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(DV) Rajiva: Plugging the Gaps in the Global Map







Plugging the Gaps in the Global Map 
by Lila Rajiva
November 7, 2006

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Well before Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, another ideologue of globalization, Thomas Barnett, had announced much the same thesis in his book, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002) -- an expansion of a much discussed Esquire article of the same name. 

Uncle Tom Secondus calls for jihad to be waged on the “disconnected” world and sees imposing globalization by force as America’s manifest destiny. 
The world is imperiled by a “gap” in the order of the liberal democratic state system, he argues; the gap needs to be plugged immediately by the rule-enforcing states of the core, which consist of the established democracies of the west, headed, of course, by the grandest panjandrum of all states -- the United States: We the people needs to become we the planet, says he. (p. 50) 
Notice how “the people” have become transformed in this formula into a non-living entity . . . a chunk of matter . . . a globe of dirt whirling through the galaxies? It’s not coincidental. Rarely in Barnett’s breathy paean to the power of the imperial state is there any mention whatever of living actors -- human volition -- operating. Instead, faceless structures, imperial connectivities, and abstract nouns rush into the “gap” like so many angels onto the head of a pin, all to ensure that the planet reaches a suitably imperial future. With its imponderable forces and ineluctable destinies, the whole business is almost Marxist. That should tell us immediately that the lineage of Barnett and other neo-conservative warmongers in economic fancy dress are really on the left, and not at all on the right. 
Be that as it may, the identity of the core is clear enough: North America, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand . . . the great Anglo-Saxon empire and its Old World allies. But there is also a new Core, not quite as civilized and orderly, but getting there. This is China, India, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and East Asia . . . the fast-sprouting adolescent economies, which only need some cajoling and trade before they get to sit down and eat dinner with the adults in the old core. The Core accounts for about 4 billion of the world’s 6 billion people. But then there is also the Gap, globalization’s “ozone hole”: parts of the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and South America, Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia (p. 149) which, rather in the manner of rowdy delinquents, needs judicious correction -- in the shape of periodic bombing and invading by the Core -- to keep it in line. 
Barnett’s enthusiasm for bombing and invading as instructional devices is not new, of course. It is matched by the theories of a whole horde of imperial ideologues: from political scientist Joseph Nye, who urges “soft power,” at one end of the spectrum, and Harlan Ullman, at the other, who is tearfully nostalgic for the glazed faces of the shocked and awed survivors of World War II blitzes. Somewhere in the middle is Thomas B., with his map of cores and gaps, marking off the unconnected world like a medieval cartographer solemnly inscribing -- “Here Be Dragons.” 
But oddly, as Joseph Stromberg notes, the brave new Barnettian cosmos ends up looking more or less like a map of the bad old colonial one and more or less, also, like a map of global oil reserves. 
But we digress. Here is Thomas intoning his creed: 

Whether we realize it or not, America serves as the ideological wellspring for globalization. These united states still stand as its first concrete expression. We are the only country in the world purposely built around the ideals that animate globalization’s advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified. Globalization is this county’s gift to history… More important, to abandon globalization’s future to those violent forces hell-bent on keeping the world divided between the connected and the disconnected is to admit that we no longer hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are created equal, and that all desire life, liberty, and a chance to pursue happiness… (p. 50) 

In saecula saeculorum. Amen. 
But, then follows Barnett’s 10 commandments of globalization based on "economic security workshops" conducted at Cantor Fitzgerald: 
1. Look for resources, and ye shall find. 
2. No stability, no markets. 
3. No growth, no stability. 
4. No resources, no growth. 
5. No infrastructure, no growth. 
6. No money, no infrastructure. 
7. No rules, no money. 
8. No security, no rules. 
9. No Leviathan (US superpower), no security. 
10. No will, no Leviathan. (pages 199-205) 
Which of course boils down to -- No McDonnell Douglas, no McDonalds, a la Friedman. 
And so, “Shrink the Gap,” Barnett tells us. This is not, as you might think, sartorial advice for Valley Girls, but military counsel. Take on the terrorists, he urges, claiming that 31 out of the 36 main terrorist groups operate primarily in the countries of the Gap, which are dominated by what he calls a Hobbesian rule set. That is to say, because of the lack of strong state power in the Gap, there is a constant "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes), as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called it. And in this Hobbesian “state of nature,” life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (xiii) Until the imperial state intervenes, that is. 
Barnett claims that democracies rarely go to war with each other because they have shared values, but that the same cannot be said of the rogue states, failed nations, and Islamist terrorists of the Gap. In the Gap, he concludes, the rule-set formulated by the Enlightenment’s most famous champion of rational morality, Immanuel Kant, simply doesn’t work as it does in the Core. 
Kant, you recall, famously proposed that republics would be less inclined to fight among themselves and would enjoy a  “perpetual peace,” because a declaration of war would require the active consent of the citizens of the republics, who would naturally be reluctant to agree to what was likely to exact blood from them. 
Of course, Kant could not have anticipated the growth of the public relations industry and the art of managing public perception or he might not have placed so much faith in the consent -- rational or otherwise -- of citizens. But the Prussian’s faith in rationality pales next to that of his neoconservative pupil Barnett, for whom the complex faculty of reason has now crystallized into a tiny set of rules -- rules that turn out on closer look to be shorthand for anything the imperial power sees fit to do at any given moment. 
Now, Kantian political rules, which form the basis of international law as it is today, consist fundamentally in not doing to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself. However, Barnett argues that while they might have worked in the restructuring of countries like Germany and Japan, for instance, they are nearly useless to handle the delinquents of the Gap, because the Gap doesn’t accept the validity of any rules in the first place. In other words, simply giving the members of the Gap a fail grade doesn’t work. They need to bend over and get caned. 
Mind you, in all this, it’s not completely clear how or why any country gets to be counted in the Gap. It’s not about stability, because Barnett includes Cuba, which is nothing if not stable. And if he is setting up Islam as the alternative to globalization, he is mistaken too. For Islam offers not an alternative to globalism but an alternative globalism in the form of a Muslim world state reaching from Morocco to the Philippines. It offers Jihad Versus McWorld, as Benjamin Barber argues in his 1995 book of the same name. 
And that brings up another problem with Barnett’s map: the Gap does already have plenty of connectivity, especially to other countries in the Gap but also to some in the Core. Iran has strong ties with the European Union, especially France, and China, for example. And these are commercial ties, which have required no transformation or destruction of Iran’s own culture. Islamic countries have also developed their own banking system -- a development that refutes Barnett’s equation of the religion with a deficit in commercial prowess. 
And anyway, how does Barnett know that it is the absence of centralized state power that is the cause to economic backwardness and war in the Gap? He doesn't. And it isn't. The evidence points almost diametrically the other way. As Youssef Cohen, Brian R. Brown and A. F. K. Organski write in 1981, many Third World wars “are all brought about by the aggressive expansionism of the state.” 
They find that “over a relatively long period of time state expansion will generate violent conflict” and that “it is the progression toward greater order itself that produces much of the relatively greater violence we find in new states.” 
In other words, the problem is not too little order but too much. And why shouldn’t it be? Do leaves drift down in rigid columns or stars sparkle in military formation? Are waves or snowflakes exactly alike? Patterns in nature repeat themselves but they repeat themselves with a variation, a slight change, a soupcon of disorder to indicate that they alive and breathing. 

The state, on the other hand, is a dead mechanism, a rusty hulk of machinery. It is no Leviathan, as Hobbes called it, but a Frankenstein’s monster. And the order it imposes can only provoke rebellion and conflict from living subjects. What orders human society in an organic way is not the state but commerce . . . the millions of exchanges of money and goods that delicately and incessantly tune people into each others’ needs. 

[T]he evidence strongly suggests that the rate of economic development is related to both the rate of state expansion and collective violence in a way that runs contrary to the way postulated by the dominant view on such matters… state expansion seems to produce much more violence than economic growth... Rather than state expansion being an antidote for the violence produced by economic modernization, our rather limited evidence shows that it is economic modernization which is the antidote to the violence produced by state expansion. (Cohen, Brown, and Organski)

If so, then the more Iran deals with China, the less we in the United States need to be threatened. The richer and more commercially successful both countries become, the more prosperous their own citizens grow and the more capable they become of resisting tyranny on the part of their governments. And, the more powerful these states are, the more they also check the imperial bloating of the American state. And that in turn keeps the American citizen free of meddling in his privacy and liberty. The organic disorder of commerce, not the artificial order of the state, is much more inclined to foster human liberty. 
That’s why Barnett’s whole notion of a fractious Gap in need of imperial bullying is bogus. Indeed, when he starts figuring out who belongs to the Gap, he dithers around arbitrarily -- even deterministically -- like a Calvinist reckoning the numbers of the damned. Where or when the Core should intervene -- and why -- isn’t ever really clear to anyone, it seems, except Jahweh, or the strongman of the Core . . . the United States. Our imperial hegemon comes off in this account as a cranky school marm given to wildly unilateral decisions, a kind of Jean Brodie with nuclear first strike. 
Meanwhile, the plot thickens. There are also those who have a vested interest in keeping the Gap anarchic and poor, claims Barnett. These finks fall into two groups: one arises from the Gap itself and includes the various profiteers, pimps, and panderers who bottom-feed off the war and misery of Homo Gap-iens. Such are Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri and the other warlords and wanna-be caliphs of Islamic extremism. The second group is more insidious. It belongs to the affluent and established democracies of the Old Core and is made up of self-styled activists who champion ecological and human rights causes that often run counter to the desires of the citizens of the very Gap states the activists claim they are representing. The positions of the activists, complains Barnett, filter up into prominent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the International Red Cross or Greenpeace, which then want to impose nebulous international conventions and treaty clauses with the full force of law onto the rule-givers in the Core. That ends up dragging the rule givers into the international court over every intervention in the Gap, however necessary. The NGOs even want -- gasp! -- to make the US accountable for war crimes. Of course, he says, it’s all sound and fury signifying if not nothing, not very much of anything. Because, naturally, the US could not possibly commit a war crime. Why not? Because, interventions in the Gap are not wars, but police actions. And the police don’t commit war crimes. Ultimately, international law is only a wicked plot to bring down our heroic hegemon. 
Why anyone would want to do that, Barnett doesn’t quite say. We are left to assume ambition for glory or for  power, verging on megalomania, on the part of everyone, except, of course, the one wielding the greatest power -- the United States. But that’s the beauty of being an only superpower. You never have to say you’re sorry. 
But lest you think that Barnett is simply an old style imperialist, he hastens to add that it’s not about empire at all. Perish the thought. It’s about globalization. 
Really and truly. 
And Barnett, like Friedman, has that sorted out too, although his dates are a bit different. The first wave of globalization, he says, ran from 1870 to 1914. The second wave from 1945 to 1980, and the third began in 1980 and is continuing. Globalization II saw the emergence of the Old Core; Globalization III promises the emergence of the New Core. Thus runs the gospel according to St. Tom. 
And, then, never short for prescriptions and panaceas, Barnett issues another round of commandments to round off his opus. They are nothing if not ambitious, ranging from the inevitable, “the emergence of China as a peer of the United States,” to the ambitious, “the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2015, to the truly delusional, “The transformation of the Middle East through the rehabilitation of Iraq.” The end result of this hum of hyperactivity, claims Barnett, will be “a multicultural free-market economy whose minimal rule sets (telling us what we cannot do, not what we must do) allow for maximum individual freedom to go where we want, live where we want, and conduct our lives how we want.” (p. 123)
But, for all this to happen as it should, he suggests that “four flows” are essential: a flow of immigrants from Gap to Core, of energy from the Gap to New Core (mainly China), of money from the Old Core to the New, and of “security” from Core to Gap. 
Translated this means more cheap labor from Africa, more cheap oil from the Middle East, more outsourcing to Asia, and more bombing from the US. 
Especially the latter, since “our security product is a known commodity,” and is “the only public-sector export from the Core to the Gap that matters . . .” 
Aye, there’s the rub. 
The US will have to get used to intervening anywhere on the planet at any moment to keep all the flowing and globalizing between the Gap and the Core going.  Barnett judiciously chooses to call this “the three-front war,” but -- rather like God -- the new order seems to bear a close resemblance to a sphere, with its center everywhere and circumference nowhere. 
Nor is the resemblance to divinity accidental. For, elsewhere, Barnett writes: “the United States Government [is] the greatest force for good the world has ever known” and “the U.S. military is the single greatest instrument of that good as well” (p. 270, my italics). 
And until now, some of us had thought it was Jesus Christ! 
But it’s a strange sort of good, this divine sphere of influence of the United States of . . . Planet Earth. It rings with hellish discord rather than celestial harmony. In fact, Barnett himself admits that in it, “nothing is sacred and no one is ever absolutely safe.” (p. 274–277) 
If all this sounds more like perpetual war than perpetual peace, well, too bad. For Barnett, that’s what globalization in the 21st century is all about.

Lila Rajiva is a freelance writer in Argentina, and the author of the must-read book, The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US Media (Monthly Review Press, 2005). She can be reached at: lrajiva@hotmail.com. Copyright © 2006 by Lila Rajiva

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