War with Iraq : Misguided diversion or a goal towards Panacea ?

Thomas Barnett is a Senior Strategic Researcher at the US Naval War college and has advised The Office of the Secretary of Defense. He presents, IMHO, an interesting argument for why war with Iraq is not only inevitable but good. The argument is presented here and starts with the assertion :

*When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point - the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

In his wordview, globalization’s willing participants form The Core of today’s world. The rest, those who are aloof or overly nationalistic form The Gap. The Core are characterized by stable governments and rising standards of living among other things. The Gap are characterized by repressive regimes and chronic conflicts. That, this relation holds, is an empirical observation and not a given.

In light of this worldview, to the US, its main threat arises from The Gap as demonstrated by Sept. 11. The new paradigm of national security outlook is Disconnectedness defines danger. The Disconnectedness refers to the division in the mindset and actions between The Core and The Gap.

Barnett argues that when a country that fall off this bandwagon called globalization.bloodshed will follow. If you are lucky, so will American troops.

He then provides as backup the following statement: If we draw a line around the majority of those military interventions, we have basically mapped the Non-Integrating Gap. where those refers to US intervention since the end of the Cold War.

He then postulates the new security rule based on two inputs

  1. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are pure products of the Gap—in effect, its most violent feedback to the Core. They tell us how we are doing in exporting security to these lawless areas (not very well) and which states they would like to take “off line” from globalization and return to some seventh-century definition of the good life (any Gap state with a sizable Muslim population, especially Saudi Arabia).

  2. US military-intervention record of the last decade

and the rule is : A country’s potential to warrant a U.S. military response is inversely related to its globalization connectivity.

And this is why N Korea escapes retaliation. It is adrift within the Core, surrounded by members such as China, S Korea and Japan.

The broad US national-security strategy seemingly at work is

  1. Increase the Core’s immune system capabilities for responding to September 11-like system perturbations;

  2. Work the seam states to firewall the Core from the Gap’s worst exports, such as terror, drugs, and pandemics; and, most important,

  3. Shrink the Gap.

Then, we come to the “money-argument” about the war with Iraq.

The Middle East is the perfect place to start. Diplomacy cannot work in a region where the biggest sources of insecurity lie not between states but within them. What is most wrong about the Middle East is the lack of personal freedom and how that translates into dead-end lives for most of the population —especially for the young.

Fear largely prevents the Middle East from transforming its internal elements towards a “Core-ready” region. Fear of tradition, fear of being attacked from all sides for being different—the fear of becoming Israel.

So, the only thing that will change that nasty environment and open the floodgates for change is if some external power steps in and plays Leviathan full-time. Taking down Saddam, the region’s bully-in-chief, will force the U.S. into playing that role far more fully than it has over the past several decades, primarily because Iraq is the Yugoslavia of the Middle East—a crossroads of civilizations that has historically required a dictatorship to keep the peace.

The author then asserts that US involvement has reinforced prosperity and peace wherever it exists.

He, then summarizes his support towards War on Iraq as follows
Until we begin the systematic, long-term export of security to the Gap, it will increasingly export its pain to the Core in the form of terrorism and other instabilities. and We ignore the Gap’s existence at our own peril, because it will not go away until we as a nation respond to the challenge of making globalization truly global.


Thank you for posting such an interesting idea.

IMHO, this construction is very hard to believe. Let me explain why…

First off, from what I can tell it is a construction rooted in structural realism. Meaning that, instead of focusing on cultures, ideologies, religions, individual state interests, or anything else, the author looks at the world as a whole. The Gap and The Core.

I’ve never been terribly convinved by structural realism, but at the moment I will accept it for the purposes of arguement.

His idea of the Core and the Gap assumes a high degree of bandwagoning, meaning that globalized states and globalizing states will follow along with the United States since we’re the most powerful. This unfortunately goes against the central idea of structural realism: the idea that states will balance against a power instead of bandwagoning.

The other serious problem I see with this idea is that there is no real definition of what constitutes a member of the Core. If the idea is that members of the core will follow the United States because of their interdependence, how do you explain France, Germany, and Belgium. They’re very globalized, but have yet to recognize the United States’ role as Leviathan.

What about specific national interests? What about ideologies? What about soveriegnty?

Sorry, too many questions for me. But, again, thanks for bringing it up.


Before I reply to specifics, let me say that I don’t support his argument outright. It’s such a different kind of take, so I’m curious to debate it out. Also, all my comments are prefixed IMHO by default.

With that out of the way…

Economics and survival instincts are key here. Culture, ideology, other influences are fine, but IMHO, states today serve primarily to encourage economic prosperity as a means towards “happiness”.

Isn’t US that power ?

The linked article covers this with observation and maps.

As long as their economic state is secure or hopeful, they will make all the noise they want. No need to express solidarity as such.

These are buzzwords that don’t matter as long as a sustainable economic chain is in place.