- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

One of the most remarkable aspects of American policy during the Cold War was the consistency of vision and purpose over 40 years as Congress and the presidency switched from party to party. With relatively few exceptions, the broad middle of both parties shared a strategic concept — containment — and stuck with it. The American people supported it.

That shared overall strategic concept has been missing since 1991. It is not that Republicans have one vision and Democrats have a competing one. Both parties have been struggling to articulate a strategy that fits the seemingly chaotic post-Cold War world while also gaining the cooperation of our allies, as well as the approval of the American public.

Even if we had total agreement on pursing the war on terrorism, the goal of defeating the terrorists does not constitute a worldview. We may well kill or capture all the members of al Qaeda, only to find others simply have taken their place. Terrorism is a symptomofsomething deeper, and we have to understand and then try to address those deeper security issues. In an increasingly interdependent world, we need an overall approach that can guide not only our defense and security policy, but also our economic, diplomatic and humanitarian policies. We need a bipartisan strategic concept that brings it all together.

Tom Barnett has proposed such a concept in a provocative new book. A professor at the Naval War College, Mr. Barnett has briefed his ideas to military officers and policy-makers around Washington and has fleshed out his briefings in “The Pentagon’s New Map,” a title that masks the scope and importance of his work.

He begins by drawing a new map that divides the world into the “Functioning Core,” those stable countries where there is little threat of war or widespread violence, and the “Gap,” where there is much violence and upheaval. A review of American military deployments since 1991 reveals that they have overwhelmingly been in the Gap. The Gap is also where terrorism is created and exported.

The difference between the Core and the Gap is the level of connectedness with the rest of the world. The more connected a country or a people are — the more telephone lines, the more trade, the more freely capital flows, the more mass communication and Internet access they have — the less likely it is that they will engage in violence.

Connectedness with the rest of the world is good and desirable. Disconnectedness is trouble. “Eradicating disconnectedness is the defining security task of our age,” Mr. Barnett writes. “With that growing connectivity around the planet, we see the need for political and security rules sets that define fair play … More rules mean less war.” As we reduce the disconnectedness by increasing the Gap’s contacts with the outside world, we shrink the Gap. Only then do we truly drain the swamp of the hatred and isolation that breeds terrorists. Ultimately, we eliminate “entire generations of threats that our children and grandchildren would otherwise face.”

Mr. Barnett’s theory has a number of implications for U.S. policy.

It means that we must succeed in Iraq, which has become “a showdown between the forces of connectedness and disconnectedness in our world.”

It means that more trade, especially with the Gap, is good. It does not require that we give away the store in trade negotiations, but we should continue to push back the frontiers of protectionism at home and abroad.

It means we should take a new look at our foreign aid. Does it promote connectivity or does it perpetuate stagnant systems where young people have little hope for a better life? Suicide bombers may always exist, but where there is hope for the future, they are seen as criminals rather than heroes.

We need a different kind of military from the one we built to wage the Cold War. Actually, Mr. Barnett argues we need two militaries, one that is high-tech and lethal with global reach, the other designed to help Gap countries achieve stability and to get up on their own feet.

We also need a State Department suitable for the 21st century, oriented toward “shrinking the Gap” and toward aggressively waging the global war of ideas. Even more important will be the coordination of all government departments and agencies and all that they do.

Some will attack Mr. Barnett’s ideas because they portend much change and threaten existing interests. Others will ask why we should care about what happens in the Gap. September 11 answered them. We cannot isolate ourselves, and we cannot allow understandable fear of change to prevent us from facing the world ahead. In a world where, as the president said, “a few evil men can kill on a scale equal to their hatred,” there are no guarantees, but we know that if we do not go to the world, the world will come to us.

We need a positive, unifying vision of a better, safer world if we are going to continue to ask the American people to sacrifice their treasure and their lives. Mr. Barnett may or may not be the next George F. Kennan. But he gives us a good starting point to make sense out of the random, chaotic, perplexing, swift-moving events and also gives us a positive road map toward a more peaceful, prosperous and hopeful future.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican, represents the 13th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Select Committee on Homeland Security. He is chairman of the Homeland SecuritySubcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research & Development.

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