ThoughtStorms Wiki

Update : (ReadWith) GoodVsBadConnectivity for recent Barnett on connectivity. I'm being unfairly rhetorical about him in places on this page.

And tdaxp has done some interesting statistical analyses :

From an interview with ThomasBarnett, a major strategist from the Pentagon. Spelled out, crystal clear and without ambiguity.

BARNETT: Well, one of the arguments that I make is that if youre going to be serious about a global war on terrorism, what youre going to end up having to do is integrate these regions that are historically poorly connected to the outside world, meaning the regions that are poorly connected to the global economy, as we understand it. People talk about globalization and they make it sound like it wasnt there 20 years ago. Its everywhere now.


LAMB: Define globalization.

BARNETT: Globalization is a connectivity of communication networks. Its a connectivity of people travel, idea movement. Its connectivity of economic trade and a movement of money. It`s goods and services and ideas and traffic and all sorts of connectivity that develop in a mature fashion among the most mature economies, OK?

[Booknotes Booknotes Transcript]

You followed that, right? You are NOT ALLOWED not to be part of the global economy. If you try to avoid being part of the global economy, the Pentagon will call you a terrorist and try to kill you.

Not only that, but note the "as we understand it". It's not enough to be connected through, say, air travel, tourism, cultural exchanges and friends on Orkut. You must be part of the global economy as understood by the Pentagon, which includes free trade and capital flows.

Also on

I think you're reading Barnett's comments in a paranoid way. He's not saying "people who don't open their markets are terrorists", he's saying (I think) "terrorism is largely caused by the poverty and frustration often associated with a closed/corrupt/managed economy". Which seems to me to be a reasonable model of reality.

To quote: Well, heres that argument about disconnectedness defines danger. So I look at the world and I say, Show me the places that are poorly connected, Ill show you the violence, Ill show you all the wars, all the genocide, all the ethnic cleansing, all the terrorists that we care about. So when I see a country thats disconnected from the outside world, inevitably, bad things are happening. Because who wants to disconnect a society from the outside world? Somebody who wants to rule that society in an authoritarian fashion. And when you give them that kind of power over people, they tend to do bad things to those people and they tend to do bad things to their neighbors. They tend to become a threat.

more to come –BillSeitz

I'll admit to deliberately highlighting and stressing the possible implication of something which can sound innocuous if you don't think through the implications. I know I'm framing it in a particular way, and emphasizing one particular reading.

Is this paranoia? I'd say it's my usual provocative style :-)

I don't expect the gun-boats to be trying to open the Amish community any time soon, so I'm not that crazy.

And I even see his point about correlation between disconnected states and violence ... except I don't think the causality is quite as neat as he'd like.

For example, we've had terrorism in the UK from the IRA, Spain had it from ETA, the US had it from internal militias, Japan had it from that cult who's name escapes me at present. On the other hand, when was the last time we worried about utterly repressive, disconnected Burma sending a bomb our way? I don't believe there's any connection between North Korea and terrorism. (OK, maybe terrorists try to buy weapons from North Korea, but terrorists buy weapons from the UK too.)

Did China, at it's most isolationist, sponsor terrorism? On the other hand, we know damned well the US sponsored Islamic terrorism to make trouble for the Russians in Afghanistan. And Contras in Nicaragua etc. (update : and sponsored terrorism in Saddam's Iraq too : How How) close is the correlation between terror and disconnectedness once you stop filtering out all those awkward data-points?

Being "disconnected" can cause poverty and poverty can cause dissatisfaction. But there's plenty of poverty in "connected" places like Brazil. And plenty of dissatisfaction too. The only difference is that this becomes internal violent crime rather than getting focused on a foreign enemy. (Did you know we have 40,000 gun related murders a year, thats 4 times the US, with less than 200 million people.? Now see SaoPaulo)

So one possible alternative theory of terrorism is that terrorism breeds in places which are a) suffering poverty / repression b) has a plausible foreign candidate to blame that suffering on, and c) denies people the freedom to express their discontent in other ways.

I'd suggest looking for the confluence of those things would be a better way to identify potential trouble. And not being a foreign cause of people's suffering might be a good way to eliminate b)


If I was looking for cheap rhetorical shots I might also pull out that very interesting "all the terrorists that we care about" clause. I wonder about the terrorists that they don't care about.


Yeah, net-net, I'd say he's pretty scary. –BillSeitz

Of course, he's wrong because the notions of "connectedness" and "disconnectedness" are too vacuous. Or rather, too focused on one kind of connection : capitalism.

In reality there are dozens of different ways of being connected. Different networks based on different types of links : capital flow, trade, tourism, cultural inspiration, stigmergic information sharing, marriage etc. etc. One reason the west comes into conflict with Islam is that Islam is also a kind of network. Of shared texts and values, of wandering teachers, and audio-cassettes from charismatic clerics.

Was Taliban Afghanistan "disconnected" when thousands from around the Islamic world travelled to study there? When it was the connector of Saudi money with Pakistani students and Lebanese tacticians?

But once again, Barnett is fascinating because he makes the capitalist agenda so explicit. These alternative networks must be over-ridden. A network of capital flows must be put in their place : Therefore we must enlist the aid of all the forces of connectedness across the Core—not just their troops but their investment flows and their commercial networks.

He ought to know better. He says "forces of disconnectedness" will resist. But what a crazy idea. There is no force of disconnectedness. Disconnectedness has no force. The only force comes from rival connectedness. Even a BazaarOfViolence is a kind of connectedness.

Actually, after reading that the US has finally begun exporting security to that part of the world for real It's clear the guy is pretty much mad. Read it and decide yourself ...

Update :

No, I'll continue. The point about China is sort of good. In the sense that there's a real prediction to be had there. The Barnett view is that war with China isn't a danger because connectedness doesn't want to fight. The alternative prediction might be made from an analogy with the FirstWorldWar : a war of growing industrial superpowers jostling for room to expand. If there is war with China, it will vindicate the latter position and drive a nail through the Barnett doctrine. If there isn't, then this might be corroberation of it.

Ooh! Ooh! On the admiration for the IMF as good cop "processing" economic bad-kid states. This is too good!

And remind me, again, why anyone should "come when you can" to the peacekeeping?

Like I said. Totally loco!

Review :

Maps :

See also :