well (PNM news page).

    The shortest course is on CSPAN Sunday night, the 30th, at 8pm EST (Book Notes with Brian Lamb).

    Thanks for the mention in this blog.

    Go Pack!

    [Sorry, almost reflexive when I see the word “Chicago.”]

  2. The politically stable, technologically developed, globalized, economically interconnected states

    You mean like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the USSR, and Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait? Some of our greatest security threats have been countries whose technological and economic advancement have outpaced their democratic institutions. It is the failure of democratic institutions, not economies, that poses the greatest risk. I am just as concerned about an invasion of Taiwan by globalization powerhouse China, as an invasion of South Korea by economic basket-case N.K. Both have huge standing armies backed by nuclear weapons. Care to predict which will attack first?

    It seems to me that we have no way of predicting where the next threat to global security will come from, and that, moreover it is just as likely to be a country fueled by the economic and technological benefits of globalization as not.

  3. All three examples you cite were dictatorships that were systematic in denying their own people normal interactions with the outside world. I lived in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Being there was like being on the dark side of the moon. In Nazi Germany you could go to jail for listening to radio broadcasts from foreign sources. Saddam kept his people so isolated from the outside world that when we toppled his regime, it spawned a mini-boomlet in the satellite phone industry–that being the only way for recently liberated Iraqis to reach loved ones overseas directly. Imperial Japan is another bad example. You think you can really describe that country as well-connected in the 1930s?

    As for China: it does not have an advanced military whatsoever. The joke inside the Pentagon is that the invasion will be called the “million man swim.” What China has is a lot of guys with rifles and a military that can’t go anywhere and do anything.

    I’m feeling the heat here, but I’m missing the analyis.

  4. Tom, Just watched your conversation with Brian Lamb (great American) on Booknotes. I was fascinated to hear that you’ve given your famous Powerpoint presentation to the House of Commons. Care to comment on that experience? What was the reaction? What sort of questions did you get?

    I was also interested in your viewpoint that Japan and China should be considered major US allies in Iraq. Your point, correct me if I’m wrong, is that by purchasing US treasury bonds, those countries are, in effect, funding or bankrolling the intervention. You believe they are ‘purchasing’ security from the US military. What makes you believe that’s their motivation? Why don’t you believe their goals are purely economic?

    Finally, I’d like your opinion on the viability of NATO. Personally, I’m torn on the issue. On the one hand, peace and prosperity in Europe is a good thing. NATO has been very successful. On the other hand, the expense has been and continues to be disproportionately borne by American taxpayers. I believe it has also stunted the political maturing of Europe. They have no need to address global security problems since they know Americans will always deal with the hard problems. Europeans seem more like spoiled children to me than responsible adults. They want all the benefits of civilization with none of the costs and responsiblities. I say this in response to your statement that where the international community has an A-Z program for reintegrating failed economies – the IMF – we need an A-Z plan for integrating failed states into the globalized community. Where does Europe, with a larger population and a larger GNP than the United States fit into this new security order? Are they to fund interventions into the Interconnection Gap? Are they to send their sons and daughters into harms way? If the integration and modernization of the entire world is simply placed on the backs of American, I don’t think we can do it. We’re only 5% of the world’s population. I also think that Americans will simply decide the political costs are simply too high. We need help, and a lot of it. It’s a big, multigenerational job.

  5. All three examples you cite were dictatorships that were systematic in denying their own people normal interactions with the outside world.

    That’s my point. Countries can participate in globalization while still denying their people normal interactions with the outside world and all the other democratic freedoms. This is exactly what China is doing now. Globalization is not the same as democratization.

    As for China: it does not have an advanced military whatsoever. The joke inside the Pentagon is that the invasion will be called the “million man swim.” What China has is a lot of guys with rifles and a military that can’t go anywhere and do anything.

    Yet. First of all, as we learned in Korea and Vietnam, they don’t need an advanced military to win or force a stalemate. The question now is, what kind of navy are they going to buy with all those American dollars?

  6. I’m halfway through the book. I hope to finish it and have at least one post about it fairly soon. Others have ably provided summaries, both in brief and at length. I’m thinking of looking at the book in light of a few other concerns of mine. One idea is to look at the Anglosphere as the Core-of-the-Core, which I think is fully consistent with Barnett. another idea is to look at India as a critical test-case for the limits of the possible. Yet another angle is the whole business of military adaptation and how hard it is and how hard it is to get it right, and what it would take politically and insitutionally to build the capabilities which Barnett is contemplating.

    For now, I’ll put a couple of thoughts here which pertain to the dialogue.

    And, btw, awfully cool of Mr. Barnett to pitch in.

    I too wonder as David does about how war-deterring connectivity really is, either by itself or as a primary factor. But I’d use a different example. Totalitarian regimes do fit better into Barnett’s not-connected framework, so score 1 for Barnett on correlation of non-connectivity and agressiveness as a legitimizing factor for the government and the failure of deterrence. However, in David’s favor, I’d offer what seems to me a better counter-example, which lies in the breakdown of what Barnett calls “Globalization I”, circa 1870-1914. The pre-“Great War” world was in some ways more interconnected than today. No passports. Nearly total freedom of movement for anybody who could afford a train ticket or a steamship ticket. Currency was gold and its movement was entirely unregulated. Capital mobility was nearly total. Your money was good anywhere on earth and you could buy and sell anything to anyone anywhere, though you sometimes paid a tariff. (The first volume of Herbert Hoover’s memoirs, Years of Adventure, is a moving and well-written depiction of this optimistic Liberal lost world.) In particular, the British and German economies were very deeply “connected”, to the point that sensible people believed war was literally impossible between them. The political ineptitude of the German leadership brought on a catastrophic war despite very deep connectedness. The costs were accurately predicted by many observers, but the German leadership chose to pay them, or at least jump off the cliff despite the warnings. So, the whole breakdown of the pre-1914 proto-Core, despite the highest posssible connectivity, given then-current technology, seems a serious counter-factual case. But, I do need to finish the book.

    Another thing is that I am very interested to get to what Barnett says about building functioning governments in the Gap, which will obviously be necessary to “shrink it”. My fear is that the lessons gleaned from my constellation of intellectual heroes like David Hackett Fischer, Alan MacFarlane, Robert Putnam, Edward Banfield, Tocqueville and others give sound cause for pessimism. Governments are built on deep cultural foundations which develop autonomously and slowly. Free, robust and successful governments are always a superstructure over a living, breathing civil society. So, if you cannot germinate such a thing by any intentional act, let alone impose if from without, if it really takes centuries to grow such a society, this puts us into a world which looks more Huntingtonian than Barnett hopes and believes is realistically achievable.

    But, I have not yet gotten the part where Barnett talks about construction within the Gap. So, this comment will have to just trail off here. I look forward to seeing how he deals with this element.

    And I’ll look at the new Esquire article and the Booknotes transcript. Incidentally, that archive of Booknotes transcripts is one of the best things on the Net, and I have repeatedly cited to it on this blog. I’ll probably get the article off the Net, since the Esquire photo section on the artificially curvaceous but still fetching Ms. Electra might prove too distracting for poor old Lex.

  7. 3 Questions:

    1) Very cool to brief in UK House of commons (about 10 MPs and 6 Lords and bunch of senior defense officials) over dinner in basement. Very much the British debate. I did my thing,then dinner and I drank some wine, figuring it was all done. Then the serious Q&A for 90 minutes! Very spirited debate but listened very intently and politely to my answers (yelled at each other a lot–“Have you no shame! Put away your Labor guilt complex! Order! I say order here!). At times I wanted to gush, “This is just like watching the BBC!” But I feared that would make me seem like such a jackass. Again, lots of fun and a real thrill. Always amazing to rep your country overseas. So few Americans really know what that means anymore.

    2) Doesn’t matter if they think about it explicitly so much now, but they will over time. Japan obviously thinks about it–so long under our umbrella. China could, but we keep plotting the brilliant war against them, so we make it easy for PLA to brand us as enemy #1. But they are figuring out how the world works more and more. 5th Gen leadership on tap for 2010 all educated here in States. Real strat partnership in the offing, if we have the vision.

    3) NATO is just fine, but needs to absorb all of FSU. We need to build East Asia NATO on Kim’s take-down. India will be huge pillar of SWA security alliance. That trio of alliances pretty much ends all threats of war on Eurasian land mass within 20 years. You will say, Impossible! But it’s like sex in college . . . you never get any unless you actually ask–and politely.

  8. And, btw, awfully cool of Mr. Barnett to pitch in.

    I agree. I think I’m a little celebrity awestruck here.

    On the other hand, what’s that say about me; that my celebrities are political science analysts? I feel like such a geek. If the shoe fits…

  9. “I feel like such a geek.”

    If you don’t feel like a geek, you’re not a Chicago Boy, Michael.

    I remember Milton Friedman was walking down Woodlawn Ave one sunny day in Spring quarter, and all the econ guys went running out of the cafeteria to get their copies of Hirschlieffer’s Econ 200 textbook autographed. That really happened.

    Our idea of celebrities are the smart, big-ideas guys who write really cool books.

    (Though some of us may also furtively harbor some positive sentiments toward such celebrities as Carmen Electra, or Miss Belgium.)

  10. Lex, of your three prospective articles, i think i would find “India as the test of the possible” the most interesting.

    Thank ye,

  11. some of us may also furtively harbor some positive sentiments toward such celebrities as Carmen Electra, or Miss Belgium.

    What happened to Hedy Lamarr? How quickly we forget. Oh well, love ’em and leave ’em.

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