ON SYSTEM PERTURBATIONS AND THE SYSTEM BUILDERSCurtis,
at his new group blog, Dreaming 5GW
, analyzed system perturbations and the differences
that Thomas P.M. Barnett
and John Robb
have had recently over 5GW
. I thought I would offer my views on some of the points and questions Curtis raised ( his remarks in bold) in "'Global Guerrillas' as 5GW Warriors
". I'm doing so in two parts to separate personalities fromthe substantive issues:"Perhaps it is the Zen in the ZenPundit that has led Mark Safranski to ask
, “5GW Emergent — But What is It?
” while maintaining neutrality between the opposing views. Neutrality is of course the wrong word, since he views both approaches with interest and not a little agreement either way.
I'll use the opportunity Curtis provided to clarify.
It is true that I intentionally look for connections, congruence and consilient elements as a standard analytical approach but in the case of PNM and GG, as both Tom and John are dealing with military affairs " in the context of everything else" with " everything else" being a dynamic system, I think the approach is warranted. In my view, the strategic theories they have created are strongly complementary tools for statesmen and soldiers to bring intellectual order to a world that seems ever more chaotic.
Frankly, they desperately need these tools. The community of defense intellectuals is not exactly a large one and those offering imaginative, paradigm-shifting, solutions is a smaller grouping still. Obviously, I'm deeply invested in Tom's vision of shrinking the Gap as a grand strategy consistent with both America's national interests and moral values but that does not mean other approaches or insights require a pro forma rejection as if we were sectarian Trotskyite Leftists going after Bukharinite Revisionists at the Grand Sixth International and Coffee House at CUNY, circa 1934. There's far, far too many people in government and academia who are comfortable with the dysfunctional status quo for the * exceedingly small minority*
seeking change in defense policy to waste energy on pointless feuds. Dr. Barnett's work is an art of synthesis and originality - to remain sharp, the blade of PNM must be unsparingly tested against other ideas and GG is the whetstone.
The same goes for Global Guerillas. Dan of tdaxp threw the kitchen sink at it the other day on the issue of 5GW
, but as much as I'm certain that Dan's post irritated John, over the long haul, good theories are only improved by unstinting criticism like Dan's, while bad theories fade. For myself, I'm not ready to draw a rigid demarcation line between 5GW and 4GW yet; while I am one of the first ( perhaps the first) to suggest that Tom's Sys Admin might be 5GW, I'm pretty sure 5GW will run the tactical-operational-strategic gamut from destructive to constructive like previous generations of warfare.
We need more brainstorming, frank exchanges, open minds, healthy skepticism and the firsthand observations of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as veterans of other small wars. We need data and sound metrics to undergird our speculations; but if we do these things, and do them properly, we all have the potential to make a real contribution.
Coming Soon: Part II. - Thoughts on System Perturbations.