Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creatingby Thomas P.M. Barnett
The Pentagon's New Map was one of the most talked-about books of the year - a fundamental reexamination of war and peace in the post-9/11 world that provided a compelling vision of the future. Now, senior advisor and military analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett explores our possible long- and short-term relations with such nations and regions as Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East, China and North Korea, Latin America and Africa, while outlining the strategies to pursue, the entities to create, and the pitfalls to overcome. If his first book was "a compelling framework for confronting twenty-first century problems" (Business Week), Barnett's new book is something more - a powerful road map through a chaotic and uncertain world to "a future worth creating."
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I supported the decision to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I knew our awesome warfighting force, or what I call the Leviathan, was without peer on this planet, and would handle Iraq's military with relative ease. I also knew that this war would constitute merely the first half of Iraq's transformation from authoritarian nightmare to pluralistic, connected society, and that waging that second-half effort-that peace-would be immensely hard. This second-half force of peacekeepers, which I call the System Administrators, was an army I knew many leaders in our military simply didn't want to raise, much less employ, evoking as it does painful memories of past U.S. efforts at nation building during the Cold War (read, Vietnam). Like others, I knew our military wasn't ready for this difficult task, and that its initial failures would be both acute and costly-far more than the war, in fact.
But I also knew this: No public institution responds to failure better and more quickly than the U.S. military.
And it has.
Right now, throughout the U.S. military, but especially in its ground forces (Army and Marines), we are witnessing a new phase to the military modernization process known as "transformation." What was once just the high-tech waging of war now encompasses numerous levels of operations, from the highest forms of information sharing to the simplest rules of engagement used by our troops on the ground, all of which are now focused on the new challenge at hand: waging peace. The shift is so profound that the term itself (transformation) has largely fallen from favor because of itsstrong identification with certain high-tech programs. So instead of focusing on classified "black projects" to facilitate the Leviathan's lofty ambitions, the Pentagon conducts secret talks with allies on how they might better shoulder the SysAdmin's many burdens. Instead of sizing itself to fight two conventional regional wars simultaneously, the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review proposed new definitions of both warfare and what constitutes victory. As so often is the case in military history, the occupation has transformed the occupier more than the occupied. The Iraq War will leave no lasting imprint on the U.S. military, but the Iraq Peace will redefine it from top to bottom, shifting transformation's center of gravity from the air to the ground, from major combat operations to postconflict stabilization operations, from the Leviathan to the SysAdmin.
And it won't be easy.
The struggles over budgetary priorities will be fierce in the coming years, as military transformation shifts from being capital-intensive (e.g., the Leviathan's hugely costly weapons systems) to labor-intensive (e.g., the SysAdmin's well-trained counterinsurgency forces and military police). The defense-industrial complex will be forced into wrenching change: from producing the few and the absurdly expensive to cranking out the many and the cheap-and increasingly the unmanned. Careers will be made and lost, industries will rise and fall, and waging peace will finally be prioritized over waging war. America will administer the system known as the global economy: policing its bad actors, engaging its failed states, and guiding the rise of its emerging pillars-all the while rooting out threats to the homeland at their points of origin.
And no, I'm not talking about some distant, personal dream. I'm talking about the new national military strategy of the United States-the most significant revamping of our military in decades-recently enunciated by the Bush Administration. The current administration entered office in 2001 with an avowed disdain for everything this new strategy embodies, but it will leave office in 2009 having remade the Pentagon in the image of the post-9/11 international security environment: the Old Core of the West (North America, Europe, Industrialized Asia, Australia) that still needs to be defended; rising New Core powers in Asia (India, China, South Korea, Russia) and Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) that need to be deeply engaged; Seam States (e.g., Mexico, Algeria, Turkey, Indonesia), lying on the edge of the global economy, that need to be further integrated; and a Gap, full of disconnected regions (Caribbean Rim, Andean South America, Africa, Caucasus, Central Asia, Middle East, Southeast Asia), that needs to be shrunk one threat at a time.
I've worked with the Pentagon for enough years to know there's a huge difference between signing new doctrines into being and fielding the forces that will bring those strategies to life. There can be no illusions about the profound task ahead: generating a new global security order that not only extends the Core's peace but ends the Gap's wars. Yes, it all starts with America and yes, it all starts with security. So the recent changes within the Pentagon are quite necessary, even if they're nowhere close to being sufficient. But even more daunting tasks lie ahead, ones that will call upon not just the military but the entire American political system, meaning each of us in our capacity as informed citizens, vocal advocates, and discerning voters.
America stands at the tipping point of possibly the most peaceful period in human history, where war as we have known it for centuries is banished from the strategic landscape. But to achieve these lofty ends, we need even loftier means. We need to end the disconnectedness that defines danger in our world. We need to shrink the Gap and all its pain and suffering-right out of existence. We need to make globalization truly global in a just manner.
And to do all these things, we need a military that will wage peace just as effectively as it now wages war. We need a new department that bridges the divide between our current departments of war (Defense) and peace (State). But most of all, we need a Core-wide capacity-an institutional capacity-to shrink the Gap one disconnected state at a time.
This is not a grand strategy that describes war strictly in the context of war, but one that seeks to place our thinking on war in the context of everything else, which today goes by the shorthand "globalization." This process of economic, political, and social integration among many of the world's states is the defining characteristic of our age, and as such, it defines conflict in this era, limited as it is to those regions still left on the outside of this historical integration process-or what I call the Non-Integrating Gap.
Many established security experts condemned The Pentagon's New Map for both its optimism and its ambition, believing it to be a complete rejection of the classic balance-of-power model and the "realism" they consider to be that model's essential underpinnings. They were right to do so, and they will be even more correct in viewing this Blueprint for Action as a further repudiation of all they hold dear. For in this book and especially in this first chapter, I aim to convince you that all the building blocks for this new global security order are at hand, awaiting only our commitment to bring them into being and employ them judiciously.
Let us begin to dispel the myths of ideology, disperse the fog of war mongering, and define the future worth creating.
Understanding the Seam Between
War and Peace
About a month before The Pentagon's New Map was published, I got a call from Greg Jaffe, Pulitzer Prize-winning defense reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Greg wanted to do a front-page profile on me and what he later called a "new theory of war." In many ways, the article was less a profile of me than of the famous PowerPoint briefing I was delivering throughout the Defense Department on my grand strategy for the United States in the post-9/11 era. As Jaffe explained it to me, there have been four great briefs in the post-Vietnam era, or presentations that so shaped a generation of military strategic thinking that each was known as "the brief" in its day. Within these four presentations lies the essential explanation of the Pentagon's current struggle to define its preferred future vision of both war and peace.
Each of the briefs was associated with its own decade, starting in the 1970s.
The first was by Colonel John Boyd, the iconoclastic Air Force colonel most famous for his decision-cycle theory (the OODA loop of observe-orient-decide-act), whose many ideas subsequently shaped not only the Marine Corps's definition of maneuver warfare but also the enunciation of so-called Fourth-Generation Warfare (based on Mao Zedong's insurgency model) by William Lind and others. Beginning in the 1970s, the "mad colonel" became famous for convincing an entire generation of future military leaders that warfare was-first and foremost-more about destroying the enemy's morale than his physical assets or personnel. Articulate and profane, John Boyd gave his brilliant presentations well over a thousand times before various defense audiences. Despite his impressive intellectual reach, this renegade reformer never became a favorite of the generals, earning as many enemies as admirers.
In the 1980s, a second great brief sought to reconcile the seemingly insatiable desire of the Reagan Administration for high-tech weapons systems with the enduring dangers of deficit spending. This presentation, by legendary Pentagon budget analyst Chuck Spinney, pushed the contemporary military debates about the future of war into the halls of Congress, earning the previously anonymous bureaucrat the cover of Time magazine in 1983. Employing long-term economic data, Spinney forced the Pentagon to confront what he called the "plans/reality mismatch." In a nutshell, this is the tendency of defense planners to insert within the annual budget submitted by the White House to Congress new programs whose burgeoning "out-year" (referring to the time period beyond the current five-year planning cycle) requirements for spending would ultimately break the bank. In other words, if the program in question cost only a minor amount in research-and-development costs in year one, by year ten that amount-which would then encompasses actually building, fielding, and supporting the proposed weapon or platform (e.g., tank, ship, aircraft)-might be several orders of magnitude more expensive than the initial opening "wedge" price. As you might imagine, the generals really loved this bit of truth telling.
The third brief was delivered in a style far different from the first two by the man known as the "Yoda" or "rabbi" to today's high-tech military. Andrew Marshall, after a long career as a rather anonymous analyst at the Rand Corporation (where he left virtually no paper trail), became the first-and so far only-director of the Pentagon's Office of New Assessment in 1973. Beginning in the late 1980s and stretching across the nineties, this office became famous within the defense community for its enunciation of the concept that the rise of information technology was setting in motion an inevitable "revolution in military affairs." Much like Colonel Boyd, Marshall is credited with inspiring an entire generation of disciples-the so-called church of St. Andrew. One of his better-known followers is Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski, my mentor and the man known as the "father of network-centric warfare." Famous for his taciturn, almost delphic manner of speaking, Marshall nonetheless reshaped the Pentagon's entire lexicon of warfare, setting in motion the drive toward a high-tech, largely standoff force that would overwhelm opponents by long-range arms and dominating airpower while not subjecting ground forces to retaliation.
In Jaffe's assessment, my "new map" presentation on the post-9/11 security environment had become "the brief" for this decade within the defense community. Why? Because I sought to create an overarching grand strategy that would logically reconcile "Genghis John" Boyd's down-and-dirty definition of future war with Andrew Marshall's seemingly bloodless high-tech one, while simultaneously seeking to relate their yin-and-yang-like interplay to the larger economic reality of globalization's emergence as the dominant characteristic of today's strategic environment. In short, my "new map" brief sought to end the plans/reality mismatch between the Pentagon's traditional definition of war and globalization's emerging definition of peace.
Contrary to popular imagination, the Pentagon is primarily in the business of preparing for war, not waging it, the latter being led by the combatant commanders in the field. The Pentagon is essentially a corporation, and what it does is think long and hard about what the future of war should be like, and then it directs vast research and acquisition programs to generate a force capable of waging war successfully in that domain-however defined. As such, the Pentagon's demands for intelligence tend to be future-oriented (as in, "Show me where the future bad guys are found!").
This system of planning is relatively secure from outside influences-to wit, the Pentagon's persistent ability across the 1990s to ignore the rise of globalization, along with the transnational, largely religious-inspired terrorism that accompanied it. Yes, I can find you lots of PowerPoint slides from planning briefs across the 1990s that contained the words globalization and terrorism, but frankly these remained complicating factors to be managed, not the focus of serious planning and acquisition. All such items were considered "lesser includeds," meaning situations and threats that the Pentagon assumed it could handle employing the force it fielded, even as that force was largely optimized for large-scale war against a large-scale enemy ("resurgent Russia" through the mid-1990s, "rising China" ever since).
It just so happens that the wars we have fought in this new century are not the wars the Pentagon planned and bought for a decade ago. Does this change the culture of The Building? Not easily. Bureaucratic torpor is its own force of nature.
Wars, of course, interrupt this long-range planning. They steal time, attention, energy, and resources from the process of building tomorrow's force. It may seem counterintuitive, but the defense budget accounts only for future wars, not today's. So whenever America actually engages in war, the Pentagon immediately goes over-budget, triggering the Pentagon's requests to Congress for "supplementals," or additional, above-budget funding to cover the excess costs. Of course, Congress never gives the Pentagon enough money to cover these operations, and so whenever any of these overseas interventions drags on, the Defense Department inevitably ends up cannibalizing its people, equipment, and infrastructure to make ends meet. That's why, in reality, the Pentagon hates waging war, because today's conflicts fundamentally wreak havoc with its true function: building the future force. An exercise in sublime illogic perhaps, but the truth all the same.
Today's wars also create tomorrow's generation of senior military leaders. What do most admirals and generals do? A huge number of them are found in the Pentagon tending to tomorrow's force, armed with their visions of future war that have been shaped by their experience in combat operations.
Right now there is a debate raging within the Pentagon and the military as a whole about what the war in Iraq, as well as the ongoing occupation, tells us about the future of war. This debate fundamentally pits the two dominant visions of future war against each other in what I consider to be a false dichotomy, meaning a choice that does not need to be made-and, frankly, should not be made.
As you might have guessed by now, the two sides in this debate are functionally derived: the air community (the flyboys) versus the infantry (the boots on the ground). Of course, such naked descriptions are not typically employed. The outlook of the air community (the Air Force plus the Navy's carrier-based aircraft) is widely known as Network-Centric Operations (NCO), the currently dominant phrase for describing how the "revolution in military affairs" has "transformed the force." In contrast, the ground-pounders of the Army and Marine Corps tend to subscribe to the seemingly opposite position, or Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW), which naturally favors definitions of conflict far less driven by technological advances than by the enduring qualities of men in combat. This debate can be described as machines versus warriors.
The maritime community, by and large, doesn't have a dog in this fight, and thus it remains far too obsessed with China and the Taiwan Straits scenario (along with, to a certain extent, the Korea scenario, featuring, as it does, all that coastline). The fleet in particular feels somewhat left behind in both these visions. Why? Network-Centric Operations favors carrier-based aircraft above all, and the tyranny of their combined cost (carriers plus air wings) drains construction funds from the rest of the ship and submarine categories. Fourth-Generation Warfare obviously focuses on land operations, which at best speak to port control and riverine operations, as far as naval forces are concerned. But these two missions remind the Navy far too much of Vietnam, an operation it supported but for which it was not integral. So naturally, a debate about what Iraq means and how it shapes the future force makes Navy leaders rather nervous, because they can see only cuts ahead no matter which side wins.
Now, at first glance all these debates might seem like Pentagon insiders arguing about standards and practices, and so you might be tempted to plead, "Wake me up when we get to the good part!" But it's not as esoteric as all that, because if we in the national security community can't get our story straight on how we wage war, we'll never get to the good part of waging peace. If the military services do what they want to do-namely, split all the differences and give everyone their usual budget shares-then we'll continue to field four mini-versions of the Leviathan force without a coherent SysAdmin force among them. That tradition of giving every service its warfighting "due" has yielded an Army with its own navy, a Navy with its own army, a Marine Corps with its own air force, and an Air Force that's convinced it can win wars all by itself. That sort of belt-and-suspenders redundancy is all fine and good if you're still waiting on World War III, but if we're going to shrink the Gap, we'll need to rationalize this force quite a bit more. In short, we need to optimize for both war and peace.
--from Blueprint For Action by Thomas P. M. Barnett, Copyright © 2005 Thomas P. M. Barnett, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher
Meet the Author
Thomas P. M. Barnett is a senior adviser to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Central Command, Special Operations Command, the Joint Staff and the Joint Forces Command. He formerly served as a senior strategic researcher and professor at the U.S. Naval War College and as Assistant for Strategic Futures in the OSD's Office of Force Transformation. He is a founding partner of the New Rule Sets Project LLC, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and Esquire, where he is now a contributing editor.
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