HH: As I promised, today we conclude a series of conversations that we have been having over the past two months with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of the brand new book, Great Powers: America And The World After Bush, Dr. Barnett also the author of The Pentagon’s New Map, such a very significant book in refashioning thinking within the Pentagon and among the national security elite in Washington, D.C. He has followed on now with a book that looks far into the future as well as into the recent past, and says where we go and how are we going to get there and what’s it going to look like. And in these seven conversations that we’ve had, the response has been overwhelming, positive, energized. And today, we’re going to spend two hours, because the conclusion to Great Powers, the chapter we’re going to be talking about today as well as the Coda and the Acknowledgements really packs a punch. So much so that people that sat next to me on a airplane flight coming back from East Coast to West could not believe how engrossed I was, and I had to explain this is sort of the culmination of two books, really three if you include Blueprint. So Dr. Barnett, thanks for the time tonight. Let’s start with a couple of questions here. I like this book a lot, even though we disagree about some things, because you are like I am, essentially an optimist about the world. You cannot introduce three billion new capitalists to the world, arm many of them with technology that didn’t even exist ten years ago, and not expect capitalism’s inherent vitality to reshape the globe.
TPMB: Well, these are the best problems we’ve had yet in human history, I would argue. It beats the heck out of world wars in the first half of the 20th Century. I mean, we’re looking at problem of success, not failure here.
HH: But one thing, and I’ll put this out in front, because we’re going to have a lot of time to talk today. I am, the only…where we part is I am more concerned about some of the problems than you are. For example, Iranian militancy, North Korean instability, the inability to absorb and assimilate Islamist radicalism in Europe, the Mark Steyn issue – you recognize them all, but you, I’m more of a pessimist about our willingness to deal with them so that that optimism can come to the fore.
TPMB: Well, and I understand there’s plenty of reasons to be pessimistic on all those scores. I mean, we haven’t had a good relationship with Iran for quite some time, North Korea seems like a problem that’ll never go away, and imagining a Europe that assimilates large numbers of Muslims, that’s pretty hard to imagine for a lot of people. It’s hard to imagine a Germany that’s not dominated by Germans. We’re different in that way, because we’ve already achieved and are achieving within the next twenty years an America that’s, you know, in Fareed Zakaria’s kind of vernacular, a post-American America in the sense that our Anglo-Saxon European background will no longer be a majority within 20 years. And that’s a situation that’s already, as I like to say, being negotiated in preschools across America right now, because it’s here in terms of our 0-5 age cohort. So you know, I look at these problems, I think they’re all manageable, especially Iran and North Korea, because their big concerns are nuclear. And I like to cite the fact that we’ve dealt with a lot of crazy powers over time with nuclear weapons, and have managed to move past their initial periods of danger. I see some real opportunity for strategic peace in the Middle East, ironically enough, on the basis of Iran reaching nuclear capacity, because I think it’s going to trigger some outcomes that have to happen, and will be forced to happen by outsiders concerned about that development. North Korea, to me, is just a tailbone from the Cold War. There’s no reason for that country to exist, and I look at that situation as just something to be mopped up at the appropriate time, which may come in the first Obama term, and may be a bit of a surprise in that regard.
HH: Yesterday, I spoke with Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic, prolific author like you…
HH: …very, great traveler. He is also concerned that India has this revaunchist, dynamic nationalism, Hindu nationalism, and here, smack in the last chapter of your book is about religion. I want to spend a lot of time talking about that. But he’s looking at the dark downside of India. You’re praising it as being this amazing acceleration of capitalism.
TPMB: And what, he’s making an argument they want Pakistan back or anything like that?
HH: That the nationalists are, that the ethnic violence and the tension underneath the country are growing dramatically.
TPMB: Well, yeah. I mean, they’ve always had a much higher tolerance for ethnic tension inside India than we have recognized from the outside. I mean, it’s always been a fairly tense situation. They have the world’s second largest Muslim population within their borers. But tension on a racial basis or a religion basis is part and parcel of sort of this multinational experiment called the United States. We’ve had it throughout our history at very high degrees. It’s ebbed and waned. Typically during economic downturns it gets worse. But typically, differences are smoothed over when economic times are good. So focusing on the spread of globalization and the health of the global economy usually addresses a lot of these issues, but they certainly do come to fore during economic crises, and we certainly are in one now. So not surprisingly, a lot of the people who focus on those kinds of things, you’re hearing a lot more from them, and their words take on a lot more meaning right now.
HH: Let’s dive into the religion issue. 12 years ago, I did an 8-part series for PBS on faith in America, and predicted at that time what you put here, that we are on the cusp of the greatest awakening in history, not just Christian awakening, but of all serious spiritual following. Explain to people how you came to you conclusion.
TPMB: Well, there’s, I mean there’s the natural tendency of people to think about their identity much more intensely when they’re connecting up with others. As I like to say when I was a kid growing up in Southwest Wisconsin, I couldn’t have possibly been a racist, because as I like to say, we had both kinds of people in Southwest Wisconsin. We had the Dutch and the Deutsch. So I mean, our huge differences were like Protestant, Methodist, Catholic. That was like the extent of our vast differences, and whether we liked our potato salad cold or hot. I mean, when globalization really kicks in, and you see a lot of connectivity developing across regions of the world that had previously been disconnected from a lot of intense connectivity in the past, or had it inflicted upon them in a colonial manner, a lot of identities get challenged. You can’t really be a racist until you start mixing up with people other than yourself. Then you start questioning your identity vis-à-vis others. So it’s natural to me in terms of the heightened connectivity and the spread of globalization the last 20 years. On that basis alone, you’re going to have a lot more racism and nationalism. And this is always thrown in my face as sort of the ‘Barnett says if we all connect, it’ll all be peaceful instantly.’ And my reply is always, you’ve got to read the fine print on that one. When you connect, everything goes up in terms of racism and nationalism at first. You get a reaction, then you get a tempering over time.
HH: You know, what’s interesting, if you asked your serious readers to pick the most important paragraph of all your books, and you’ve got a lot, just pick one, the one that…it would be Page 395. I want to read it for the audience, and we’ll talk about it. “In many ways, multiculturalism is simply globalization inverted or with training wheels, I’m tempted to add, meaning imported inside a country. That’s why immigrant-based countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand feature more abstract definitions of national character. Less who you are than how you act. Religious identity flourishes in such environments, because it speaks to the how you act paradigm. I am a Catholic because I act this way. My ethnic background is irrelevant. Again, America represents the leading edge of the globalization experience in this regard, because of its highly competitive marketplace for religion, marked by the fact that many Americans switch religions with ease across their lifetimes. Confession, I have twice,” you write, “My wife has three times, and only one of our kids has kept the same faith his entire life to date. The kind of religiosity prevalent in America today speaks to this greatest awakening that the planet as a whole now experiences with globalization’s advance. According to Roy, it is one, highly individualistic, featuring a direct connection to God, two, highly mobile, meaning conversions are common, three, weakly institutional, so low trust in churches, per se, four, anti-intellectual, so theologians are typically ignored, and five, highly communitarian by choice instead of heritage. In short, it is a connecting mechanism by which individuals, challenged by complexity, seek out those of their own kind, meaning people who want to live by the same rule sets or code, the walled garden as a refuge.” Now the reason I think that’s so important is if that does become the rule set in other fundamentalist countries, game over, globalization wins. Is it going to happen in Saudi Arabia?
TPMB: Well, and then you’ve got to kind of add an addendum to that paragraph, I would argue, because there’s two other great things that are going on. There’s a shift from sustenance to abundance, which typically, you know, people look for moral guides as kind of spiritual handholds during this journey, because a lot of religions were formed in a Malthusian age, you know, sustenance economies, very strict rule sets, this is how we survived, you know, this is how we get through the winter. Arab desert cultures are the most strict of all, you know, Eskimos being another version, very strict because the environment they live in is very strong. When you introduce abundance to that, all of a sudden people can go from your given family to a chosen family, okay, because all the connections are kind of scrambled. You no longer have to marry who your dad says you have to marry. You no longer have to marry inside your tribe or inside your village. It’s sort of like Fiddler On the Roof, you know, the daughters just go off and marry all these strange people that cause the father to question his identity and his religion. That’s globalization in sort of a nutshell. In that context, it makes sense for people to want to seek out those who have similar views on life. And one of the great baskets of those views are religions. So religions actually encourage globalization, and are enabled by globalization in a really strong way.
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HH: When we went to break, Dr. Barnett, I was asking you about the ability of this religious diversity to penetrate the closed societies.
HH: And to me, that’s the key. If it happens, stability and globalization occurs. If it doesn’t, fundamentalism fights back. What do you see?
TPMB: Okay, and let me just finish that question, because I’m like one answer behind you here, is…and this is one of the tough things, really tough in my mind about doing this, is that as we have this larger construct in which religions compete, okay, America is a version of this. These United States have a very competitive religious landscape. We compete, all religions compete for believers in America. Now we’ve got that projected on a global scale in a very open, wide, you know, wide open kind of competitive landscape. And in that era of that opening up, and this high connectivity being foisted across the planet, you get a lot of religious competition, a lot of religious friction, okay? It makes sense in my mind, just like it does in the United States, there will always be players in that system who say you know what, to retain my identity, I just have to maintain a certain level of disconnect from this world that moves too fast, or is just a little too evil, or just a little too profane for me, or just not my cup of tea, and they’re going to seek some sort of enclaved existence, okay? Now you’ve got to remember, Puritans came to America to seek their own enclaved existence away from the evil European world. And we have dealt with kind of utopian, enclave religions time and time again within our own system. We gave Utah to the Mormons, in effect, for a long time, and they practiced a particular form of Christianity, by their definition, which had to be modified the more they connected up to the rest of America, i.e., they had to get rid of polygamy, okay? Think about the Amish within America. I mean, in many ways, they’re not that different from Salafi fundamentalists in the sense they see an evil world and they want a simpler, back in time lifestyle to maintain their purity amidst this onslaught of a larger evil world. You can accommodate that to a certain extent, unless they want to impose that with guns, okay, or violence, or impose it on people unwillingly. And here’s the trick for us. I think in the future you’re going to see enclaves, we can call them bedroom communities or bedroom states, where people are going to maintain like multiple passport identities. And when they want to repair from the world, are going to seek their Jewishness in a totally Jewish state, or their Wahabist nature in a totally Wahabist state. And you’re going to have to put up with these kinds of enclave existences where people willing give up rights that we consider to be essential in kind of the normal functioning of life. They sort of like go to the commune for the weekend, and go to a place where they don’t eat certain things, or don’t have to deal with certain things, or never use a cell phone. A lot of these enclaves are going to anti-technological in their nature, and some of them will be secular. So I think there’s a place for a fundamentalist, Wahabist paradise. I think it’s going to have to be restricted in scope. I think it’s going to have to have easy in and out access, meaning you can’t trap people there in terms of their citizenship. But I think you’re going to have to fashion over time places where people can go and kind of be themselves away from this increasingly, in their minds, homogenized world that will always be moving too fast for a certain amount of people. Now in that compromised structure, that’s the trick, is that you look at the Swat Valley in southern, tribal areas in, or next door to them in Pakistan, and you see us in effecting doing one of these truces, saying in effect to the Taliban, you know what, if you really want to have your version of Sharia there, that’s what Pakistan basically made us feel, they say okay, you can have it, but then the quid pro quo needs to be, at least in this particular instance, you guys have got to give up the bad actors who are causing us trouble. If you can make those sorts of compromises with various people, if they want to go off grid if you do certain things, like with the Amish we say if you want to go off grid, you have to at least do immunizations, for example, and a couple of other basic things. You can make those compromises work out. I think you can have that kind of cultural separatism, but the base rule has to be a competitive religious landscape, meaning if people don’t like living there, they ought to be able to leave. And then the trickier part becomes can you make people leave if those who are there want to enforce a certain religious landscape upon them are not. I don’t have any quick, easy five sentence answer on that one. I just know that we’re never going to get rid of this impulse for a certain amount of cultural separatism in the system. And on some level, we have to accommodate it like we do with the Amish here in America, or Indian nations within America. There’s going to be certain compromises along those routes. I don’t see the Saudi Arabian thing going away completely, and yet I see Saudi Arabia as a geographic entity having to allow, if it’s going to be this important player in the global economy, it’s going to have to like, you know, almost create reservations of Wahabism inside Saudi Arabia, and allow certain other more free rule sets, more competitive landscapes to emerge in the rest of the country. And that’s going to be the 21st Century. It’s not going to happen overnight. No one word answer.
HH: We tried that with the Taliban, and in essence, when I was reading this, I said well that’s what we originally, that was our first deal with the Taliban. Okay, you win, you get Afghanistan, blow up the Buddhas, we’ll leave you alone.
TPMB: Yeah, do what you want.
HH: Do what you want, but they could not not allow the al Qaeda to nest and reach out against the world.
HH: And the same thing happens…we’re afraid it’s going to happen in upstate New York, or other Salafist enclaves.
TPMB: Well, we worry about the Somalis disappearing in the Twin Cities.
TPMB: You know, and yeah, I mean, there’s no real easy answer. I mean, you can’t have as your defensive position you know what, your desire for collective identity, you desire to retain your culture, your desire to retain your religion? Forget about it. I’m not going to give you any of that kind of stuff. You just have to jump in the fray with everybody else, and experience overnight the enemy of modern society. I mean, that’ll get you really angry, disassociated people, too. So there has to be some compromise within them. I think the quid pro quo, again, if you do certain things, we allow you a certain amount of disconnect. The baseline security measures have to be met. You have to give up the bad guys, you can’t give them sanctuary, but you’re going to have to decide which of your ancient codes you’re going to adhere to, because if it’s going to be your definition of Sharia, very fundamentalist, well then that whole thing about always being kind to strangers and giving them sanctuary, that one’s going to have to go. You can’t have them both, because you present too much of a problem to us when you do. And you see this time and time again. You know, the Irish had very strong rules, and one of my favorite examples on, you know, you couldn’t go to a public school which was Catholic in Ireland, unless you had a baptism certificate. As long as everybody’s Irish and Catholic, that’s not a problem. When you have the Celtic miracle of the last fifteen years or so, which is in trouble now, you start getting people from outside of Ireland coming to Ireland, and lo and behold, they’re not Catholic, so they don’t have baptismal certificates you recognize. And yet, how do you get them in school? Okay, so you compromise on that one. I mean, you see this all the time in maturing societies. Now we’re really through the expanse of globalization coming to some really off grid, very traditional religion and code, very much set in a Malthusian past, which wasn’t past. It’s actually the present right now. I mean, Afghanistan’s still fairly tough and rough and preindustrial and very much in a Malthusian grip. So you’re going to have to expect that kind of compromise to be the toughest ones to work. And again, I don’t have a simple answer for it other than I think we’re going to keep trying these sorts of truces time and time again until we get one that works.
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HH: Dr. Barnett, Mark Steyn’s a friend, very good friend, he’s been on this program almost once a week for the last six years. America Alone, along with The Looming Tower and Robert Kaplan’s books and your books are among those I insist my readers must read if they’re going to be up to speed on everything. But you seem a little dismissive of Mark’s sincere and I thought well-argued points in America Alone about the demographics challenge that Europe faces. But then you point out that countries need to import people. So what is it? What’s your argument with Steyn’s argument?
TPMB: Well, yeah, I think he puts too much emphasis in an either/or sort of outcome. I mean, I think it’s kind of fantastic to believe that European civilization is currently defined, assimilates all these North Africans and Middle Eastern Muslims in number as they’re going to have to because of the demographic aging, which is his big concern. I think it’s impossible for Europe to do that and not have that civilization or culture change fairly dramatically. Conversely, I think the opposite notion that this invasive species is going to sort of rewrite the entire code of Europe, and Europe’s just going to kind of lay back and take it, I think that’s also kind of an extreme vision. I think there’s going to be a Mediterranean-centric EU in the future, because I don’t see Europe really extending itself any farther east, because Russia’s sort of back, or back enough to stop that incorporation process. And Europe really can’t find answers to its demographic problems by incorporating more eastward, because you run into the same sort of demographic problems in Eastern Europe that you face in Western Europe. They replicate it even faster, so that when you look to North Africa and these bulging populations, I think you’re looking at an EU that comes closer to kind of resembling the identity of the Roman Empire in 25-30 years than anything else. Now you can decry that shift from kind of a northern European-centric mindset, and a kind of social democracy and the tolerance and all that, that have come to define an EU to something that looks like it’s slipping back into history, more nationalism, more religion. But here’s one of the things, you know, when I was reading people like Steyn that made me think about this, because, and I give him credit for that, when we look at Europe and we say that’s the first multinational state, okay, and I always say wait a minute, the United States is the first multinational state. Why is it bad to look at Europe as the first multinational state? Then you assume Europe represents the future. And because Europe had this very odd period in the first half of the 20th Century when it handled the rise of its own middle class very badly, and got radical answers from the left, Bolshevism and the right, fascism, and fused religion and nationalism in a vast orgy of mass violence called the first two world wars, they came out of that huge hangover called the Cold War, they got past it, and then they started forging this European identity that made the assumption that a multinational state is post-cultural, post-nationalistic, and most importantly, post-religious.
HH: But introduced into that, that’s exactly, and you’re persuasive on that point, they brought back a faith that had not a suffering servant at its heart, and not a sacrificial ethic, but a crusading ethic like they had had in the Middle Ages when they were a problem for the world, one could argue. And that’s what I think Steyn is saying, is yes, that’s post-modern Europe, but all of a sudden, they’ve reintroduced pre-modern societies into it.
TPMB: Right, right, right. And in a nutshell, it’s very similar to what globalization as a whole has done. You take a high trust environment that seemingly is advanced, and you incorporate a lower trust, seemingly less advanced. It’s a big break for Europe, because they went through this weird situation called the first half of the 20th Century. And when we look at them, we assume that the future of multi-nationalism or the future of globalization is post-cultural, post-religious, post-nationalistic. And the truth is, it’s none of those things. I mean, when globalization spreads, nationalism tends to peak up. People are going to want to retain their identity. And in the shift from sustenance to abundance, people are going to hold onto their religious identities. So Europe give us kind of a weird standard to hold ourselves against, one, and then we make kind of assumptions about the threat of Islam on the basis of the fears of the Europeans, when in reality they sort of, in my mind, went too far in their post-culturalism, went too far in their post-religion, went too far in their post-nationalism. They really need to kind of come back to history a little bit. If they do, I think their incorporation and their assimilation, or whatever you want to call it, their shift of their center of gravity more southward to the Mediterranean, I don’t think that represents the end of Europe. I think that represents kind of a back to the future outcome that’s really quite natural, because the Mediterranean, we treat it like a border or an obstacle. It’s really a thoroughfare throughout history.
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HH: Dr. Barnett, before I go on, I want to do a little bio, because I’ve never done this, but I saw it in this chapter. You say you’ve changed religions twice?
HH: What are you?
TPMB: Well, I started out as Catholic, raised very Catholic in a Catholic family, went through a crisis of faith when the firstborn child got cancer. And at that time, we were living in Northern Virginia, and I grew up with a very small congregation or parish. And in Northern Virginia, the average parish was about 5,000 people, which is about twice the size of my town growing up. And what we found in that parish environment in Northern Virginia, much like you find in kind of the Washington sphere in general, is kind of this hugely bureaucratized existence. And we just didn’t find any sort of belonging, and we were going through this terrible crisis with our daughter. So we became, we found a nice, little church down the road, very small Episcopalian for a couple of years. And you know, Episcopalian for Catholics is not exactly a huge crossing. As I like to say, we do the sign of peace in a different time in the Mass, but other than that, it’s not a huge difference in terms of how you worship the actual service. But we just found a smaller community there that we felt much more comfortable with. So we stayed with it for a couple of years, had a second child, he was baptized as Episcopalian, so both the first child became Episcopalian with us. She flips back to Catholic a few years later as we do. Why? Well, when the kids got to grade school age and we decided we wanted a religious education, we discovered we weren’t rich enough to be Episcopalian.
TPMB: (laughing) We started checking out the day school costs versus your average Catholic parochial school. And we decided that we could go back to being Catholic. So that’s the two older kids. The youngest kid, Vonne Mei, was adopted from China. I won’t claim she was Catholic upon birth, so I’ll claim that she made a conversion by coming to us. The only one, and it’s very apropos, is our son born in Rhode Island, which is the most Catholic state in America. And just to prove it, even though we only lived there five years, he still talks with a very heavy Rhode Island accent.
HH: Well let me ask you, though, do you believe Catholicism is true in the way that, for example, it is true that there are 488 printed pages in your book? Or is it a cultural identity for you?
TPMB: Well, to me, it’s a very strong cultural identity, because I have certain problems with certain aspects of Catholic, I don’t know what you call it, dogma or rules or whatever. But I have a hard time leaving, even though I am not always the perfect Catholic, because it defines so much of what my identity is, so much of how I grew up. It’s, you know, and it’s a secret code. Everywhere I go, I find that virtually every mentor I’ve ever had in life, you know, turns out to be a Catholic. So that’s one of the great kind of networking tools of religion, is sort of like no matter where you go, you can always find somebody of your faith if you belong to a globalized religion. Catholicism certainly qualifies. And that provides a lot of lubrication in life.
HH: But as I read Benedict, one of the great, I think, arguments you’d run into would come from Benedict about your optimism, and about Europe, and about the ability of this culture in which we are engaged in a conflict, Samuel Huntington style, to give up and get along with us. So it’s interesting you’re so culturally Catholic, but the leadership of your Church is so sort of opposed to the theme of the Great Powers.
TPMB: Yeah, yeah, well, I’m very much an American Catholic, which I would say is a very odd duck in terms of Catholicism in general.
HH: Have you had any reaction from Church hierarchy to the book?
TPMB: You know, I included the reaction of my parish priest in the second book, his reaction to the first book. And you know, in general, I think they find it acceptable. I mean, I’m sure they find that some of the arguments I make about religion to be kind of off-bounds, but…
HH: I think, though, most American bishops that I know would embrace your idea of how we should relate to Mexico and the Latin culture to the south, which is to be welcoming, and indeed, one of the more radical suggestions in Great Powers is hey, why are we stopped at fifty states?
TPMB: Well, I mean, there back to your European thing. I mean, I counter-post Steyn, who’s too pessimistic in my mind on the cultural assimilation issue with somebody like Parag Khanna, who I think is probably in opposition too optimistic about the European brand as it’s been forged, and how it’s such an attractive brand. But you know, it is an attractive brand. It really is. You go to Europe and you think boy, this is a great lifestyle, the way they get along on certain levels, the way they’ve amassed certain things. They’ve achieved the same growth rate America did the last ten years, just lower lows and kind of smaller highs. So they kind of smoothed it out a little bit more evenly. But you know, that European brand can only go so far before it kind of bumps into opposition. And I see it dealing with these kinds of problems, but not succumbing necessarily to them in the way that Steyn does.
HH: Okay, now second biographical question, in your acknowledgements, you include the people who comment on your blog. Now I’ve read a lot of books over the last 20 years doing this thing. I’ve never seen that before. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it.
TPMB: Yeah, and sometimes I regret it, because they’re a wild bunch. And you can’t, the guys in your posse you can’t always keep them there, because they fall in and out of love with you over time, and you do with them in return. But you know, this book, I really, I kind of opened it up in terms of my discussion with my readers about three years ago as I was going through the initial concepts. And they kept giving me lots of feedback. And as I started forming the concepts of saying this is what I think the book’s going to be about, I got tons of recommendations, tons of them. I outsourced or crowd-sourced my research. I haven’t set foot in a library in five years. And you know, I think about that versus my Harvard PhD dissertation. I lived at Weidner for three years.
HH: Oh, that’s grim.
TPMB: That’s all I did.
HH: Oh, that’s very grim. But do you consider that to be itself a model of how elite decision makers are going to gather their information in the way that you did?
TPMB: I do, because I mean, I have a fairly high level in terms of their intelligence and their education and their interest, tens of thousands of readers. I have like three to five hundred who are very strong interlocutors with me, and basically, they gave me all the books I used in the research, that my wife winnowed down in terms of uber-sourced it across Google on reviews, and then checked out a whole bunch of things and made final selections. But I mean, time and time again, key ideas from the book I never would have bumped into unless somebody said boy, you’ve got to read Heather Cox Richardson, West After Appomattox, because her vision of reconstruction in America is so close to what you’re saying. So I felt like I had to acknowledge them.
HH: That’s a sub-story in this larger story.
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HH: Before we go there, Dr. Barnett, this book has been received oddly. It’s had peaks and valleys, lots of applause, lots of catcalls. Are you surprised, because I mean, The Pentagon’s New Map was this instant giant bestseller, shift-changing, paradigm-shifting book. Are you surprised by how this book is doing?
TPMB: Well, it’s actually selling as well as Pentagon’s New Map, according to the publisher, which is surprising to me, because it hasn’t had the kind of zeitgeist clique that the first one did. But the first one came under very different circumstances. And the map as a metaphor, and a definition of conflict was really strong. The sin I suffer across my three books is that I’m the grand strategist who comes back every two or three years, and he basically refines and extends the same argument. And people say you know, Barnett was pushing this view of globalization five years ago, and five years later, he’s still pushing it. And my answer is, you know, you can’t have a grand strategy that I’m going to change every three years.
HH: But it’s also very different. I mean, you’ve gone into a lot of different subjects here.
TPMB: It’s really matured, and you know, I think if we’re going to be strategic in the way we think, my joke is, what do you call a grand strategist who comes up with new grand strategy every six months? You call him an op-ed columnist, okay? And we’ve outsourced too much of that thinking to op-ed columnists. So whatever gets Nick Kristoff excited, whatever jazzes Paul Krugman, whatever makes Tom Friedman, whatever shiny object catches his attention, we run around and we say oh, that’s going to be our grand strategy. First it’s going to be terror, then it’s going to be global warming, then it’s going to be whatever. Now, we’re going to live in a crisis of economic global proportions forever.
HH: Do you think, not those in particular, but generally the pundit class, do you think they read books?
TPMB: I think they skim them. I think they read the PR material.
HH: Yeah, I do, too.
TPMB: You really are unusual in that you actually read. You’re like a Brian Lamb. Brian Lamb’s like one of the most frightening and exciting interviewers on the planet, because by God, that guy reads your book.
HH: Yeah, he’s always well prepared. Charlie Rose does as well, most of the time, at least, I think Charlie Rose does. But I think…
TPMB: But most don’t.
HH: The chattering class does not.
HH: I think this is a big problem with America’s foreign policy, is people don’t argue from facts.
TPMB: Well, they echo chamber so much. I mean, they just talk to each other. One of the saddest sights to me is when on CNN and Fox, when they interview hosts from different shows on their network as guests all the time. And they call that news making. It’s not news making for Lou Dobbs to interview some other guy from CNN, or somebody on MSNBC to interview somebody from another show on MSNBC, or somebody from Fox to interview somebody else from Fox. That’s not news.
HH: In 30 seconds, has any television other than C-Span, Brian Lamb, has anyone given you ten minutes of time on this?
TPMB: I’ll give it up to Tavis Smiley. I got 12 with him.
HH: He’s a smart guy. He’s a smart guy. It’s a good show, old PBS colleague.
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HH: Dr. Barnett, I want to get to the kind of key ten rules to wrap up with. Before we do that, conservatives are cheering, or will be if they read it, your section on global warming, because you reach where I think is the pragmatic middle. Yes, the Earth is warming, by how much we don’t know, and how much we put into that we don’t know, and can’t know, and there’s not much we can do about it anyway right now. But you really look at it as a false grand strategy. And I think this is so important for people to understand. It is almost escapism in your view.
TPMB: Well, you know, it’s what I call the Gore counter-narrative. Gore was the perfect counter-narrative to Bush. He was, you know, the guy denied the presidency in the vernacular of the Democrats. And so when Bush goes awry in his global war on terrorism, then we naturally look to the guy we didn’t marry in 2000, and we say wow, he’s got this very, very different vision called let’s pull back from some of these problems, let’s jump ahead to a future, a better future. Let’s deal in a very systemic way with a systemic threat. And it really recalls sort of the anti-nuclear movement of the Cold War, looking for very high tech solutions to kind of get us past this global Armageddon that we’re facing. And my fear in that counter-narrative with Gore was that he was going to have us pull back from things that we couldn’t avoid dealing with. I mean, I look at globalization’s expansion, I see frontiers to be integrated, I see friction in those frontiers, I see bad actors who need to be dealt with. I see frontier integration that has to be pursued. I don’t think you’re going to escape any of that. I think you can’t escape the huge shift of people from sustenance to abundance, the rise of the global middle class. You can’t just leap frog all that stuff to some beautiful future where the key thing is we turn down the CO2 knob, as Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish statistician argues, you turn down the CO2 knob, and everything gets better on that basis, because most of the problems people cite in terms of global warming and its impact, they’re very weakly related to CO2 change. But they’re very highly related to income change. I grew up in Wisconsin. There was still malaria in Wisconsin in the 1940s, if you can believe it. We still had pockets of malaria, okay? Wisconsin is a lot warmer now than it was in the 1940s, a lot warmer.
TPMB: Do we have malaria? No. Why? Because Wisconsin’s relatively rich, and they dealt with it in terms of spraying the mosquito beds and dealing with stuff, so I take a lot of cues from Lomborg, he takes a very brilliant long term look at this, this Danish statistician, and he points out, and it’s one of the arguments I like to make with this emerging global middle class, your average poor person in 2100, by our best estimates, and we could be of by several, five, ten thousand or whatever, but the average poor person in 2100 in the world is going to be making about $27,000 in today’s money, okay? That’s a pretty decent lifestyle. That person can deal with a lot of stress. He can deal with a lot of problems, a lot of environmental issues. Why? He’s going to have money for this and money for that, he’s going to be more mobile on the basis of having that sort of income. So Lomborg’s point is don’t kneecap this rising middle class. That’s how I extrapolate him. Don’t kneecap this rising middle class in terms of its journey towards income growth by saying no, you’ve got to stop and make all this stuff happen in some pristine way that we never did, because if you try to pull that stunt on the Chinas and the Indias of the world, they’re going to look at you like you’re a nut, one, and two, like you’re trying to deny their paths to power.
HH: Now the reason I bring this up, not only do I agree with you that you an afford a lot of the ill effects and cope with the ill effects of global warming if indeed they are going to come about as Al Gore says, but it’s heresy. What’s you’ve done is you’ve gone Martin Luther on these people. And on the right, I believe if you look at the intellectuals on the right, Kristol, Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, Barone, Gerecht, the Kagans, all these different people, they’ll accept arguments in good faith and not write you out of the church of arguments. But when you write an important book that says hey guys, global warming is a counter-narrative that is as flawed as anything that you have been criticizing, moreover, quite dangerous. I mean, you wrote yourself out of the Obama administration if you had ever wanted to, or maybe even future conversation with them. Did that concern you?
TPMB: None of that stuff ever concerns me in the sense that, and I just went through this with a testimony on the Hill.
HH: I read that, yeah.
TPMB: You’ve got to just decide that you’re going to be about kind of a long term truth. And you’ve got to be about encouraging people towards that long term truth. And the role of the grand strategist, in my mind, is you don’t come up with answers that nobody else can come up with. I mean, the best compliment a grand strategist gets is when they read one of your books, is they say you say everything I’ve been thinking for the last ten years, never quite enunciated it in the same way you did. Some people look at that and they say well, you’re just saying I’m not smarter than you are and I wrote this big book, and you should bow down to me or something like that. But the answer is, you look at that person and you say that’s fantastic. I can’t come up with a grand strategy that doesn’t make sense to the average person. It’s got to be intuitive to them, okay? So your job is always, whenever you get somebody towards some comfortable realization, and you’re happy that they’ve kind of figured this thing out, your job is immediately to go ten steps forward, and confront the next uncomfortable truth for them, and then make them kind of make that journey. So you’re always going to be this John the Baptist kind of character, off on the fringe. As soon as you make Barnett happy on one thing, he starts bitching about something else, and making this demand. So as soon as I get somebody to accept the map, then I say this about religion, or I say this about global warming, and again, I’m a heretic. But the job I see for the grand strategist in kind of tempering the shift that America naturally goes through, he’s trying to even things out over time. You’ve always got to be out there on the edge of plausibility so that people are always saying you know, I almost buy what you’re saying it’s just a little too much. That’s exactly where you want to be.
HH: E.M. Forrester wrote you know you’re being influenced when you hear someone say I might have written that myself if I’d only had more time.
TPMB: Right. That’s a brilliant comeback.
HH: Yeah, it is. Now let’s go to the strategic realignment, because we’ve only got four more segments, and I want to get through these ten points. Number one, this is about how the new global grand strategy has to evolve. To be plausible, grand strategic vision must combine a clear-eyed view of today’s reality with a broad capture of the dominant trend shaping the long term environment, meaning no sharp detours, much less U-turns in history’s advance. Okay, that’s…
TPMB: We just talked about that.
HH: Yeah, who does that other than you?
TPMB: Well, there’s not a lot because it’s really hard to be, it’s really hard to get published and to be a popular writer unless you kind of go with whatever people are maniacal about right now.
HH: You’re pretty tough on Thomas Friedman here in this book.
TPMB: Well, he gets, you know, he does a great job of explaining things to people. I always thought a flat world or a flat Earth, or whatever it’s called, flat world, I thought it was a terribly late book, that he sort of slapped as he talked about, he’s sort of like Rip Van Winkle for three years fixating on this war on terrorism, then he woke up one day and he discovered the world was flat. And then I realized, as somebody explained it to me, they said that book explains globalization to middle aged people. And I looked at it, and I said you know what, you’re absolutely right.
HH: But what about Jared Diamond? You quote him occasionally.
TPMB: He’s very good in the sense that he shows you sort of when you do extreme things, you really take extreme risks. But then people look at these very extreme societies that he cites in terms of their unbelievable bad choices, and they’re living on very harsh environments, typically, with very low margins for error. And then you extrapolate from that the course of human history, you know, I find that sort of stuff alarmism. It’s too much to kind of extrapolate, and it’s a constant problem in futurism. They extrapolate very extreme conditions from today and they project them out in a linear fashion into the future. One of my favorite example, I’m in Ohio on a family trip, I see this board map of Ohio. And it shows Ohio in 1800, covered with trees, all sorts of wildlife. And it shows Ohio in 1900, no trees, no wildlife, okay? I project on the basis of 1800, 1900, I say I can you exactly where Ohio’s going to be in the year 2000. It’s going to be Mad Max, there’s going to be nothing left. Then they show the map 2000 for Ohio, half the trees are back, and the wildlife, different but revived in a big way. And you look at it and you say well, there’s your linear projection, wrong again. And so I critique people like him for encouraging that too much.
HH: What about, a guy you remind me of is Herman Kahn. I don’t know if you ever read his stuff, or if you’re too young to have read Herman Kahn’s stuff, but he was kind of a happy futurist.
TPMB: He was, and he very much kind of, the only way you can explore plausible scenarios is to kind of keep exploring scenarios until you come to a really plausible one, until you realize you’ve sort of reached the outer margins of the universe. And I do remind a lot of people of him. I haven’t read him tremendously that much, because the nuclear question had iterated several times in terms of big thinkers by the time I came along. So I read his children and grandchildren, I would say. But I understand the comparisons, and I accept it.
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HH: The second key takeaway from the concluding chapter of Dr. Barnett is that grand strategy does not seek to change human nature, but to placate it, thereby insuring the portability of its strategic concept among minds from different backgrounds, cultures and ages. Dr. Barnett, do you think in some Salafist hellhole somewhere, a Zawahiri or someone like him could read and accept that you were fair-minded in writing Great Powers and be influenced by it?
TPMB: No, because I think people from that mindset, they’re just too far in the past, so that the journey towards the kind of tolerance and acceptance and competition, what this really comes down to in the end is always competition. People who fear competition often retreat into the past. They go into some sort of a pre-millennialist fantasy of this world is evil, I can’t compete in it, so I’m just going to bring hell upon the world or salvation upon the world by creating jihad or whatever version you want to put out there. So in the end, it’s always about your comfort with competition, and typically that’s because people come from backgrounds where they don’t have the educational tools, they don’t anything to give them confidence in this regard. So when globalization comes quickly to places that aren’t prepared for it, yeah, I expect certain people to go wow, there’s no way I’m competing in this landscape, therefore it’s evil, I’m going to keep it out, I’m going to fight it like crazy. When they go far enough down that pathway and they become so inert to their own violence, by and large there’s no rehabilitation.
HH: Number three, grand strategic thinking always keeps the governments role, the U.S. government’s role in proper perspective, because globalization comes with rules but not a ruler. Are we losing that balance? It looks like we’re lurching towards big, big, big government right now.
TPMB: You know, we are lurching, because we’re in a crisis situation. And I look at it and I say boy, it’s not a big deal. So we tacked into the deregulatory wind for like thirty years. And then we came a cropper, and we said you know what? For a while, we’re going to have to tack back into the regulatory wind. That is not the end of humanity. That’s not the end of all paradigms. It just means that we went one way for like thirty years, and loosened things up continually, loosen, loosen, loosen, and then we came to a point where we said you know what? This is too darned loose. We’re going to have to start tightening up. That doesn’t mean all of a sudden we’re all socialists now like Newsweek declares, or it’s the end of all this stuff, or it’s the reversal of Reaganism and all these things. I mean, these are kind of extreme answers. I just see us tacking into a different wind for a certain amount of time.
HH: Number four, grand strategic analysis starts with security, which is always 100% of your problem until it’s reasonably achieved, because then it’s at most 10% of your ultimate solution. Is Iraq the best example of this?
TPMB: Oh, absolutely. I mean, where we’ve got them to now is a point of some security. But unless you get people, or butts in seats in terms of jobs, this site’s going to go right back to what it was. And that’s harkening back to the last point. You know, people think if you create security, you create a government, boy, you’re done. That’s this view that Washington can remake an entire society on their own. Nobody makes an economy happen other than businessmen. So you’ve got to have a sense of place. And this is what’s missing in Washington right now, too much of a belief that government’s going to solve all the problems. And when you go to the educational settings, college settings, there’s so much mistrust of business people right now in these settings. And they keep, I keep asking who do you think’s going to repair this economy if not businessman? I mean, who do you think makes the economy in the first place? So in some sense, a proper role is crucial here, and it always is the economics that’s decisive, not the politics in my mind.
HH: Number five, grand strategy is not clairvoyance, it does not seek to predict future events, but rather to contextualize them in a confident, opportunistic worldview. On the other hand, it is futurism.
TPMB: It tries, it gives you a way of thinking. It’s saying this is the direction I want us to go, this is what I consider to be progress. But it doesn’t mean that everything’s got to be a lockstep linear motion. I don’t spend any time in any of my books predicting market up or downs, and people come to me all the time, you didn’t predict the market collapse. You didn’t predict the market collapse. Your whole vision is wrong. You didn’t predict it. And my answer is sort of like well, I didn’t predict the end of the business cycle, either.
HH: Yup. Number six, because we live in a time of pervasive and persistent revolutions, the grand strategist is neither surprised nor dismayed when the awesome force of globalization’s tectonic shifts elicits vociferous or even violent friction from the locals. All right, weren’t you dismayed by the Rwandan genocide? I mean, weren’t you dismayed by Pol Pot? Or is this not what you intended to convey?
TPMB: Well no, I mean, I wouldn’t put Pol Pot in that venue, because that’s from a different time frame. And that’s the influence of Maoism, that’s Stalinism, Leninism taken to an even more extreme version. That’s the impulse of ideology. With Rwanda, the friction there had to do with the way that was set up in terms of the colonial power, Belgium. I mean, you can trace it all the way back to Versailles. What I’m talking about is when globalization comes to places, people are expected to make everything hunky-dory quickly. But what happens at first is always that there’s a certain segment of the population who tends to be middle class, meaning they’re education, meaning they’re smart enough to figure out what’s going to happen, and they see their world changing because of this opportunity, because women are empowered disproportionately to men because these networks create all sorts of opportunities that go against all sorts of religious and social structures. And so they respond to that force of globalization by pushing back against it. So when I see this transnational terrorism, I see radical Salafi jihadism. It’s going to get stronger the more successfully globalization penetrates and embraces the Middle East. So you can’t keep looking at this and saying globalization keeps expanding and they keep fighting, what’s up with that? At some point, it does temper out. But they’re going to fight the more it penetrates, the more it succeeds, and you’ve got to realize friction rises with force, and globalization is a force right now, is compelling and strong when it’s going forward, or right now, when it’s going temporarily in my line, but strongly in reverse.
HH: Seven and eight, grand strategy purposefully aspires to be proactive not merely protecting itself from failure, but also exploiting avenues of success as they are revealed. Number eight, so grand strategists do not entertain, much less succumb to, single point failure doomsaying, because systematic thinking about the future means you’re not for or against issue like peak oil or global warming or resource scarcity, but instead accept the implied dynamics of the change that have been triggered, and factor them in accordingly. In other words, you don’t panic.
TPMB: Well you know, and people are like this. Are you for or against subprime? And I’m like how can the heck can you be for or against subprime? Subprime was an instrument trying to get people on the lower end of the spectrum to afford housing. Is that a good thing? Yes. Did they maybe go too far in it? Well, we always tend to go too far in boom periods, we experiment a little bit too much. Do I suddenly change my entire worldview on the basis of this crisis or that crisis? No. I constantly kind of say this is how I change my attitude now in terms of certain aspects, but the big picture of globalization, international liberal trade order peace through connectivity, none of that changes. I can’t come up with a new grand strategy pre and post-subprime.
HH: Number nine, grand strategy recognizes that politics lags dramatically behind economics, and that security lags dramatically behind connectivity. What’s dramatically mean?
TPMB: Right, well, I mean, economics is always, people are always connecting on an economic basis faster than we have the political rules to deal with them, especially in a market oriented economy. If you look at any rule in America, I can find you a tragedy that triggered that rule. You want to have fire sprinklers in your building? I guarantee you there was some tragedy that says you’d better have fire sprinklers in buildings of a certain size. So every kind of crisis, politically, is always predated by some sort of economic activity. And in a laissez-faire, market-oriented situation, you have to accept that economics is always going to be faster than politics, because I like to say, I like my businessmen smarter than my politicians, please.
HH: Not hard to get.
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HH: I’m going to skip point number ten, because I want to tarry for a moment on oil and energy, and your rather, I think, peak oil alarmists would say, cavalier treatment of our consuming of a finite resource.
TPMB: Well, sort of back to those ten points, because you never adopt a single point failure explanation as the be all and end all in your vision. Then you’re constantly being derided by advocates of whatever doomsday scenario, you’re constantly being derided as being naïve, or being brainwashed or stupid, or just stubborn about accepting this reality. And you know, I look at something like peak oil and the argument, and I say you know, to me, energy, like any resource, is a function of price and technology, okay? On average, for every three barrel of oil that we find in the ground, current lift technology gets us usually one, meaning we leave two in the ground. Okay, we get one easy, so as long as oil is cheap, we take that one, and then we kind of tap out the field on that basis. If oil becomes dear enough, then we find the technology to get those other two barrels out of the ground. We do more inserting of gas or hydrogen, or whatever they shove into the ground to kind of make the oil come out, and we get higher yields, or we go on to coal, tar sands, and oil trapped in rocks.
HH: Deep water drilling off of Brazil.
TPMB: Whatever. I mean, it’s always a function of price and technology, so I say when the price gets high enough, then we’ll go on to alternatives. We’ll move off this chunk of the hydrocarbon chain, and move onto the next one. We’ve done that historically time and time again, moving from wood to coal to oil to gas, ultimately to hydrogen. Each of these shifts takes, on average, about fifty years according to Amery Levins, Rocky Mountain Institute, a guy I like to quote a lot on the subject. And so we’re early, I would argue, about in the first ten year period, of a four to five decade shift off of oil to hydrogen, and ultra-light chassis, and stuff like that, in cars. And I think it’s actually going to go faster than the usual fifty year break, primarily because the Chinese and the Indians, they’re the big source of car growth in the next 20, 30 years. The West has got as many cars as we can stand. We have like a thousand cars for every thousand people, whereas in India and China, they have like 25 cars per a thousand people. So if you think of globalization as sort of shifting from Europe to North America to Asia over a three century period, lo and behold, cars, the emblematic manufacturing icon, shifts from being a European invention to kind of an American mastered, mass produced item, to now becoming a largely an Asian focused invention and manufacturing identity. Why? Because that’s where all the growth is happening in terms of demand, so I look at that kind of situation, and I say hey, I know we’re moving beyond oil no matter what the price is in the next twenty years, because I’ve been to China many times. I can’t breathe the air there now without getting a sinus infection in about five days every time I go. And I know if you’re going to quintuple or tenfold increase, I don’t even know the word for that, cars in China the next 20 years? There’s no way they can do that in terms of gas combustion. So I look at these situations and I always say you know, show me where necessity is greatest in the system, and I’ll show you innovation there. No question.
HH: Let me ask you, though. Is it a bad sign of a not easily reversed dysfunction in our system that we have not done the obvious thing about nuclear power in the United States, which is to find one plant replicated everywhere as they’ve done in Europe, in France and in other places? Does that tell you that maybe ideology is now dysfunctioning across our system in a way that we’re not doing a smart thing?
TPMB: It has, because you know, we had kind of a qwerty effect there in terms of the choice we made in terms of nuclear propulsion for submarines. And we went with certain choices on our nuclear technology that locked in to a very inefficient, very not good design. And there are all sorts of other designs out there, some of which we invented and then discarded, like pebble bed nuclear reactors, which can be much more modular, much safer, can never go super critical, you can stack them and rack them in terms of how much you want to create. They don’t really present a proliferation threat. And yet we prevent that kind of technology from spreading in places like Africa where it could really be used because of our fixation, again, on weapons of mass destruction nukes. So I mean, we get tied up in some of our choices. We are so influenced by the Cold War and visions of nuclear Armageddon that we so totally hype the dangers of nuclear power. There’ve been a bunch of good books written on it. I mean, we really go way overboard on it, so that we’re not going to be the masters of invention on the subject going forward.
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HH: It’s the three C’s segment – Calgon, clean water and China. Would you describe for people what the Calgon moments are, and why we have to resist them?
TPMB: Well, the Calgon moment refers to a commercial in the early 80s, harried housewife, her life’s just way too complicated. And in the midst of all her confusion and chaos in her household duties, she looks up to the sky and says Calgon, take me away. And she’s immediately whisked to this bubble bath, and her life is great, okay? And that’s the classic deus ex machina, from kind of Greek theatre. You know, you’ve got a really convoluted play, at the end of the play, there’s no way this can possibly work out, they drop the god from the theatre rafters, and he says this is how it all works out, and the play is done. So when you’re in complex times, and you see these books all the time, they want to explain everything in terms of if you do this, everything works out. We get these in diets all the time. If you avoid this food or eat this food, your life will be perfect. They want to simplify complexity with a simple, single answer. And the deus ex machinas, or the Calgon take me aways can be things like peak oil, or it can be a clash of civilizations, whatever gives you an excuse from dealing with reality by citing the coming disaster that will change everything, so all your efforts, all your vision, Barnett, all your ideas, are completely wiped away by this one reality that you refuse to admit is going to determine our entire existence. And I look at those, and I say that’s escapism. That’s a pre-millennialist sort of I want out of this complex situation, Calgon take me away, make my life simple.
HH: And opposed to that is a very pragmatic, very practical ordering of priorities…
HH: …to benefit the world, and you come up with one which I have been persuaded of for a very long time, which is the world needs clean water right away in the places that doesn’t have it. Not sexy, but extraordinarily effective.
TPMB: Right, I mean, if you…somebody made this point recently, and there’s no way you can have a democracy in a place where there’s no clean water. You know, some of these basic things have to be met, and until you get some of these basic things done, dreaming of democracy in these situations is just inconceivable, because you’re going to get strong man answers, or there are typically strong man answers already there. That’s why the water’s so bad. They haven’t delivered any sort of responsive government services. So you look at a China, and you say boy, I’d like it to turn into a democracy tomorrow. But you realize, you know, China to be the equivalent of the United States, for us to be China, we’d have to invite everybody in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa to come live inside the United States. That’s China.
HH: Then that’s where…let’s go there then. You are an optimist. In fact, one of the heroes, there are probably three or four heroes in Great Powers, one of them is Deng Xiaoping for what he decided to do.
HH: But does China, when you go there and you realize its immensity, and I’ve got friends who go there a lot to help with the orphans, and do the hospitals, and all that sort of stuff, it’s really not controllable, is it?
TPMB: Well, you know, it’s not much of an authoritarian state by my standards. As somebody who’s spent most of his life studying authoritarianism and totalitarianism, it’s a pretty wide open place. They only control the very slim bit of reality called political expression. And even there, they only crack down on like one out a hundred people, and really make an example of that one person. What’s scarier about China is how little control there is. I mean, there’s just people everywhere, and there’s stuff going on, and the amount you can get away with in a capitalist sense right now is just flabbergasting. I mean, it’s robber baron freedom. You can destroy entire villages, wipe out valleys, and then maybe a few people actually bring up an environmental issue and stop you 25 years into your process. We have a much more responsive, recursive system in terms of our legal responses. They don’t have it, yet. And yet because of their wide open system being kind of turned onto markets really rapidly, it is interesting to watch the grass roots anger and populism start to come about, which the Communist Party constantly tries to tamp down. But ultimately, they’re going to have to find ways to process more and more, and that’s my hope for pluralism over time. It’s a demand function. Democracy’s a demand function. You don’t supply democracy. People demand it. But they can’t demand it unless they want something from their government. I always say rich want from their government protection from the poor, and poor want protection from their circumstances. Those are the fringes. What you want is a government defined by middle class demand. And the middle class demand something really hard from its government. They demand safety, security, they demand protection from the future and uncertainty. And they demand it because they’re middle class, and they’ve achieved something. And on that basis, they want it protected. So if you want democracy, I say get an angry, demanding middle class to make democracy happen, because nobody holds their feet to the fire like the middle class does. And we’re watching that kind of populist anger, heck, right now in America.
HH: Now let’s close this segment with my argument, my biggest argument with you in the book, is that you write on Page 410-411 that, “The increasingly conservative nature of the U.S. Supreme Court results in its growing unwillingness to consider the rulings of foreign judicial systems, reflecting a dangerously isolating hubris.” But Dr. Barnett, this comes in a chapter in which you are elevating and praising the rule of law. Since our law is the Constitution, and since the Constitution is closed to foreign law, how can you both be a fan of the rule of law and yet criticize the majority of the Court which rejects the use of foreign precedents because they are so rejected by our Constitution?
TPMB: It’s fair to cite that as a contradiction. You can’t write anything as big as that book and not have some contradictions. I would make the argument that you know, when we were the United States just kind of figuring out how our multinational union came together, citing ourselves and recognizing in ourselves kind of the first great experiment in multinationalism was appropriate and right. But I don’t think we should shut ourselves off to other experiments in multinationalism. I mean, what Europe is doing with the European Union is important. I mean, they provide an alternative to some of our thinking, and we should be able to learn from that. If we don’t give the sign that we’re willing to learn from that, then our leadership is going to be discounted over time. Our exporting of rules is one of our key things, okay? And like anything in the world, you know, if we have the monopoly on it as the world’s kind of leading power for a long time, eventually we’re going to get some competition. I don’t think we should be scared of that competition. I don’t think we should shut ourselves off from it, because it makes us look weak and unbelieving in our own system.
HH: But the way to absorb that, I would argue, is via Congress using its interstate commerce power, not by a majority vote of nine unelected justices that they like this rule set from Europe. That…
TPMB: No, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. My problem with Congress is that you know, we’ve got a Congress that doesn’t travel, that doesn’t have passports, that doesn’t have military experience, that doesn’t have enough business experience, in my mind. It’s too populated by people who went straight from county commissioner to state senator to Congressman to Senator, and they’ve been a professional politician all their lives.
HH: No argument from me on that.
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HH: I want to thank Adam and Generalissimo for just engineering and organizing a tremendous series of conversations with my guest, Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, also to Danielle for helping to arrange the logistics of this, and for Dr. Barnett, of course, for his great expenditure of time on doing this. It’s unusual to do this sort of thing, and some authors just simply won’t do it, because they figure they sell all their books the first time they’re in front of the radio audience, and they don’t need to come back. I appreciate that you’re willing to, Dr. Barnett. What is next for you?
TPMB: Well, I think the experience that I’m having with my company in terms of this development in a box kind of work that we’ve done in Kurdish Iraq that we’d like to do elsewhere in Iraq, that we think we can bring to a lot of developing economies around the world, economies that are really put at some serious risk now as globalization goes into a stall pattern for some period time, and we even witness some extent of deglobalization, or kind of breakdown of global production networks. This kind of connectivity strategy, to me, is absolutely essential, because what we’re saying is the West has to offer these countries a way of catching up. We call it more connecting up than catching up, because if you don’t offer that alternative, you have catch up strategies from the past, you know, historically offered radical left, radical right. You need America to offer a kind of radical middle, market-based strategy that says hey, our offer to you is not simply doling out public aid and keeping you in some sort of underdeveloped status ad nauseum, and corrupting and infantilizing your government. We need to give you a fast catch up market-based strategy. So what we’re doing and what we think we can do time and time again in these situations is profound, because it really taps in globalization’s big wave. I mean, China is coming to places. India is coming to places. They need resources. If they come on their own devices, we don’t think they’re going to offer these countries the right kind of package of connectivity in advance, because their political wherewithal, their willingness to defend their economic interest with military force often lacking, I would argue. And plus, their definitions of corruption tolerable in government is too high. And America needs to get in there and get in front of this money and help direct it in a way that these countries don’t go through the same experience they did during colonialization, but instead get a real leg up, connectivity strategy, get some on board, get some onto the global economic grid, gives them a sense of hope, and gives their population broadband economic connectivity and freedom on that basis. So I see that being my purpose now, kind of working that nexus between investment banking, sovereign wealth funds, national oil companies, emerging markets. I think that’s where grand strategy is happening today.
HH: And so that means more time at Enterra, less time on the lecture circuit for Pentagon people?
TPMB: No, I like doing the speeches. I’m such a ham. You know, you can’t be a grand strategist, my argument, if you don’t love being on stage, because a grand strategist is constantly evangelical. He can’t wait to preach. He can’t wait to tell you.
HH: Well, thank you for coming and preaching so eloquently, and with so much energy over these last eight hours of conversation. Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, my audience thanks you as well. You can find his blog, you can talk to him by just simply Googling Thomas P.M. Barnett and blog.
End of interview.