I read Thomas Barnett’s Esquire article, The Pentagon’s New Map, a little over two and a half years ago and his expansion of the article in book form a little thereafter. After I’d read the book a second time I posted my own commentary. You might want to go there and refresh your memory on my reactions.
In my post I listed a few of the quibbles I had with Barnett’s revolutionary view of the challenges facing American foreign policy he’s encapsulated in his book. Among them were
- lack of quantification and verifiability
- U. S. A.-centricity
- the connectivity of the Gap
I promised to present a view of my own, complementary to Barnett’s, that I’ve been referring to as the “Wave Theory of Core and Gap” (in reference to the wave theory of light and matter). In this post (and the subsequent installments) I’m going to try and explain my thoughts.
The graphic above is from the Esquire article and it’s the jumping-off point for Barnett’s discussion of Core and Gap. The lines he draws on the map enclose the Pentagon’s hot spots: the areas where problems have occurred/are occurring/will occur. The dark-shaded areas (which exclude China and India) are the Gap. Let’s consider a few other graphics.
This picture is a NASA photograph of the world at night.
This map is from Gates of Vienna’s Bloody Borders Project. Click to enlarge. The version on their site is highly interactive and provides more information on individual incidents.
This map from ComingAnarchy shows Barnett’s Gap overlayed on a map of countries in which companies undertaking major projects must carry war risk insurance.
This map from ComingAnarchy shows Barnett’s Gap overlayed on a map of countries with anti-homosexuality laws.
This map from ComingAnarchy shows ungoverned areas. I think it’s being conservative.
Each of these graphs is, in its own way, an attempt at quantifying the Core and Gap. Barnett’s map derives from a chart of “hot spots”—areas requiring America’s attention. The Gates of Vienna map counts incidents of Islamist terrorism. The picture of the night sky shows electrification. And so on.
I find these graphics tremendously suggestive. But when you look at them a little more analytically and discard preconceived ideas like the proverbial man from Mars when taken collectively it’s not completely clear why some countries are part of the Gap and others part of the Core. Or New Core. Or whatever.
Why is India New Core? Why is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Gap? Why isn’t France or Denmark or the Netherlands and any number of other European countries classified as Seam States or some other new classification indicating they’re in transition?
I believe that I have an answer to all of these questions. There is no Core. There is no Gap. And it’s not connectivity or globalization: Pakistan and Afghanistan are tremendously connected to each other and to other Islamic countries. It is Influence. Primarily Western influence.
I influence you. You influence me. Americans influence Frenchmen, Germans, Saudis and every other people on the face of the earth. Saudis influence Americans, Emiratis, and lots of other people. A Russian diplomat influences Iranian government officials. A Mexican migrant worker works a construction job in the United States and sends his earnings home to his parents in Mexico. A German company starts buying its products from a Chinese company which employs more Chinese workers who used to be farmers while throwing Guatemalan workers out of work.
Influence is not discrete like the lines or dots in some of the graphics above. It proceeds outwards from its broadcasting sources in waves. The waves are transmitted, repeated, interact with one another, and are blocked.
The waves of influence of different cultures can interfere with one another—like the squawk when you put your telephone receiver too close to your radio. When it’s severe enough these interfering waves of influence can lead to war.
The waves of the influence of Americans and American institutions are enormously powerful—so much so that they threaten to drown out even the other, less powerful but still compatible wave forms of the EU and its nations. Other countries and cultures are resisting that influence by erecting barriers to it and broadcasting influence of their own. The interaction of these conflicting influences creates instability.
In future installments in this series I’m going to discuss the activities, institutions, and measures that broadcast influence, the activities, institutions, and measures that block influence, and interaction between waves.