Redefining the Gap 7, The Pentagon’s New Map

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


Thomas P.M. Barnett defines the “non-integrating gap” as those “regions of the world that are largely disconnected from the global economy and the rule set that defines its stability” (T. Barnett 2004:xvii-xviii). Immediately he gives it a geographic description, “today, the non-integrating gap is made up of the Caribbean Rim, Andean South America, virtually all of Africa, portions of the Balkans the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia.” Barnett writes that the “Gap” will be “the expeditionary theater for the U.S. military in the 21st century” (T Barnett 2003) of “failed states and feral cities” (T. Barnett 2004:151). The rest of the world, the “Functioning Core,” is in turn split “into the Old Core, anchored by America, Europe, and Japan; and the New Core, whose leading pillars are China, India, Brazil and Russia” (T. Barnett 2005:32).

This graphic originally contained the following in its caption“Problem areas requiring American attention (outlined) are, in the author’s analysis, called the Gap. Shrinking the Gap is possible only by stopping the ability of terrorist networks to access the Core via the ‘seam states’ that lie along the Gap’s bloody boundaries” (T. Barnett 2003)

Barnett takes the first step towards operationalization an entity that is otherwise just a line drawn on a map (T. Barnett 2004:inside cover). Taking Hobbes as a model, Barnett defines life in the gap as “poor” (low GDP per capita), “nasty” (low levels of political freedom and human rights), “short” (low life expectancy), “brutal” (high levels of war), and “solitary” (few Internet hosts per capita) (T. Barnett 2004:161-165).

Barnett draws from the geopolitical and North-South traditions. Barnett has written this new map is not a “’North-South’ map” (T. Barnett 2004:121) , but the similarity between The Gap and the Global South is striking. The policy implications of this have down criticism to the model (Moxham 2003). “Just as the theories of such geopolitical writers as Sir Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman provided the intellectual underpinnings of US grand strategy during the Cold War,” Barnett’s model is accused of being an intellectual justification of a US grand strategy focusing on the Global South (Owens 2004).

As with Critical Geopolitics, PNM Theory is not just a description of the world but a prescription for the world. It is a model of both existing UN missions and “future hot spots” (Roberts, Secor and Sparke 2003:890). Barnett is “the best known proponent of wide area strategy” and his theory defines “who is ‘good’ and who is not” with the clear implication of widespread preemption (Richards 2005:39-40). PNM Theory, which was was created for the Pentagon in the wake of September 11th (Chaikivsky 2002:163) has already “helped reshape the direction of future military strategy based upon a new map and vision of the world security environment” (Coderre 2003). Barnett’s books (T. Barnett 2004; T. Barnett 2006) and theories are influential inside the Department of Defense (Barone 2005; Ignatius 2005; Mazzetti 2003; Tyson 2005), and senior officers now give presentations incorporating specific PNM concepts (Ignatius 2004).

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes