Note: This is part of a series of reviews for Blueprint for Action. The introduction and table of contents are also available.
Tom Barnett has been embracing losing.
Now it is time for him to embrace defeat.
In the first part of Embracing Defeat, I outlined Barnett’s two plans for winning the Global War on Terrorism: the Reverse Domino Theory to move countries to the Core, and the A-Z Rule-Set for dealing with bad guys. I went on to describe America’s fear and trembling of nation building. The “Systems Administrator” Tom Barnett describes in Blueprint for Action is crippled at birth.. Dr. Barnett’s SysAdmin is a born gimp.
Dr. Barnett is a globo-imperialist. He wishes to prevent a reemergence of mini-Cores and instead build an Empire of the Core – a rich-country security force using his A-Z Rule-Set to slowly yet surely shrink the Gap. But Barnett’s dreams are both incompatible with the depths of American cowardice and treachery and incompatible with the heights of American idealism.
At this hour
the world is witnessing
terrible suffering and horrible crimes
in the Darfur region of Sudan
Crimes my government has concluded are genocide
The human cost is beyond calculation
More troops are need
to protect the innocent.
We need to intervene now,
before it’s too late.
I still can’t figure out
why it’s a good thing for us to be at war with Iraq
And have all these middle class people
over there sacrificing
Surely there’s some way we can find
in this new moment of hope
Peace in the Middle East
Rx’s pleas to leave Iraq and enter Sudan are not examples of liberal hypocrisy. Rather, they are evidence that the American people want a functional Systems Administrator: one able to stop genocides, ethnic cleansings, mass murders, and mass rapes, even before they begin. Also, they want a SysAdmin that won’t cost thousands of American lives per use. Sadly, Barnett’s vision now shuts the door on these dream.
Everything wrong with Barnett’s vision is summed up in one slide from his recent presentation
and, for that matter, in one slide transition:
Barnett’s plans for the lawful multilateralism — liberal institutionalism — of his SysAdmin are the equivalent of hammering an infant. It creates a gimp unable to function as an adult, which will only leave pain and disappointment to all who hoped for it.
For example, imagine that there was a genocide. Say in a country like Sudan, and a popular outcry demanded that something must be done. Barnett’s own words would prohibit involvement. No removing the problem on his watch:
Does the tyrant have a friend in Hu Jintao or Jacque Chirac? Then no SysAdmin!
The employment of our SysAdmin force must represent the highest order of our military cooperation with the rest of the world’s advanced militaries. Moreover, if structured correctly, whereby the United States provides the “hub” to the rest of our coalition’s “spokes,” our unilateral ability to employ our portion of the larger, multilateral SysAdmin force will be effectively curtailed, meaning we will be unable to wage peace inside the Gap without effectively gaining at least the approval of the Core’s other major pillars, such as Europe, Russia, India, China, and Brazil. (Blueprint for Action 36)
After all, ending genocide isn’t a “permanent” victory since another intervention might be needed in a generation. The lives saved in the short-term just aren’t worth regime change
So yes, a unilateral America can bomb a Gap country back to the Stone Age (for some, a very short trip), but what sort of permanent victory would the resulting fear and loathing represent in an age where disconnectedness defines danger? (36)
Would a local government, or just an end to the government’s export of violence, be worth it? Nope, because no regime change without nation building — circumstances be damned
So what we’re looking for is a rule set that makes the application of the solution transparent to all interested parties (eliminating the sense of zero-sum competition among great powers), judicious in its application (the Leviathan does not generate more work than the SysAdmin an handle), consistent in its use (a sense of due process), and just in its outcomes (the guilty suffer, but the innocent are reconnected to the larger global community in a manner respectful of local needs and desires). (50-51)
And again. Who cares if just removing a government would solve the immediate crisis: no peacekeeping, no peacemaking.
There will always be the temptation, in trying to create a global SysAdmin function, to pretend that we can somehow outsource that function to Gap nations themselves… Better warfighting is not the answer; better peacemaking and nation building is. (64)
Barnett wants to neuter the Leviathan (blitzkrieg force) by tying it to the SysAdmin (peacekeeping force) — and tying the SysAdmin to the liberal, multilateral institutionalism that has done so little for the Gap.
Dr. Barnett’s SysAdmin cannot survive the world of John Kerry and Howard Dean. It’s a gimp unfit for America after Vietnam, or any world with the French. It is deaf to the cries of the needy, because its ears have been plucked out by Barnett’s need for Core-wide buy-in. And its impotent, because it’s castrated by the political whims of the American people.
The wretched of the world don’t need Barnett’s born gimp. They need a knight in shining armor.
Who is the Knight in Shining Armor, and how will he make globalization truly global? Stay tuned, and find out!
This has been Embracing Defeat, part of a series of reviews for Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action. The posts in Embracing Defeat are: