SWJ: My Interview with Tom Barnett

The Small Wars Journal has published an interview I conducted with Dr. Thomas Barnett regarding his new book Great Powers: America and the World After Bush.

Ten Questions with Thomas P.M. Barnett

…. 4. In Great Powers, you delve deeply into American history. What lessons did you find in our nation’s past that the diplomat overseas, the Army colonel in Afghanistan or the U.S. Aid worker in Africa should know to navigate their mission today?

This is all about frontier integration. Globalization is like America’s rapid and aggressive push Westward across the 19th century: a lot of the same bad actors and a lot of the same tools applied. So don’t be surprised when the Pinkertons show up, or when the covered wagons are attacked, or when the Injuns head to the Badlands for sanctuary. Thus, the goals of our frontline players are fairly straightforward: create the baseline security to allow the connectivity to grow. Focus on social trust and institutions as much as possible, but co-opt existing structures whenever and wherever you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it sure as hell doesn’t have to measure up to America’s mature standards. This is a frontier setting within globalization-treat it as such. The good news is, the settlers are already there, with more uncredentialed wealth than we realize (see Hernando DeSoto), if you respect their existing rule-sets and realize they will change only when the locals see the need themselves, so no instant rule-set packages applied by outsiders, please. Finally, acknowledge that with growing connectivity with the outside world, you will see more nationalism, more ethnic tensions, and more religious identity. These are all natural reactions, and not signs of your failure, so patience is the key.

Read the whole thing here.

Special thanks to Dave Dilegge for providing the forum and to Sean Meade and Lexington Green with editorial assistance and astute advice.

6 comments on this post.
  1. Circle the Wagons «:

    […] the Wagons Jump to Comments This quote, from Thomas PM Barnett, caught my eye: This is all about frontier integration. Globalization is […]

  2. Dave Dilegge:

    Now linked from Foreign Policy’s This Week at War.

    Mark – great interview and thanks much – Dave

  3. Jay:

    It’s getting beat up pretty bad in the commentary of John Robbs follow up to his review.

  4. zen:

    Thanks again Dave – the SWJ-FP strategic alliance is an interesting ( and needed) combination, very happy to ge a link over there !
    Yes, I read that from John and have some thoughts on it and wonder how many ppl have read Frederick Jackson Turner’s "closing of the frontier" paper. The frontier, whether it was in Pennsylvania or Texas or the Hindu Kush has alwas been a cultural transmission belt. It works both ways.

  5. historyguy99:

    Great interview Mark!

    I linked it over at HG’s along with a couple of excerpts.

  6. zen:

    Gracias HG!