Whether you are an ROTC cadet training to be a commissioned officer in the Armed Forces upon graduation from USF or a student who sees foreign policy as something both foreign and a policy not hip enough to be interested in, the global war on terrorism has far-reaching implications for both the United States and abroad. The focus of media attention has largely surrounded the current situation in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan.
President George W. Bush posited an “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union Address that singled out Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Interestingly, people such as Thomas P.M. Barnett are correct. Barnett whose academic background centers mainly on the Cold War, has said that up to a third of the global community could be described as non-integrating and in need of intervention. While at Harvard, Barnett was a research assistant for the director of the Russian Research Center. With the end of the Cold War, Barnett theorized that a new definition of policy objectives should target regions that are essentially not fully participating in the globalization movement.
To his credit, Barnett does point out that globalization is not all good or bad, but where he may drift is in asserting that globalization brings stability. I would argue that globalization’s impact is unique to each country and region, and equating stability with it overlooks historical complexities that abound. In his book, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, Barnett points out that the United States must confront nations where “disconnectedness defines danger.” Barnett identifies the regions of the world that are disconnected by researching the 150 U.S. military interventions — including shows of force — since 1990. These regions include the Caribbean rim, most of Africa, the Andes portion of South America, Central Asia, Southwest Asia and Southeast Asia.
His stance that military containment or even pre-emption is a valid strategic tool has a wide audience both at the Naval War College, as well as the Pentagon, where he has worked in the Office of Force Transformation. It is therefore not too hard to imagine the neo-cons of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, finding common purpose with Barnett.
One of the major problems with Barnett’s view is that it defines too simply the global community in black and white patterns of either disconnected or fully integrated. Is it necessarily a bad thing that several nations do not mirror our country politically, economically or socially? There must be some middle ground where nations understand the value of participating on a global level while maintaining their cultural identities and values. Barnett argues that these disconnected nations are a danger because they can foster terrorism more readily than integrated nations.
However, he is overlooking the fact that terrorism networks have infiltrated and are now being fostered in the connected regions of Europe and even North America. To speak about foreign policy in terms of “us-versus-them” is extremely dangerous.
Perhaps the weakness in Barnett’s redefinition of foreign policy objectives is that it comes across as yet another argument for unilateralism. Even in what Barnett defines as the functioning “core” of nations, there is much disagreement on global issues. The dissention of the United Nation’s Security Council over the Iraq War — a conflict Barnett sees as a good idea — is evidence that, especially for France and Germany — power players in the European Union — there seems to be a growing counterbalance to the dominance of the United States on the international stage.
Unfortunately, the nation’s strategic foreign policy objectives don’t seem to be centered on international cooperation on global issues, but instead on Barnett’s theory; a theory that has been described by retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, USAF, as, “American-led global assimilation using military decapitation of out-of-favor and hated regimes.”
Aaron Hill is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. firstname.lastname@example.org