A New Military Theory

WSJ has a fascinating analysis on suggestions by Mr. Thomas Barnett to split US forces into two in keeping with the new world order:

Mr. Barnett’s military is a far cry from the shape of today’s armed forces. Instead of a single force to wage wars and rebuild nations, Mr. Barnett envisions two. The first, which he dubs “Leviathan,” would be hard-hitting, ready to take on conventional foes such as Saddam Hussein on a moment’s notice. The second, more unconventional force of “System Administrators” would focus on bringing dysfunctional states into the mainstream through the type of nation-building operations seen in Iraq, the Balkans and Eastern Africa. It wouldn’t only mop up after wars but would travel the world during peacetime building local security forces and infrastructure.

In Mr. Barnett’s world, countries are divided into two categories. His “core” countries are part of a global community linked by trade, migration and capital flows. Europe, the U.S., India and China fall into this group. Then there are “gap” countries that either refuse to join the global mainstream (such as Saudi Arabia and Iran), or are unable to because they have no central government or are struggling with debilitating crises (such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and much of sub-Saharan Africa).

“The “gap” is a petri dish of grief, repression, terrorism and disease,” says Adm. Cebrowski. “And 9/11 shows we can’t wall ourselves off from it.”

To join those worlds together, Mr. Barnett envisions two different military forces. The Leviathan force consists of stealthy submarines, long-range bombers and highly trained soldiers who are “young, unmarried and slightly p- off,” Mr. Barnett says.

The System Administrator force is named for the technology wonks who run corporate computer networks. This force is focused on training “gap state” security forces, stamping out insurgencies and rebuilding basic infrastructure such as legal systems and power grids.

That force would include lightly armored soldiers, the Marine Corps and officials from the State, Justice and Commerce departments along with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Its troops would be older and more specialized than the Leviathans. The purpose of the System Administrators would be to bring order to a country, but the force would also be strong enough to defend itself.

This concept relies on a key assumption: The power of the U.S.’s nuclear and conventional arms, plus increasing global economic interdependence, has made war between superpowers a thing of the past. It also assumes that wars with less-powerful states are less likely to occur.

Instead, the U.S. is more likely to find itself embroiled in dysfunctional parts of the world battling terrorists and rebuilding failed states, something it doesn’t do very well.

Mr. Barnett bets that advanced technologies will allow the U.S. to fight wars with smaller, high-tech formations. Some military analysts, such as retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, think that’s naive. Gen. Van Riper, who plays the enemy in Pentagon war games, says enemies could too easily hide from the Leviathan force’s sophisticated surveillance. He also thinks the System Administrator force wouldn’t be strong enough to defend itself in places such as Fallujah.

Would be interesting to get John Robb’s views on this.

A March 2003 article by Thomas Barnett on “The Pentagon’s New Map“, wherein he explains why the US is going to war and why it will keep doing so. Barnett has just published a book by the same title.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.