Sunday, January 18, 2009

Glossary for Great Powers: America and the World After Bush

As part of the run up to the release of Great Powers: America and the World After Bush by Thomas P.M. Barnett (Hardcover - Feb 5, 2009). I have enlisted myself, and my blog as a squire in his quest to bring America a vision and a course setting towards a more connected and safer world.

Over the next three weeks, I will be cross posting material from Tom's blog, that will help to prepare the ground for the engagement of words that Great Powers will inspire. Make yourselves ready my fellow thinkers; read, ponder and reason with all the powers of your critical minds as we prepare to carry this message afar.

A Glossary of terms from

GREAT POWERS: America and the World After Bush
By Thomas P. M. Barnett

Asymmetrical Warfare - A conflict between two foes of vastly different capabilities. After the Red Army dissolved in the 1990s, the U.S. military knew it was basically unbeatable, especially in a straight-up fight. But that meant that much smaller opponents would seek to negate its strengths by exploiting its weaknesses, by being clever and "dirty" in combat. On 9/11, America got a real dose of what asymmetrical warfare is going to be like in the twenty-first century.

Big Bang - Refers to the strategy (alas, seldom articulated) of the Bush administration to trigger widespread political, social, economic, and ultimately security change in the Middle East through the initial spark caused by the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and the hoped-for emergence of a truly market-based, democratic Arab state. Thus, the Big Bang aimed primarily for a demonstration effect, but likewise was also a direct, in-your-face attempt by the Bush administration to shake things up in the stagnant Middle East, where decades of diplomacy and military crisis response by outside forces (primarily the United States) had accomplished basically nothing. The implied threat of the Big Bang was "We're not leaving the region until the region truly joins the global economy in a broadband fashion, leading to political pluralism domestically." The Big Bang was a bold strategic move by Bush, one that I supported. All terrorism is local, so either deal with that or resort to firewalling America off from the outside world.

Connectivity - The enormous changes being brought on by the information revolution, including the emerging financial, technological, and logistical architecture of the global economy (i.e., the movement of money, services accompanied by content, and people and materials). During the boom times of the 1990s, many thought that advances in communications such as the Internet and mobile phones would trump all, erasing the business cycle, erasing national borders, erasing the very utility of the state in managing a global security order that seemed more virtual than real, but 9/11 proved differently. That connectivity, while a profoundly transforming force, could not by itself maintain global security, primarily because a substantial rise in connectivity between any nation and the outside world typically leads to a host of tumultuous reactions, including heightened nationalism and religiosity.

Department of Everything Else - A Back-to-the-Future proposal (first offered in Blueprint for Action) to return to the past structure when the Army was the Department of War and the Navy was the "Department of Peace" (especially business continuity). This department would fill the gap between the current Departments of Defense and State, engaging in unconventional pursuits such as nation building, disaster relief, and counterinsurgency. In many ways, it could be a virtual department, bringing together various resources from the government, nongovernmental organization, and business sectors, along with foreign governments and the linchpin SysAdmin force. Compare the virtual department with the way movie companies work, coming together to make a film, then dissolving. Such a virtual department would work an Iraq one way and a Sudan very differently. In contrast with the Department of Homeland Security, our first and greatest strategic error in the long war on terror, the Department of Everything Else would realize that our American networks are only as secure as every network they are connected to. Such a department would feature many more civilian and older, wiser roles when compared with the current Defense Department.

Disconnectedness - In this century, it is disconnectedness that defines danger. Disconnectedness allows bad actors to flourish by keeping entire societies detached from the global community and under their dictatorial control, or in the case of failed states, it allows dangerous transnational actors to exploit the resulting chaos to their own dangerous ends. Eradicating disconnectedness is the defining security task of our age, as well as a supreme moral cause in the cases of those who suffer it against their will. Just as important, however, by expanding the connectivity of globalization, we increase peace and prosperity planet-wide.

Frontier Integration - Globalization has entered into an extended period of frontier integration--as in economic and network integration of previously off-grid or poorly connected societies. The historical example par excellence is the settling and taming of the American West after the Civil War. The chief activities are infrastructure building, the extension of social networks and rule of law, state building, the generation of permanent and pervasive security, the squelching of insurgencies and criminal mafias, and the formal marketization of existing and new economic activities--to include both "exploiting" the labor of and selling to the so-called bottom-of-the-pyramid population. America's frontier integration was continental-sized, involving millions. Today's project targets the globe's entire Gap, involving billions in so-called emerging or frontier economies. It also involves the impoverished rural regions of New Core pillars such as China and India. In general, neither Americans nor Europeans will lead this frontier integration effort. We price out too high. Instead, the frontier integrators of the age will be mostly Asians, who know better how to jump-start development in these harsher environments. America's role can be to mentor and enable the integrators, helping especially on security, or we can sit the whole thing out and hope for the best in terms of resulting political outcomes.

Functioning Core - Those parts of the world that are actively integrating their national economies into a global economy and that adhere to globalization's emerging security rule set. The Functioning Core at present consists of North America, Europe both "old" and "new," Russia, Japan and South Korea, China (although the interior far less so), India (in a pock-marked sense), Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the ABCs of South America (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile). That is roughly 4 billion out of a global population of more than 6 billion. The Functioning Core can be subdivided into the Old Core, anchored by America, Europe, and Japan; and the New Core, whose leading pillars are China, India, Brazil, and Russia. There is no substantial threat of intra-Core war among these great powers. However, there remain competing rule sets regarding what constitutes proper Core interventions inside the Gap, as recently indicated by Russia's contested intervention in Georgia's ongoing civil strife.

Globalization - The worldwide integration and increasing flows of trade, capital, ideas, and people. Until 9/11, the U.S. government tended to identify globalization primarily as an economic rule set, but thanks to the long war against violent extremism, we now understand that it likewise demands the clear enunciation and enforcement of a security rule set as well.

Grand Strategy - As far as a world power like America is concerned, a grand strategy involves first imagining some future world order within which our nation's standing, prosperity, and security are significantly enhanced, and then plotting and maintaining a course to that desired end while employing--to the fullest extent possible--all elements of our nation's power toward generating those conditions. Naturally, such grand goals typically take decades to achieve, thus the importance of having a continuous supply of grand thinkers able to maintain strategic focus.

Leviathan - The U.S. military's warfighting capacity and the high-performance combat troops, weapon systems, aircraft, armor, and ships associated with all-out war against traditionally defined opponents (i.e., other great-power militaries). This is the force America created to defend the West against the Soviet threat, now transformed from its industrial-era roots to its information-age capacity for high-speed, high-lethality, and high-precision major combat operations. The Leviathan force is without peer in the world today, and--as such--frequently finds itself fighting shorter and easier wars. This "overmatch" means, however, that current and future enemies in the long war on violent extremism will largely seek to avoid triggering the Leviathan's employment, preferring to wage asymmetrical war against the United States, focusing on its economic interests and citizenry. The Leviathan rules the "first half" of war, but it is often ill suited, by design and temperament, to the "second half" of peace, to include postconflict stabilization-and-reconstruction operations and counterinsurgency campaigns. It is thus counterposed to the System Administrators force.

Non-Integrated Gap - Regions of the world that are largely disconnected from the global economy and the rule sets that define its stability. Today, the Non-Integrated Gap is made up of the Caribbean Rim, Andean South America, virtually all of Africa, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, and most of the Southeast Asian littoral. These regions constitute globalization's "ozone hole," where connectivity remains thin or absent in far too many cases. Of course, each region contains some countries that are very Core-like in their attributes (just as there are Gap-like pockets throughout the Core defined primarily by poverty), but these are like mansions in an otherwise seedy neighborhood, and as such are trapped by these larger Gap-defining circumstances.

Rule Set - A collection of rules (both formal and informal) that delineates how some activity normally unfolds. The Pentagon's New Map explores the new rule sets concerning conflict and violence in international affairs--or under what conditions governments decide it makes sense to switch from the rule set that defines peace to the rule set that defines war. The events of 9/11 shocked the Pentagon and the rest of the world into the realization that we needed a new rule set concerning war and peace, one that replaces the old rule set that governed America's Cold War with the Soviet Union. The book explained how the new rule set will actually work in the years ahead, not just from America's perspective but from an international one.

Rule-set Reset - When a crisis triggers your realization that your world is woefully lacking certain types of rules, you start making up those new rules with a vengeance (e.g., the Patriot Act and the doctrine of preemption following 9/11). Such a rule-set reset can be a very good thing. But it can also be a very dangerous time, because in your rush to fill in all the rule-set gaps, your cure may end up being worse than your disease. The world is currently engaged in such a reset concerning international financial flows, in response to America's subprime crisis.
System Administrators (SysAdmin) - The "second half" blended force that wages the peace after the Leviathan force has successfully waged war. Therefore, it is a force optimized for such categories of operations as "stability and support operations" (SASO), postconflict stabilization and reconstruction operations, "humanitarian assistance/disaster relief" (HA/DR), and any and all operations associated with low-intensity conflict (LIC), counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and small-scale crisis response. Beyond such military-intensive activities, the SysAdmin force likewise provides civil security with its police component, as well as civilian personnel with expertise in rebuilding networks, infrastructure, and social and political institutions. While the core security and logistical capabilities are derived from uniformed military components, the SysAdmin force is fundamentally envisioned as a standing capacity for interagency (i.e., among various U.S. federal agencies) and international collaboration in nation-building, meaning that both the SysAdmin force and function end up being more civilian than uniform in composition, more government-wide than just Defense Department, more rest-of-the-world than just the United States, and more private-sector-invested than public-sector-funded.

System Perturbation- A system-level definition of crisis and instability in the age of globalization; a new ordering principle that has already begun to transform the military and U.S. security policy; also a particular event that forces a country or region to rethink everything. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 served as the first great "existence proof" for this concept, but there have been and will be others over time. Some are purposeful, like the Bush administration's Big Bang strategy of fomenting political change in the Middle East, but others will be accidents, like the Asian tsunamis of December 2004, or America's recent financial crises.

From GREAT POWERS, to be published by G. P. Putnam's on February 5, 2009.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HG : Thanks for providin' this list of Barnett's lexicon. Though not my favorite author (everyone's a critic!) due to some of his AWESOME theories (e.g. : Big Bang), his works prove refreshin' in contrast to those anti - Russian or anti - china writers.