January 04, 2005

Tsunami & global security: on gaps and connections

An interview with Thomas P. M Barnett, whose ideas were outlined here

In his book 'The Pentagon's New Map' Barnett's Gap group of countries were understood as the least connected to the global economy (they export one or two raw materials but very little manufactured goods).This group included much of the Caribbean Rim, the Andes portion of South America, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East, and much of Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia includes the area hit by the tsunamiin the Indian Ocean. So the Barnett strategy would be to deepen their fragile connections to the global economy ---"to shrink that Gap over time by helping those regions integrate themselves with the global economy in a fair and just manner." Global stability (i.e. U.S. national security) requires a shrinking of the Gap by the Core.

The tsunami disaster provides and opportunity to shrink the gap of those disconnected economically and technologically from the global economy. This is what Barnett says on his weblog:

"There is connectivity to be won in Asia in 2005. There is a future worth creating there, a Core worth expanding, a Gap worth shrinking."

Barnett asks:

"How about an unprecedented "core regional group" made up of the United States, India, Japan, and Australia. Ever heard of that quartet before? Toss in China and you've got a mighty hand ready to sow connectivity where disconnectedness was generated almost instantly by one massive vertical shock followed the world's biggest horizontal wave."

China? That is asking a lot for regional governance when China is still as a big threat and not a regional partner. To his credit Barnett identifies this problem and criticizes the security people in the US Department of Defense.

But Barnett misses something else that goes to the heart of his gap/core thesis and the security aspect of globalization. This is civil war in Aceh? Will connectivity do away with that? He presumes so. Others do not.

Have a look at this article coutresy of

This corporate kind of globalization disconnects Aceh from the global economy. It does because of the connections between U.S. corporate interests and the Indonesian military repression in Aceh. Allan Nairn says that Exxon Mobil's

"....natural gas facility dominates the Acehnese economy, by way of extraction. They also have Indonesian troops garrisoned on their property. The Exxon Mobil company pays protection money to the Indonesian military and the military buries bodies of its victims on Exxon Mobil lands. The revenues from Exxon Mobil are a mainstay of the Jakarta central government. Not much of it finds its way back to Aceh."

And there are two other problems. Allan Nairn says thateven now, after the tsunami disater and international aid is flowing in, the Indonesian military is continuing to attack villages, more than a dozen villages in East Aceh and North Aceh away from the coast.

And the military is also impeding the flow of aid. They’ve commandeered a hanger at the Banda Aceh airport and:

"...the distribution of supplies is being done in some towns and villages only to people who hold the 'red and white,' which is a special ID card issued to Acehnese by the Indonesian police. You have to go to a police station to get one of these ID cards, and it is only issued to people who the police certify as not being opponents of the army, not being critics of the government. Of course many people are afraid to go and apply for such a card."

You can have the tendencies of connectivity and disconnectivity operating at the same time.

Does not Aceh question Barnett's assumption that globalization is beneficial to the Gap? Does it not raise the issue of whether more globalization is good or bad?

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at January 4, 2005 10:51 PM |
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