Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon’s new map for war and peace

Every year in Monterey, CA there is a famous conference called TED. Think of it as the Burning Man of the Digerati and Intelligencia crowd. Invitation-only and a few thousand bucks to attend. The speakers are often very high profile, or obscure and thought provoking. Thomas Barnett has been a Pentagon adviser on how the military and how its used must change for many years. In this talk on the need to two kinds of military force, you can get a glimmer of where cultural expertise can be applied in an ethical and transparent manner: The abstract of his presentation from the TED website sums it up well:

“In this bracingly honest and funny talk, international security strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering US military: Break it in two. He suggests the military re-form into two groups: a Leviathan force, a small group of young and fierce soldiers capable of swift and immediate victories; and an internationally supported network of System Administrators, an older, wiser, more diverse organization that actually has the diplomacy and power it takes to build and maintain peace.”

Parts will piss you off, some you may be OK with, but it should be interesting discussion fodder. It runs about 23 to 25 minutes.


3 Responses to Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon’s new map for war and peace

  1. Avatar Tony Waters
    Tony Waters says:

    Ok, I had a look at this, and it was really interesting. It makes a good argument for why there should be two types of military, i.e. the one with the hammer which is composed of 19 year old males, and the soft civil-administration type which focuses on nation-building, and is made up of 40 year old family people. The idea that there are two separate tasks abroad make sense. It also makes sense that we should not ask well-armed but weakly educated 19 year-olds to shift back and forth between shooting at adversaries one day, while distributing food and humanitarian goods in the same village the next day. This would tax the patience of even the best trained cultural relativist.

    However, I still think Bennett has a bit of American hubris to his approach. His idea is still that the catastrophic problems of others are best solved by outsiders, especially the United States. Indeed, he uses the dubious example of the IMF, which in fact has a checkered record in the third world for bringing about economic change, as a good model. It is true that IMF prescriptions have worked in some countries, particularly in eastern Europe. But other countries have had catastrophic consequences following IMF prescriptions, including places like Zimbabwe, Zaire/Congo, and Rwanda.

    Anyway, maybe I will write more for the blog in a couple of days…

  2. Barnett’s view probably illustrates well the views of those supporting McCain. They do not believe that the underlying logic of the War in Iraq is flawed, rather they just do not like losing.

    But this view also requires buying into the idea that military action is an effective way to install compliant governments serving both the interests of the United States, and popular rule. In my view, the data since both before and after World War II do not necessarily support this,

  3. Pingback:Thomas Barnett, the military, and anthropology | Ethnography.com