Why I dislike Barnett

Thomas Barnett is one freaking smart dude. That is obvious. And it is also obvious that he has the ear of quite a few people who can make decisions at the national level. However I have a very hard time buying into his seriousness at times, and a post at his blog today illustrates why. But before I go further, let me give you a basic gloss of his views:

His basic idea is that this era of globalization, vastly cheaper communication devices, trade and the flattening of decision making structures is a positive feedback process. From the initial startpoint, there were few free and fairly free countries and regions throughout the world, but the benefits of opening up to the international economy makes countries and global elites want to syncronize their internal rule sets to market and global rule sets that promote initially stability and then secondarily liberty. And this process has been going on for a while and has been pretty successful so now the world can be divided into three groups: the old Core, led by the United States and composed of the Cold War Western Alliance (including Japan, ANZAC and others), the new Core being led by China and India, and then the GAP — most of the resource and rent extraction countries of the Middle East, most of Africa — that barely benefit from globalization, and in some cases are actively hostile to the rule sets that govern other countries.

Okay, up to this point, this is a rehash of Wallenstein combined with a bit of neo-classical economics and Tom Friedman thrown in for some flavor. I have no big problems with this. The problem I have is with his prescription and impatience.

He wants to accelerate the integration of the New Core into the Old Core’s with a synthesized common rule set, AND also bring the GAP into the Core’s synthesized rule set. And he is willing to use a shitload of military force to do this. His idea is to have the US provide the ass-kicking force (much like the US did in Iraq or during the air campaign in Kosovo) while the rest of the Core take care of the peacemaking and keeping process. He does not have a whole lot of faith in the rest of the Core stepping up to support US invasions for either political or capability reasons, so he wants the US military to transform itself from an asskicking Leviathon force to a Systems Adminstration force that can rebuild GAP countries to becoming functioning members of the Core. From here, he figures that demonstration strikes against the ‘rogue’ GAP nation will encourage other GAP members to hasten their process of integration out of fear and motivated self-interest. He argues that Libya’s agreement to stop and dismantle its limited nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program is proof that this works in the real world. He sees it as proof because the demolition of Iraq during the invasion, and subsequently supposedly put fear into Quadaffi and his top leadership cadre that they could be next on the list. And for this reason, among others, Thomas Barnett was and still is a supporter of the decision to invade Iraq.

Your [President Bush’s] big-bang strategy to reform the Middle East took down Saddam, which was good; you’ve completely screwed up the Iraq occupation, which is bad; and now you don’t seem to know exactly where you\’re going, which is not so great……

I know, I know. If the mullahs are so weak and scared, then why do they reach so obviously for the bomb?

Look at it from their perspective, Mr. President. Those scary neocons just toppled regimes to Iran’s right (Afghanistan) and left (Iraq), and ourmilitary pulled off both takedowns with ease. Moreover, your administration has demonstrated beyond all doubt that you don’t fear leaving behind a god-awful mess in your war machine’s wake. Frankly,youre as scary as Nixon was in his spookiest White House moments on Vietnam.


So he still thinks that Iraq is producing positive results, and he still supports the concept despite the fact that he admits the occupation and counterinsurgency is screwed up beyond all belief. And part of this screw-up of the occupation as he sees it is because the US military has not transformed itself into his desired System Administration force of linguists and special forces and civil affairs officers who can effectively embed themselves into a foreign society and then do ‘good.’ Another part of this failure as he diagnosises it is the betrayal of the Core’s great mission by the rest of the core (excluding Great Britian) by their refusal to provide troops to be bullet sponges. And he knew that these problems were present by February 2003. And yet he still thinks the invasion of Iraq was a good idea.

With the release of the Baker-Hamilton Report official Washington is finally recognizing reality. The war in Iraq has been lost, and Bush is an incompetent to boot. I do not expect any significant policy changes as the political incentives are not there yet to dictate change, which is an argument made by Matt Taibi in Rolling Stone. [h/t Ian Welsh @ the Agonist.] More of the same has not worked, and will not work. There are no more troops sustainabily available, and the pittance of forces that are available for short surges have not demonstrated in the past an ability to due any more than cause a geographic relocation of violence without disturbing the trendlines. Bruce R at Flit has the graphs, the math and the data to back this point up:

Iraq civilian violence levels are relatively unswayed by changes in U.S. force levels. The two remain, in this comparison, independent variables, with any connection being a fairly transitory one. Again, this pattern might not hold if there were to be a much larger sudden increase in troop levels (50,000-plus), but smaller (10-25,000 size) troop strength increases and decreases appear to have had little lasting impact on the trend up until now.


So what is Dr. Barnett’s response that makes me question his seriousness:

But it’s realistic: it’s really “pullback; not pullout,” because this is all about U.S. casualties.

Yes, we hear all about caring for Iraqi deaths, but let’s be honest: Americans don’t care about that and never did.

When American casualties go down, Iraqi ones will rise even more,and the same people who long castigated Rummy on too few troops can summarily ignore the results of this new , more drastic “tough love” version of the same.

And I’m sure way too few troops will accomplish what too few troops couldn’t.

Wish Bush had been smart enough to bring enough of the right (i.e.,New Core ) allies instead of too few of the wrong kind (the fragile,glass-jawed Old Core)? We all do.

Think we would have had to “give up”; or “offer too much”?

Care to recalculate those costs today?


Wahhaa, WAAAAA WAAAA — those dirty hippies don’t want to get drafted for a grand strategist’s brilliant multigenerational ideas that has to be right because it was thought up by the GRAND STRATEGIST HIMSELF and the marginal troop changes that are possible have done jack shit to create stability. So they want to insist on doing something different and minimizing total costs on a fucking fiasco of great proportions. WAAA WAAA

And then he whines about reality on the single minded, arrogant, nationalistic focus of George W. Bush which has been evident since before he was President and how he screwed up this briliant idea of Dr. Barnett’s.

I am sorry, I just do not find this response to be serious.

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