A CRITIQUE OF PNM AS A POLICY MOVEMENT
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 necessaryWilsonians 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.