Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Continued from Monday. Background here and here. Part V: Barnett on real world regime change through online world simulation, the state of Iraq's reconstruction, and a flurry of hard questions (and occasional catcalls) from the audience on racism, religion, Belarus, China as partner, China and Japan as opponents, the International Criminal Court, and how each person can help make a future worth creating.

Hamlet Linden: Ok, one last question before I start giving Tom the voluminous questions piling up from the audience in my inbox. In the Afterword of your book, you offer a tantalizing prediction that a massively multiplayer online world may one day overthrow a real dictatorship. Take us through your thought process on that extraordinary idea.

Thomas Barnett: Watch Super Bowl teams today play Madden before the real deal. It's fascinating and gives a weird glimpse of how things could really go down. Then think about how MMOGs could advance in the next 20 years. Imagine if the Defense Department had MMOG'd the Iraq occupation in advance (actually, more than a few of us pushed for that), inviting in a host of players from around the world to teach us all the possbilites ahead. Think about how much smarter we could get. But then also think of the demonstration effect that could have on a leader targeted for takedown. I think we could make it strong enough to essentially scare someone out of office, by wargaming them into a panic: "This is what will happen to you! Would you prefer this golden parachute or plea-bargain in the International Criminal Court whereby you avoid a death sentence?"

HL: Justice Soothsayer asks, "How do you respond to the criticism that your grand strategy is an example of institutionalized racism-- [that] your Non-Integrating Gap states (NIGs) are composed of poor black and brown folks?"

TB: Hardy har. Are you forgetting all the brown and yellow faces throughout Asia that are in my Core? This is an old race card, easily discarded. No race inside the Gap does not exist in serious numbers inside the Core, including Muslims. There are no peoples that lack the market "gene" or the "democracy gene." Go easy on the Social Darwinism. Stay focused on connectivity. Nice, gender-neutral, race-neutral-- like money.

Quantum Kamloops [from the audience]: Is that culturally invidious?

HL: OK, this one from Hank Hoodoo. “What, if anything, should the SysAdmins in Iraq be doing differently right now?”

TB: Not a whole lot, given the reality that we didn't have the numbers or the spread of "civilizations" that we should have had at the start. Most of the mistakes we could have prevented way back when by doing the SysAdmin right are now past that... particular fix.

Hank Hoodoo [from the audience]: Yes, that was what I was afraid you'd say.

TB: Key thing now is being done: train up the Shiites and Kurds to police their own. We were amazingly successful in nation-building in Kurdistan over the past 12 years, just giving them air cover in the No-Fly-Zone and not telling them how to do a damn thing. They built a functioning state-within-a-state in the meantime. Our nation-building effort in the Shiia portions also go fairly well, as judged by Sistani's ability to keep civil war from erupting and taking al-Sadr back into the family despite his violent reach for power (very slick). Sistani would have won the Nobel for Peace if I had a say.

So the Kurds and Shiia come together in a new Iraq. We do well by training up that force. To the extent both continue to invite the Sunnis back into the fold, despite the raging insurgency, great hope still exists that the Sunni Triangle can quiet down. If it does not, then the Kurds and Shiia will fight that battle on their own increasingly from here on out (and gladly).

Is this a sad outcome? Hardly. Basically a repeat of Yugoslavia, another pretend country created by empires long long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Next.

HL: Someone named Dear Leader asks: “If you envision the Old West and New East successfully working together, how to you account for the failure of the West now to muster sufficient political will and democracy aid to rescue Belarus?"

TB: Belarus simply doesn't rank, so failure of action there signifies little. When you propose something like this, you will always get someone saying, "But my favorite example is not covered here! So this pathway is inconceivable!"

My response is this: Better to do what you can on the worse cases and work your way down the list over time. Once you demonstrate you can do it and gin up that list, many countries will shape up out of fear of the inevitable once their name appears on the list. No one's list has Belarus anywhere near the top right now, but eventually it would rise if we started tackling the worse cases.

HL: Gus Plisskin asks: “India might join a SysAdmin force. China and the United States have far too many competing interests. For example, could any such SysAdmin force deal with a conflict in the Spratley islands?”

TB: China and the U.S. really have very few competing interests, other than our strange, still-on-the-books promise to defend Taiwan at all costs (which should be jettisoned immediately.) We have no competing interests in the South China Sea. That's China and Japan acting like children over a resource pool they must logically share. Japan's economy was lifted last year out of a decade of depression/recession. This happened because of 80% of their export growth going to China.

Fighting over energy is asinine. A few foolish military and political leaders on both sides dream of this nonsense, but no business leaders on either side do. That relationship will normalize over time, as it will between China and the U.S. In all such instances, we need to move beyond the Cold War-trained generation of leaders and onto the post-Cold War generation, who see things very differently, both here and in China and Japan.

HL: This from Ichiro Tokugawa [related by another Resident]: "Mr. Barnett, your plan is certainly very provocative, especially in the way it completely ignores culturally ingrained religion. Can you extrapolate somewhat on that topic?"

TB: You haven't read Blueprint for Action if you say the vision ignores religion, because I talk about it at length. Religions of all sorts exist in both the Core and Gap, as all are represented in each. In the Gap, each version of any religion tends to be more hardcore and conservative than it's counterpart in the Core. Religion in "hard times" is a survival function, pure and simple. Religion in the Gap does not stand in the way of economic connectivity or progress, it simply reflects the lack of each.

Quantum Kamloop [from the audience]: Good grief... and you say that with what supporting data? Given the prevalence of 2nd+ generation terrorists?

TB: Same with demographics: too many babies doesn't lead to poverty, poverty leads to too many babies. You want more tolerant faiths in the Gap, then more it toward development. All of the Core's versions of faith were hard core and much more conservative… until we got rich. So not a problem you cite, but the symptom of one. Next.

HL: OK, SeanMcTex Galatea asks: “You said that you felt the ‘too busy’ [to alleviate Gap poverty and violence] response was pretty indefensible. And yet, many people feel they wield very little political power individually. Beyond voting a certain way, what action would you suggest individuals take?”

TB: Plenty of pressure to be waged.

Tell your leaders you want our ag subsidies ended and that we must open up our economy to Gap food exports.

Demand foreign aid be increased.

Stop asking for lower taxes.

Support concepts like the SysAdmin force, the One Campaign, [and] Jeffrey Sachs' efforts.

Realize that the same force that does Baghdad after Saddam can and should do New Orleans after Katrina.

Make all that horizontal thinking and understanding apparent to your congressional delegation, etc.

Make clear to the Beltway pinheads that you're not as stupid and selfish as they insist you are.

Get CNN and Fox to stop calling Iraq a "war" and start calling it a "peace" that we're bungling. Demand "peace" answers and don't just call for pullouts.

Get to know your local evangelical community because--guess what?--that community is super-engaged on human rights and the environment and other key subjects of concern in the Gap.

Don't assume the Left has all the answers because historically it has a horrible record when in power.

In sum, network beyond your comfort zone. Diversity is left and right, not just left with a lot of different-colored faces, although that's a great start. The diversity of color on the other side is profound too, when you choose to engage them.

I am done ranting. One more question: my kids are home from school and are in my face like you wouldn't believe!

Garnet Psaltery [from the audience]: Why should only Americans fight?

HL: Alexander Daguerre asks: “In Pentagon's New Map, you're clear that the International Criminal Court should be used to try Gap bad guys for their crimes but that the Leviathan should be exempt. Is that still your opinion? What about the SysAdmin force?”

TB: Let me answer the "only Americans should fight" question alongside this one. Why Americans will constitute the vast bulk of the Leviathan force is because we have the only force on the planet that can do that sort of warfare at sustained lengths distant from our shore. Done well, we're talking casualty rates that will be very...

Kyrah Abattoir [laughing from the audience]: Like if other countries hadn't nuclear weapons.

TB: ... low, like those that the American public ignored throughout all our interventions across the 1990s, with the only freak-out occurring in Somalia (Black Hawk Down).

Garnet Psaltery: Oh thank you so much for disregarding British forces. And goodnight.

Quantum Kamloops: Yes indeed.

TB: The Leviathan force can't come under the International Criminal Court because if it does, then the countries involved in this activity (basically US, Brits, and the others who increasingly join us in Special Operations stuff) simply won't be willing to do it. Any more. All we need to do is make sure that the only countries that join us in Leviathan activity are ones that can police their own war crimes through effective military law. That's not hard. The SysAdmin must come under ICC purview, because it's not the SWAT team but the community police force that must effectively segue into the local nation developing that capacity on its own. Again, separate war issues from peace ones.

Thanks a lot for the opportunity to speak here today. Enjoyed it a lot. Kids home. Stuff to do. Signing off.

[Barnett disappears from the stage.]

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Hermann Goering was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, in 1893. His father was a professional soldier who rose to be the first governor of German West Africa (modern-day Namibia, where one of the main streets in the capital is still Goringstrasse). Young Hermann grew up in friends' homes and in military schools while his parents were abroad. (Historians and amateur psycho-analysts have had a field day attributing Goring's adult evil to his childhood without parental love. Of course, Winston Churchill's youth was about the same.)

Posted by: LadderLogic at Jun 22, 2009 9:43:17 AM