Blog of Obscurity

A Very Munchkinly Blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Selling a Strategy

There is right now one and only one serious candidate for US grand strategy to replace the Cold War's containment strategy: Thomas Barnett's Pentagon's New Map. The Bush administration may have a grand strategy, but if so they have not shared it. (The President has shared his goal, the advance of liberal democracy through the world, but not how he aims to achieve it. Actually, now that I think about it, the goal is basically the same as Barnett's, if you take "the advance of liberal democracy through the world" to be the same as "the future worth achieving".)

The Pentagon's New Map posits that there exists a "Gap" of undeveloped countries, incorporating most of what used to be called the Third World, and that these countries are undeveloped for essentially economic reasons: being disconnected from the globalizing nations (the Core) and each other, the Gap nations can advance neither economically nor politically. Major wars between Core nations are impossible, because any such war would invite a (literally) nuclear response, destroying the aggressor. Within the Core, the Cold War rules basically apply, the UN is an effective instrument of international relations, and economic interdependency compels a gradual advance towards true and universal liberal democracy; the Core is Kantian in nature. Within the Gap, the rules that apply are Hobbesian: law of the jungle.

In Speaker for the Dead terms, the Core nations are "utlanning", the "new Core" nations like China are "framling", and the Gap nations are essentially "ramen" - culturally incompatible.

Given this view of the world, Barnett proposes a grand strategy somewhat along these lines: build up relationships between Core nations, using the UN and other transnational institutions as the major vehicle; "shrink the Gap" with a combination of aid, political engagement, and military force; change the rulesets in the Gap to set them on the path to being a part of the Core, using whatever means are possible, necessary and expedient.

Dave Schuler of the Glittering Eye has a great post on what it will take to sell this - or any - strategy to all of the different major American foreign policy strains. Schuler's analysis is very good, because it notes the fact that different foreign policy viewpoints are incompatible; thus, the key is determining which group can be marginalized in order to gain broader acceptance.