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I get asked a lot what the difference between my work is and typical Pentagon long-range strategic planners. And the answer I like to offer is what they typically do is they think about the future of wars in the context of war. And what I've spent 15 years doing in this business -- and it's taken me almost 14 to figure it out -- is I think about the future of wars in the context of everything else. So I tend to specialize on the scene between war and peace. The material I'm going to show you is one idea from a book with a lot of ideas. It's the one that takes me around the world right now interacting with foreign militaries quite a bit. The material was generated in two years of work I did for the Secretary of Defense, thinking about a new national grand strategy for the United States. I'm going to present a problem and try to give you an answer.
Here's my favorite bonehead concept from the 1990s in the Pentagon: the theory of anti-access, area-denial asymmetrical strategies. Why do we call it that? Because it's got all those A's lined up I guess. This is gobbledygook for if the United States fights somebody we're going to be huge. They're going to be small. And if they try to fight us in the traditional, straight-up manner we're going to kick their ass, which is why people don't try to do that any more. I met the last Air Force General who had actually shot down an enemy plane in combat. He's now a one star General. That's how distant we are from even meeting an air force willing to fly against ours. So that overmatched capability creates problems -- catastrophic successes the White House calls them.
And we're trying to figure that out, because it is an amazing capability. The question is, what's the good you can do with it? OK? The theory of anti-access, area-denial asymmetrical strategies -- gobbledygook that we sell to Congress, because if we just told them we can kick anybody's asses they wouldn't buy us all the stuff we want. So we say, area-denial, anti-access asymmetrical strategies and their eyes glaze over.
Here's my parody and it ain't much of one. Let's talk about a battle space. I don't know, Taiwan Straits 2025. Let's talk about an enemy embedded within that battle space. I don't know, the Million Man Swim.
Trojan horses on our computer networks reveal all our Achilles' heels instantly. We say, "China, it's yours." Prometheus approach, largely a geographic definition, focuses almost exclusively on the start of conflict. We field the first-half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game. That's the problem. We can run the score up against anybody, and then get our asses kicked in the second half -- what they call fourth generation warfare.
Here's the way I like to describe it instead. There is no battle space the U.S. Military cannot access. They said we couldn't do Afghanistan. We did it with ease. They said we couldn't do Iraq. We did it with 150 combat casualties in six weeks. We did it so fast we weren't prepared for their collapse. There is nobody we can't take down. The question is, what do you do with the power?
So there's no trouble accessing battle spaces. What we have trouble accessing is the transition space that must naturally follow, and creating the peace space that allows us to move on. Problem is, the Defense Department over here beats the hell out of you. The State Department over here says, "Come on boy, I know you can make it." And that poor country runs off that ledge, does that cartoon thing and then drops.
This is not about overwhelming force, but proportional force. It's about non-lethal technologies, because if you fire real ammo into a crowd of women and children rioting you're going to lose friends very quickly. This is not about projecting power, but about staying power, which is about legitimacy with the locals. Who do you access in this transition space?
You have to create internal partners. You have to access coalition partners. We asked the Indians for 17,000 peace keepers. I know their senior leadership, they wanted to give it to us. But they said to us, "You know what? In that transition space you're mostly hat not enough cattle. We don't think you can pull it off, we're not going to give you our 17,000 peace keepers for fodder." We asked the Russians for 40,000. They said no. I was in China in August, I said, "You should have 50,000 peace keepers in Iraq. It's your oil, not ours." Which is the truth. It's their oil. And the Chinese said to me, "Dr. Barnett, you're absolutely right. In a perfect world we'd have 50,000 there. But it's not a perfect world, and your administration isn't getting us any closer." But we have trouble accessing our outcomes.
We lucked out, frankly, on the selection. We face different opponents across these three. And it's time to start admitting you can't ask the same 19-year-old to do it all, day in and day out. It's just too damn hard. We have an unparalleled capacity to wage war. We don't do the everything else so well. Frankly, we do it better than anybody and we still suck at it. We have a brilliant Secretary of War. We don't have a Secretary of Everything Else. Because if we did, that guy would be in front of the Senate, still testifying over Abu Ghraib. The problem is he doesn't exist. There is no Secretary of Everything Else. I think we have an unparalleled capacity to wage war. I call that the Leviathan Force. What we need to build is a force for the Everything Else. I call them the System Administrators.
What I think this really represents is lack of an A to Z rule set for the world as a whole for processing politically bankrupt states. We have one for processing economically bankrupt states. It's the IMF Sovereign Bankruptcy Plan, OK? We argue about it every time we use it. Argentina just went through it, broke a lot of rules. They got out on the far end, we said, "Fine, don't worry about it." It's transparent. A certain amount of certainty gives the sense of a non-zero outcome. We don't have one for processing politically bankrupt states that, frankly, everybody wants gone. Like Saddam, like Mugabe, like Kim Jong-Il -- people who kill in hundreds of thousands or millions. Like the 250,000 dead so far in Sudan.
What we have extant right now, at the beginning of this system, is the U.N. Security Council as a grand jury. What can they do? They can indict your ass. They can debate it. They can write it on a piece of paper. They can put it in an envelope and mail it to you, and then say in no uncertain terms, "Please cut that out."
That gets you about four million dead in Central Africa over the 1990s. That gets you 250,000 dead in the Sudan in the last 15 months. Everybody's got to answer their grandchildren some day what you did about the holocaust in Africa, and you better have an answer. We don't have anything to translate that will into action.
But here's the deal. As soon as I can't find anybody else to air out, I leave the scene immediately. That's called the Powell Doctrine. Way downstream we have the International Criminal Court. They love to put them on trial. They've got Milosevic right now.
What are we missing? A functioning executive that will translate will into action, because we don't have it. Every time we lead one of these efforts we have to whip ourselves into this imminent threat thing. We haven't faced an imminent threat since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But we use this language from a bygone era to scare ourselves into doing something because we're a democracy and that's what it takes. And if that doesn't work we scream, "He's got a gun!" just as we rush in.
What we need downstream is a great power enabled -- what I call that Sys Admin Force. We should have had 250,000 troops streaming into Iraq on the heels of that Leviathan sweeping towards Baghdad. What do you get then? No looting, no military disappearing, no arms disappearing, no ammo disappearing, no Muqtada al-Sadr -- I'm wrecking his bones -- no insurgency. Talk to anybody who was over there in the first six months. We had six months to feel the lob, to get the job done, and we dicked around for six months. And then they turned on us. Why? Because they just got fed up. They saw what we did to Saddam. They said, "You're that powerful, you can resurrect this country. You're America."
What we need is an international reconstruction fund -- Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, great idea. Model on the IMF. Instead of passing the hat each time, OK? Where are we going to find this guy? G20, that's easy. Check out their agenda since 9/11. All security dominated. They're going to decide up front how the money gets spent just like in the IMF. You vote according to how much money you put in the kitty. Here's my challenge to the Defense Department. You've got to build this force. You've got to seed this force. You've got to track coalition partners. Create a record of success. You will get this model. You tell me it's too hard to do. I'll walk this dog right through that six part series on the Balkans. We did it just like that. I'm talking about regularizing it, making it transparent. Would you like Mugabe gone? Would you like Kim Jong-Il, who's killed about two million people, would you like him gone? Would you like a better system? This is why it matters to the military. They've been experiencing an identity crisis since the end of the Cold War. I'm not talking about the difference between reality and desire, which I can do because I'm not inside the beltway.
I'm talking about the 1990s. The Berlin Wall falls. We do Desert Storm. The split starts to emerge between those in the military who see a future they can live with, and those who see a future that starts to scare them, like the U.S. submarine community, which watches the Soviet Navy disappear overnight. Ah!
The rest of the military got dragged down into the muck across the 1990s and they developed this very derisive term to describe it: military operations other than war. I ask you, who joins the military to do things other than war? Actually, most of them. Jessica Lynch never planned on shooting back. Most of them don't pick up a rifle. I maintain this is code inside the Army for, "We don't want to do this." They spent the 1990s working the messy scene between globalized parts of the world What I call the core and the gap. The Clinton administration wasn't interested in running this. For eight years, after screwing up the relationship on day one -- inauguration day with gays in the military -- which was deft.
So we were home alone for eight years. And what did we do home alone? We bought one military and we operated another. It's like the guy who goes to the doctor and says, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."
Some people say 9/11 heals the rift -- jerks the long-term transformation gurus out of their 30,000 foot view of history, drags them down in to the muck and says, "You want a networked opponent? I've got one, he's everywhere, go find him." It elevates MOOTW -- how we pronounce that acronym -- from crap to grand strategy, because that's how you're going to shrink that gap.
Some people put these two things together and they call it empire, which I think is a boneheaded concept. Empire is about the enforcement of not just minimal rule sets, which you cannot do, but maximum rule sets which you must do. It's not our system of governance. Never how we've sought to interact with the outside world. I prefer that phrase System Administration. We enforce the minimal rule sets for maintaining connectivity to the global economy. Certain bad things you cannot do. How this impacts the way we think about the future of war. This is a concept which gets me vilified throughout the Pentagon. It makes me very popular as well. Everybody's got an opinion.
Going back to the beginning of our country -- historically, defenses meant protection of the homeland. Security has meant everything else. Written into our constitution, two different forces, two different functions. Raise an army when you need it, and maintain a navy for day-to-day connectivity. A Department of War, a Department of Everything Else. A big stick, a baton stick. Can of whup ass, the networking force. In 1947 we merged these two things together in the Defense Department. Our long-term rationale becomes, we're involved in a hair trigger stand off with the Soviets. To attack America is to risk blowing up the world. We connected national security to international security with about a seven minute time delay. That's not our problem now. They can kill three million in Chicago tomorrow and we don't go to the mattresses with nukes. That's the scary part.
The question is how do we reconnect American national security with global security to make the world a lot more comfortable, and to embed and contextualize our employment of force around the planet? What's happened since is that bifurcation I described. We talked about this going all the way back to the end of the Cold War. Let's have a Department of War, and a Department of Something Else. Some people say, "Hell, 9/11 did it for you." Now we've got a home game and an away game.
I supported the war in Iraq. He was a bad guy with multiple priors. It's not like we had to find him actually killing somebody live to arrest him. I knew we'd kick ass in the war with the Leviathan Force. I knew we'd have a hard time with what followed. But I know this organization doesn't change until it experiences failure. What do I mean by these two different forces?
This is the Hobbesian Force. I love this force. I don't want to see it go. That plus nukes rules out great power war. This is the military the rest of the world wants us to build. It's why I travel all over the world talking to foreign militaries.
What does this mean? It means you've got to stop pretending you can do these two very disparate skill sets with the same 19-year-old. Switching back, morning, afternoon, evening, morning, afternoon, evening. Handing out aid, shooting back, handing out aid, shooting back. It's too much. The 19-year-olds get tired from the switching, OK?
The rule is going to be this. That Sys Admin force is the force that never comes home, does most of your work. You break out that Leviathan Force only every so often. But here's the promise you make to the American public, to your own people, to the world. You break out that Leviathan Force, you promise, you guarantee that you're going to mount one hell of a -- immediately -- follow-on Sys Admin effort. Don't plan for the war unless you plan to win the peace.
Including us, I would remind you. The rest -- wider array of partners. International organizations, non-governmental organizations, private voluntary organizations, contractors. You're not going to get away from that. Leviathan Force, it's all about joint operations between the military services. We're done with that. What we need to do is inter-agency operations, which frankly Condi Rice was in charge of. And I'm amazed nobody asked her that question when she was confirmed.
I call the Sys Admin Force your mom's military. It's everything the man's military hates. Gender balanced much more, older, educated, married with children. The force on the left, up or out. The force on the right, in and out. The force on the left respects Posse Comitatus restrictions on the use of force inside the U.S. The force on the right's going to obliterate it. That's where the National Guard's going to be. The force on the left is never coming under the purview of the International Criminal Court. Sys Admin Force has to. Different definitions of network centricity. One takes down networks, one puts them up. And you've got to wage war here in such a way to facilitate that.
Do we need a bigger budget? Do we need a draft to pull this off? Absolutely not. I've been told by the Revolution of Military Affairs crowd for years, we can do it faster, cheaper, smaller, just as lethal. I say, "Great, I'm going to take the Sys Admin budget out of your hide."
Here's the larger point. You're going to build the Sys Admin Force inside the U.S. Military first. But ultimately you're going to civilianize it, probably two thirds. Inter agency-ize it, internationalize it. So yes, it begins inside the Pentagon, but over time it's going to cross that river.
Read Max Boon. This is the history of the marines -- small wars, small arms. The Marines are like my West Highland Terrier. They get up every morning, they want to dig a hole and they want to kill something.
I don't want my Marines handing out aid. I want them to be Marines. That's what keeps the Sys Admin Force from being a pussy force. It keeps it from being the U.N. You shoot at these people the Marines are going to come over and kill you.
I call it the Smart Dust Navy. I tell young officers, "You may command 500 ships in your career. Bad news is they may not have anybody on them." Carriers go both ways because they're a swing asset. You'll see the pattern -- airborne, just like carriers. Armor goes this way. Here's the dirty secret of the Air Force, you can win by bombing. But you need lots of these guys on the ground to win the peace. Shinseki was right with the argument. Air force, strategic airlift goes both ways. Bombers, fighters go over here. Special Operations Command down at Tampa. Trigger-pullers go this way. Civil Affairs, that bastard child, comes over here. Return to the Army. The point about the trigger-pullers and Special Operations Command. No off season, these guys are always active. They drop in, do their business, disappear. See me now. Don't talk about it later.
I want to keep trigger-pullers trigger-happy. I want the rules to be as loose as possible. Because when the thing gets prevented in Chicago with the three million dead that perverts our political system beyond all recognition, these are the guys who are going to kill them first. So it's better off to have them make some mistakes along the way than to see that.
Reserve component -- National Guard reserves overwhelmingly Sys Admin. How are you going to get them to work for this force? Most firemen in this country do it for free. This is not about money. This is about being up front with these guys and gals.
Last point, intelligence community -- the muscle and the defense agencies go this way. What should be the CIA, open, analytical, open source should come over here. The information you need to do this is not secret. It's not secret. Read that great piece in the New Yorker about how our echo boomers, 19 to 25, over in Iraq taught each other how to do Sys Admin work, over the Internet in chat rooms. They said, "Al Qaeda could be listening." They said, "Well, Jesus, they already know this stuff."
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In this bracingly honest talk, international security strategist Thomas Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering U.S. military that is both sensible and breathtaking in its simplicity: Break it in two.
Strategic planner Thomas Barnett has advised US leaders on national security since the end of the Cold War. His bold ideas about the future of warfare and the military are spelled out in his best-selling book The Pentagon's New Map. Full bio »