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Barnett in the House!

Dr. Barnett made an important appearance today to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on the future of the U.S. Navy and the global strategic environment it faces:

Tom’s testimony today

I appear before the subcommittee today to provide my professional analysis of the current global security environment and future conflict trends, concentrating on how accurately–in my opinion–America’s naval services address both in their strategic vision and force-structure planning.  As has been the case throughout my two decades of working for, and with, the Department of Navy, current procurement plans portend a “train wreck” between desired fleet size and likely future budget levels dedicated to shipbuilding.  I am neither surprised nor dismayed by this current mismatch, for it reflects the inherent tension between the Department’s continuing desire to maintain some suitable portion of its legacy force and its more recent impulse toward adapting itself to the far more prosaic tasks of integrating globalization’s “frontier areas”–as I like to call them–as part of our nation’s decades-long effort to play bodyguard to the global economy’s advance, as well as defeat its enemies in the “long war against violent extremism” following 9/11.  Right now, this tension is mirrored throughout the Defense Department as a whole:  between what Secretary Gates has defined as the “next-war-itis” crowd (primarily Air Force and Navy) and those left with the ever-growing burdens of the long war–namely, the Army and Marines. 

….As someone who helped write the Department of Navy’s white paper, …From the Sea, in the early 1990s and has spent the last decade arguing that America’s grand strategy should center on fostering globalization’s advance, I greatly welcome the Department’s 2007 Maritime Strategic Concept that stated: 

    United State seapower will be globally postured to secure our homeland and citizens from direct attack and to advance our interests around the world.  As our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with those of others, U.S. maritime forces will be deployed to protect and sustain the peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance. 

Rather than merely focusing on whatever line-up of rogue powers constitutes today’s most pressing security threats, the Department’s strategic concept locates it operational center of gravity amidst the most pervasive and persistently revolutionary dynamics associated with globalization’s advance around the planet, for it is primarily in those frontier-like regions currently experiencing heightened levels of integration with the global economy (increasingly as the result of Asian economic activity, not Western) that we locate virtually all of the mass violence and instability in the system.   

Moreover, this strategic bias toward globalization’s Gap regions (e.g., a continuous posturing of “credible combat power” in the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean) and SysAdmin-style operations there makes eminent sense in a time horizon likely to witness the disappearance of the three major-war scenarios that currently justify our nation’s continued funding of our Leviathan force–namely, China-Taiwan, Iran, and North Korea.  First, the Taiwan scenario increasingly bleeds plausibility as that island state seeks a peace treaty with the mainland and proceeds in its course of economic integration with China.  Second, as Iran moves ever closer to achieving an A-to-Z nuclear weapon capability, America finds itself effectively deterred from major war with that regime (even as Israel will likely make a show–largely futile–of delaying this achievement through conventional strikes sometime in the next 12 months).  Meanwhile, the six-party talks on North Korea have effectively demystified any potential great-power war scenarios stemming from that regime’s eventual collapse, as America now focuses largely on the question of “loose nukes” and China fears only that Pyongyang’s political demise might reflect badly on continued “communist” rule in Beijing–hardly the makings of World War III. 

Read the rest here.

Tom has probably made the heads of many senior admirals explode today. Though, it must be said, this is unlikely to be the first time that has happened and everything Dr. Barnett said this morning was perfectly consistent with what he’s been saying and writing for years, as he made clear in his statement. It’s more where he was saying it and to whom. Coming down so hard in Congressional testimony in favor of expanding the Navy’s capacity at littoral operations at the expense of capital ship building and submarines is waving a red flag at the “Big War” crowd while executing a taunting, end-zone dance.

Ok, I exaggerated that last part, but from the text, Tom gave a very strong signal to the Committee as to where the Navy should be headed in coming years.


Evidently, Tom also caused the heads of committee members to explode as well. Galrahn was there at the hearing and had this anecdote:

My favorite moment was during Thomas Barnett’s opening statement, which I thought was really good. Dr. Barnett said something along the lines of “I want allies with million man armies and I want them to be ready to kill people,” which is strategically exactly right.

Well, what the audio and video won’t show is the reaction by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D), who looked to me like she was about to either feint or have a heart attack when Barnett said that. It was a priceless moment of facial expressions as she struggled to cope with the idea he was expressing. Honestly, I’m still laughing writing about it here. It was only afterward I was reminded that she is co-sponsor in the creation of a new government organization.

The Department of Peace.

Good. The whole concept of a Department of Peace amounts to institutionalizing antiwar activists on the Federal payroll to try and obstruct foreign policy and erode national security for the benefit of unfriendly and undemocratic foreign states. If Bashir Assad and Hugo Chavez want foreign agents to lobby Congress, they can hire K Street lawyers like everyone else; we don’t need to have U.S. taxpayers footing the bill to promote far Left political causes.

Tom also weighed in on his blog on the experience:

Questions from members are extremely specific to their pet causes. I considered that exchange largely to be a showy waste of time.

Only sparks: I raise issue of Navy needing to accept more tactical risk if they want to influence events ashore more, referencing LCS. I get a small lecture about “sons and daughters” from Taylor. I refrain from mentioning my family members now in Iraq, considering that a counter-grandstanding move better avoided.

Instead, I counter with logic of Army-Marine COIN: you accept more risk when you get closer in–plain and simple. The Navy has already perfected its force structure in terms of largely rendering itself casualty-free and irrelevant to the long war, so it’s just a question of “whose sons and daughters” bear the brunt.

Taylor thanks me for a response he clearly had no expectation of triggering.

Then Thompson, who panders a grace bordering on the sublime (decrying costs in aggregate but praising individual systems and platforms), gets pissed when I downplay the intell capture argument offered by Seawolf sub proponents (Oh, to need $2.2B stealthy platforms to spy off Syria’s coast! His example, not mine). He laments that it’s too bad that the American public can’t truly know how value such collection is! This is the classic insider put down: If only you knew the secrets I know! Then you’d not dare to question my porkish logic!


16 Responses to “Barnett in the House!”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    Isn’t that supposed to be "Barnett in da house"?

  2. tdaxp Says:

    Well said.  Agreed.



  3. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach Says:

    Chellie Pingree probably hasn’t read Clausewitz.
    Pardon me for alluding to a post on a different blog:
    S/F, as always!

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    Sounds like da Man left da House bleeding from all orifices.
    That’s what they get for inviting him in da room in da first place!
    This is great.  We live in an age of pretty lies.  Tom is making the truth hurt good and hart.

  5. Fabius Maximus Says:

    We can only guess at the future.  I suspect this will be amusing black humor for future generations of Americans to read.  It shows the cluelessness of America’s early 21st century strategists, clinging to their dreams of global hegemony as the economic foundations of our Imperium slowly burn away.  An Empire with no basis in cash flows, based only on paper bullets of the mind.
    . . .
    In any well-governed State they would laugh.  We should cry.

  6. Democratic Core Says:

    I don’t understand you guys.  I find Barnett to be one of the most radical thinkers at large in the world today.  You folks seem pretty conservative, so I would think that you’d have some real problems with a lot of Barnett’s ideas.  Are we talking paradigm shift here?  I hope so – the left/right split is incredibly tiresome and destructive.

  7. Lexington Green Says:

    Democratic Core, you need to get over your bigoted stereotypes about conservatives.

  8. Democratic Core Says:

    Lexington Green,
    Likewise I’m sure.

  9. American on its way from superpower to banana republic « Fabius Maximus Says:

    […] What gives this crisis a special degree of humor is our geopolitical experts, still nattering on as if we were Rome in the 21st Century.  To see this contrast, fantasy vs reality, compare the views given here with those of Thomas Barnett’s presentation to the House Armed Services Committee (Barnett’s statement is here; Zenpundit’s analysis is here). […]

  10. zen Says:

    Hi FM,
    Tom, for all his interventionist streak, is up for spending less on uber-expensive military platforms, avoiding regional wars with states like Iran and especially China, shifting intervention to cases where we have partnership with powers that bring actual fighting armies to the table and maximizing economic growth. He was called to testify about the Navy, not fixing economic policies, and the fact is that building ships like carriers is putting money into legacy ships that will have decreasing utility as missile tech improves and grows cheaper – kind of like building battleships in the 30’s as aviation improved
    Hi democratic core,
    Some of Tom’s thoughts are radical but more of them are expressions of traditional American policy going back more than a century and some of it is drawing conclusions from demographic and economic data – our Euro allies and Japan are shrinking in population, working age population and ability to project power while nations like China and the BRIC clique are modernizing and will have larger militaries and more say in international affairs whether we like it or not.
    For myself, there’s a lot of conservative positions but I try to be relatvely pragmatic as well as empirical. I thought Reagan was a great president but the GOP needs to move on; if Reagan were here he’d have the same values but different policy proposals that fit the times, not 25 years earlier

  11. Lexington Green Says:

    DC, I married a liberal.  So, I know the breed with great accuracy.
    You are the one who needs to get out more and celebrate the delightful diversity of conservatism. 

  12. Tom Barnett Says:

    I find Fabius’s continued references to my desire for global domination by America to be oddly detached from any sort of reality I recognize in my arguments or works.  I realize he’s got a strong desire to push pessimism porn right now.  I also realize he ain’t anything close to an economist and exhibits no background of somebody who’s understands or has engaged in actual international business or investment.  Not that any substantive knowledge is required right not to push pessimisim porn, b/c there’s just such a great market demand out there right now.  Christ, it’s all CNN does anymore.But his purposeful misreading of my stuff is just plain odd, like he’s stoppedr actually reading anything I write.  How he counter-poses my HASC testimony to descriptions of financial market distress is too intellectually weak to merit serious discussion.Man needs to get a grip.  Or maybe just a real name and a real background that we can judge in terms of his credentials, because his freak-out artist style–while entertaining–just makes him seem out of control.

  13. Larry Dunbar Says:

    "the delightful diversity of conservatism. "
    That is pretty funny, but I know what you mean. If there wasn’t diversity, Ron Paul would have won. Ron Paul was fine for those under 30, but did not carry well with the diverse older people.

  14. Lexington Green Says:

    I am totally serious about the delightful diversity.
    American lefties now call themselves "progressives" since they themselves made the word "liberal", which they stole, putrid by exposure to their crappy ideas and policies.  Whatever they call themselves they are a monoculture that demands absolute conformity, and uses any source of power available to impose it.  

  15. democratic core Says:

    I would have preferred a somewhat less ideological response from LG, I appreciate the response from ZP.  Perhaps what is so radical about Barnett is his willingness to look at things on the basis of empirical realities, not ideological preconceptions.  When I read ideologues on both the left and the right, I find it striking how divorced from reality they are.

  16. What Tom Barnett should have told Congress about the 21st century Navy « Fabius Maximus Says:

    […] Statement submitted By Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Senior Managing Director, Enterra Solutions LLC to the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, United States Congress, 26 March 2009 (Hat tip to the always-interesting Zenpundit.). […]

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