Tuesday, April 05, 2005

While I was lazing on a beach last week, Dave Schuyler put out a typically thoughtful post called
" Narratives, tribes, and The Pentagon's New Map" on how PNM theory needs to make inroads amongst core foreign policy-political groupings in order to succeed. With the second book by Dr. Barnett, A Blueprint for Action, cruising toward completion and realease, this was a timely discussion to begin.

"I've written before that I believe that the single most significant failing of the Bush Administration is its inability (or unwillingness) to communicate clearly with the American people. And I agree with Robert Reich (registration required or use BugMeNot) that, in order to communicate effectively, politicians need to frame the explanations of policies that they propose in terms of narratives that make sense to most Americans.

This isn't just true for the Administration, of course. It's true for the Democrats (as Reich points out) and it's true for Thomas Barnett. If he really wants to get the American people on board with his Pentagon's New Map approach to, as he puts it, “creating a future worth living in”, he needs to frame his arguments in terms of the actual points-of-view that have had historical force in constructing American foreign policy. Barnett clearly recognizes that himself when he writes:

Because until the Bush Administration describes that future worth creating in terms ordinary people and the rest of the world can understand, we will continue to lose support at home and abroad for the great task that lies ahead.

Communication begins at home and so far he appears to have been preaching to the choir: Wilsonians. But he notes something interesting in The Pentagon's New Map in the correspondence he's received on his Esquire article that formed the basis for his book:

The first basic response I would locate on the left, or liberal, end of the political spectrum. What these people are most upset about is the notion that the U. S. military is clearly headed toward “perpetual war” all over the Gap, which in their minds will only make things worse there. They advocate a sort of Hippocratic “do no harm” approach that readily admits that the Core is largely to blame for the Gap's continuing misery and therefore should rescue those in pain, but do so primarily through state-based foreign aid and private charities.

That's not a characteristic Wilsonian view. A true Wilsonian would have no problem with the use of force to “make the world safe for democracy” so long as we played by the rules. In my estimate that's why those who have expressed such outrage at the issues of detention of illegal combatants, torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, and extraordinary rendition (assuming they're sincere in their concern and not merely using these issues as stalking horses for opposition to the Administration or opposition to war per se) have reacted as they have. But, without putting words into Barnett's mouth, holding illegal combatants indefinitely without trial or counsel and the torture of prisoners (and extraordinary rendition) are not inconsistent with the “different rule-sets in the Core than those in the Gap” approach that he's advocating.

Those who hold this view (quoted above) would appear to believe that there is neither Core nor Gap but just one big Kantian parousia already in which case he has a major sales job ahead of him. It might be reasonably contended that this view has no particular influence over current policies and can be discounted. The problem here is that this view does appear to have substantial support among Democratic Party activists. If Barnett is going to develop real bi-partisan support for his PNM, this point-of-view must either be converted or marginalized. And without such support there's no practical likelihood for maintaining the policy over the long period of time that will be necessary

Wilsonians like Barnett would appear to be best situated for critiquing the Kantian one-worlders by couching their critique in the language of morality and holding their feet to the fire for moral turpitude. We haven't seen nearly enough of that kind of critique so far. "

I think Dave is dead on with the compelling moral power that can be marshalled by the advocates of PNM against the shills for the foreign despot of the day. PNM strategy is also potentially more appealing than Stabilitarian- Realist or Neoconservative foreign policy visions because PNM 's desire to " shrink the Gap"contains both a measure of altruism and a preference for non-zero sum outcomes.

The trick here of course is that in these debates there are always two audiences - the relatively small elite of foreign policy, national security, intelligence and defense intellectuals who are the system's insiders. In the second group is everyone else who form the outsiders. The second group lacks expertise possessed by the first group but not the power because "the outsiders" also includes most of Congress and the media punditocracy.

Insiders are most frequently Stabilitarian-Realists and Dovish internationalists who are unswayed by moral arguments as an impetus to American military intervention. The response of the Clinton State Department to acts of genocide, for example, was to prohibit State Department officials from uttering the word " genocide". Problem solved, in their view.

These sorts of people are swayed only by practical political arguments - primarily that action is urgently needed in order to prevent politically embarrassing defeats for the United States - and in particular - defeats that would tarnish their own elite careers. Give them that and heaven and earth will move.

Outsiders may have a variety of positions on foreign policy but their status as " outsiders" and less familiarity with the gritty details of foreign affairs permits them the luxury of idealism. Moral arguments resonate here because complex knowledge bases are not required to look upon a situation abroad and recoil in horror.

PNM will be an effective strategy for the United States because it is Good. PNM is a good strategy for the United States because it will be Effective. This is the equation that must be embraced.
"But, without putting words into Barnett's mouth, holding illegal combatants indefinitely without trial or counsel and the torture of prisoners (and extraordinary rendition) are not inconsistent with the “different rule-sets in the Core than those in the Gap” approach that he's advocating."

The arguement made above for justifying non-justice and torture by pointing to Dr. Barnett's ideas is simplistic, over reaching, and unconvincing. This premise that the general concept expressed by the phrase “different rule-sets in the Core than those in the Gap” is an extendable arguement for non-justice and torture is weak at best. I would personnally like to hear if Dr. Barnett agreed with this very shaky arguement. The unjustifiable new rule-sets that are currently in place with repect to torture and non-justice are simply an over reaction to the system pertubation that was 9/11. Once the truly supportable new rule-sets are in place the over reacting ones will be seen for the extreme measures that they really were.

The human race has apologized many times for actions taken in the past during periods of stressful change. What is going on today is simply the basis for an apology to be made in the future.

I think I can speak for Dr. Barnett on the particular point.

Based upon privately relayed communication from him on the topics of renditions, Abu Ghraib and torture. Dr. Barnett is totally against all of those policies and that is not what he means by differing Rule-sets between the Core and the Gap.

Part of the Core, notably the EU, would like " Kantian" police-model Rule-Sets for warfare that would make the Leviathan function utterly impossible. They have no intention of fighting wars and these would be good rules to prevent the US from exercising its military power abroad.

We can't have that and if we did then millions of Gap state residents would have to be left at the mercy of their tormentors forever. This is more or less what is meant by two differing Rule-sets in PNM theory. One for the Kantian Core states among themselves and another for warfare in the Hobbesian Gap.

I can also state that Dr. Barnett probably address those specific issues in print in the near future, possibly they are in book # 2, Blueprint for Action. Possibly in an article format. Either way I think you'll hear from him soon.

For my part, I've written on Abu Ghraib and illegal combatants in the past many times, condemning the first and advocating the military trial of al Qaida suspects for war crimes rather than indefinitely detaining them.

Not sure if Barnett would agree with me entirely on the latter but my research says I'm on solid legal ground ( moreso than either the Bush administration or their critics).
Nice post and welcome back.

Having read Barnett's blog for months instead of asking what Bush should do, I wonder what Barnett ought to be doing to further engage the public. CSPAN, his book and blog grab a narrow constituency. Esquire and Wired I imagine have a wider appeal and he needs to continue to broaden that reach to other audiences as well.

His recent criticism of Thomas Friedman probably does little to help him, while Friedman is actually reaching out with complementary messages. A great example is Friedman's interview with CIO Insight discussing outsourcing IT. See http://www.cioinsight.com/article2/0,1397,1777087,00.asp
We need to recognize those with compatible messages and not look for ways to offend them.
Hi Stu,

Glad you wrote - Barnett is impatient with Friedman - I'm not a regular reader of the latter though I did enjoy _The Lexus and the Olive Tree_ and tried to get in to see Friedman speak to the CCFR ( sold out unfortunately).

Journalists ( Friedman), historians (me), political scientists( Barnett),tech guys ( you, Critt) all approach these globalization issues with a different psychological frame in mind.

Academics in general often get very irritated with a "journalistic" approach ( this is actually a term of abuse among historians) which they tend to see as superficial and insufficiently analytical. Tom and I are in cognate fields, tech guys like yourself and Critt tend to be very good at seeing the logical interconnections so presumably, our perspectives are going to be more complementary than combative.

As for bridge-building tactics, you have a valid criticism Stu. Barnett and the NRSP partners have been forced to greatly accelerate their plans and as a result Tom and Bob and Critt are wearing a lot of hats at the moment and working some loooooong hours. I'm associated with their endeavors on a p/t basis but their projects right now are their full-time focus. The energy for reaching out/lobbying/winning MSM friends may not be quite where it should be yet. Bob Jacobson is quite the long-range planner so I'm assuming he has an agenda for these things down the road.
There could be significantly worse things than slighting Friedman. That said, the GITMO/Abu Ghraib issue really demonstrates the break between Core and Gap rule-sets. Just as Tom points out in Feb. Wired we need institutions to help us deal with the transition from Gap to Core. Until we find a just and reasonable way of dealing with these types of prisoners we will find ourselves totally unable to extend the Core's judicial rule-sets into the Gap because it will be seen as nothing more than a farce to be dismissed by the Americans when inconvenient.
Hey Brice, good to hear from you.

True. Building new institutions is a very commonsensical solution but the sticking point is the acceptance of de jure dual standards in International Law for the Core and the Gap. What Tom is proposing is going to produce squeals of outrage from the diplomatic set.

Gap states, quite naturally do not want to formally surrender their Westphalian prerogatives that partially shield the crimes of their rulers from external jurisdiction.

The Europeans would like to ratchet International Law global standards to their Kantian level to level the playing field between the US and the EU by legal fiat.
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