Thomas P.M. Barnett Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Pentagon's New Map: Conversation with Thomas P.M. Barnett, Military Strategist; March 8, 2005, by Harry Kreisler

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New Model for a Dual Military

The security problems that arise in the gap, by your understanding, require two different kinds of military. Explain that to us. How should [the military] prepare for the future?

Well, this segues neatly from the previous answer. You were asking about the "big one," so to speak, our focus on a big competitive threat, a big country like us who would field a big military, high technology. That was the model we carried through the Cold War, it was the planning for World War III against the Soviets. What was our tendency, coming out of the Cold War? To look for a replacement for the Soviet Union.

Over time, as China develops, that becomes the natural default position. Are they aggressive or antithetical to us in any manner? Well, it didn't matter to the Pentagon. It was the best going concern to plan for big, big war in the future, which is all about buying weapons systems and giant platforms. So, the tendency of the Pentagon to keep on that momentum path made it hard for them [to adjust], as we engaged in more nation building, peacekeeping, crisis response, humanitarian assistance, across the 1990s. It was a huge, burgeoning portfolio, basically a fourfold increase. It was hard for them to say, "I want to embrace this," because to embrace this new set of activities was to discard the focus on the "big one" and possibly diminish the fixation on China.

You always need to have that war-fighting capacity. I don't want to get rid of that military. It is the hedge against the near peer competitor, if China were ever to move in that direction.

You call that the leviathan.

I call that the leviathan, invoking Thomas Hobbes' famous book on that score. It really is a leviathan. We came out of the Cold War experience with a lot of predictions from international experts that there was going to be a natural balancing, that a near peer would rise militarily, and what has happened is nothing of the sort: the world has in effect accepted our leviathan status.

We're to the point now where nobody can wage war unless we say so, and nobody can stop a war until we say so. But as we learned, using that leviathan across the nineties and especially in Iraq with this most recent invasion, to win the war is one thing, but if you don't follow to win the peace, you haven't achieved anything. In fact, you're probably just going to end up going back in another five to ten years.

The experience of Iraq -- the occupation, not the war -- allows me to bring out into the open and to make a calling card of the book this argument that we need to get back to what we were before: two different forces, one for war, one for peace. We had two different militaries throughout the vast bulk of our history. We had the Department of War and the department of everything else, called the Department of the Navy. I think we're heading back to that bifurcation. I think Iraq has proven it.

So one of the calling-card concepts from the book, which has gotten me a lot of international travel and gotten me most of the acclaim for the book, is this notion that we're going to have a leviathan force for the war and what I dub the "system administrator," or "sys-admin," for the peace.

Iraq seems to be a case in which we haven't got the show on the road with regard to both parts of these military missions.

There's a real tipping point.

I assume that you feel that we will learn from that experience, but what I'm curious about is the legitimization of this bifurcation, both domestically in the United States and internationally.

You quote Rumsfeld in saying at one point, "You fight the war with the military you have," and I want to paraphrase that and say to you, "You fight the war with the domestic politics you have." We need a lot of public education to understand that this is a long-term mission, it is a global mission that we have to undertake because we may be the only one who can do it, and there's a lot of work there. Isn't that [what's needed], explaining that reality to our democratic citizens?

Well, first, it comes to the simple notion of the map and making the argument about the connection between the military and the market. We're between the "bodyguard" role that the U.S. military has been undertaking for fifteen years now with the process of globalization's progressive advance around the planet.

So, we've been doing it.

We've been doing it for quite some time, and it's not really been understood by the American public. We've been doing it massively for the last fifteen years, and we've had trouble adjusting to that.

The tipping point comes with Iraq. As Rumsfeld said in that response to the question from the reservist about "hillbilly armor" in Iraq, you go to war with the army that you have, not the army that you want; but the better answer is, you go to war with the army you've been wanting and buying for the last fifteen years. The army has not wanted to buy or build or field that nation-building, peacekeeping, "sys-admin"-like force.

Iraq's a tipping point where the army finally has to admit, "Hey, we've done this a lot since the end of the Cold War, about once every two years. This is the fourth Muslim country we're nation building in. We can't deny anymore that this is the pattern, we can't deny that we need to make this shift." So that process of building the sys-admin force is already well under way.

How we explain it to the American public is to make the argument, first again, about that connection between the military and the market and the spread of globalization. But you have to connect it to the global war on terrorism and say, "If you want to win that, this is how you win it over time. You make globalization truly global, you end the disconnectedness that generates the conflicts, the authoritarian regimes, the anger, and the diminished expectations that get you terrorists."

Then you have to make that argument about the use of the leviathan force in connection with the sys-admin force. Don't plan for the war unless you plan to win the peace, which was a great line Kerry used in the election campaign.

Then you have to extend that argument to your allies, and the rest of what I describe as the core, and say, in effect, "Are we interested in expanding the global economy? Are we all dependent upon it? Is it a good thing to reduce this area of disconnectedness and all the security issues we collectively face there? Do we understand our shared vulnerability? Are you interested in putting together a package that would contextualize the use of this force, that would bind us together in a larger effort, make that sys-admin force very internationalized, very coalition-focused, where the U.S. component is maybe 10-15 percent, like it was in the Balkans? Are you interested in making that all happen? Do we have the resources? Can we share them?"

When you pool that set of resources, when you make explicit or transparent what you're trying to do and you make clear to your potential core allies, "We're not in this to rip you off, this is not a zero-sum game, we all want these bad actors to disappear, we'll all make money and become more successful, and develop further, and grow the global economy, and it'll be a more just world; are you interested in contributing to that?" -- I think the answer is yes. But it requires us to think about war within [the context of] everything else. Not to judge wars just in terms of victories, losses, how many dead on their side, how many dead on our side, but in terms of what are we advancing, how are we making globalization extend itself.

It's not globalization at the barrel of a gun. Globalization will extend itself overwhelmingly through the private sector. It's foreign direct investment that drives this process.

At any one time there are four or five players in that gap [who are] bad actors, bad regimes. If they're gone, the potential for those regions -- for the millions, tens of millions, sometimes hundreds of millions of people in that region -- [is] to find greater connectivity and to invite in foreign capital and have that opportunity to develop themselves that they wouldn't have unless you remove these bad actors.

The Middle East is a fundamentally different place because Saddam is gone. We've seen that with the elections, we've seen that with a doubling of foreign direct investment since the invasion. In the two years since we started this seemingly god-awful process of chaos and uncertainty and violence in Iraq, you ask yourself, "Why would anybody invest in the Middle East?" Well, what it said to the global security environment, what it said to the global investing environment was that the United States takes seriously stability in the Middle East, and if they take seriously stability, your chances of coming in with foreign direct investment and achieving something good are improved dramatically. That's all they need. They don't need a perfect world. They just need some sense that their investments won't be a too-risky affair.

Next page: Rounding out the Globalist Vision

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