Monday, January 17, 2005

I decided that with Dr. Barnett swiftly tapping out his sequel to The Pentagon's New Map, that I would try to review a few more of the important deleted scenes that were excised from that book. Because my first area of historical interest is the Cold War I'm going to tackle Deleted Scene # 1 "Rule-set Shifts From Cold War To Current Era" first in several parts.
My commentary will be in the regular text, Dr. Barnett's in bold.

"Let me offer a dozen examples of the rule set shifts I think we have undergone since the end of the Cold War, but which were not apparent to us until 9/11.

First and most obviously, in the Cold War the old rule was that our homeland was an effective sanctuary thanks to our nuclear stand-off with the Soviets. They could not touch us at home and we did not dare touch them where they lived for fear of triggering global war. When the Cold War ended, the misalignment that emerged was our assumption that we could play a pure "away game" militarily (i.e., intervene overseas) with no incurred dangers back at home, and that simply was not true. What we learned on 9/11 is that if we took the fight to them, eventually they would bring it back to us, and since no relationship of strategic deterrence exists between the U.S. and these new bad actors (exactly which society do we hold at risk to deter Al Qaeda?), any "away game" we engage in from now on will necessarily trigger a "home game" heightening of security."

This particular Rule-Set was actually rather short-lived - from the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis to 1990 when the United States began to gingerly interact with various power groups within the USSR itself. Prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis the United States had attempted, ineffectually it turned out, to help nationalist resistance in the East bloc fight Communist rule or instigate it where it did not exist. The Soviets lacked any similar reach until Khrushchev's reckless gamble in Cuba and had to be content with applying pressure on the non-communist outposts on the periphery of the Communist world such as Berlin and Korea.

After the Missiles of October, both sides sought to avoid any future situation where a direct superpower clash might be likely. The implicit deal here was acceptance of " plausible deniability" of proxy war using client states or movements so as to check possible escalation to WWIII. The Soviets, Romanians and East Germans trained the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhoff Gang, various PLO factions, armed the Sandinistas, the FMLN and the ANC, unleashed the Cubans on Africa and North Vietnam on Southeast Asia. The United States toppled pro-Soviet leftists like Allende and Arbenz and nationalists like Mossadegh. Under the Reagan Doctrine, we created the Contras and armed the Afghan Mujahedin and Jonas Savimbi's UNITA.

While many would ( and did) decry that dynamic the critical outcome here was that no crisis, not even the Vietnam War or Afghanistan, resulted in a nuclear exchange.

The problem was that after 1991, when the likelihood of global nuclear war drastically diminished, American policymakers were still adhering to the old, obsolete, plausible deniability Rule-Set which required underreacting or not reacting to terrorist outrages.

"That leads to the rule set shift that says war is no longer something you plan for in isolation. In the Cold War, the old rule said that if we went to war, it would be total, so planning for war was -- in many ways -- fairly simple, because you would not need to account for any simultaneous peace. War planning, therefore, was conducted with almost no reference to the larger world outside -- or what I call planning for "war within the context of war." The misalignment that emerged in the 1990s was caused by globalization itself, which generated levels of worldwide economic connectivity that soon dwarfed the sorts of wars that still occur. In other words, the global economy no longer comes to a standstill for wars, so planning for wars now has to take into consideration the rest of the peace -- or what I call planning for "war within the context of everything else." Truth be told, the Pentagon is chocked full of people with great expertise at planning wars within the context of war, but almost none with any expertise at planning wars within the context of everything else."

Warfare in the context of everything else is hard for Americans because it means limited war. We invented Total War on the battlefields of Georgia and Virginia when Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman bled the South white. Our preponderant might in industrial mass production and the planning genius of George Catlett Marshall that gave us the logistical art to wage Total War on a planetary scale. We are slow to mobilize but are terrible in our wrath and find it difficult, politically speaking, to wage war as anything short of a crusade.

That kind of war is not needed today, nor do our elite today have the stomach for the human costs accepted by Lincoln, Wilson, FDR and Truman but it is extremely foolish to believe that no war will ever be needed. We must become accustomed to setting concrete objectives short of unconditional surrender and learn to act before we find ourselves in so perilous a situation that only unconditional surrender will do.

"The third rule-set change involves how we define the threat. The old rule set said the Pentagon should focus on the biggest threat to U.S. security emanating from the strategic environment. For most of Defense Department's existence, that threat was the Soviet Union. When the Soviets disappeared, the Pentagon spent the nineties searching for a peer, eventually settling on China as the next best thing -- a "near-peer." But that need for a nation-state as the biggest threat blinded the U.S. to the growing danger of transnational terrorism. After 9/11, the new rule set says the Pentagon should focus on the strategic environment that generates threats, not on any one specific threat."

Since I agree with Dr. Barnett's argument that the Pentagon must be able to respond to a multiplicity of threats - rogue states, transnational networks, natural disatersm failed states- I will add one aspect. The fluidity of the Core-Gap dichotomy with Gap states not being able to exercise real sovereignty or control non-state actors does put an emphasis on preemptive and preventative wars - a point the Bush administration was correct to adopt but communicated exceedingly poorly. This kind of Ruke-Set cannot be articulated in such a way that Core and New Core states reasonably believe that such scary doctrines are or could be directed at law-abiding states like them. We need a Dual Standard Rule-Set in International Law and not the double-standard that exists today in the pretense that Gap states are actually sovereigns of their territories the way that Japan or France are sovereigns.

End Part I.

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