Prof. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s view of why traditional Muslim societies are so angry. This makes sense to me.
When globalization rolls into traditional societies — and those are the only societies left outside the Core — it has certain profound effects. Globalization is Borg-like in its integration abilities: it remakes you more than you can ever remake it. When it comes into traditional societies, which are pretty much defined by male control over females, it suddenly alters the character of some of our most important relationships and decisions: marriage, sex, births, family economics, the whole shebang. And globalization has proven itself time and time again to empower women disproportionately over men. That is a direct threat to the nature of traditional societies.
If you’re serious about ending transnational terrorism you’ve got to end disconnectedness. You’re got to grow the global economy in a fair and a just manner. And we’ve got to find ways of bringing in that one third of humanity who still have their noses pressed to the glass (some of whom are pissed off about it).
To grow connectedness, though, you are going to necessarily involve yourself in the tumult, the resistance, and the violence, frankly, that comes about as that global economy expands and overruns traditional societies.
Bin Laden is part of the resistance to the global economy. He’s saying in effect, your system is corrupt, it changes our traditional way of life, it asks too much in terms of lost identity and cultural distinctiveness and we’re going to fight it and do our best to keep a firewall between us and you.
We need to understand this and we haven’t. There was this sense in the 90s when the global economy was growing so well and so fast, that you didn’t need to care about the consequences of having a Gap, because — and this was essentially the argument Tom Friedman made in the Lexus and the Olive Tree — globalization itself would just sort of spread all over the planet, and erase poverty, and integrate everybody, and by doing so it’ll handle any problem you can dream up.
When we got 9-11, we realized that wasn’t the whole picture, that those who feel shut out of the global economy are going to be unhappy about it, and in their unhappiness, they’re going to send us their pain, and that pain can take profound proportions. 9-11 proved that the global economy can’t police itself.
Now we know that there’s no way to ignore the fact that a good third of humanity feel shut out of the global economy. That doesn’t make them all threats. What it does mean is that if you’re going to be serious about this trans-national terrorism issue, you’re going to have to confront the reality of that one third. If you want to attack terrorists by shrinking their area of operations, in a classic military way, to reduce their ability to move around and squeeze them out of existence, then you have to integrate the rest of the world that remains left out.
Prof. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Senior Strategic Researcher at the U.S. Naval War College, is maybe the hottest military thinker in the world right now. His work, which focuses on the connections between development and security, and in particular his book, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, has become deeply influential with forward-thinking members of the military. Whether or not Worldchanging readers agree with what he has to say, Prof. Barnett’s vision for the future of the U.S. military is worth knowing about.