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Title: THEORIST CRITIQUE

 

Contents

Summary of author’s thesis and main arguments. 2

Persuasion of the theorist 3

Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities. 5

Analysis of the Future Operational Environment 6

References. 8

 

Summary of author’s thesis and main arguments

The author’s thesis is that the United States is going to war and will keep doing so because of the disconnectedness between countries that are working in support of globalization (the Core countries) on the one hand and those that create hindrances for globalization (the Gap countries). According to Barnett, the actions of Gap countries will always define danger for the US. The author argues that the US will continue to get militarily entangled in those countries that fall in the category of the Core group because of their tendency to derail the processes of globalization, thereby threatening to push the rest of the world backwards.

The Core countries are those that have put in place structures that facilitate seamless operations in a globalized world that is characterized by an intricate web of interdependence. North America belongs to this group. The same case applies to most of South America. Other Core countries according to this author include the European Union, Asia’s emerging economies notably India and China, and Japan.

The author argues that it is difficult to draw a fine line dividing Core and Gap countries because globalization is a complex historical phenomenon. For this reason, he puts some countries at the “seams”. They are in the Core but are vulnerable to the machinations of Gap countries. Some of the classic “seam” countries according to the author include Brazil, Mexico, Greece, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, and Morocco.

According to the author, the US will continue going to war in countries that fall in the category of “the Gap”.  The author provides several reasons to support this position. The first explanation is that the Gap constitutes problem areas for the US, hence the need for the country to go to war there. Secondly, most US military responses since end of Cold War have been concentrated in countries that are disconnected from the growing Core. The US has shown a tendency to send its forces at some point to countries that are moving away from globalization or derailing it. Conversely, it has shown a tendency to refrain from sending its troops to those countries that are functioning well in the context of globalization. Thirdly, since 9/11 the US perceives a strong need to focus on “here-and-now” threats posed by the Gap countries. Lastly, the US has demonstrated that its biggest export, particularly to fledgling governments in the Gap, is security in the sense of engagement in military operations aimed at preventing mass violence.

 Persuasion of the theorist

The theorist is persuasive in efforts to explain why the US will continue going to war. However, he fails to put into consideration the possibility of drastic changes with the capability to change the position of the US as the dominant global player in security issues. The country that comes to mind in today’s discussions of an emerging superpower is China. By 2017, China’s economy will have surpassed that of the US in purchasing power parity terms.[1] This speaks volumes about China’s potential to build a military capacity stronger US’s. Therefore, the possibility of China overtaking the US as the leading global player in security issues should not be overlooked.

The author is persuasive in the way he categorizes countries into the Core and the Gap. However, the main problem is that there is no clear line for separating the two. Similarly, the methodology used to categorize countries has not been presented. The author talks about the tendency by the Gap countries to act in ways that hinder globalization but does not provide much explanation. For instance, not all Core countries are home to terror networks. Furthermore, it may be worthwhile to point out that in the world of globalization, some of the countries that support terror do so because of their circumstances.  For example, South Africa’s African National Congress, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, who later became the country’s founding president in 1994, was compelled by circumstances to form friendship with countries that the US perceived to be terror-affiliated such as Cuba and Libya. In fact, the United States did not remove Nelson Mandela from its terror watch list until 2008. This shows that a country that is perceived by the US to be a state sponsor of terrorism, hence listed in the Gap group, may indeed qualify to be a Core country. In other words, the US has a penchant for  categorizing countries as state sponsors of terrorism simply because the country’s leader is a staunch critic and enemy of the United States.

The author persuades the reader that it is impossible for the US not to have a hand in all regional conflicts. However, he fails to emphasize that it will not always have the lead in resolving these conflicts. For example, in 1993, the US failed to resolve the conflict in Somalia by end up its mission there in a humiliating defeat. Since 1991, Somalia has been the biggest source of instability in the horn of Africa. The country has been a breeding ground for terrorist groups with strong links to Al Qaeda such as Al-Shabaab. In 2012, Kenya, Somalia’s Western neighbor, launched a success military incursion that dislodged Al-Shabaab rule from the Somalia’s port city of Kismayu. Since the departure of the US forces in 1993, Kismayu and indeed most of Somalia has been under the control of Al-Shabaab. In light this information, the author seems not to dwell much on areas where the US makes glaring mistakes by underrating the strategic abilities of regional allies, all in the name of national interest. The author should have stated that by the 2030s, each region will have regional organizations and local economic powers capable of leadership.[2]

 Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities

The theorist describes threats based on whether a country has become globalized. The author assumes that the biggest threat to the US is posed by those countries where globalization has not taken root. This view seems to miss an important point: that of the fear of peers of the United States in terms of development. The author does not see China as a major threat to the US. He does not foresee a situation where China may become the new Soviet Union in a potential resurgence of Cold War. He creates the impression that even if such a threat emerged it would not provide a sufficient motivation for the US to go to war. This view is contrary to the one given by the National Intelligence Council regarding global trends; this report describes a scenario where the world is at a critical juncture in the history of humankind where widely contrasting futures are possible.[3]

Meanwhile, Barnett acknowledges that widely contrasting futures are possible in today’s world because of the rapid changes that characterize the present stage of the globalization process. He gives the example of China, which was nowhere close to global economic dominance during the 1990s. Less than two decades later, the country is on the brink of becoming the world’s largest economy. In such a scenario, it becomes extremely difficult to predict which countries the US will go to war with. The difficulties arise because there are simply too many megatrends, changes in human agency, and game-changers. On the other hand, some opportunities are also conceivable in the sense that the US continues to be in a strong position to export security to Gap countries that are willing to join the Core.

Analysis of the Future Operational Environment

One of the ways in which the theory relates to future operational environment (OE) is in terms of where the US forces might deploy. According to Barnett, the forces are going to deploy in countries that stand in the way of globalization. This theory in some way contradicts conventional assumptions regarding future operating environment. One of these assumptions is that the United States will inevitably contain all enemies who seek to attack the country or to undermine its economic and political stability.[4] Opposition to globalization constitutes just one of the ways in which America’s political and economic stability may be threatened.

The theory also influences the type of enemy the US forces might fight. A major assumption in operational environment as of now and the 2030s is that the US must always be prepared to go to war with either a powerful state or a hostile alliance of several states.[5] Barnett’s theory contradicts this assumption by ruling out a situation where the US may go to war with a powerful state, presumably one that has fully embraced globalization. According to him, the US will go to war with a country that supports terror networks, employs counter-globalization tactics, and is vulnerable to mass violence. All these factors will pose a threat to the position of the US as a provider of strategic security in the modern world, hence the need to go to war.

In terms of issues that might add to the complexity of military operations, the theory provides a vivid picture of the uncertainties that the US might confront in efforts to identify and fight enemies. One cause of uncertainty is the dynamism that characterizes globalization.[6] Another source of complexity is the growing potential by the US to face attacks from unconventional groups and terrorist networks. In the globalized world, non-state transnational actors are by far more powerful than state actors.[7] Barnett’s theory fails to acknowledge this fact by analyzing the future of US strategic security and complexity of military operations based on the traditional assumption that the state is the primary source of legitimate power in international relations.

 

References

ADP (Army Doctrine Reference Publication) 3-0. Unified Land Operations, Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2012.

Joint Publications 3-0. Joint Operations, Washington, DC: US Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011.

NIC Global Trends Report 2025. Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. New York: National Intelligence Council, 2012.

United States Joint Forces Command. The Joint Operating Environment, Suffolk: United States Joint Forces Command, 2010.

End Notes

[1] NIC Global Trends Report 2025. Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. New York: National Intelligence Council, 2012.

[2] United States Joint Forces Command. The Joint Operating Environment, Suffolk: United States Joint Forces Command, 2010.

[3] NIC Global Trends Report 2025. Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. New York: National Intelligence Council, 2012.

[4] United States Joint Forces Command. The Joint Operating Environment, Suffolk: United States Joint Forces Command, 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ADP (Army Doctrine Reference Publication) 3-0. Unified Land Operations, Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2012.

[7] Joint Publications 3-0. Joint Operations, Washington, DC: US Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011.

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