Call the Show 800-520-1234
LIVE: Mon-Fri, 6-9AM, ET
Hugh Hewitt Book Club
Call 800-520-1234 email Email Hugh
Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Thomas P.M. Barnett, Pt. 1

Email Email Print

HH: Special hour on the Hugh Hewitt Show, kicking off a special series. You may remember a couple of years ago, Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett joined me as we did a chapter by chapter study of one of the most influential books of the last decade, some say of the post-war, World War II era, The Pentagon’s New Map, which Dr. Barnett brought out in 2002. Well, Dr. Barnett has a brand new book out called Great Powers: America And The World After Bush. And we’re going to do pretty much the same thing. To remind you, Dr. Barnett regularly advises the office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as Special Operations Command, the State Department, Central Command. Pretty much everyone in the international strategic community knows, reads, and consults as they can with Dr. Barnett. And though he and I will not often agree, I always read whatever he writes, and try and value everything he says, because it is a voice of great experience. And Dr. Barnett, welcome back to the program, good to have you again.

TPMB: Thanks for having me, Hugh.

HH: Let’s start by reminding the audience who may have walked in on the middle of the this, the central core theory about the core and the gap that you put forward in The Pentagon’s New Map years ago.

TPMB: Well, it really started with work I had done in the early 1990s, if you can believe it, looking at crisis response by the U.S. military services. And what I discovered is if you plot all the crisis responses, all the named operations ordered by the president, you get this constellation that runs from the Andean part of South America, the Caribbean basin, includes all of Africa, in the 90s, it especially included the Balkans, obviously, Southwest Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucuses, and much of the Littoral of Southeast Asia. And I drew a line, literally, around all these little dots, about 150 times now since the end of the Cold War that we’ve sent forces abroad in named operations. And I said basically, or asked the basic question, what is it about these regions that keeps attracting our military power projection time and time again, because they don’t all have oil? We see a lot of weak states, we see failed states, we see dictatorships. We see countries, I came to conclude, that are thinly connected to globalization. So what I noted, and I made a fundamentally economic and rather deterministic argument, I said where globalization has taken deep root, where there’s lots of transactions, lots of travel, lots of foreign and direct investment, military to military cooperation, lots of media contact between countries, with all that connectivity, I said, there comes code, or rules. And the more rules and code you have, it seems to be the more stability and the less violent outbreaks of mass violence. So what I looked at when I saw that shape across the chunk was I argued the parts of the world that were least connected to globalization I dubbed the core, as I called it, the functioning core of globalization, basically the old west of North America, Western Europe, industrialized Asia, plus the three billion new capitalists in the East, rising pillars in the south. And if you look at the map, they’re all around the edges. And I said that’s the part of the world that is coming together. And therefore, I’m not seeing U.S. military power projected to those places. But the chunk in the middle, I called the non-integrated gap or non-integrating gap. And there I noticed, boy, when you add it up, it’s 99% of the wars, the ethnic cleansing, virtually all of the terrorism, the bad treatment of women, children forced or lured into combat activities, the genocide, all the U.N. peacekeeping missions, all the U.S. nation building missions, all of it inside that shape. And so I came to an argument that said you really need two different forces to deal with this advance of globalization into less connected parts, which is very destabilizing for the societies there. It tends to create a lot of tumult. You need not just the force we’ve already got, the leviathan that can wage war, and I make a double argument here. I want my leviathan to go in and take down bad dictators inside the gap. But ultimately, I keep the world’s largest gun because that and nuclear weapons kills great power war, and has kept the planet safe from great power war now for 64 years and counting. So I don’t get rid of the world’s largest gun, that leviathan. But that force is so overmatching to any potential enemy out there, we can’t find anybody willing to fight it anymore. So we go into situations and we find they won’t take on our leviathan. They wait until the war is over, then they launch the insurgency, and the criminal networks, and all the nefarious characters, the non-state actors that we find ourselves dealing with. So I say you’ve got to have that second force, second half force, the system administrator force I call it, using information term in a networked age. And that force is going to be more your ground forces, more your green, Army and Marines. It’s going to be all the logistical and medical, and people who bring the potable water and the people who can deal with the aid groups, and the people who can train police officers and all that. So when we go into Iraq in 2003, I end up writing the book in 2003 and publishing it in 2004, the first one, The Pentagon’s New Map. I said great, I’m always happy when we’re willing as a democracy to go in and take somebody down as bad as Saddam. But it triggered a very painful adjustment inside the U.S. military. And we finally see, thanks to the rise of people like Dave Petraeus and Jim Mattis, Army and Marine Corps generals respectively, you see this alteration of the U.S. military more into that capacity due to the counterinsurgency, and the stay behind stuff, and the kind of frontier integration stuff our Army and our Marines did, quite frankly, for decades prior to World War II. So what I’m arguing about is really in many ways a back to the future sort of outcome. Sure, I want to keep the leviathan. It keeps the core peaceful, rules out great power war. But increasingly, we need that sys-admin force, and we need that force to become very intimately networked with as many of the world’s great powers as possible, because it’s really in their benefit and our benefit to cooperate in these frontier integrating efforts, because it extends globalization, we all make more money, we all have better prosperity, and we all keep peace rolling along.

HH: Now Thomas P.M. Barnett is my guest, and we’re talking about the original thesis of The Pentagon’s New Map. Now many years later, along comes his new book, Great Powers: America And The World After Bush. And between the launch of The Pentagon’s New Map, which really pivoted a lot of people’s global thinking in the United States defense and national security establishment, and today, we’ve had two wars, and an extraordinary political upheaval in the United States. And we’re at the era, at the beginning of a new era. But Dr. Barnett, you are really a prophet of globalization, which you call the globe’s most potent communicable ideology. You acknowledge it’s in our DNA, and you say we’re at the start of a long journey of integration. But you also say in the first two chapters that we’re going to cover in this hour, that we really can’t go forward until we adequately identify the strengths and the weaknesses of the Bush administration. And then you offer up in Chapter 2 a 12 step program for making right what you said went wrong under Bush. Let’s start with what you call the seven deadly sins of Bush-Cheney. And I do, though, however, in fact, let’s start before that. You are not unidirectional. You are not universally critical of Bush. You lay out, well, I counted at least five things that you thought highly of Bush. I’ll let you articulate what you thought was successful during the last eight years.

TPMB: Yeah, and I’ll note, when I’m working in the Defense Department, and specifically in the office of the secretary of defense during the first Bush administration as a civilian, that’s when I write The Pentagon’s New Map. And because I’m for the war in Iraq, automatically I’m a neocon. I leave the government about the time the second Bush administration starts, I become more critical because of the post-war handling in Iraq and Afghanistan, where I found strong disagreement with a lot of the things they did. And when I wrote my second book, Blueprint For Action, then I became this more liberal critic. Now I’m back making similar arguments both for and against Bush, I don’t feel like I’ve changed that much, but I do agree, we have had a bit of a political earthquake here in the United States, and it informs the requirement that we have now to really think through what Bush got right, and what he didn’t get right. I like to start the book, as I do in the first chapter, saying what he got right. In the grand scheme of things, the mishandling of post-war of Iraq does not equate long term, fifty, a hundred years from now, that’s not what they’re going to remember about Bush. What they’re going to remember is he handled, for his eight years, the rise of China with great equanimity. He didn’t pick any stupid fights, tried to draw them out in terms of increasing stakeholder status in the global economy, got them talking, which is hard, because the Chinese don’t want to raise their head above anything, because they’re afraid they’ll take any sort of responsibility for anything in the world, got them talking about Iran, got them talking a lot more about North Korea. And just in that dialogue, we’re starting to find, I think, and you can get this argument from a lot of people in the State Department, a lot more trust with the Chinese about what they need from the world, what we need from the world, and how our interests are surprisingly overlapping. So I give Bush a big A+ on handling China. If he had gotten that wrong, nothing else he could have done right would have in the long term had the same impact on globalization.

HH: And we’ve got about a minute, so also add the big bang theory. By the way, did you think up that name?

TPMB: Did I pick it up? Did I make it up?

HH: Yeah, yeah. For Bush? The big bang theory?

TPMB: No, I was in the government at the time, a lot of people called it that.

HH: Oh, I hadn’t seen it before, so summarize your approval of the big band audacity.

TPMB: Well, you know, for forty, fifty years, the Middle East has not changed whatsoever. And so Bush basically says I’m going to lay a big bang on the Middle East, I’m going to topple the biggest Sunni secular dictator, and I’m going to see if I can get the board rolling on that basis. And if you go back and look at the spring/summer 2005, I argued he got the board rolling. He had things going on in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, all over the dial. But then he made the classic mistake in my mind. He got too fixated on nukes with Iran, and sabotaged what was a pretty good rolling mix of events.

– – – –

HH: I liken these series of conversations to what, if there had been radio in the era of Clausewitz, what a smart host would have done whether or not they liked Clausewitz or agreed with Clausewitz. I happen to like Dr. Barnett. I don’t happen to agree with him all the time, but I think everyone out there who cares about the world should be reading Great Powers right now, and it’s linked at Dr. Barnett, before we move onto the big sins…

TPMB: Sure.

HH: I do want to also note, you applauded the new old European distinction that Bush drew, or Rumsfeld drew. And you also applauded the strategic patience that Bush displayed in ordering up and sticking by the surge. Not a lot of his critics, and you’re a very forceful critic, have been willing to recognize that that was a compliment to his administration’s errs in Iraq.

TPMB: Yeah, the first one, the distinction between old and new Europe, I mean, that’s a basic point that I make with regard to anybody who’s joined globalization recently. Those of us who have kind of been in the West for a long time, we’re not so willing, maybe, to go out and fight and defend the global economy to the same extent as those who have just arrived on the scene. So…and Eastern Europe is more interested in sending allies to Afghanistan and Iraq to help us out than a Western Europe in many instances, because they realize what a profound thing it is to have that sort of economic freedom. In terms of the strategic patience on the surge, it disturbed me how long it took for the counterinsurgency strategy to be accepted by the White House. But once they made the call after the 2006 election, which was too late for me, quite frankly, it was incumbent upon them to get through the first few months where the casualties were going to get even worse, because you’re going to put even more people out there, you’re going to get them out of the bases, and mixing among the crowds and much more interactive. You’re taking on a lot more force protection issues, putting your people at risk. And not surprisingly, we lost a lot more people, quite an uptick in the early months of the surge. But by getting out there and being serious about we’re going to be in this together, and we’re not going to hide behind the wire, we’re going to bring security to every neighborhood we can, and we’re going to work with you on that basis, they did a very effective job of taking advantage of that Sunni awakening, and flipping the Sunni tribal leadership against an al Qaeda which like everywhere it goes, dramatically overplays its hand, and really angered the local population. So our timing there, fortuitous, but I do give Bush a lot of credit for sticking to it when it was going to be worse casualties for a while, and for trusting his military on what needed to be done. But I do fault him on taking so long to make the decision, because that was an extra thousand dead that really didn’t need to happen.

HH: Now let me ask you, you’re obviously very intimately acquainted with General Mattis, General Petraeus, and sort of the new generation of counterinsurgency, Co-In thinkers and implementers. But you are diplomatic in Great Powers: America And The World After Bush. You say very little about their predecessors in those key jobs. And has the American military flipped in its understanding of the long war?

TPMB: Well, it has and it hasn’t. I mean, I would say what you’ve revealed with that description is that the green side, the ground pounders, Army and Marine and Special Op guys, who have always been there, I would argue, they are definitely flipped towards this new reality, because they’re stuck with it. But the blue crowd, more Naval air and Air Force, there you’re talking a lot of big programs on record, weapons systems, platforms, that they’re reticent to give up. And this is the big question. And while I advocate down one path, I don’t pretend to know everything on the subject, or to be absolute certain with my vision. But it really comes down to how much you think we need to hedge against – Russia or China, versus how often we’re going to be drawn into these kind of Iraq-like situations. And the catch-22 on that argument is that the more you distance yourself from these hotspots in these third world or gap regions as I call them, the more you’re likely to see the Chinese or the Indians out of fear and out of their own economic interests, send their troops in to deal with their strategic interests instead. And if you let that happen, and then we do a counter response to that, then in my mind, you’re just replaying third world rivalries from the Cold War, which don’t need to be played out. So it’s a careful balancing. How do you get enough resources to maintain that world’s largest gun to keep anybody – Russians, Chinese, anybody, just very distant from the thought of ever taking us on in a great power war, but then simultaneously show that you’re serious about the post-war reconstruction. And it’s a real generational change. There’s the Colin Powell generation that really came of age in Vietnam, and then with great heroics, I would argue, saved our U.S. military after that, but did so with such an avowed distaste for the counterinsurgency and reconstruction operations that they just distanced themselves from those capabilities. That worked across the 80s, because we didn’t go anywhere and we didn’t do anything hardly at all. You get to the 90s, though, and all of a sudden, we’re going all these places under George H.W. Bush, Clinton sends them all over the dial like crazy, George W. Bush follows. So a pretty repeatable pattern, Republican, Democrat, Republican, and you see a lot of guys becoming very dissatisfied inside the Marines and Army saying we’re not trained for this, we’re still running exercises against Soviet tank formations at our big training centers, and I’m stuck trying to make this neighborhood in Mosul work. So it really took the generational change of the guys like Mattis, Petraeus, William Wallace, really tremendous guys, Nagle, McMaster, Ed Meese’s son who’s at West Point. There’s just a ton of guys who just got kind of fed up with saying we’re training for one war, and we’re really fighting another. As it often happens during time of war, they become the most famous and powerful generals, and it’s really slowly but surely leading to a tipping of the balance among the elite positions across the U.S. military, where the guys who are advancing are the warriors of this war. So they’re starting to accumulate power in the system, and you’re going to see more resources go, I would argue, to Army and Marines, and less going to that leviathan force that still, we spend so much between those two forces. I’m not that concerned that we can’t scare off any potential great power competitor with the force we’ve got, because we’ve got the world’s best military.

HH: Out of the box question, that transformation of the American military – 1., do you see it mirrored in the American intelligence services…


HH: And 2, is it being adopted within the American global economic elite so that they’re prepared for a fundamentally different world as well, because you do…a lot of consulting that world as well.

TPMB: Yeah. It’s always easy to bash on the intelligence community, but I mean I would say no in the sense that if you look at where we are sending people, and where we need lots of people who can speak languages, we’re still short on them, and we still have way too many Chinese and Russian, kind of old enemy analysts. Some of these guys can be put to very good use in terms of building ties between us and those militaries. We still have to keep an eye on those militaries. But we really lack the number of speakers for the Middle East. We lack the number of speaker and the intimate regional knowledge that we need for places like Africa, where we should be cutting off al Qaeda’s ability to spread over time. So it takes time with the intelligence community. It’s hobbled by a lot of secrecy. But they are making a lot of good and interesting attempts. I talk about a few of them in the book. So I don’t like to be too downbeat on them, but it is a secretive organization, and it changes in more generational terms, because guys tend to work there for thirty, forty years.

– – – –

HH: And I want to get to the sins of the Bush administration, but just very quickly, Dr. Barnett, on business, have they got this new world down in the American global economic elite?

TPMB: I would say yes, and I’ll give you an anecdote that I found very telling. I gave a talk down in Williamsburg to top 300 executives of the space industry, about a year and a half ago. And I went down there and I thought hey, this is a big war crowd. These guys do satellites, they serve the leviathan. They’re not going to want to hear about the future as making money, and China, and all these emerging markets. They’re going to pooh-pooh all that and say no, we’ve got to keep our powder dry and all this stuff. I’m sitting at a table, I think it was the head of a very major unit of General Electric. And by this guy’s reckoning, GE’s money in the future was going to be largely made in two key sectors – water and energy. And India and China were going to be two of their biggest markets. So as far as this guy was concerned, hey, it’s not a question anymore of are we going to make money in these countries, or are we going to find ourselves interdependent with them. That cow has left the barn. It is much more how do we cooperate with these countries towards common resource constraints. And that’s where you get an example of the intelligence community unfortunately not moving far enough down that road in terms of their thinking. You see this peddling of resource wars in the future as sort of an excuse to keep spending on the leviathan, when in reality, as I would argue, your big war force, even if you did get involve in resource wars, wouldn’t be that effective in the kind of locales you’re going to be operating in. You’re going to be operating still in the Middle East or Africa where there’s not enough water, not enough food or something like that. So even in that circumstance, resource war circumstance, which I find not a very convincing argument about the future, I still think you need a bigger sort of frontier integration kind of force like we had when we conquered the American West.

HH: Now let’s talk a little bit about the seven deadly sins of the Bush administration, great devices in this book as they’ll see next segment when we cover about the 12 step program to recovery. But lust, anger, greed, pride, envy, sloth, gluttony, people can always remember them by the seven figures on Gilligan’s Island. But roughly run down, we only have four or five minutes to the break here, what you intend for people to remember by the use of that device?

TPMB: Well, I didn’t want to just do some sort of jumping around the place, I didn’t like this, I didn’t like that about the Bush administration. And a lot of other people have done histories that are much more telling than I’m going to accomplish in about 8,000 words in this chapter. So being very Catholic, I’m very familiar with the seven deadly sins. I said why don’t I just look at these as character flaws, and say these are the mistakes, not uncommon to a lot of presidents, so not unique to George W. Bush. But in this administration, Bush-Cheney got kind of this cluster going in a bad way. You know, the first one is lust for primacy, as I put it, the assumption that we have to maintain our superpower status, and not allow anybody to approach us. So that led us down toward a certain amount of unilateralism in the conduct of the war with Iraq and in Afghanistan. And that kind of backfires on you, because yeah, American can win wars all by itself. The problem is it can’t win a peace all by itself.

HH: And then anger?

TPMB: Anger was the one on the demonization of enemies. I mean, that’s very common. We suffered a real sucker punch on 9/11, and we got mad, and we got into a, I called it Dirty Harry. It shows how old I am. Everybody else, especially in the intelligence community, calls it the Jack Bauer phase, where we say hey, it’s a dangerous world, we’re going to do whatever we have to do, these guys are bad. And that kind of demonization of your enemies reduces your vision. It scares people a lot, and makes you seem a little unhinged. But a good example, you know, we tended to conflate Shia and Sunni in this calculation of who’s radical and who’s the bigger problem for us right now. And to me, that’s not helpful to kind of compare and conflate Shia with Sunni, because that gets you down the wrong path in terms of interpreting what Iran’s trying to do vis-à-vis, say, what the House of Saud, or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are trying to do.

HH: You know, it a couple of days, Dr. Barnett, I’m going to spend an entire show with Vince Flynn, the author of the Mitch Rapp novels, which are like Jack Bauer novels. Does that, I am a great admirer of clarity about our enemies. Do you think that that clarity, if it’s overstated, hurts us? Do you think we’re in the position of having too much clarity about…

TPMB: Well, I like specificity.

HH: (laughing)

TPMB: I mean, Islam is not my problem. Islam is all over the world. Islam doesn’t cause me problems all over the world. I’ve got problems with people who are radical fundamentalists, okay? I would argue much of Islam is very evangelical. They want to spread their faith, and they’re very successful in doing it. There is a group, though, that sees the outside world as so sinful, they want nothing to do with it. And you know, we have benign versions of that like the Amish, or others who want enclaved existences. And as long as you’re not violent about it, that’s perfectly fine. Once you get violent with it, though, then you become a real desperate problem because of the challenge to freedom that you present. The closest thing we got to an Osama bin Laden here in the United States would be something like a David Koresh down in Waco.

– – – –

HH: Dr. Barnett, this is very useful. Again, I like devices, they’re teaching devices. This one is the 12 step recovery program for American grand strategy. I want to march through these steps. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot of time to read them, and I’m going to summarize. Step number 1, admit that we Americans are powerless over globalization. Can you expand on what that means?

TPMB: I thought I could say globalization comes with rules, but it doesn’t come with a ruler. I mean, we’ve been so successful in spreading our American system that became the international liberal trade order, that became the West, that became globalization. I mean, that’s a huge act of creation we’ve done the world. We’ve done the world a world of good to create all that connectivity and all that trade. But we can’t possibly control it. We’ve been way too successful.

HH: Okay, number 2, come to believe that only bipartisanship far greater than that displayed by our national leaders can restore sanity to America’s foreign affairs. And in this regard, I got the sense reading that this is a pox on both their houses critique.

TPMB: Well, it’s a pox on the boomers, who I consider to be the worst political generation that we’ve ever produced going back to maybe the 1870s or 1880s. And that’s telling, because I dare people to name me prominent politicians from American in the 1870s and 80s. Nobody can name any, because they weren’t important figures back then. Politics was a low profession. The real titans of that time period are the J.P. Morgans, your John D. Rockefellers, your Andrew Carnegies. I think we’re in a time like that today in terms of the boomer generation. The real talent of that generation went into technology, they went into media, they went into business, and they’ve revolutionized the world. What got left over went into politics. And I’m glad to see them lose their grip on the presidency.

HH: And so you don’t mind being closely divided, but you have being deeply divided on foreign policy?

TPMB: I don’t mind…yeah, well, we’re, as Brownstein argues, right now we’re very deeply divided and closely divided. So it’s hard for either side to rule. Back when Teddy Roosevelt of Wilson ruled, I mean, the Democrats or the Republicans, when they won they won big. So they ruled big, and created new rules, and they dealt with problems as they found them. The boomers are so tightly divided, I think we’re going to look back and we’re going to say they spent twenty years trying to figure out abortion and the end of a person’s life, okay, the alpha and the omega, and they didn’t spend much time on the whole life in between. They really argued on the fringes of difficult and contentious social issues, but they missed the opportunity to really put a lot more effort into defining this globalization process which I say is revolutionizing the planet.

HH: Now I have said on this program many times, Republicans had no right to get the kind of appointments that they got out of President Obama with General Jones, with Secretary Gates, and yes, to an extent, Secretary of State Clinton. What do you make of the new President’s attempt to get a new bipartisanship at least on foreign affairs going?

TPMB: I think he sees a much more complex world than Bush did. Bush was a classic hedgehog in my mind. He knew one thing and he knew it well, and he pursued it with great vigor. And sometimes that works really well like the first Bush administration. Sometimes it works pretty badly like the second Bush administration. I think we’re into more the fox territory. We need a president with a lot of different answers because we’re in complex times, and we want somebody who’s fairly cautious, because we feel like there’s a lot of tumult, a lot of change in the global economy, plus the two wars. We want somebody who’s going to advance our causes very carefully, think things out, and that kind of fox who knows many things tends to be much more comfortable having more high powered people around him. And that’s the difference between Obama and Bush in my mind.

HH: Let’s step ahead, skip a couple of steps, because we can’t do all 12. Once again, you have to read Great Powers for yourself. I can’t possibly, no matter how many hours we spend with Dr. Barnett, cover his arguments. Cut number 5, admit to the world and to ourselves the exact nature of our mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, that’s sort of like the truth commission, Dr. Barnett. Why do we need to do that?

TPMB: Well, we need to get clear about how we’ve traded, unfortunately, way too many lives, and not letting our, and not forcing our national security establishment to adapt itself to the world that it finds itself in, not the world it wishes it was in. I get accused of that a lot. You know, people say Barnett wants a world where we go around and fight all these little wars, and therefore he wants a military that fights his little wars, and he’s unwilling to contemplate great power war. Well, I make the reverse charge. It’s because we remain so addicted to this great power war mentality that we refuse to advance the cause within enough of our ranks of those to deal with the small wars, that we condemn these guys to fight under the worst strategic circumstances. It takes years for MRAPs to evolve. It takes years for the counterinsurgency strategy to come about. These things should have been done based on our experiences in Iraq the first time, and Somalia, and the Balkans. It took these guys who cut their teeth on those operations, their entire careers consisted of those operations, to finally get to the one and two and three star rank, like Petraeus, like Mattis, like McMaster and these guys, and they are finally forcing change, because they’ve been empowered by war.

HH: And then number 10, continue review our goal of accelerative democratization. And when we are wrong in our strategic approach, promptly admit it. Were we wrong in Gaza? Were we wrong in Palestine?

TPMB: Absolutely. I mean, those are really, those are places bereft of hope, and there’s almost no economic activity going on there. So in that kind of circumstances, they’re going to elect radicals. I mean, you get an America that goes through a long enough Great Depression, and we would have gotten dictators here. I mean, it happens to anybody when you put them under that sort of stress. And we’re talking there, generations of people that have been under that kind of stress. So yeah, to me, democracy is a dish best served cold. It comes with a big middle class, and it comes with an aging population. So you can’t expect young, overwhelmingly young impoverished nations to be able to grasp democracy overnight. You’ve got to work the income.

HH: Can you ever say that out loud? Can you declare sorry, democracy is not ready, that the West Bank and Gaza are not ready for democracy? Can you say that out loud?

TPMB: You can. I mean, I think you can, especially in that part of the world. I think it’s harder to say it with China, because we see the rising incomes there, and we see the advance. But I mean, I always say you’ve got to give them about half a century after they get their house in order in terms of security. I mean, America doesn’t have a multiparty democracy really functioning in the way we recognize it now for about fifty years after its revolution. Same thing in Japan after World War II or South Korea after the Korean War, or Mexico after its revolution, it takes a while for these things to unfold, so you’ve got to kind of give them the starting point, and then give them a couple of generations of time where people start to feel secure in an income and a wealth, and you start to get a middle class, because it’s the middle class that wants protection from the future. The rich want protection for the poor, the poor want protection from their circumstances, but the middle class wants protection from the future. And that’s where you get pluralism.

– – – –

HH: But before we close out, Dr. Barnett, first, thanks for coming back, number two, the big and hardest swallow for neocons like me is your understanding of Iran. And I just want you to put out there so that people know what’s coming, your understanding. They know what I think, but what does Dr. Barnett think about Iran in the years ahead?

TPMB: Well, I think we’ve got to adjust to the fact that when we made the choice to go after Iraq first instead of Iran, that we empowered Iran and a Shia revival that’s unleashed when you create, when you enable the rise of the first Arab Shia state in modern history. Iraq is Shia-dominant, 60% of the population. You also make Iraq an implicit partner in the reconstruction of Iraq. Whether you like them or not, they’re the closest, they’re the natural network builders there. So you’re going to have to live with an Iran, to a certain extent, if you want something to work out in Iraq, which I think is very important, and something to work out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the other side of Iran. And I think that’s very important. So I look at Iran now like an FDR looks at Uncle Joe in 1942. I may not like him, I may know I have to deal with this guy over the longer haul, but when I’m fighting wars on his left and on his right, I don’t choose to pick the fight with him right them in addition. Now the issue of nukes is the one that gets everybody agitated. And there, I’m just less impressed by a country getting one or two nukes, or even a handful of nukes than I am with other arguments you can make on Iran. I think we’ve had a long successful history of deterring countries like Iran. I would compare them very much to China in the ’70-’75 timeframe, going through the cultural revolution like they’re trying to regenerate in Iran, not very successful, very much isolated, and yet still trying to revive the revolutionary spirit. Is that a country I really think I can’t contain through deterrence? No, I think I can scare the hell out of them just like I scared everybody else throughout history. I can do it, as Obama’s camp indicated they might do it, simply by extending my nuclear umbrella to Israel in saying listen, anything comes out of your neighborhood in terms of a missile that we suspect has a nuclear device on it, that’s a good enough cause for us to liquidate your nation. You may get a lucky shot off, there will be no Iran on the far side of that experience. Now we made the same threat to the Soviet Union vis-à-vis Europe, and Europe had a much worse strategic situation than Israel has, vis-à-vis Iran. Israel has a monopoly on weapons of mass destruction in the region for about three or four decades, has a couple of hundred nuclear devices, has a superior conventional army compared to Iran’s, so I think if I make that kind of umbrella happen not just for Israel but for any Arab state, Sunni, in the region, I think I can successfully contain Iran. And I’d rather roll them up in Gaza, and I’d rather roll them up in Syria than make a big fight over the nuclear thing, because I’m just not as impressed as others are with, nor am I impressed that they will give it away to terrorists overnight.

HH: And that is why, America, you want to come back, because of statements like that – provocative, but reasoned. Dr. Barnett will be back next week.

End of interview.


Listen Commercial FREE  |  On-Demand
Login Join
Book Hugh Hewitt as a speaker for your meeting

Follow Hugh Hewitt

Listen to the show on your amazon echo devices

The Hugh Hewitt Show - Mobile App

Download from App Store Get it on Google play
Friends and Allies of Rome