Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thomas Barnett's Pentagon's New Map

For all those who want to understand globalization in the time of Terror, this book by Thomas Barnett is an excellent reference. His use of the first person perspective and conversational tone makes the discussions of global affairs easy to digest. But this book is not a convenient read especially for those who see America as playing a negative role in international politics. Americans may also find his recommendations discomforting as his views of the world leaps out of the usual boxes set by the commentariat from both conservative and the liberals. But I must admit that I find his “core-gap” thesis pretty attractive as a way to analyze global events.

The book argues that the world is in a mess because globalization has largely benefited the Core (composed of countries like the US, Europe) and the new core (essentially China, India, Brazil, and the newly industrialized countries) with the rest of the world especially the gap (Third World hell holes where terrorists hide and spawn) isolated and disconnected, their faces pressed against the glass. The task of the Core (necessarily led by the US and Europe) should extend connectedness to the rest of the world by balancing “four major global transactions.”

First is the movement of people from the Gap through the Core to address the greying population problem and its attendant issues. Second transaction is the movement of energy (oil, gas) to the Core and new Core. Third transaction is the movement of capital (investments, foreign trade) from the Core to the new core and the gap. China and the Asia Pacific region is certainly benefiting from this trend. And the last is the export of “security” from the Core to the gap.

This one is the most contentious. One the one hand, US presence in East and Southeast Asia has prevented a regional arms race, thus enabling countries like Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and the Philippines to focus their resources on economic development. Humanitarian operations to help countries affected by natural disasters are also seen as positive. On the other, the continuing bloodletting in Iraq seems to point out towards the dangers of exporting security especially in areas where American presence is not welcome.

Nevertheless, his arguments for ending disconnectedness and isolation by Gap countries are powerful. And I wonder why its recommendations don’t seem to reflect American economic and trade policy especially during the time when American leadership is needed to make the Doha Round of Trade negotiations successful. Maybe it’s because the conservatives and the Republicans are simply stuck in the Iraqi quagmire to think of other more important “global transactions.” That’s the tragedy. But that doesn’t detract us from the fact that this book is a nice one to read.

No comments: