peasants of the Old World tell a remarkably uniform tale of
a mad hunter from the North and East who claimed to rule the
world in the insane conviction that he had conquered God with
his arrow. Such… was the archaic and mysterious Nimrod, the
mighty hunter of the steppes, who shot an arrow into the sky…
and when a shower of blood ensued believed he had conquered
God and won for himself the universal kingship. The story
is based on a genuine hunting ritual of great antiquity, but
the literary reports all chill with horror at the thought
of a man who first turned his arrows from the hunting of beasts
to become ‘a hunter of men,’ who founded the first great state,
invented organized warfare, and ‘made all people rebellious
literati may have quailed at the Nimrodian program, but contemporary
spokesmen for power are made of sterner stuff. Thomas P. M.
Barnett of the U.S. Naval War College is one such: a sort
of Midwestern Oswald Spengler, keen to throw Destiny’s dice.
Barnett, whose program is revealed in his book, The
Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century
(New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002), was trained by only
the best Cold War liberals at Harvard, the school that gave
us napalm. He has been called a George F. Kennan for the new
century. He seems more a reduced James Burnham for a very
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, Barnett seems to have
a Self that is universal. It expresses the deepest needs and
wants of the very cosmos. Literary critic Quentin Anderson
notes, in passing, that Emerson may have “simply carried on
the activity of being or becoming ‘Emerson’….”
In reading Thomas Barnett, one gets at times the impression
that his work is all about the activity of being or becoming
is all things to all people. Given competing visions, he can
affirm them all, as long as they are imperial and grand. He
is bipartisan and non-sectarian. He believes that once his
sheer clarity and strategic genius hit home, all Presidents
and administrations of whatever party will carry out his program
map is the conceptual
center of his book. His vision is more and more cited,
and he may have created a following. This means big trouble,
as we shall see.
In addition, Barnett means to create a new language whose
very framing will force those who buy it to accept his grandiose
prescriptions for “a future worth creating” (The
Pentagon’s New Map, p. 5, his italics). The effect is
somewhat like having Oliver Cromwell come back as a motivational
speaker, who then divides his time between Pentagon briefings,
Rotary Club meetings, and doing commentary on Fox News.
is not, of course, the only man with a plan just now. Joseph
Nye, dean of the nicer liberal imperialists, has repackaged
“soft power,” Walter Russell Mead wants balanced and nuanced
US world rule, and even Harlan “Shock and Awe” Ullman has
a manifesto out, although he speaks mainly in military terms.
Barnett seems more dangerous than the others, however, because
he has catchier phrasing, trendier slogans, bolder strokes
of simplification, and always, his map.
amidst “hard, or physical, scientists,” Barnett writes, he
“was forced to introduce a lot more rigor into [his] thinking”
and to develop “reproducible” concepts grounded, apparently,
on “real-world statistics.” The notions thus derived can be
“replicate[d]… in mind after mind” (p. 19).
proposition seems, in this case, most unfortunate.
doesn’t want to make war against a mere tactic – “terrorism”
– he wants to crusade against his own abstraction, “disconnectedness,”
in behalf of another one: “connectedness.” This may be the
first “war” fought for-and-against verbal nouns. Along the
way, globalization becomes so reified that it “has
a past” and, evidently, a great future. A great deal can and
must be sacrificed, it seems, to a particular reading of this
(by now) irritating construct.
“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. In short, we the people needs to become we the planet” (p. 50, his italics).
Whitman, Father Abraham, the St. Louis Hegelians, Woodrow
Wilson, and many others will turn in their graves, if we fail
to impose this vision on the world.
Barnett opens up his half Marxist/half neoclassical jug of
economic moonshine. Whichever it is, it is determinist – with
no human actors to be seen, just vast impersonal forces (so
to speak) – with problems built into the market economy at
the ground floor (p. 51). You and I just knock around somewhere
on an indifference curve with disaster looming, and wait for
just the right institutions and “rule sets” in the form of
big government to save us.
beings do reappear, but mainly as “bad actors” and heroic
(US and allied) rule enforcers. All this has brought us to
the notion of “rule sets” (pp. 910 and passim),
which Barnett deploys to refer to laws, agreements, rules
of warfare, and (most importantly) whatever it is that the
US just did and would like to justify.
can only increase its security when it extends connectivity,”
globalization, and the lot. “It is not enough for the Core
to survive. It must grow” (p. 56). The “Core” refers, of course,
to those advanced industrialized nations who play by the same
rules, roughly North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New
Zealand, and a few others. “New Core” refers to China and
the East Asian “tigers.” This leaves what Barnett calls “the
Gap” – the great sink of failure and despair, which Americans
must both fear and rehabilitate. Everywhere, we must “sell”
our “new rule sets,” lest “other cultures” reject them “as
reflecting an American bias” (p. 57).
the way, we learn a bit more about Barnett, his career, his
power lunches, etc., than we would like to; but this need
not keep us. His critique of other Pentagon defense scenarios
is interesting (pp. 57 ff), but his sensible remarks concerning
the two (or 2 ½) war scenario and a competing one involving
war with China, do not exactly compel intellectual assent
to his alternative. Soon enough, “asymmetrical warfare” appears,
giving the reader a justified fright, since “the sources of
mass violence have migrated downward, or from the state
to the individual” (p. 85). At the same time, we learn that
Good States have learned to compete economically rather than
militarily. Wars today are internal; they are civil wars and
does not like separatists and exclusionists, with one exception.
writes, that the US spent the 1990s “buying one type of military
while operating another” (p. 96). The US should have prepared
for dirty little wars. The fact that “asymmetrical warfare”
simply means that sometimes the wogs fight back, is lost in
the shuffle. Already in 1966, Carroll Quigley speculated,
that light defensive technologies might benefit weak states
vis-à-vis strong states, and revolutionary movements vis-à-vis
wars of the Iraq I and II kind “are wars between the system
and renegade states” or even “nonstate actors and the system.”
The usual business now comes up, about “failed states” which
are “indirectly a source of threat to the United States”
(pp. 8688). This represents our first meeting with one
of Barnett’s characteristic postmodern inversions. Time was,
when we were said to be “threatened” by hostile states;
now, it seems, the very absence of an effective state is as
great, or a greater, threat to us. It therefore behooves us
– along with the rest of the Core – to go around building
substitute states in these places, before their disorder spills
across their porous borders and injures us.
as argued by political scientists Youssef Cohen, Brian R.
Brown, and A. F. K. Organski in 1981, a good many Third World
conflicts “are defensive in nature: they are all brought about
by the aggressive expansionism of the state,” especially where
“states are still involved in the primitive accumulation and
centralization of power resources.” These writers suggest
that, “over a relatively long period of time state expansion
will generate violent conflict” and thus “it is the progression
toward greater order itself that produces much of the relatively
greater violence we find in new states.” They conclude that,
“the 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.” Further,
“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.”
recounts how 9/11 ended idle speculation about war with China,
and how his map of doom already worked out, he tells
us, by 1996 – came into its own (pp. 105 ff). And what do
we get from this map? We get an inverted core-periphery analysis,
which in effect accepts the description of the world put forward
by socialist historians Immanuel Wallerstein and L. S. Stavrianos.
Indeed, the result looks quite a lot like a map of 19th-century
European colonial empires, with a few additions and subtractions.
Odd, that these places are still troublesome after all the
efforts made to civilize them. Odd, too, that these places
have a rough correspondence with known world oil reserves.
map and matching ideology do not, he says, amount to an imperial
vision. The United States is not an empire. After all, would
an empire have “begged” contemptible “little” UN members
to permit it to go to war? (p. 119). The obvious answer is,
that an empire would do that, if it wanted borrow legitimacy
from an institution it had invented in an earlier phase of
it is not about empire; it is all about globalization: “Knowing
where globalization begins and ends essentially defines the
U.S. military’s expeditionary theater,” he writes. Globalize,
and “the world will reshape your future far more than you
can possibly hope to influence the world in return” (pp. 121122).
This sounds a bit like Marx on “alienated” labor, but no matter.
must lead the battle for globalization. After some “hard compromises”
Americans hardly recall (like the “Civil War”!), “we have
become – 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, my italics). This is our “experiment”; and it qualifies
the US as world savior and final court of appeal. A “new security
contract between America and the rest of the world” has arisen,
so that, now, “‘homeland defense’” is the same as “‘Core security’”
increased US intervention after the Soviet collapse, Barnett
brags that “the U.S. military is the only force in the world
capable of traveling long distances and actually doing something
significant once it gets there” (p. 149).
of us had thought it was Fed-Ex!
of these interventions revealed “a shape… encompassing the
Caribbean Rim, the Andes portion of South America, virtually
all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the
Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia” (p. 149). Barnett
faults the Bush administration for not having grasped the
whole Core-Gap idea as yet (p. 156).
the gist of everything in the context of everything else,
is just this: The peaceful industrial democracies of the
Core, led by (guess which) trigger-happy Super Power, will
bring the New Core up to civilized speed, while suitably bombing,
invading, occupying, and assisting the Gap, until everyone
enjoys FDR’s various freedoms and peace and plenty reign everywhere.
An honest day’s work to be sure, but “we” are up to it, armed
with our usual can-do, know-how, Yankee restlessness, and
the new map.
pulls more arrows from his quiver as he goes. He derides terrible
liberal-left hysterics who worry that his plans amount to
“‘perpetual war.’” Cynics, he says, “blame the Gap for its
own problems….” Salonfähig right-wingers say the project
is just too big to do, while bad right-wingers “advocate a
sort of civilizational apartheid” for the Gap and “prefer
segregation” – so they are just like Osama bin Laden. (pp.
to admire such a deft playing of the race card in such a cause.
Barnett takes on the persona of a universal Earl Warren deciding
Brown v. Board of Education for the world. Will the forced
busing be inter-oceanic? We begin to see that Barnett has
no sense of where state coercion occurs or what it
is. Apparently, there is never anything like coercion inside
nice liberal Core states.
PEACE DIMLY SHADOWED
the slogan “shrink the Gap,” Barnett contrasts the “Hobbesian”
Gap with the “Kantian” Core and its “perpetual peace.” The
Gap is “less free, on average” with low life expectancies
and a young population. Thirty-one of the thirty-six main
terrorist groups “operate primarily inside the Gap” – although
here I suspect Barnett has spared us some historical details
and context (pp. 160166).
is good stuff. Barnett is scaring stuffy old bourgeois aldermen
into funding midnight basketball so the ghetto won’t get them.
He foretells “the Gap’s progression [from] Hobbes to Locke
to Kant, or from conflict to rule sets to peace….” Three philosophers
for the price of one, and it will work wonderfully, provided
the absurd assumptions of the currently popular “Democratic
Peace” theory are true.
aside the dubious Dim Peace business, there is another question
on hand: is democracy itself free of problems? Apparently
not, and this is precisely the thesis of a forthcoming book
by the historical sociologist Michael Mann. Focusing on ethnic
cleansing, he writes that “murderous cleansing is moving across
the world as the world modernizes and democratizes.” In a
passage rather unfavorable, ceteris paribus, to connectedness,
he writes: “we never find murderous cleansing among
rival ethnic groups who are ‘separate but equal.’… After all,
if South African apartheid had actually lived up to its own
ideology… involving ‘separate but equal’ development between
the races, Africans would never have revolted. They revolted
against the fact that apartheid was a sham….”
if state building as such causes massive strife and
if compulsory connectedness within states under construction
does not guarantee tranquility, however democratic the states,
then an imperial crusade to impose democracy worldwide may
not be the royal – or even republican – road to eternal peace
for Barnett, “shrinking the Gap” reduces the danger to us
all: an admirable shakedown.
‘RULE SETS’ SUITABLE FOR EXPORT
Barnett asserts, is “intimately identified with a historical
process that some within the Gap fear will destroy the world
they know and love – and they are right to fear it” (p. 167).
I think we can second the motion. “America” – by which he
means the US federal regime, headquartered in the “ten miles
square” – has been doing just that at home for some time.
1945, Barnett writes, the US, selflessly set up the existing
world economic order, i.e., embedded corporatism
(my term); and now the US must “play a similar system-administrator
role in the realm of international security” (p. 168). And
here he begins unwinding his favorite analogy: US foreign
meddling as a kind of internal police work. After all, the
US “has spent the last half century trying to extend” its
domestic “internal-security rule set around the planet” (p.
arms control is dead and future US intervention is all a matter
of where. The US will farm out some peacekeeping and social
service jobs to allies. There is no exit, ever (p. 173).
so to speak, will involve “no negotiation” with a “bad actor.”
No: “you simply keep ratcheting up your demands for compliance,
and when the regime cannot comply and cannot be provoked
into a precipitating action by your constantly growing military
pressure, you preempt” (p. 175, my italics). This used to
be called aggression, but why quibble? While Barnett presents
this proposed diplomatic style as wholly new, we have seen
it before, at Ft. Sumter, in the run-up to the Spanish American
War, in the months before Pearl Harbor, and in the planning
for Operation Northwoods.
setting it out so openly does make for a breath of cynically
fresh air, as do Barnett’s variations on the theme that “‘might
makes right.’” Really, since Europe won’t spend money on security,
“America earns a certain right for unilateralism in the Gap”
and needs legal leeway (no war crimes for “us”) in the Gap
(pp. 175176). We shall return to Mr. Barnett’s notion
of “law” a bit later.
to his subject, Barnett writes that, in the good work of “exporting
security” the US will “want lots of small, Spartan-style facilities
dotting the Gap.” Further: “we are never leaving the Gap and
we are never ‘bringing our boys home’” (pp. 178179).
“‘Disconnected defines danger,’” he says (p. 182).
that’ll scare the bourgeoisie and make them hand over
not about instability, he continues; it’s about justice. After
all, the Cuban government seems perfectly stable, but
Barnett, for various reasons, wants to include Cuba in the
Gap. Nor is the Core-Gap business anti-Islamic, it’s anti-fundamentalist,
and fundamentalism in the Gap “is still mostly about external
networking…. Religion used to be like that in America, say
a hundred years ago or right up to the point when we created
a social welfare system” (pp. 186187). Well, thank God
interest of shoring up the foregoing, Barnett unleashes his
peculiar brand of economic determinism. Along the way, he
seems to assume all manner of state policies into the
economy and then attributes the results to economic activity
as such. It would seem, then, that the determinism is as
much political as “economic,” but this is by the way. The
result is a sort of inverted Leninism.
flows” are essential for the ongoing health of globalization,
according to Barnett. These are: immigrants from Gap to Core,
energy from the Gap to New Core (mainly China), money from
the Old Core to the New, and “security” from Core to Gap.
He issues some prescriptions to make everything work (p. 192).
must quit being “xenophobic” and import millions of happy
workers, who can pay taxes to support failing welfare states;
and ditto for the terrible Japs. Why, if they imported all
the new folks they need, well, “it wouldn’t be Japan anymore;
that would be an entirely new country. I personally believe
that would be a better Japan….” (pp. 209211).
would like a different Japan. There is no arrogance
shortage when he is on duty. Can the Japanese be consulted,
or would that be an excess of democracy?
to keeping the Four Flows going is, of course, the US, “the
honest broker” wherever it goes: “our security product is
a known commodity,” hence rising “global demand” [!] for it.
Indeed, “U.S. security is the only public-sector export from
the Core to the Gap that matters….” This export makes it possible
for otherwise cowardly businessmen to engage in foreign direct
investment. To make globalization go, the US undertakes the
“rehabilitation” of the Gap: “We are backfilling political
rule sets to realign them with economic rule sets that had
leaped ahead” (pp. 237242).
if there were to be less investment here, and more investment
there, and if trade were to flow along somewhat different
routes than it does now, it would be the end of life as we
know it. It is the revolutionary destiny of the US to keep
trade going in the proper channels. It is worth a few score
wars, especially since we won’t call them wars.
NOT-QUITE-WAR FOR PERPETUAL NOT-QUITE-PEACE
of the Single Approved Path to Prosperity, the US makes “other
states feel more secure.” You bet. “Sometimes exporting security
means training their future military leaders at our schools,
like the Naval War College” (p. 231) – or, the School of the
Americas, one could add.
time when a new strategic doctrine is born every week, Barnett
announces his preference for “war within the context of
everything else” (p. 260, his italics). It is hard to
see what this can possibly mean. I suppose he is saying that
most strategies run aground because one or another “variable”
can’t be controlled. Therefore, the solution is to
control all the key “variables.” Good luck.
claims to have sold his vision to “younger officers, the
ones who will run this world in a decade” and the mask
of social concern seems to be slipping. But never mind, even
if younger officers will run the world in a decade, “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).
spends a good part of his book reiterating how great and incomparable
the power of the US state and military is. The very Catholic
Lord Acton said something about power corrupting…. One might
therefore wonder whether or not all its enormous power might
deliver “the greatest force for good” etc. into corruption.
possibilities do not seem to trouble Barnett, and they will
probably not trouble his cadre of Decembrists, should he manage
to train one up: the Age of the Power-Point Napoleons lies
FORCE FOR GOOD: APPLIED U.S. IDEALISM
will the aspiring US praetorians accomplish their manifold
philanthropies? Barnett writes: “we are now waging wars on
individual bad actors throughout the Gap.” But if the US is
fighting individuals, how is it “war” in the sense of Waco
and Ruby Ridge, perhaps?
involves a typically American substitution of technology for
thinking: “We will close on a standard of warfare where an
unmanned aerial vehicle operating on the other side of the
world can locate, identify, and kill a terrorist within eight
to nine minutes – all at the push of a button.” Poised thus
on the edge of utopia, “we can render organized mass violence
of all sorts essentially obsolete” (p. 272). Comment is hardly
we return to the beginning: “to those who held broad lands…
the arrow was the high and holy symbol of possession; to those
who cultivated those lands it was ‘looked upon… as the appropriate
missile of the robber, or of one who lurks in ambush.’ The
antithesis is complete: there is no understanding between
Abraham and Nimrod because each is sure the other is mad.”
Barnett supplies suggestive evidence as to who is mad.
“the three-front war” – here, in between, and there – “where
nothing is sacred and no one is ever absolutely safe.” To
fight back, the US must unleash a “System Perturbation” to
destroy the other side’s “rule sets” (pp. 274277).
the US needs “a new lexicon” so as to be understood (p. 287).
More integration of Gap and Core is needed, because “diminished
expectations” drove 9/11 (pp. 284285). And thus the
old domestic American liberal-sociological explanation for
crime goes global, as US military might bestrides the globe,
looking for “root causes.” Sustaining and purifying the world
system, “America will resume its historical role as the most
revolutionary force on the planet” (p. 294). The whole thing
begins to resemble Soviet propaganda, even if it lacks the
Soviets’ intellectual seriousness.
RIGHT HAND KNOWS WHAT THE LEFT HAND IS DOING
so much at stake, it quickly develops that we really need
two militaries: a “Leviathan force” to blow up everything
in its path, albeit with much hailed “precision,” and a “System
Administrator force” (hereafter: “Sisyphus” [my suggestion])
to do the social work. This is the logical consequence of
insisting that the US welfare-warfare state be universalized
for the Good of All. Of course Barnett hates it when people
joke about the social work army. This is serious business,
after all, and indeed it is.
the “right” to rule because we invented globalization and
we do so, because “we can and because it is good” (p. 301).
To conduct our worldwide philanthropies, the US military must
get back “to its original roots,” (p. 302) which I imagine
involves Indian wars and burning Atlanta and Columbia and
shelling Charleston every so often.
– whatever that means to Barnett – becomes in effect, the
long-awaited World State, which will deal with “bad individual
actors” everywhere (p. 304, his italics). No child left behind,
no bad actor unbombed, and no soul unsaved.
a dubious analogy from physics: owing to “security deficits
in the Gap,” power vacuums arise, filled by “bad actors”
(p. 306). Note the interesting twist (another inversion)
on the old power vacuum argument. No longer do we fear that
some rival empire will step in (as in the Philippines); now
the horrific threat is that someone local will run a locality.
The war must go on, until all that is local, bad, and “past”
is stamped out by the universal and good. The future’s ahead.
reminded of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, whose
speech at Cooper Institute in November 1867 counted Indian
tribalism, feudalism, states rights, and German disunity on
the side of evil, and centralization, larger states, and Union
on the side of good.
the US government does well by “exporting sovereign debt,”
i.e., swindling the world market with paper dollars worth
less and less, but “this seemingly unfair transaction” is
yet another US good deed because the US is exporting “security”
in exchange for the paper (pp. 308309). As the happy
process rocks along, “the Core gains the greatest military
contractor the world has ever seen” (p. 314) – and humanity
scales new heights in the long march from status to contract
Army will keep humanity from flying apart into separateness,
segregation, apartheid, ethnic exclusivity, and the Horrors
of the Past. Sisyphus – the System Administrators “will
export security nonthreateningly” and “build nations wielding
nonlethal technologies appropriate to the policing systems
they will generate as legacies to the succeeding political
order” (p. 320). Naturally, “transparency” is mentioned.
“will be thoroughly multilateral, bureaucratically multilingual,
and able to coexist peacefully with any nongovernmental organization
or private voluntary organization on the scene.” Its bureaucrats
will be older, married, etc. “The Leviathan force will remain
under military law” but outside the jurisdiction of the International
Criminal Court. Presumably, it will have military music to
go along with the military “law” – to steal a comparison first
made by Robert
Sherrill. The Sisyphus “will not be bound by Posse Comitatus
restrictions on operating within the United States. It will
be a far more police-like force, connected to society and
always available for insertion into homeland security operations”
will “‘serve and protect’ both at home and overseas. To its
detractors, the System Administration force will be a ‘mobile
police state,’ pure and simple” but no, it will practice
“Core justice” and all is well (p. 322). But this is not an
argument, and the Sisyphus does look like a mobile
slow-motion American coup picks up speed.
will require “Spartan launching-pad bases around the Gap,”
but its forces “will largely surge from bases within the continental
United States to interventions overseas” (p. 324). Is this
the return of warriors-as-nomads?
Guard will go into the Sisyphus, as will the recently created
Homeland Security Department (or Heimatsicherheitsbüro)
(p. 325). I wonder what this will do for enlistments in the
Guardia Nacional? All in all, it is a strange fate
for what used to be the state militias to be hijacked as imperial
“the future worth creating,” Barnett writes: “My definition
of just wars is exceedingly simple: They must leave affected
societies more connected than we found them, with the potential
for self-driven connectivity either restored or left intact”
rephrase this experimentally (we Americans are great experimenters):
of just bank robberies is exceedingly simple: They must leave
the smallest number of tellers and customers dead, while stimulating
local commerce via an imagined Keynesian multiplier effect,
once the money is spent in approved markets.”
“liberators, not mere protectors of the status quo” gives
the “American way of war” a “moral edge” (p. 328), or certainly
a surplus of cant. “Our wars need to expand the good, not
simply check the evil.” During the Cold War, we “lost track
of America’s revolutionary story line, which sees us remaking
the world in our own image of freedom, connectivity, and the
rule of law” (p. 329). Yes, we have met the Jacobins, and
they are us.
go after bad guys, using weapons with a real moral dimension,
such as smart bombs” and such extraordinary “power, armed
with moral principle should equal a real grand strategy.”
Thus: “When a Special Operations soldier laser-guides a bomb
into a bad guy’s house, killing all inside, but sparing all
around, we are saying that America owns the consequences of
its wars.” This is, Barnett avers, a “uniquely American
way of war” (pp. 330331).
it involves a uniquely American form of self-deception.
And “killing all inside, but sparing all around” suggests
that Barnett spends a bit too much time in the Old Testament.
That or the US government is in fact God walking
on the earth.
are parallels, of course, to Barnett’s embrace of permanent
prospect of a constant state of war on the Eastern border
filled him with satisfaction: it would he said, help build
a strong race and prevent Germany from sinking back into European
decadence…. Hitler’s idea of ‘world domination’ is not to
be understood as a permanent state of peace, but as a constant
state of war with the assurance of German pre-eminence: with
a number of small armies it would be possible to dominate
a large number of peoples permanently.”
us rephrase the above paragraph to suit the present case.
Mutatis mutandis, we have:
prospect of a constant state of peacekeeping by bombardment,
invasion, assassination, and social work filled Barnett with
satisfaction; it would he said (or implied), keep globalization
going, and give the decadent Europeans healthy outdoor work.
Barnett’s idea of ‘world domination’ is not to be understood
as a permanent state of peace or war (as understood in days
of yore), but as a constant state of postmodern war-and-peace-together-again
with the assurance of US pre-eminence: with a number of small
armies it would be possible to dominate a large number of
peoples permanently so as to bombard, uplift, and civilize
map-based educational project seems an impressive structure.
He has invoked the name of Hobbes to support his claim that
only the US can bring law and order to the Great Frontier.
Is this enough?
jurist Frank van Dun writes:
idea that the state is a form of organized lawlessness is
a recurrent theme in liberal thought. It underlies the many
attempts to civilise or tame what Hobbes aptly called the
‘Leviathan.’ The aim is to institutionalise constitutional
checks and balances…. In other words, the liberal idea implies
that, at least in times of peace, the state should be controlled
according to law. In many ways, this constitutional approach
was very successful…. Nevertheless, constitutionalism was
more effective as a source of legitimacy than as a check on
the powers of the state. Liberals all too easily acquiesced
in the state’s claim to represent or embody the law…. The
state, the institutionalised form of (preparedness for) lawless
war, came to be regarded as a necessary institution of lawful
adds: “To the extent that liberals subscribed to this view
– and they did so en masse – they conceded the main
point of political ontology to the apologists of statism:
that war, not peace, is the normal or natural condition of
human life. This is perhaps the most basic axiom of
statism. It implies that there is no natural society, no ‘spontaneous
order’ (as Hayek would say). Man plus man equals war. The
whole of the statist philosophy is contained in that simple
that security must precede law, is to say that law (or justice)
is the will of the stronger. On this point, I think we can
present Hobbes and Barnett with a Scottish verdict of “not
proven.” The political scientist Anthony de Jasay writes of
such Hobbesian models:
statist solution to satisfying the enabling conditions of
an economic order that is both beneficent and spontaneous,
is visibly defective. A weak state, especially one with no
stored-up reserves of legitimacy, lacks the wherewithal; it
has little taxing power to extort it; there can be no efficient
economy to extort it from, because the state has lacked the
wherewithal to provide the enforcing order that could make
it efficient. A strong state, supposing it is logically possible
prior to an efficient economy, could find the wherewithal;
but no reason is furnished why it would choose to refrain
from using its strength in ways that would probably be more
harmful to an efficient market than the much-dreaded mafia.
For cogent reasons, it is almost bound to invade and override
property rights instead of protecting them, to impose the
terms of contracts rather than to enforce those the parties
choose, to engage in ever more substantial redistribution
of wealth and income, for this is the logic of the incentives
under which states operate.”
to seem that Hobbesian states are as much impediments to,
and destroyers of, economic life as they are “preconditions”
of it – if indeed they are that at all. From around 1500 A.D.,
modern, abstract bureaucratic states have treated pre-existing
social bodies and institutions as rivals to be forcibly overcome.
Social bodies outside the state have increasingly existed
on sufferance, their existence a concession of the
theorist David Gross summarizes the process:
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the state went on the
offensive against virtually every kind of intervening body
existing between the individual and the state itself…. Only
the public and private corporations, the communal guilds,
the local social groupings, and the numerous customary institutions
compatible with what the state saw as its higher raison
d’état were sanctioned. Even though many of the intermediate
bodies were historically antecedent to the state, they had
to be legitimized by various governmental agencies in order
to have the right to continue operating.”
kind of “individualism” grew up alongside the all-embracing
state. Gross writes: “One of the principle assumptions of
the period around 1800 was that of the state as a liberator
of the individual. It was the state, after all, that was given
credit for freeing the individual from the dead-weight of
tradition, the individualist’s chief bête noire.”
not clear that the bargain was a very good one. Gross notes
some possible drawbacks, including a kind of “individualism
based on a convergence of the private ego and the will of
the state, an individualism that expressed itself in terms
of nationalistic or patriotic sentiments. The type of individualism
that took this route lost its merely personal character
and found in the nation the most solid foundation for a stable
identity. Paradoxically, this form of individualism fulfilled
its original, particularistic goals only by transcending and,
in a sense, universalizing them: the nation-state simply became
the self writ large.”
colonized time via mass public education, they spread their
new gospel of freedom within and only within the
state. In their telling, Gross observes, “progress became
virtually synonymous with the growth of the centralized state,”
and the state became the demiurge of history, which “drives
and pushes the world forward to actualize its potential; if
it were not for the state as a catalyzing agent, history would
remain static, tradition-bound, and incomplete.”
is rather like Barnett’s view of things, although he has,
it must be admitted, found the One True State, the One which
will complete the work of Spirit in History. Of course any
selves not grounded on identification with that state may
suffer. This will not matter, I suppose, because (to paraphrase
an old joke about Baptists) being a Hobbesian doesn’t keep
you from sinning, but it does keep you from noticing it.
EXCESS OF CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, HISTORICAL AND ECONOMIC
what may seem to some a convincing system, Barnett benefits
from the general American ignorance of history. His own view
of history seems utterly conventional, and on this infirm
foundation he raises the mighty superstructure of his world-saving
project. Thus he writes: “Our entire society was built by
people who refused to accept the old ways” (p. 151). This
could use a little refining.
Barnett tends to assume the legitimacy and rightness of all
past US exercises in organized violence. He decries our failure
to lead the world after World War I by joining the League
of Nations (p. 195). He takes as given the whole “democratic
peace” theorem, which in practice operates as a rationalization
of past Anglo-American military successes.
chief methodological breakthrough consists of having everything
both ways. It is an important prop of his system. Thus, he
wants the tools, toys, and payoffs of military adventurism,
but shies away from the old social-militarist story in which
mass sacrifice of blood and treasure leads to social rebirth.
Instead, we shall sacrifice just the right amount of
our children and wealth, as determined (doubtless) by econometric
“modeling.” Otherwise, we shall go about our business protected,
warned, and supervised by a benign and minimally intrusive
police state. As he puts it: “In my mind, if the Pentagon
does its job right, the rest of the country gets to go about
its business with as little change as possible” (p. 53). This
calls to mind the classic British imperial posture of arrogant
complacency mixed with occasional bouts of hysteria about
losing some of the lads on the Northwest Frontier.
tender-minded, Barnett can be the most sentimental bleeding-heart
liberal; for the tough, macho types, he offers thunderclaps
of TNT, bolts of righteous American lightening sent halfway
round the world.
economics, Barnett sees the essential “transaction” within
the Core as a fair exchange of inflated US dollars for the
export of US security services. But where is the demonstrated
I, for one, will believe the proposition that this is
a market exchange, when the foreigners show up, gold in hand,
and sign a formal, written contract for X-amount of
security for X-amount of money, with details fully worked
out in the fine print. Short of that, Mr. Barnett’s proposition
is of no more force than any other implicit “social contracts”
to which he may refer.
even if leaders of another state make a written agreement
with US leaders involving money and security, neither Barnett
nor anyone else can show that such an agreement bespeaks actual
“consent” or demonstrated preference of the citizenry of the
two states. All we know is that specific members of one ruling
class agreed on something with specific members of another
ruling class. This is hardly an “economic” transaction or
the workings of a real market, by any stretch of the imagination.
stand, US “offers” of protection come, to one degree or another,
with an implied threat. It seems doubtful this should really
be termed the innocent “‘export’ of U.S. security ‘services’
to regional ‘markets’…” (p. 198).
Thomas McCormick seems more realistic when he observes, that
“[t]he twin functions of the hegemon as global banker and
global policeman lead it to overinvest in multinational adventures
abroad and in military production at home. It becomes easier
and more profitable to live off one’s overseas dividends and
rents (to become a rentier economy) and off state-subsidized
military contracts (to become a warfare economy) than to sustain
high investment levels in the civilian industrial sector….
Hegemony necessarily rests on both military and economic power,
and the dilemma facing a maturing hegemon is that it cannot
chose to do things this way; it is not obvious that
their decisions reasonably impose an obligation or exchange
on any states or peoples anywhere.
neo-mercantilism approaches Karl Polanyi’s view, that markets
are unnatural and have to be imposed by states. This view
led Polanyi to oppose markets; it leads Barnett to espouse
force. Unify the world through bombing, etc., and markets
therefore reduces global economic activity to a set of slogans:
“Look for resources”; “No stability, no markets”; “No growth,
no stability”; “No resources, no growth”; “No infrastructure,
no resources”; “No money, no infrastructure”; “No rules, no
money”; “No security, no rules”; “No Leviathan, no security”;
“No will, no Leviathan” (pp. 198204).
notions are of little use precisely to the extent that they
fail conceptually to distinguish state coercion from market
exchange. It is one thing to say that rules and broadly
speaking, law are preconditions of trade; it is quite another
to say that only states can provide rules and law. It is even
less believable to be told that only a benevolent hegemonic
power can provide the rules – and a single version, at that needed for the entire world.
view seems to be, “No empire, no trade.” Yet trade has a way
of breaking out in unpredictable directions and the chief
business of states, for hundreds of years, has been to suppress,
restrain, or take revenue from traders.
The notion that the state is the indispensable friend
of trade needs some revising. Of course if trade must,
for some reason, only flow in certain approved channels, the
person holding such a view will want a hegemonic ordering
of the world, whatever the price.
speaking of trade flowing in approved channels, Barnett complains
along the way, that wicked, wealthy Muslims “hold somewhere
in the range of one-fifth of a trillion dollars in personal
savings,” noting that “[i]nternational financial firms are
trying to figure out a way to unleash all that potential investment
power….” How dare these guys keep their own money! They are
clearly guilty of anti-Keynesian “hoarding.” More international
regulation will be necessary.
worse, informal Islamic banking is “exploited by terrorist
groups because they leave no paper trail.” Barnett’s fear
seems to be that, somewhere, something may be going unregulated.
A new “rule set” is needed! (pp. 218219). We may chalk
it up to the war on liberty and privacy, here and abroad,
demanded by all those whose chief article of faith is “transparency.”
same vein, Barnett decries the specter of the “crony capitalism
rife” in Asia (p. 228). There is no crony capitalism in the
Core, of course, and the Chinese are slowly coming around
to our high standards. Actually, there is plenty of corporatism
in the Core, plenty of interpenetration of businesses and
states, but since it is not especially kinship-based, and
has no taint of Confucianism, it escapes the charge of crony
corporatism, properly understood, is nothing but the loveliest
liberal pluralism. There is no room in Barnett’s world for
any system of trade other than a neoliberal institutionalism
(embedded corporatism) “that emphasises an elaborate machinery
of inter-governmental cooperation.” Implicitly ruled out is
any notion of “unilateral free trade… from below” or “liberalism
from below” as championed, for example, by the classical liberal
economist Wilhelm Röpke.
This is rather unfortunate, since the latter vision does
not require – or justify – wars for commerce.
by now, only the naïve can really believe that “globalization”
– as seen by its US promoters – is actually about trade.
What is being globalized is the bureaucratic state, US division.
This seems to have rather little to do with the old-school
free traders’ goals of increased prosperity by way of voluntary
AND JUSTICE, SKETCHED IN PENCIL FOR QUICK REVISION
crony capitalism, oppression, etc., Barnett proposes to inflict
the proper “rule sets” on the world. He seems to prefer this
rather lithe notion to “law,” although “law” is already seen
to be endlessly malleable in the saved and justified nations.
“The fewer the rules you have, the more war you have,” he
writes (p. 23).
does not seem the least bit self-evident. It is not hard to
imagine having too many “rules,” and without further
consideration of the content of the rules, we are getting
brags of our (American) “freedom of action within minimal
rule sets” p. (296). He has apparently never seen a complete
set of the US Federal Code, much less all the supplementary
administrative “law” rulings and regulations. Elsewhere he
writes: “Until there are equal rules, we are not all equal”
(p. 54, his italics). But again, the content of these
“equal” may have some bearing on whether or not we have any
freedom exists within defined rule sets,” says Barnett (p.
124), but alas for the long-run certainty of the law,
“the discussion of security rule sets is a never-ending
process, just as it is inside our country, where the Supreme
Court is constantly revising definitions of our most basic
legal principles” (p. 178). His notion of law resembles that
of the apologist American Journal of International Law,
where US bombing of Stockholm, should it occur, would be said
to have generated a new customary “rule” of international
courts, among others, constantly “revise” our “rule sets”
for us, then the laws are not very stable, are they?
So why obey the ever-shifting laws? Because they are right.
Why are they right? Because they’re the law…. and so
on in a never-ending circular argument.
shows an incurable, perhaps deliberate, and certainly fatuous
naïveté about easily ascertainable facts about US law, actually
existing American democracy, and the like. Thus “our police
are permitted to use deadly force within our society: much
of the time they do it preemptively. Frankly, that’s the ideal.
We want the bad guys stopped – if necessary, dead in their
tracks – before they can do someone great harm. That is an
amazingly difficult responsibility we impart to our police,
and our confidence in doing so is driven primarily by our
faith in the legal system….” (p. 171).
in the legal system” is not up to the job Barnett gives it,
especially since he has told us, a few pages on, that the
“law” is being made up from day to day.
his domestic police model into the wider world, Barnett writes:
“CIA operatives steering their own unmanned aerial vehicles
now have the okay to conduct assassinations of terrorist targets
upon sighting…. That is a new rule set” (p. 268, my
italics). On the contrary, it is at best something that state
apparatchiks might get away with.
Leviathan force, he writes: “Like the SWAT team within any
metropolitan police force, it will enter and exit crime
scenes as dictated by circumstances” (p. 323, my italics).
Post-moderns like to tell us about the ambiguity of language,
and I can’t help asking whether, when the Leviathans “enter
and exit crime scenes,” these will be scenes of their own
crimes, or will the crimes be someone else’s?
Sarge. We leveled the wrong house! Can’t youse guys read street
working model for US foreign policy is a drug bust gone more
wrong than usual, and the “usual” is not a terribly high standard.
“law” changes to meet the needs of policy, the SWAT teams,
at home and abroad, enforce the “law,” and “younger officers…
will run this world in a decade” anyway: not a very inspiring
future, all in all, especially in the context of Barnet's
comments on might making right and, supposedly, right making
might (pp. 310, 315).
point, there being no stable notion of law, we might fall
back, I suppose, on a vague notion of justice, on some minimal
kind of morality. But we are denied even this, since the Official
Morality on offer, much like Jacobin, Bolshevik and National-Socialist
morality, looks to be largely instrumental to the success
of an historical project. Where it is not a tool, it is merely
decorative. With no law and no morality, we are swept toward
the flinty New England rocks of US “idealism,” to be dashed
to ideological bits.
sings hymns of praise to the US Government and the radiant
new world it can create (pp. 287288). The US cared
about Iraq’s future, bless our hearts. Like any welfare-warfare
state ideologue, Barnett plays the “suffering” card well;
whether he plays it sincerely or tactically, we cannot know.
is caring, Barnett writes, “because we are a nation built
on universal ideals of freedom and equality, not limited to
definitions of ethnic identity or ‘sacred land’” (p. 301)
– the latter point entailing, of course, the usual exception
for our Heroic Ally in the Middle East. For some reason, the
US needs to create greater disconnectedness in Palestine…
COSMIC SALVATIONAL MISSION
exhausted law as a believable basis for Barnett’s “rule
sets,” we find ourselves back in the territory of “the greatest
force for good” etc., that is, we find ourselves dealing with
US “idealism.” As Barnett writes, in an outburst of US egotism:
we have “religious freedom, political expression, the right
to own property” (my personal favorite) and we “have long
debated whether our good fortune imparts to us special obligation
to share this dream with others….” (p. 295). The US only seeks
to extend “our rules” because they work so well and
because we are so wonderful; “it is our liberty road show.”
He adds: “What is sacred about America is not our land, but
our union, and our union can and should be extended – first
through collective security, then economic connectivity, and
finally political community.” To do less is to shut the poor
Disconnected everywhere out of the Radiant Future; it is to
adopt an “exclusionary ideology” (pp. 296297, his italics)
and of course every good American knows that discrimination
is always and everywhere wrong.
of the future and the evil of the past recall how Emerson’s
“mingling of the immediate and the prospective murders time
and kidnaps ideals, originally nursed in the manifold culture,
into the imperium of the self.”
But even if the future is ahead, and ineffably Good,
why is bringing it into being our (that is, Americans’)
burden? One answer might be “liberal guilt,” as explained
by James Burnham:
guilt of the liberal causes him to feel obligated to try to
do something about any and every social problem; to
cure every social evil…. the liberal must try to cure the
evil even if he has no knowledge of the suitable medicine
or, for that matter, of the nature of the disease; he must
do something about the social problem even when there
is no objective reason to believe that what he does can solve
the problem – when, in fact, it may well aggravate the problem
instead of solving it. ‘We cannot stand idly by while the
world rushes to destruction… or women and children are starving…
or able men walk the streets without jobs… or the air becomes
polluted… or Negroes can’t vote in Zenith… or immigrants live
in rat-infested slums… or youngsters don’t get a decent education…’
or whatever. The harassed liberal is relentlessly driven by
his Eumenidean guilt.”
adds: “Within the universe of liberalism there is no point
at which the spirit can come to rest; nowhere and no moment
for the soul to say: in His Will is our peace.”
Barnett himself feels liberal guilt is perhaps beside the
point; he is more than ready to use it as part of his case.
And now we are back on the familiar ground of American political
theology, with its Protestant and post-Protestant varieties
well tangled together in a great mental thicket. There is,
for example, Barnett’s rather Emersonian claim, that by getting
wholly rid of the Gap, we “make the self all-inclusive” (pp. 297298). Richard M. Weaver wrote of
Emerson: “When we meet in actual life a person whose conduct
seems to say, ‘What I am doing is the right thing because
I am the one who is doing it,’ we set it down as arrant egotism.
But what are we to say when we encounter the same idea shored
up by philosophical speculation and claiming some authority
from mystical intuition?”
indeed, are we to think when the mere identity of those
doing something is proposed as proof of its rightfulness,
and this is made the basis of an entire foreign policy? We
find ourselves face to face with that Protestant zany, Samuel
D. Baldwin, whose book, Armageddon, or the Overthrow of
Romanism and Monarchy; the Existence of the United States
Foretold in the Bible, Its Future Greatness; Invasion by Allied
Europe; Annihilation of Monarchy; Expansion into the Millennial
Republic, and Its Dominion Over the Whole World (Cincinnati:
Applegate & Company, 1854), already tells the story in
addition, a more or less secularized utopian republicanism
has long added to the heady brew on which Barnett and other
crusaders can draw. Thus John Adams, “conservative” as he
is said to have been, wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1813: “Our
pure, virtuous, public-spirited, federative republic will
last forever, govern the globe, and introduce the perfection
to wonder if Barnett, actually believes in these longstanding
American utopian phantasms, which arise (mainly) from a specific
kind of Anglo-American Protestantism. But perhaps religious
“denomination” doesn’t matter too much, when the object of
one’s worship turns out to be the world’s most successful
theses serve to deepen the conviction that US foreign policy
– in its more doctrinal moments – involves the projection
of American religious manias and deep historical traumas onto
the world. As historian William Appleman Williams observes,
Puritans “externalized Evil, thus making it an object to be
overpowered rather than an internal, human weakness to be
contained until transformed…. This propensity to place Evil
outside their system not only distorted the Puritans’ own
doctrine, it inclined them toward a solution which involved
the extension of their system over others.”
Ernest Tuveson writes: “If history is theodicy, if redemption
is historical as well as individual, if evil is to be finally
and decisively bound through great conflicts, God must operate
through cohesive bodies of men; there must be children of
light and children of darkness geographically, and
the City of God and the City of the World should be susceptible
of being designated on maps.”
Barnett wishes to provide such a map, although I would
not trust him any further than I would a dyslexic Church Father
who sought to distinguish the City of Dog from the City of
has somehow exempted Americans, and especially the overgrown
state that so kindly watches over their every activity, from
any possibility of sin, original or otherwise. Original sin
is gone from the Core – mostly because all the sin has been
shoveled into the Gap, or at least into the concept
of the Gap. Like the mainstream, “liberal” Protestant clergy
who just couldn’t get enough of World War I,
Barnett is keen on bringing about the Kingdom of God
on Earth, no matter the costs.
a program of salvation-within-the-world, which refuses the
modest goal of improving things as we go, calls to mind modern
political Gnosticism, as studied by Eric Voegelin, with its
“total” projects in which all must participate and for the
achievement of which no expenditure of force and treasure
can be too great.
Such cosmic, ideological commitments undercut Barnett's
posture of cold-blooded, mathematical rationalism, if he believes
in them; if he does not, he begins to seem very cynical indeed.
IDEOLOGY OF IMPERIAL RIGHTEOUSNESS
also rediscovers, implicitly, a doctrine favored by any great
empire, namely: “the claim that it alone possesses authority,
imperium, over the peoples of the world.” Along with
this claim comes “the pretension to universality and uniqueness.”
History itself has willed the empire, and therefore “it owns,
or ought to own, the present; and being established eternally
the future belongs to it.” Finally, “there are no legitimate
alternatives to oppose its claim.”
or otherwise, Barnett’s rhetorical strategy has traces of
malign genius. He redefines geopolitical space, so that all
those places Americans thought were “outside” and “foreign”
become “inside” and “internal.” Thus all our forward bases
and excessive, unthinking firepower will point inward,
into failed places with bad actors, individual subjects
who somehow got “inside” our big new global townhouse, like
rats or roaches in the carport.
a political dualism of the ancient world, Hugh Nibley writes:
“Highly characteristic of the hierocentric doctrine is an
utter abhorrence of all that lies outside the system. The
world inevitably falls into two parts, the heavenly kingdom
and the outer darkness, a world of monsters and abortions.
Whoever is not of the frithr [peace] is a nithung
[villain], without rights and without humanity. All who do
not willingly submit to Alexander or Constantine are, according
to Dio Chysostom and Eusebius, mad beasts to be hunted down
and exterminated. For the Romans, all the world is either
ager pacatus or ager hosticus, says Varro”
 pacified space or hostile space.
Barnett has done, and done rather well, is to create the mirage
of a single, horrific threat to the civilized world: the Gap.
He does so by throwing an array of differing societies, states
(“failed” or not), cultures, and even religions, into a residual
category that gives things a false appearance of unity. Our
prospective enemies are united, apparently, by their very
disunity, disorganization, failure, “loserhood,” attachment
to the past, and so on. Hurricanes and fire ants, too, come
from the Gap, but Barnett has not mentioned them.
exists a much more economical explanation for what little
“unity” does exist across the so-called Gap. That explanation
very simply is that, for various reasons, the United States
messes with these places. That these peoples do not take to
being messed with is, for some, proof of their evil. It seems
Ian Roxborough noted in 2002, “rather than an ‘ideological’
or ‘religious’ reaction to globalization, or a deep clash
of cultures, what we may be witnessing is a nationalist response
to American assertiveness in the world…. And these nationalist
rages are likely to be responses to quite specific actions
on the part of United States.”
well be that a continued campaign against these societies,
whether under the Bush Doctrine or the Barnett Doctrine, will
create more of the very unity said to exist already. The cost/benefit
analysis of that future will be interesting to contemplate.
The real costs may be quite tragic, especially if policymakers
and public are alike bemused by the map bestowed upon us by
a terrible simplifier.