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