Tag Archives: Divisiveness

Blueprint for Divisiveness

Note: This is part of a series of reviews for Blueprint for Action. The introduction and table of contents are also available.

Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating,” by Thomas Barnett, 20 October 2005, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0399153128/102-4292267-8637755?v=glance [author blog]

I am glad to see…,” by Jeff, tdaxp, 13 November 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/11/12/barnett-wrong-on-international-criminal-court-independence-f.html#c349284.

A comment by Jeff of Caerdroia provides a perfect segue for the second part of my Blueprint for Action multi-review

Commenting on Tom Barnett’s questionable words on the International Criminal Court, Jeff wrote:

I am glad to see Dr. Barnett in PNM (I haven’t read the new one yet) trying to find a positive liberal approach to the world. I disagree with him in certain aspects (his excessive optimism regarding China, and failure to see evidence that weighs against his brilliant insight of drawing a circle around the places where the US has intervened and looking for commonalities between the included and excluded parts, and so forth), but I am glad to see the attempt being made. If a muscular Left is to return in the US, this kind of effort is vital.

Indeed, Dr. Barnett doesn’t hide being a liberal hawk. While Dr. Barnett’s quixotic KerryismRumsfeldism is a perfect defensible position (well, maybe), Dr. Barnett seems to have trouble decided whether he wants Blueprint for Action to be grand-strategy or liberal-strategy.

Take an excerpt from the best writing in the entire work: a commanding speech stretching from page 178 (“No one gets off free in this conflict…”) to 180 (“…and are willing to defend what they’ve earned.”).

Smack-dab in the middle of it, on page 179:

What I find so hilarious in this is the assumption of the Old Core types that their rejection of these ideas represents their death kneel, when nothing’s further from the truth.

Here’s a good example why: While Old Core Europe and Japan are more than a little bit tempted by Osama bin Laden’s offer of civilizational apartheid, both the United States and the New Core pillars understand what a false promise this truly is. America instinctively rejects the offer because., as citizens of the world’s free multinational economic and political union, we simply can’t accept the nation of a world thus divided. As a society blended from all civilizations, the very notion of such separatism is simply repulsive to our citizenry. For if such cultural apartheid really made sense, most of American history would have unfolded in vain — the Civil War, the suffragist movement, organized labor, civil rights, gay rights, and so on.

I read the section to each of my classes the week I read it, and got very good conversations out of it. While I had to change some phrases to match our text and their prior knowledge (“the Core” became “The Global North” or “the rich countries,” “the Gap” because “the Global South” or “the poor countries,” “the New Core” become “the new rising countries,” etc) I was very happy with the passage.

With the exception of the last half of the last quoted sentence.

Ultimately, I replaced it with:

For if such cultural apartheid really made sense, most of American history would have unfolded in vain — the Civil War, democracy, civil rights, and so on.”

Keeping Dr. Barnett’s original list, especially “gay rights,” would have distracted the issue away from his vision of “shrinking the Gap” and “ending war as we know it” to divisive and petty domestic concerns.

I have used concepts from Barnett in my classes this semester, and the student reaction has been extremely positive. One student reacted by approaching tears, asking “Why weren’t we just told this earlier? It make so much sense.” (I remember a similar response from a CSPAN caller once.) The materialism of student reaction surprised me (most students instinctively latched on to economy growth as the reason to defend globalization), showing that they already had the “New Core” mindset Dr. Barnett predicts for America.

can be a wonderful writer, and his work overlaps well with our discussions of sovereignty, international organizations, and political economy.

I decided not to allow conversation like that to be hijacked by Dr. Barnett’s tone-deafness.

Worse, it is not just Nebraska undergraduates who will be reading . The people we most need to reach — New Core citizens in pivotal states — are the ones he is most likely to alienate.

One of my friends was an several-times-promoted officer in the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. He fits the stereotype of the modern Iranian: blaspheming, shaven, pork-eating, beer-drinking, dancing, etc. He was delighted when a friend still in Iran gave him this satiric picture of the “beloved” (heavy sarcasm) President Ahmednajad:

Ahmadinejad Shunned by the world
Political Speech from Iran

And his views on homosexualism would make Jerry Falwell blanch.

My purpose in this post is not to advocate capital punishment for sodomy. Indeed, as someone who referred to the weird, oddly-worded, and shellfish-strewn, wreckages in Leviticus” I oppose sodomy laws and “virtue” laws generally.

But the way to shrink the Gap is not to ruin your best work with domestic politics and is not to alienate the very progressive forces in New Core countries that globalization depends on.

The Barnett of Blueprint for Action is not the Barnett I first saw on CSPAN.

He still can spark a conversation, though.

Importing Backlash-Inducing Rulesets (Barnett Right, Friedman Wrong)

This Is Not A Test,” by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 300-302.

To join Core is to import its rules, finds Turkey,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/001052.html.

After talking about importing rule sets — a process Tom Friedman calls “globalution“…

“When you have the procurement dollars that HP and McDonald’s have,” said Dunn, “people really want to do business with you, so you have leverage and are in a position to set standards and [therefore] you have a responsibility to set standards.” The role of global corporations in setting standards in emerging markets id doubly important, because oftentimes local governments actually want to improve their environmental standards. They know it is important in the long run, but the pressure to create jobs and live within budget constraints is overwhelming and therefore the pressure to look the other way is overwhelming. Countries like China, noted Dunn, often actually want an outside force, like a global business coalition, to exert pressure to drive new values and standards at home that they are too weak to impose on themselves and their own bureaucrats. In The Lexus and the Olive Tree I called this form of value creation globalution,” or revolution from beyond.

Friedman irrationally succumbs to an unrelated triumphalism on “moral values”

“Compassionate capitalism. Think it sounds like an oxymoron? Think again,” said Gunther. “Even as America is supposedly turning conservative on social issues, big business is moving in the other direction.”

Friedman wants a backlash against globalization ? He wants to see his Globalization 4.0, or III, or whatever the heck, crash and burn? Go to poor companies and mess with their families. It worked great in Qing China (*cough* 30 million dead in the Taiping rebellion *cough*), the Shah’s Iran (*cough* Islamic Republic *cough*), Czarist Russia (LENIN!) and every other place it was tried.

Tom Barnett has it spot-on

You want the Gap to remain the Gap? Then make unreasonable demands that countries there find some way to develop economically without damaging the environment. Or pretend they can somehow skip the factory-based abuse of workers that the Old Core went through. Or pretend that a perfectly operating democracy on par with Vermont is required before they can join our “club.”

You can’t demand the code before offering the connectivity—it’s really that simple.

That’s why the EU better damn well deliver membership soon to Turkey, which is jumping through hoops as fast those rule-obsessed Europeans can throw them.

Does Friedman want poor countries kept poor? Judging by his advise that rich country corporations should not work in societies that require side payments, apparently so.