Monday, October 16

My doctor the optimist, and Dave Schuler comments on Thomas Barnett's ideas

When I told the doctor today that I didn't see any use to getting a steroid injection given that it wouldn't actually heal the tendonitis, she replied that wasn't necessarily true. She said that she'd had her tendonitis cured years ago by just one injection. Who heals and who doesn't from such injections seems to depends on several factors. She is arranging for me to see a specialist; the appointment should be around the beginning of November.

Meanwhile, Pundita has not stayed completely off the Internet. I have answered emails and I got into a fun exchange this weekend with Jim Ellsworth that started out about Thomas Barnett's ideas then ranged to China policy then to globalization's bad guys (e.g., transnational organized crime and US 'legit' corporations that flout American laws).

I am so used to being on the Internet that withdrawing completely from it feels like I am agreeing to an amputation. But that is a silly and counterproductive sentiment, if I want the tendonitis to heal. So I am initiating a blackout -- literally disconnecting the computer until November 1st, which means not opening any emails until then.

We'll see how long the blackout lasts, but at least I can make it inconvenient for myself to get on the Net.

An email that got under the blackout wire was one from Dave Schuler in response to my recent posts on Thomas P. M. Barnett's latest book, which I've published below with my reply.

By the way, if you'd like to get away from the grind for a few minutes, take a hike with Dave and the Samoyed members of his family to enjoy the fall scenery.

"Dear Pundita:
I haven't read Blueprint for the Future but I suppose I should. As you may recall I have written about Barnett's Core-Gap model a number of times in the past and am, to say the least, skeptical. I like a number of things about Barnett's model. It's extremely optimistic and does provide a way forward. However, I also have a number of problems with his model namely:

> it's non-falsifiable
> it's not quantified
> it's politically non-feasible
> it has unachievable prerequisites
> it's redundant

The non-falsifiability is obvious. How would you go about proving that the Core and Gap simply did not exist on the terms that Barnett imagines? He'd simply come up with some additional qualifier, e.g., "Seam State", "New Core", etc., to explain away the inconsistencies. It's also not quantified. How connected must a country be to be considered part of the Core? New Core? Seam? Gap? As best as I can tell these are all self-referential.

These two in combination render the Core-Gap model theology rather than science.

It's a political nonstarter. Where will the budget come from? There are only two alternatives: a brand-spanking new budget item or it will need to come from State or Defense. There won't be a brand-spanking new budget item. We're already borrowing to the hilt now and the American people won't accept a new tax to fund an organization to build schools, hospitals, and roads in other countries while they want schools, hospitals, and roads here. To divert budget from State or Defense he'd need to convince current bureaucrats to abandon the weapons systems and programs they've backed they're entire careers in favor of his SysAdmin Force. I don't see it happening.

The prerequisite for his entire model is the world's acceptance of the U. S. military as a world-spanning Leviathan. It will never happen.

Finally, it's redundant. We already have a SysAdmin Force: it's called American companies and the American people.
Dave Schuler
The Glittering Eye "

"Dear Dave,
Because of the tendonitis I am not up to adding much by way of comments, but FYI Barnett is talking about adding a Cabinet-level department. (!)

Funding for development is the least of the problem with his idea. The funding burden could be shared with other governments via development banks, etc. But Barnett is talking about building a US bureaucracy to administer the SysAdmin concept that would necessarily be so large it boggles the mind.

And if one wanted to be cruelly dismissive of Barnett's idea, one could say that he is talking about a quasi-military bureaucracy that puts a literal gun in the hand of paper pushers and systems engineers.

However, you really should read Blueprint if only because Barnett has been so energetic in pushing his ideas in the military communities here and abroad (including China). And also because the basic idea behind the SysAdmin concept is going forward anyhow in the military, even without Barnett's input -- even though, as you (and Barnett) point out, it is being fought tooth-and-nail by factions that don't want to give funding ground for their weapons systems.

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