The Pentagon’s New Map – A Critique

The Pentagon’s New Map – A Critique

Andrew’s Note:  I have seen our national dialog once again turn to and contemplate military intervention in the Middle East.  This time it’s Syria (I’ll leave Iran for another day as it actually poses a threat to the U.S. through its pursuit of and stated policy of intending to use Weapons of Mass Destruction).  Last year I wrote a critique of one of the foundational articles used to justify our military intervention in Iraq.  I am an Iraq war veteran and am proud of my service and our military forces, but I think that Dr. Thomas Barnett’s article, “The Pentagon’s New Map” attempts to rationalize a particularly dangerous collection of ideas.  I encourage you to decide for yourself if policing the world is the appropriate use of our power.  Dr. Barnett expanded on the ideas presented in this article and published a book of the same title…my critique only addresses the original article from Esquire magazine.  Here is that critique:

Dr. Thomas Barnett states in his 2003 article “The Pentagon’s New Map” that countries and regions of the world that are disconnected from the benefits of globalization represent a significant danger to the United States and other globalized nations.  He proposes that we should globalize those “Non-Integrating Gap or Gap” nations at the point of a gun if necessary when he states that we must “begin the systematic, long-term exportation of security.”  Barnett’s goal of “shrinking the Gap” by further integrating the world’s backwaters and rogue nations into a productive community of nations is laudable and would undoubtedly improve security and prosperity.  However, the scope and mechanisms Barnett proposes to achieve worldwide globalism and a stable security environment is simply not affordable.

Barnett’s Map of the Core and Gap Countries

First, let’s consider the magnitude of what Barnett is describing.  He’s proposing that we bring many of the benefits of developed nations to about 2 billion people in the poorest and most dangerous parts of the world.  His program would entail the systematic reshaping of society in the majority of Africa, the Middle East, much of South America, the Caribbean Rim, Central Asia and most of Southeast Asia as depicted in the map above.  Some of the nations we’d be attempting to remake in our image would include North Korea, Iran, Somalia and Venezuela.  Additionally, Barnett’s plan calls for the simultaneous policing of the border or “seam” states at the periphery to insulate the Core from the Gap’s destabilizing factors.  Image the costs involved in any systematic program targeting even a small percentage of the areas inside the Gap.  To give you a frame of reference for your thinking, consider that the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan combined represent just 3% of the Gap’s total population.  Some readers may be old enough to recall the difficulties that East Germany faced while reintegrating with West Germany in the 1990’s.  The Germans went through an extremely difficult period even though they enjoyed the benefit of a shared culture, shared language, a well-educated society and a history of successful industrialization.  Most of the countries that Barnett is proposing we globalize have few of these benefits and an average annual income of less than $3,000 per capita.

Now that we’ve briefly examined the breadth of the problem, let’s look at the depth of the changes to society that Barnett is proposing.  According to Barnett the interconnected Core countries enjoy “network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security”.  Additionally he says that Core countries have political openness, limited poverty, adequate medical care, and an established rule of law.  Therefore, globalization of the Gap will require significant development in physical infrastructure (communications, transportation, digitization, medical institutions), political system reform, legal system reform, regulatory system reform (banking, taxation, investment, etc.), successful anti-corruption initiatives, the restructuring of whole economies and the development of educational institutions.  Along the way we’d have to deal with the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the opposition to secular government in the Middle East and create consumer cultures where none currently exist.  Additionally, as Barnett notes the investment required would have to be largely private and private organizations will not invest until there is a stable security environment.

We’ve discussed how much of our world Barnett suggests needs our attention as well as the depth of the societal changes he’s proposing we make.  Now we’ll examine in more detail the potential costs to the United States of just the collective security piece of Barnett’s program.  Keep in mind that Barnett is describing the United States when he asserts that “we are the only nation on earth capable of exporting security in a sustained fashion.”  While we certainly haven’t yet achieved ‘collective security’ in Afghanistan (and didn’t in Iraq even before we pulled out), we do have almost 10 years of data to analyze the potential costs of exporting security to the Gap.  I have made the following assumptions and data decisions in building my analytical model:

  • Assume only 25% of the Gap countries need to be policed per year
  • The cost to police seam countries has been ignored for simplicity
  • Security cost per capita (Gap resident) remains constant over time and across countries
  • Costs only include the direct costs, not the indirect costs such the increased cost of veteran’s benefits, damage to the domestic economy from the mobilization of reserve forces, etc.
  • Costs were averaged over ten years even though we weren’t quite to the 10 year mark in the data available
  • Assume military manning is available
  • Doesn’t include cost paid by coalition partners
  • Doesn’t include security assistance & cooperation expenses not paid out of Department of Defense funds

To build our model we take the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to date of $1.3 trillion (as of August 2011) and divide that by the ten years we’ve been at war.  This yields a cost per year for the wars of $130 billion dollars.  Since Iraq has a population of 30,399,572 and Afghanistan has a population of 29,835,392 we’ll take the cost of those wars per year and divide it by their combined population of 60,234,964.  This gives the cost of exporting security per year per (Gap) capita of $2,158.21.  Sounds like a bargain…just $2,158.21 per person to provide security right?  Not so fast, we assumed that our systematic globalization process was going to require that we police 25% of the world’s Gap population [2 billion  x 25%= 500 million] each year.  Securing half a billion people at $2,158.21 per head would cost the United States $1.08 trillion per year.  Just the security costs to the United States of Barnett’s model would cost us over a trillion dollars a year, every year, for the foreseeable future and security by itself only sets the stage where globalization might occur.

First we discussed the breadth of Dr. Barnett’s proposal in geographic and demographic terms.  Then we imagined the depth of challenge and how we’d be required to fundamentally change the nature of societies all over the world.  We can only imagine the costs in time, international willpower, and money that would be required to deal with these first two categories of challenges.  Finally, we calculated the potential costs of the security portion of Barnett’s vision using our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan as our benchmark.  There is value to Barnett’s goal of “shrinking the Gap” but I fear that we will have to keep chipping away at the edges of the Gap as we’ve done since the birth of our nation.  The financial challenges presented by such dramatic changes to a third of the world are simply unfathomable.  There is just no way that we can afford to pay for the program of evangelical globalism that Barnett proposes.


Barnett, Thomas. Globlogization. “The Pentagon’s New Map

Cooper, Helene. Cost of Wars a Rising Issue as Obama Weighs Troop Levels, “The New York Times.” 21 June 2011

The Central Intelligence Agency. The World FactBook. 12 July 2011

U.S. Census Bureau. State & County Quickfacts. 3 June 2011

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One Response to “The Pentagon’s New Map – A Critique”

  1. GoneWithTheWind says:

    During the 90’s Clinton allowed Saddam to get away with violating the terms of his cease fire/surrender. Because of this by the time 9/11 occurred Saddam was a threat in the region and DID have WMDs. Because Russia, China, France and Germany ran a delaying action in the UN Saddam had the opportunity to move most of the WMDs to Syria (which will bite us again) and much of it went back to Russia in Russian transport planes. I was not in favor of the Iraq war but if it were my choice I would have destroyed their military and killed Saddam and then exited to leave them to their 12th century beliefs and hell. I certainly wouldn’t have spent lives and billions trying to pacify and rebuild them. Iran is only different in that we have allowed them to become stronger then Iraq ever was. Sooner or later Iran will act out probably in Israel and it won’t be pretty. Israel is aware of this and I suspect they will try to prevent it before it happens. Either way it isn’t going to be pretty and may well go nuclear. So should we try to crush or at least disarm Iran using conventional methods at a huge loss of lives and money or wait and watch the Middle East have a nuclear war? In either choice what will Russia and China do well we are distracted and over committed? This situation is the most serious threat since 1941 and we are sleep walking through it.

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