By coincidence, that same day I was reading a book which made globalization the centerpiece of its analysis of the present-day threat environment: The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century (currently ranked 1,614 on Amazon.com; not too shabby). It's by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a political scientist who teaches at the Naval War College. Barnett sketched out its basic argument in an article for Esquire published on the eve of the Iraq War:
The Gap is shown in dark green and deep blue on the globes below:
The problem with most discussion of globalization is that too many experts treat it as a binary outcome: Either it is great and sweeping the planet, or it is horrid and failing humanity everywhere. Neither view really works, because globalization as a historical process is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments. Instead, this new world must be defined by where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.
Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.
Two billion people live in the Gap. They're disconnected from the globalizing economy, pissed off, and a big human reservoir of Trouble for the Functioning Core. As Barnett says, the Gap is the region where you find the terrorists, the rogue states, the druglords and warlords. Their homelands may not be enmeshed in the webs of globalization--they may in fact loathe and reject everything globalization stands for--but globalization provides them with the tools to strike deep in the heart of the Functioning Core. Ease of travel, open borders, open societies, instantaneous communication and financial exchange: these hallmarks of globalization can be and have been exploited. To drive jet liners full of fuel into the World Trade Center. To explode bombs in Madrid during rush hour. It's not a question of whether these attacks will happen again. It's a question of when.
Barnett's proposed solution is to shrink the Gap. Arguably this could be done by what political scientist Joseph Nye has called "soft power"--openness, prosperity and similar values that persuade and attract rather than coerce others. But Barnett thinks that "hard power"--military and economic strength--is the key to success, with military force predominating. Soft power may sometimes work in parts of the Gap, but in others it will take the projection of military strength to stabilize a region enough so that economic investment makes sense and democratization stands a chance.
Barnett applauds the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "The reason I support going to war in Iraq," he wrote on the eve of that invasion, "is not simply that Saddam is a cutthroat Stalinist willing to kill anyone to stay in power, nor because that regime has clearly supported terrorist networks over the years. The real reason I support a war like this is that the resulting long-term military commitment will finally force America to deal with the entire Gap as a strategic threat environment."
Whether or not you buy hi thesis and prescriptions, Barnett is driving his argument for all it's worth--as he'll happily tell you on his extensive web site and blog. It's getting a lot of play. (I got the book in the first place because I asked a friend at the Pentagon what people there were reading and he pointed to The Pentagon's New Map.) Anyway, the point isn't whether you agree with Barnett. The point is that his ideas are interesting. They're worth thinking about, arguing with.
For instance, let's say Barnett's "new map" accurately reflects reality. How did the map get to be that way? Global history suggests that the process took not years or decades but centuries. If that's the case, it opens the possibility that buried in the past are analogs and antecedents that may help us to better evaluate Barnett's analysis and prescriptions. To give one example which may or may not withstand closer scrutiny: his idea of using military force to create an environment suficiently stable to inject one's own economic tendrils sounds a lot like the European and American adventures in China during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If you've seen The Sand Pebbles, you've seen this kind of tactic in action, and the unintended consequences it can generate.
A couple of days ago I got an email from Stephen Morillo, a military historian at Wabash College and one of the panelists at the recent conference on The History of War in Global Perspective. Stephen had talked about the conference with Jerry Bentley, editor of the Journal of World History. "He's enthused," Stephen reported, "and would be happy to see a set of related papers that he could put together in a volume of the Journal of World History devoted to military history. We (broadly construed) should think about generating such a package."
I wrote back:
That sounds very good. Over the Christmas break I'll be writing up a grant for further funding to support the history of war in global perspective project. What would you think of my focusing the proposal on an authors' conference to coordinate just such a set of offerings for the JWH?
Stephen thought that was just fine. The issue then became one of coming up with a specific topic. The articles in Historically Speaking on global history have provided food for thought. So has The Pentagon's New Map. Why not explore earlier periods of globalization for insights that might illuminate the promise or pitfalls of Barnett's prescriptions? It's worth a shot--particularly since it meshes well with the mission statement of the Mershon Center, my prospective sugar daddy. Now to see if this idea strikes a responsive chord with other historians.