Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Continued Thoughts On The Writings of Thomas P.M. Barnett


The following is the conclusion of the essay I wrote in 2007 on the writings of Thomas Barnett. In Part I, I laid out some of Barnett's basic ideas, comparing them to my own ideas about "neo-Marxism" or "bourgeois Marxism." I then began to delve into some of my disagreements with Barnett, using American military actions in the Balkans and Iraq as case studies in the use of American military force in the post Cold War era. I acknowledged that Barnett's ideas worked extremely well in the Balkans, but appeared to break down in the case of Iraq. In Part II, I explore the reasons for the failure of Barnett's ideas in Iraq in more detail, and highlight the distinction between colonialism and globalization, which, I believe, is central to the distinction between the ideas of the neo-conservatives who dominated the Bush Administration, and who were responsible for the direction of the Iraq War, and the thinking of proponents of globalization such as Barnett (as well as myself).

The distinction between colonialism and globalization also dovetails nicely with my thoughts about the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. When counterinsurgency doctrine is applied in the service of globalization, it can be a boon to humankind; but it is equally applicable in service of neo-colonialism, in which case it becomes a malignancy. The best solution to the problem is the one I highlight in the conclusion of this essay, namely, to reject U.S. unilateralism in Twenty-First Century warfare. This is the key to ensuring that in the future American military actions are engaged in the endeavor of promoting globalization, as opposed to neo-colonialism.

Globalization and Colonialism In The Post Cold War Era (Conclusion)

Barnett’s support for the Iraq War is not based on any of the purported justifications advanced by the Bush Administration. Rather, Barnett supported the Iraq War as an example of the sort of "shrink the Gap" type of conflict he wants the U.S. to pursue in the post-Cold War era. Barnett viewed Saddam Hussein’s government as a good example of a malignant Gap regime that was harmful to the Iraqi people and dangerous to Iraq’s neighbors, both of which were unquestionably true. Barnett’s view was that with the removal of this dysfunctional regime, Iraq would have an opportunity to re-build itself and get on the road to Core membership, speeding the penetration of globalization into the entire Middle East. In all, Barnett viewed the American invasion of Iraq as an event that would set off a "big bang" that would radically alter Middle Eastern politics, with the end result of enabling the entire region someday to join the Core.
Barnett would have to agree that to date, things have not worked out very well in Iraq. Iraq today is more "Gap-like" than it was before the U.S. invaded. The Iraqi economy is not functioning, even at the extremely depressed levels at which it was functioning before the war. The country is torn by civil war. Reliable estimates put the Iraqi death toll at in excess of a half-million fatalities, both as a result of the American invasion and the ensuing civil war. Iraq has become a hotbed of terrorist activity. Religious fundamentalists hold far more influence in Iraq than they did before the war. The status of women in Iraqi society – as noted, something Barnett rightly identifies as a major indicator of a society’s compatibility with the culture of the Twenty-First Century globalized economy – has declined since the war.
Barnett sees the failure of the Iraq War as fundamentally a failure of strategy. Specifically, Barnett faults the strategy pursued by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, which could be described as a strategy that was all Leviathan and no SysAdmin. The American Leviathan force did its job by quickly defeating the Iraqi army and deposing Saddam Hussein. However, there was no large SysAdmin force ready to occupy Iraq and rapidly undertake the task of re-building Iraqi society (that "nation-building" stuff that candidate Bush disliked so much back in 2000). As a result, Iraq descended into chaos in the days immediately following the invasion, the attempts to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure were ill-conceived and poorly executed, and the evolution of an Iraqi insurrection and ultimately a full-blown civil war flowed inexorably from the lack of any SysAdmin force and the flawed overall occupation strategy pursued by the United States.
While there can hardly be any dispute that the U.S. conduct of the occupation of Iraq was poorly planned – and it appears to have been hardly planned at all – I do not agree that the failure in Iraq was solely attributable to a failure of execution. Even if the U.S. had pursued a different strategy in its occupation of Iraq, I seriously doubt that the result would have been much different. Indeed, there is really no point in debating the question of whether the outcome in Iraq could have been different if a true SysAdmin force had been brought into play, because the reality is that it simply was not possible for such a force to have been deployed in Iraq. Barnett concedes that the U.S. alone does not have sufficient forces to field a SysAdmin force of the magnitude that would have been required to do an effective job in Iraq. Thus, in order for the Iraq War to have been successful, the U.S. necessarily would have had to put together a much more substantial international coalition than the rather pathetic "coalition of the willing" that actually participated in the Iraq War. Barnett argues that the U.S. should have been accompanied into Iraq by large numbers of Indian, Russian, and Chinese troops, which would have supplied the numbers for a massive SysAdmin force that could have made the Iraqi occupation a success and could have staved off insurrection and civil war. Barnett argues that it was the failure of the unimaginative Bush Administration foreign policy team – Barnett has particularly strong criticism for Secretaries of State Powell and Rice – that was responsible for the inability to put together a significant international coalition for prosecuting the Iraq War, which again, resulted in the failure to field a large SysAdmin force capable of carrying out the occupation in a way that would have brought about the re-structuring of Iraqi society, laying the groundwork for Iraq’s eventual entry into the Core. Barnett says that such a program was done successfully in the Balkans, and if executed properly, there is no reason why the same strategy could not have succeeded in Iraq.
Again, I do not agree with Barnett that the failure in Iraq can be written off as simply a failure of strategy, or an unfortunate consequence of incompetence in the leadership of the State Department. I believe that in order to understand the failure of the Bush Administration to achieve anything remotely resembling Barnett’s "blueprint" in Iraq, one has to look at the real reasons why the Bush Administration fought the war, which in turn explain why the Bush Administration fought the war unilaterally, and therefore failed to field an effective SysAdmin force. Just as I do not believe that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq because of a fear that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or otherwise constituted a threat to the U.S., I do not believe that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq because it had the slightest interest in pursuing some version of Barnett’s "shrink the Gap" strategy. Rather, as I stated above, I believed at the outset of the Iraq War and continue to believe today, that the Bush Administration’s interest was in using military force to protect the dominant role of American oil companies in the region.
One way of looking at this is to ask the question why most other nations of the Core did not join the "coalition of the willing" in the invasion of Iraq? If I am correct about the true motivations behind the war, then the answer is obvious: most nations did not participate in the Iraq War simply because they had no interest to be advanced by participating. Most nations of the world were not fooled by Bush’s stories of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or Iraqi ties to terrorists. Most nations simply saw no reason to participate in a war that had no greater justification than the objective of advancing American (and to a lesser extent British) oil interests. This point is seen very clearly in the strong opposition to the war coming from France and Russia, as the oil businesses of those nations had enjoyed favorable positions vis-a-vis Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime and unlike the Bush Administration and its allies in the American petroleum industry, the governments of those countries saw nothing to be gained by regime change.
In sum, I would define the Iraq War as fundamentally a "war of colonialism", namely, a war pursued by a stronger nation against a weaker nation in order to protect the stronger nation’s control of a natural resource located within the weaker nation. In contrast to wars of colonialism, I would define Barnett’s paradigm of post-Cold War warfare as "wars of globalization." The wars in the Balkans may be the only example we have to date of a war of globalization, but even using this small sample, we can describe some of the fundamental characteristics of a war of globalization. (I think that the war in Afghanistan may also have had many of the characteristics of a true war of globalization, but unfortunately, Afghanistan has become something of an after-thought following the Bush Administration’s initiation of the Iraq War). In terms of objectives, such wars have the goal of removing a regime that is acting as an impediment to the development of trade and investment with respect to the targeted country. This objective will also shape the manner in which wars of globalization are fought. Since such wars do not have the goal of serving the narrow national interests of any one country, but rather, are intended to advance the interests of the global capitalist economic system as a whole, such wars will almost inevitably be characterized by multilateralism and a high degree of international cooperation. Of course, that is exactly what we saw work so successfully in the Balkans, and it is exactly what has been missing in Iraq. In addition, since the goal of a war of globalization is the establishment within the targeted state of a stable economic system open to trade and investment, the process of "nation-building" will also be an inevitable and essential part of such a war; thus, Barnett’s SysAdmin force is an indispensable component of any successful war of globalization. Again, this is precisely what we have seen carried out successfully in the Balkans, but notably not in Iraq.
These characteristics of a war of globalization can be contrasted with a war of colonialism. Since a war of colonialism has the objective of enhancing the narrow interests of the attacking country by enabling agents of the attacking country to exploit the natural resources of the targeted country, it is almost inevitable that such a war will be unilateral, not multilateral; this characteristic applies to the Iraq War. And, since a war of colonialism has the objective of exploiting the resources of the targeted country and is not concerned with otherwise opening the targeted country to trade and investment, the nation-building aspect of a war of colonialism is likely to be perfunctory at best, with the occupation of the attacked country being concerned solely with narrow objectives of maintaining a minimal degree of order in the targeted country and not with the re-building of the targeted country into a state capable of participating in the globalized economy. Obviously, these characteristics also apply to the Iraq War.
This latter point is, I believe, crucial to understanding why Barnett’s program breaks down in the case of the Iraq War. The failure of the U.S. (and the pathetic and virtually non-existent "coalition of the willing") to insert a meaningful SysAdmin force into Iraq was not just the product of short-sighted or flawed strategic thinking on the part of Rumsfeld and the other decision-makers in the Bush Administration. Rather, there was no SysAdmin force in Iraq because the Bush Administration saw no need for such a force, given the true objectives of the Iraq War. The real goal of the Iraq War was not the re-building of Iraqi society and the integration of Iraq into the globalized economy. The goals of the Iraq War were simply the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime and the insertion of a substantial American military presence in the Middle East in order to promote and protect the interests of the American oil companies and their partners in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. No meaningful SysAdmin force was needed in order to achieve these goals.
This is not to say that the powers-that-be in the Bush Administration are completely satisfied with the way that the Iraq War has turned out; however, I do not believe that they are entirely dissatisfied either. Slightly more than 3,000 Americans have died in a war that has now lasted almost four years. Viewing things from a cold-blooded perspective, that is an extraordinarily low fatality rate by any historical criteria. To be sure, the consequences of the war have been catastrophic for the Iraqis – deaths likely in excess of 500,000, destruction of much of the national infrastructure, rampant chaos and civil war, etc. If this had truly been a war of globalization in which the goal was the transformation of Iraqi society in order to enable it to be integrated into the globalized economy, these facts would unquestionably brand the war as an unmitigated disaster. However, accepting the conclusion that the Iraq War was a war of colonialism and not a war of globalization, these facts are of relatively little significance to the Bush Administration’s architects of the war. The U.S. now has a firmly-established military presence in the Middle East, the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are safe and secure, and the American oil companies are in an excellent position to take the lead in developing more extensive oil production in Iraq.
This leads me to a somewhat broader criticism of Barnett. Barnett occasionally is not sufficiently careful to draw the distinction between colonialism and globalization. As noted, I believe that this is the fundamental reason why Barnett was wrong about the Iraq War – he viewed it as a war of globalization whereas in reality it was a war of colonialism. At this point, it might be helpful for me to digress a bit and offer a clearer definition of these terms, as I am using them.
"Colonialism" is an economic system in which an industrialized capitalist country develops a relationship with a non-industrialized, largely pre-capitalist country that exploits the natural resources or agricultural products of the colonized country for the benefit of the capitalist organizations of the colonizing country. In a colonialist system, the agents of the colonizing power obtain access to the natural resources and agricultural products of the colonized state on terms that are highly favorable to the agents of the colonizing power. In addition, the colonized state becomes dependent upon the industrial products of the colonizing power, and the colonizing power is therefore able to force the colonized state to obtain those industrial products on terms that are highly favorable to the agents of the colonizing power. In the past, colonialism was generally promulgated by means of the exercise of military coercion on the part of the colonizing state against the inferior military forces of the colonized state. The combination of colonialism with military coercion is imperialism, which dominated the world up until the Second World War.
However, it is important to emphasize that colonialism can exist without imperialism, i.e., without military coercion and without actual political control of the colonized country by the colonizing state. An excellent historical example of colonialism without imperialism can be seen in the case of the American South. Even though the American Revolution terminated political and military control over the United States by Britain (or any other European country), a colonialist economic relationship continued to exist between Britain and the South long after the U.S. became politically "independent" of Britain. (To some extent, a colonialist relationship between the South and the industrialized North also developed after the Civil War, although that relationship also had much to do with the exercise of military coercion by the North, e.g., Sherman’s march, etc.). British textile manufacturers obtained cheap, slave-produced Southern cotton, while the South became highly dependent upon British industrial products, which British manufacturers were able to sell to the South on highly favorable terms – a textbook colonialist relationship.
There is a temptation to view the colonialist economic relationship too simplistically as one in which the colonizing power is the "exploiter" and the colonized country is the "victim." While that may be true in a broad sense, narrow interest groups within the colonized country can benefit greatly from the relationship. In fact, colonialism can be extremely lucrative for an elite group within the colonized country that happens to control the natural resource or agricultural product that is sought to be exploited by the agents of the colonizing power. Again using the ante bellum South as an example, Southern plantation owners became fabulously wealthy through the colonialist relationship that they enjoyed with British textile manufacturers. To be sure, the system was highly damaging to masses of the people of the South as a whole; the exploitation of black slaves was a self-evident evil, and the bulk of white Southerners also suffered under the system. Southerners were forced to pay exorbitant prices for British industrial products, and most Southerners could not afford to buy and maintain slaves and therefore could not compete with the plantation owners in the production of agricultural products. Again though, for the slave holders who controlled the Southern political system, colonialism was a pot of gold and they were willing to start one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of the world in an attempt to keep the system intact.
The relationship between colonialism and globalization is complex. Colonialism is frequently the pre-cursor to globalization. Barnett points out, echoing the views of numerous economists who have written about globalization, that globalization requires the free-flow of various factors of production, such as resources, labor, goods, information, and capital. While colonialism has its origins in an economic relationship in which the colonizing power simply seeks to exploit the natural resources of the colonized country, the relationship often leads to the development of these other flows that ultimately enables the former colony to join Barnett’s Core, i.e., participating membership in the globalized capitalist economy. J.A. Hobson, writing at the end of the 19th Century, noted that the driving economic force behind British imperialism was no longer the sector of the British economy that had benefitted from the exploitation of natural resources and agricultural products obtained from the colonies, but rather, the British financial community, which was looking for profitable investment opportunities throughout the world. Thus, while the British Raj may have started out as a classic colonial relationship in which British businesses sought to exploit Indian natural resources and agricultural products, India ultimately also became an important investment opportunity for British financiers. In addition to the movement of capital, British colonization of India also gave rise to flows of other factors of production (people, goods, language, knowledge) that would in recent years be critical to India’s ability to join the globalized capitalist economy.
Notwithstanding this relationship between colonialism and globalization, it is important to emphasize that the two are not the same; in fact, they are really mutually exclusive. A nation cannot become a participating member of the globalized economic system while it is in a colonial relationship. The reasons for this are readily apparent. The economy of the colony is based entirely upon the sale of natural resources and agricultural products; it produces no goods or services to be traded in the global economy. Most importantly, it is in the interest of both the colonizing power and the elite in the colonized country to keep things that way. The colonizing power does not want the colony to develop a more diverse economy, because that would cause the colony to become less dependent upon the colonizing power as a source of industrial goods; in addition, if the colony had economic alternatives to selling off its natural resources, it would be in a stronger bargaining position in dealing with the colonizing state. The elite within the colony, which typically profits greatly from the colonial relationship, also does not want things to change; if the economy of the colony diversifies, the potential exists for the development of other power centers and with them other elites within the colony capable of challenging the position of the traditional elite.
Thus, a nation cannot enter the Core unless it has broken free of colonialism. Writing back in the 1970s, Chomsky, in noting that Japan was then the only highly-developed capitalist society not controlled by people of European ancestry, pointed out that it was not a coincidence that Japan was also the only non-European nation that had not been colonized by Europeans. Indeed, the example of Japan is instructive in understanding the relationship between colonialism and the ability of a nation to enter Barnett’s Core. It is quite common for nations seeking to develop a modern economy to erect barriers to keep out potential colonizers, so that a nation can develop to the point where it is able to participate in the global economy on an equal footing, and thereby avoid being subjected to colonization. Japan is the most clear-cut historical example of a nation that pursued such an isolationist strategy openly and deliberately, with highly successful results. To some extent, the Communist regimes of Russia and China effectively performed similar historical functions in keeping out would-be colonizers, even if those regimes did not do so with the conscious purpose of enabling Russia and China someday to have functioning capitalist economies; I would argue that for the past 20-odd years, the Mullahs have also been performing this function in Iran, consciously or otherwise. The strategy of non-alignment followed Nehru in years following Indian independence is another example.
Consideration of U.S. history is also relevant. While mythology would have it that the U.S. has always been the bastion of free enterprise and free trade, historical reality is quite different. In fact, there are many similarities in the path to Core status pursued by the U.S. and the Japan; for most of U.S. history, at least up until the New Deal, America followed a policy of rigid political and economic isolation, not totally unlike that pursued by Japan. High tariffs were the key to American historical economic development; it is hardly surprising that the tariff was almost invariably the flash-point of ante bellum conflict between the colonized South, which was already in the colonial grasp of the U.K. and whose leaders wanted to keep it that way, and the pre-industrialized North, which was seeking to protect its developing capitalist economy from falling prey to European colonizers. Of course, I should note that just because I am pointing out the role of high tariffs in promoting historical economic development in the U.S., that does not mean that I am a devotee of latter-day protectionists such as Pat Buchanan or Lou Dobbs. I recognize that free trade among Core nations is a good thing and that a policy of protectionism by a Core nation can be disastrous, as Smoot-Hawley aptly demonstrated; however, U.S. history illustrates the point that for a pre-capitalist society seeking to protect itself from colonialism so that it can develop an economy capable of full participation in the global economy, protectionism can be beneficial and, indeed, essential.
In the contemporary world, the last major colonialist relationship that continues to exist is the relationship between the nations whose economies are primarily based on the sale of oil, mostly but not exclusively located in the Middle East, and the nations of the Core, especially the U.S. Not surprisingly, the nations whose economies largely rely upon the sale of oil are all located in the Gap; it is not a coincidence that South America’s biggest oil producer, Venezuela, has not made strides towards Core membership comparable to those made by Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, none of which is a significant oil producer. It is also not a coincidence that Venezuelan voters have been receptive to the anti-colonialist demagoguery of Hugo Chavez, and have not supported pro-free market politicians of the sort who have been so successful in the New Core states of South America.
The paradigmatic oil-based colonialist relationship in the world today is that between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. At first blush, this seems counter-intuitive, because we in the U.S. have all been conditioned to believe that the Saudis and the other "oil sheikhs" have us "over a barrel" and are able to exercise inordinate control over the U.S. because we are so "dependent" upon their oil. However, cutting through such caricatures promoted by the U.S. media, the relationship is unquestionably one of classic colonialism. The Western oil companies, principally American, have access to Saudi oil on terms that are quite favorable. The Saudi elite – which is a classic parasitic colonialist class (like Southern slave holders) that does nothing other than claim ownership of the ground under which the oil is located – profits handsomely from the relationship. The Saudi elite does not, however, use those profits to invest in economic diversification within its own country. Notwithstanding the countless trillions of dollars that Western oil companies have paid to the Saudi royal family over the years, Saudi Arabia remains a country with absolutely no industry and virtually no economy that is based on anything other than oil; incredibly, it also remains a country in which poverty and all of the other attributes of Gap membership such as poor education, poor healthcare, barbaric justice, and inhuman treatment of women, remain widespread. That is the way the House of Saud wants to keep it, because economic diversification could lead to the empowerment of other elites who might undermine their hold on their country. That is also the way the oil companies want to keep things, because a Saudi Arabia that had an economy based on something other than oil would have a stronger bargaining position. So instead of investing in economic development in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi elite instead invests its money either in the Core (principally in the U.S.), expensive U.S.-produced weapons systems, or in consumable items such as luxury automobiles, yachts, private jets, maintaining a level of conspicuous consumption Thorstein Veblen could not even have imagined. The American oil companies and their allies in Washington want to make sure that these wastrels remain in power; the saga of Mohamad Mossadegh in Iran is not a promising harbinger of what can happen to the leader of an oil-producing state that expresses an interest in using his nation’s oil wealth to promote internal economic development.
As wealthy as the members of the Saudi elite may be, however, they are really no different from the Southern slave holders – beneficiaries of a colonialist relationship that principally serves to benefit the agents of a stronger nation. Who is it that is really "over the barrel" in this relationship? Consider this scenario. Suppose some Dr. No/James Bond villain-type came along and made all of the oil in the world radioactive and unusable. The economy of the Core would be highly disrupted, but we would eventually pull through it by going on a crash program of conservation, building nuclear power plants, wind turbines, and solar panels, and dusting off those blueprints for electric cars. The economy of Saudi Arabia, however, would be wiped out without any possibility of repair; the country would literally be in the stone age. In short, it is the Saudis who are dependent upon the Core to buy their oil. For those of us in the Core, relatively cheap Saudi oil is a convenience that yields obscene profits for the oil companies and that enables Americans to drive around in SUVs, but if we had to do without it, we could make do. Ultimately, however, the Saudis do not have that choice because they have nothing to sell to the rest of the world but their oil.
The anti-globalizing effects of colonialism are not limited to the harmful way in which it stunts the development of the economy of the colony. Society within the colonizing state is also affected in a way that tends to work against the progress of globalization. Some of these effects are addressed in Kevin Phillips’ recent excellent work, American Theocracy. Phillips identifies four characteristics that almost invariably develop within countries after they embark upon a program of colonialism: (1) a tendency towards jingoism and fanatical fundamentalist religion; (2) militarization of society and a growing influence of the military in the economic and political life of society, leading to the development of monopolistic enterprises that profit from the military and effectively operate as "joint ventures" between the government and private interests; (3) increasing dependence upon whatever natural resource is the object of the colonial relationship; and (4) growing importance of the financial, as opposed to the industrial, sector of the economy, accompanied by increasing levels of national debt. Phillips identifies these characteristics in past colonial empires (Spain, the Netherlands, and Britain), and he emphasizes the prominence of these characteristics in the contemporary U.S., particularly during the current Bush Administration.
Phillips does not extensively discuss the relationship between these characteristics and globalization. Indeed, while I have criticized Barnett for a tendency to be insufficiently sensitive to the distinctions between colonialism and globalization, Phillips seems to ignore globalization altogether. Phillips does not have an evolutionary view of history in the Marxian (or neo-Marxian) mode; he tends to view history as cyclical, with the U.S. simply being the latest in the long line of colonial empires that inevitably fall prey to the foibles that will ultimately bring them down. Phillips does not see this process leading to the ultimate end of colonialism and its displacement by globalization; he seems to view history as a cycle in which some new colonial empire will arise, only to be brought down and replaced, and so on, ad infinitum. To this extent, I strongly disagree with Phillips. Nevertheless, I believe that his analysis of the impact of colonialism on the society of the colonizing state is right on the money, and his application of that analysis to the U.S. under the Bush Administration is entirely accurate.
What I think is important for Barnett’s analysis is the fact that all of these developments within U.S. society that Phillips identifies as taking place during the current Bush Administration are ultimately antithetical to the interests of globalization. Barnett identifies the principal threat to globalization in the Gap. I would submit that an equally significant danger exists within the Core, namely, the ideologues driving the policies of the Bush Administration, who are manifestations of the characteristics Phillips identifies. They are often referred to as "neo-conservatives", but I believe that a more accurate label would be "neo-colonialists." These ideologues do not share Barnett’s vision of a "future worth creating", in which the nations of the Core will work together cooperatively to "shrink the Gap." The neo-colonialists are interested in pursuing a vision of a future based on American military hegemony. They do not talk about globalization as a cooperative process, in which the U.S. and Europe will ultimately be as much or more altered to resemble the rest of the world, as the rest of the world will be altered to resemble the U.S. and Europe. They talk of the U.S. as the "lone superpower", a "dangerous nation" and an "indispensable nation", freely and openly using its military superiority to enable the U.S. to gain control over the world’s dwindling oil resources and at the same time suppressing the rise of any potential competitor. They are prone to see the current world situation in apocalyptic terms, with the U.S. "alone" "standing tall" as the only power willing to protect Western Civilization from the dark, non-Christian forces that are threatening the essential values of the West. They are interested in international cooperation only on terms dictated by the U.S.; the rest of the world is welcomed as followers, but not as collaborators in the processes of globalization. They are not interested in mutual defense pacts with China, a key ingredient of Barnett’s strategy for building a workable joint military force capable of shrinking the Gap and spreading globalization. They are interested only in pursuing strategies designed to ensure that China does not become a "threat" to the military supremacy of the U.S.
In sum, the current American neo-colonialists act pretty the same way that colonialists have always acted – unilateralists with no objective more noble than the achievement of hegemony. And so long as these neo-colonialists have the power in Washington to implement their visions, globalization will be hindered.
It is interesting to note that some of Barnett’s critics have often compared him to pre-World War I historians and political philosophers, such as Norman Angell, who had suggested at the beginning of the Twentieth Century that the state of European civilization had reached a point in which warfare was so destructive and so illogical that wars between European states had become obsolete; today, descriptions of such visions are almost always accompanied by wise-cracks about "famous last words." Barnett does not reject the comparison to past visionaries of global peace such as Angell, but he points out that nuclear weapons change the equation significantly. Perhaps, but the battlefields of the Somme, the Marne, Verdun, etc. give one pause in considering the extent to which the pursuit of global hegemony by the leaders of supposedly "civilized" nations can yield horrific results that no sane person would ever contemplate. What is most important to recall is that what destroyed the optimistic vision of universal peace that was suggested at the beginning of the Twentieth Century was colonialism and the drive by certain European powers, principally Germany, to achieve global hegemony. The dangers to the achievement of a peaceful globalized economy posed by the hegemonists in Washington today are just as great.
So, in moving towards a conclusion, this neo-Marxist will ask the question famously posed by the most notorious of the old Marxists: What is to be done? Again, I would turn to the teachings of my neo-Marxist mentor, Lee Benson, for the answer. The key element of the neo-Marxist approach is the recognition that Marx’s fixation with the class struggle as the engine of all social change was fundamentally wrong, at least as applied to capitalism. That conclusion applies to both ends of the economic spectrum, both the bottom and the top. Just as Marx’s idea of "class consciousness" fails when applied to the proletariat in modern capitalist society, so too does it fail when applied to the upper echelons of society, namely, the leaders of U.S. business and government. Not all of America’s business and political leaders are neo-conservatives or, as I would suggest they should be called, neo-colonialists. While traditional leftists are inclined to see the disastrous policies of the Bush Administration as being attributable to the service of a "corporate agenda" allegedly being perpetrated by the capitalist class in order to subjugate the workers of the world, I believe such claims to be unsubstantiated rubbish, outdated rhetoric having very little relationship to the reality of the Twenty-First Century global economy.
In fact, the neo-conservative/neo-colonialist group that dominates decision making in the Bush Administration represents a relatively narrow segment of the American capitalist class; the neo-conservatives are those associated with the oil industry, those whose ideology or regional backgrounds incline them towards jingoism, nativism, or religious fanaticism, and a spectrum of the Jewish community (and a very narrow one at that) tied, either by finance or by ideology or perhaps both, to hard-liners within the Israeli government. I do not believe that this group represents anything close to a majority of the American business elite. In fact, I would wager that opposition to the Iraq War among the top income earners in the U.S. is at roughly the same levels as one would find within other economic strata of society. Changing the course of current American foreign policy will not require a class revolution. All that needs to be done is to replace the decision makers whose vision is based in colonialism and the fantasy of achieving U.S. military hegemony, with decision makers who understand that fulfilling the promise of globalization requires cooperation and multilateralism. Robert Rubin is among the wealthiest and most powerful capitalists in the world, but in my mind, that hardly disqualifies him from being recognized as a great visionary. When future historians write of our times, they will see Rubin, and many other business leaders, as among America’s most enlightened decision makers who helped make globalization work.
At the end of the day, history is on the side of globalization, not colonialism. Even with respect to oil-based colonialism, we can see the handwriting on the wall. Not only is oil becoming scarce, but we do in fact have something going on that is akin to the "Dr. No" scenario I posited above in which oil becomes unusable. That scenario is working itself out through the phenomenon of global warming. International cooperation will be unavoidable if we are to move towards alternatives to fossil fuels, particularly in the nations of the New Core, where energy consumption is going to increase astronomically in the upcoming years. The demands of capitalist globalization dictate that the economies of these New Core states not be permitted to regress to a pre-capitalist state; if that is to be accomplished while recognizing the impact of global warming, multinational cooperation is essential and quests for hegemony must be abandoned.
While the necessity for addressing global warming will inevitably promote multinational cooperation, the resulting process of change is also fraught with danger. As the world moves away from an oil-driven economy, there will inevitably be significant disruption in the oil-producing countries of the world, especially in the Middle East. On the one hand, such disruption can be an occasion for much positive change, as the world moves away from this last bastion of colonialism, and the countries of the Middle East will unavoidably begin to build diverse capitalist economies not dependent upon the sale of oil, bringing them into membership in Barnett’s Core. On the other hand, such disruption will also inevitably play into the hands of groups such as al Qaeda who resent and distrust the changes wrought by globalization In the long run, globalization will lead to peace and prosperity, but in the transitional phases leading there, the dangers of terrorism will continue to be very real.
Such disruption in the Middle East will also inevitably increase the immigration of Muslims into Europe and the U.S. This process will have a far greater impact upon the lily-white nations of Europe than it will upon the U.S., which has vast historical experience in dealing with immigrants, even those whose skin is of a different hue or whose religion differs from that of the majority. I see a very high likelihood of increasing nativism and intolerance in the politics of Europe, straining the belief system of Europe’s current dominant left-leaning secularist culture. I don’t see this process as leading to anything apocalyptic in the long-run, but it will certainly bring about a very unpleasant transitional phase during which Europeans will finally have to come to grips with the fact that the world is not their own private oyster.
In short, we must recognize that globalization has its enemies, and they present a danger to the rest of the world. But such dangerous actors are not limited to the members of terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda. I submit that they are also to be found in Washington, DC and elsewhere in the West, which is the principal point I have labored to make in this essay. Neo-conservatives committed to fantasies of American military hegemony and American neo-colonialist control over the world’s dwindling supplies of oil, and Euro-centrists trying to whip up hostilities by promoting visions of an apocalyptic "clash of civilizations", all pose just as great a danger to globalization as the most committed, fanatical Islamic (or other religious) terrorist.
Barnett has produced an impressive body of work. He has helped establish a framework of analysis that can guide us through the perils of the current transitional era as humanity moves forward to a world of true economic globalization. Decision makers throughout the world should read Barnett’s writings. But a word of caution to Barnett: not everyone in Washington shares your vision of a future worth creating. And a word of caution to those neo-conservatives who believe that they have an ally in Barnett: Barnett’s vision of a future worth creating is not one that is consistent with a vision of American military hegemony.
Globalization is about international cooperation, connectivity, and relative equality among participants. China, Southeast Asia, India, the European Union, Brazil, a future African union anchored in South Africa, and a Middle East not tied down to oil – all will shape the future world of globalization just as much as the United States will. And rightly so. But that may not be the world the neo-conservatives want to create. Failure to recognize the dangers to globalization that are posed by colonialism and the hegemonic schemes of neo-conservatives will lead us into more disasters such as the Iraq War, and will only move us away from the future that Barnett, as well as this bourgeois Marxist, look forward to creating.

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