Functioning Core And Non-integrating Gap

by Milo Clark

November 29, 2004   


(Swans - November 29, 2004)   Tom Barnett is a wake-up-call kind of guy. (1) He has a properly iconoclastic point of view. He decodes Pentagon jargon. He has a gut feel for strategic design. He wants to be seen and remembered as the twenty-first century's Admiral Mahan and George Kennan, father and son. (2)

No ambition is too small for Tom Barnett. He lives and breathes in the esoteric world of Pentagon strategic planning, hanging out in the Naval War College for now.

The Pentagon tends to be a very dualistic place. No matter who you are, you are or you aren't. Gray is not a Pentagon color. Nuance is touchy-feely and verboten. The name of the Pentagon game is clarity. Clarity leads to Congressional support and the megabucks for exotic high tech systems to meet future enemies presently unidentifiable beyond conceptual identity as a Big One.

Barnett looks about the world and finds little possibility or probability of a Big One emergent or even lurking over some horizon. What's a twenty-first century Mahan or Kennan, father and son, to do? Who is "Us" and who is "Them"?

Before 9/11, the Bushies worked hard to make PRChina the Big One. At that time, Russia as remnant of Soviet Big One was out of it. Putin was not yet. PRChina, unfortunately from Pentagon perspectives, was evolving towards bigger power status as mega-capitalists in Communist clothing. Capitalists in Communist clothing? Too confusing. Too gray.

All too soon it emerges that PRChina is now America's Number One trading partner. Wal*Mart is PRChina's Number One customer. Wal*Mart is the new America.

PRChina holds a very large chuck of American Treasury debt. PRChina could, if so motivated, pull the financial plug on the USA. Ironic, no? Do capitalists pull plugs on capitalists?

New Big One Enemy needed. Barnett, with Mahan and Kennans in mind, crafts a new conceptual framework. He needs to fit the Pentagon Point of View with a new lens. Same old, same old is too old. How does a new clarity drag in big Congressional bucks and strike projectable fear into the Limbaughs and O'Reillys of broadcast media?

Barnett divides up the world into a new duality. He comes up with a scheme to make a new "Us" and a new "Them," a scheme which fits a post-9/11 American world. He lusts to become the Karl Rove of Pentagon strategies. And he could be on to something.

"Have's and Have Not's" are old frame. With a Pentagon sense of buzzword power, Barnett comes up with "Functioning Core" and "Non-integrating Gap." Of what? Globalization is the answer.

"We" are the globalized or globalizing. "Them" is everybody who is neither globalized nor globalizing. Barnett has a briefing theme and briefing themes are the life-blood of Pentagon strategists. Now Barnett has a mission and a book title: The Pentagon's New Map, War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century.

Peace lies with the globalized or globalizing: The Functioning Core. War, if need be, lies with the Non-integrating Gap. The "if need be" phrase is key. Carrot and Speak Softly/Carry Big Stick merge.

Barnett draws a new world map with a new dotted line. Outside the dotted line lies the Functioning Core: the globalized or globalizing. Within it lie today's post-9/11 trouble spots and irritants: The Axis of Evil, al Qaeda, Palestinians, et al. subsumed as The Non-integrating Gap.

Tame the Non-integrating Gap by integrating it within the Functioning Core of Globalization. Out with democratizing, in with integrating. More pragmatic and descriptive, no?

The Pentagon now has a new Big One as a collection of little ones around which to focus Congressional Clarity and garner ever bigger bucks. Only trouble is that Pentagon Big Ones historically have been nation-states with a future potential more than a present danger. Within today's Non-integrating Gap, nation-states tend to be dysfunctional and festering.

Prone, as ever, to fight the last war now, the Pentagon goes into strategic schizophrenia. The Pentagon buzzword "Transform" creates new Big One capabilities, while festering sores need balm or bombs now.

Congress likes Big Ones, not collections of little ones. Missile defense costing mega-billions sells in Peoria where relatively low-cost balms for festering sores are too yucky to market.

A new Mahan or Kennans has to capture imaginations. A new Mahan or Kennans has to have a marketing plan, a grand strategy to capture the hearts and minds of Congress and Peoria.

And this may be where Barnett could be on to something. Globalization personalized is Wal*Mart and Wal*Mart is America. Wal*Mart is Bentonville, Arkansas, heartland, solid red on today's political maps.

The old games rule set, parenthetically the Bush game, said that democracies do not war on democracies. Hence, "democratize the world" sold as a slogan. Got us Iraq. Perhaps the right idea but wrong execution.

The new game says that suppliers do not war on customers. Hence, customers do not war on suppliers. Today's news is that K-Mart and Sears are merging to out-Wal*Mart Wal*Mart. Within the Functioning Core, we don't outsource, we insource. Nice reframing.

Festering sores? Nuke 'em (with the new mini-nukes or DU, of course.) Unless strategic raw materials are involved, leave the Non-integrating Gap a wasteland uninhabitable for half-lives far into succeeding administrations peacefully devoted to ever-burgeoning Pentagon budgets and manageable low-casualty short-term high-cost wars. Wars only entered into as nudge toward globalization, of course.

Can we apply Barnett's strategic design to the once United States of America? Would it be a stretch of imagination to see the "Red" states as Non-integrating Gap and the "Blue" states as Functional Core? Reframers of the world, unite!

Indeed, we are not in Kansas anymore. Kansas is certainly within us, however.

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Notes & Resources

1  The Pentagon's New Map, War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century, Thomas P. M. Barnett, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 2004, ISBN 0-399-15175-3  (back)

2  US Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) formulated the strategic concepts which became the Great White Fleet heralding America's emergence as a world power. His strategic design led and leads American naval strategies to this day.

George Kennan, son, (b. 1914) is credited with formulating the post WW II containment strategy which guided American tactics during the Cold War with Soviet Communism. George Kennan, father, while little known today, physically traveled the length and breadth of then Czarist Russia penetrating Central Asia and Siberian areas. His visceral understanding of the power of land mass and old peoples was grokked by his son.  (back)

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Published November 29, 2004
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