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March 17, 2004

9/11 and 3/11: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?

Tom Barnett considers the following question from Bryan Preston:

2. Why do you think the Bush administration has done such a poor job of explaining its strategic thinking and plans to the American public and the world?

The Bush Administration is dominated by Cold War strategists who continue to view the world largely in terms of great powers and the security relationships between them. To their credit, they recast most of their thinking with 9/11, embracing a willingness to enter the Gap with an abandon that makes the Clinton Administration and its so-called mania for nation-building seem almost quaint in comparison (imagine Clinton trying to sell a Republican congress on "transforming" the Middle East with military invasion!). But their continuing tendency to speak in almost exclusively hard-power terms leaves much of the world worried about an expanding U.S. military "empire." Then there is the Bush White House's self-defeating habit of almost absurd vindictiveness regarding those who oppose them-to wit, the asinine "forgive Russia, ignore Germany, and punish France" formulation following those nations' resistance to our invasion of Iraq. That sort of pettiness only raises the end costs of the inevitable multilateralism that must ensue if we really want to succeed in the end.

The bigger problem is this: getting the American public and the world to realize that different security rule sets define the Core and the Gap, and that the only way we're going to achieve real security in the age of globalization is to eliminate disconnectedness by making globalization truly global. The Bush Administration has the courage and the vision to wage a global war on terrorism, but until they can enunciate that global future worth creating, they will continue to be viewed by much of this country and the world as primarily a war administration, a war president, and a war without end. To leave that much fear out on the table on a constant basis is to invite distrust, and distrust kills your ability to communicate your intentions effectively. Today, there is no such thing as war waged strictly within the context of war.

The Bush Administration has not yet demonstrated in their words or deeds how the global war on terrorism fits within the larger context of globalization, but they're getting closer with their initiatives and ideas regarding the integration of a "greater Middle East" with the rest of the world. Given a second four years, their continued evolution away from their Cold War roots might yield some very great outcomes. Then again, their penchant for vindictiveness in foreign policy could isolate them beyond hope in a second administration, leading to a serious fracturing of the Core.

This White House is in a tough fight right now, and a mudslinging election, even if won, does not bode well for their ability to conduct a more successfully multilateral foreign policy in their second iteration. And they'll need such success if their dreams for a transformed Middle East are to come true. America cannot integrate a Middle East all by itself, and if real integration does not ensue, this war will go down in history as a completely wasted effort.

Consider the whole interview: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/interviewMar04.htm

9/11 and 3/11: Social Chaos or Social Transformation? We've been looking at this question for a good bit of time:

The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation? by John L. Petersen, Margaret Wheatley, Myron Kellner-Rogers

Scenarios Facing Year 2000 in SMART Letter #7 - May 15, 1998 by David S. Isenberg

U.S. Naval War College Year 2000 International Security Dimension Project (this project is scheduled to be moved from the NWC site to Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Projects

Social chaos, or social transformation? The choice is ours to make.

March 17, 2004 at 10:14 AM | Permalink

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