Rebirth of Reason

Favorite EditSanction this itemThe Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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The Pentagon’s New Map

The Pentagon’s New Map – War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century

I highly recommend this book. What Barnett proposes has broad appeal across the political spectrum, with the exception of folks on the far left or the far right, which I consider a positive! In The Pentagon’s New Map, Barnett lays out a rational strategy for war and peace during this century, or as he calls it a strategy for war “in the context of everything else” rather than war within the narrow confines of war itself.

In the book, Barnett describes the world in terms of the Core, those Nations that are either already a part of globalization or beginning the process of integration (the New Core, including Russia, China, and India, for example), and the non-integrating Gap of Nations that are “disconnected” from globalization – in my take these are Nations that are not embracing Capitalism, but instead cling to tribal, religious, and socialist concepts. In this way, individuals and small groups within these societies maintain their dictatorial control over the individual. They realize that once connected, their cultures and Nations will be transformed. In many cases, the rally cry is one of saying how evil it is that they will be “Americanized” – and the truth is that they will be, but in a way that does not rule the individual, but sets him free. That is the promise of America, both as an ideal and a reality that can and has been achieved.

The goal is nothing less than bringing the rest of humanity, the 1/3 of the world’s population that has been written off as “hopeless” into the fold. The USA freed the first 1/3 when it rebuilt Japan and Europe and formed the West or “Free World” following WW II – itself a magnificent achievement. Following WW II, War between Great Powers, and the vast number of deaths we saw in these wars, was for all intents and purposes over. This was war on the “system” scale. In confronting Communism, Stalin, Mao and their successors isolated another 1/3 of humanity behind an “iron curtain” and both sides largely ignored the remaining “third world” except to use as pawns in their struggle. Communism lost, and now these Nations are beginning the process of integrating with the rest of the world. Now that the Cold War is over, even War between Nations has virtually disappeared, dropping violence down to the individual level, which we now experience as Terrorism.

Taking a step back, here is something I feel breaks through some of the logjams between various philosophies. We can all agree that living anywhere in “the West” is far, far better than living in any of the Gap or third world countries. In other words, we can have rational conversations about freedom, individualism, capitalism, and even socialist ideas within these Nations. In my view, this is a win for Objectivism, because the more connected we become, the more Capitalism wins and Socialism dies, because Socialism is not competitive! You want high tax rates? Great, but notice how all your people and businesses start to go elsewhere! As long as we have connectivity, rational ideas win. So fine, I say lets fight that battle, lets let it happen, because we can and will win, because our ideas match reality and theirs don’t. Meanwhile, let us bring as many people, as many Nations, as we possibly can into the fold. Ayn Rand said it is man’s mind that creates wealth, and we are squandering 1/3 of the world’s wealth if we do not shrink the Gap.

National security – self-interest, and our very self-defense cannot be achieved, in an era of globalization, when Nations remain disconnected. That is what the “System Perturbation” of 9/11 has taught us. Therefore, we cannot pretend that if the USA becomes isolationist, it makes our country better or safer, because every disconnection costs us economically and creates the forces that drive terrorism. The USA now has 100% mastery of what Barnett calls the Leviathan portion of armed forces. No other Army, Navy or Air Force can match US capacity to go anywhere in the world and win a war. However, the USA cannot “win the peace” with a Leviathan Force. That is why we need to create a new Sys Admin force, and include other Nations, especially those emerging from the New Core, so that they join us in their agreement to shrink the Gap.

There is a lot more here – but I think the review is already too long. One element Barnett mentions on his web site (www.thomanspmbarnett.com) is that pessimistic scenarios are the ones people are most comfortable with, but that many are very threatened by his scenario because of the fact that it is optimistic! Another criticism I have seen is that Barnett “talks too much about himself” and has a big ego. I don’t think Objectivists will have a problem with that! Keep in mind he is no Objectivist himself, but that does not abrogate any of his arguments. He sometimes reveals some of the self-contradictory aspects of altruism, because he speaks to self-interest as well as “the overall good” in a somewhat contradictory manner. Again, this doesn’t take away from the power of his ideas in and of themselves (or should I say his ideas qua ideas?).
Added by Kurt Eichert
on 2/15/2005, 10:40am

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