Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dr. Thomas Barnett on 'Rule Sets'

This excerpt of Thomas Barnett is from an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show from January 10th, 2007:

HH: What are rule sets? And why are they changing?

TB: Well, my use of the term rule set is just a way of kind of bundling up the notion that that…for any activity, you know, human life, American football, the U.S. legal system, how you run a business, there are rules connected to that activity. Some of them are formal, the ones that get written down, some of them are informal, the kind of conventional wisdom and the insider knowledge that everybody has. And what I argue is, when rule sets get out of whack in the world, that’s when you have security issues and danger, and you tend to have war, to kind of, in many ways, seek equilibrium. My definition of the 90’s, and in effect, what went wrong with it, what it got us, sort of the 9/11 shock to the system, is that economic rule sets raced ahead of political rule sets. And technological rule sets raced ahead of security rule sets. We connected up the world as a whole in terms of economics and technology and networks faster than our political understanding and our security understanding could keep pace. And so vulnerabilities were created. An extreme vulnerability was revealed, for example, on 9/11, in terms of a very deliberate attack against our infrastructure. And what it did was not only create the damage on the ground right there, 9/11, New York City, Washington, D.C., but it sent huge repercussions, such repercussions throughout our systems in terms of the psychic damage, and the sense of vulnerability created, that we created, in effect, a rule set reset. We said oh my God, we don’t have enough rules in this area and that area, so we started making rules like crazy, very fast. We slapped one together domestically. We call it the Patriot Act. And Bush proposed one internationally. He called it the law of preemption, in effect, okay? And both of them were trying to define a new minimum standard for stability.

HH: And they have not yet been bought into by the rest of the West, or the connected core, much less the disconnected gap?

TB: Well, and it’s because we have to acknowledge the notion, and it’s an argument I make in the second book, Blueprint For Action, that we really have to contextualize the employment of that awesome power known as the U.S. Military. We’ve been entrusted dramatically, I would argue, since the end of the Cold War, with having the world’s sole military superpower status. Nobody’s really trying to build a force that’s anywhere close to our reach and our firepower and our capacity to roam the world and wage war at will. But in exchange for allowing us to keep that disproportional status, we have to submit to some larger understanding of it’s under these conditions you get to use that tremendous power, and it needs to be some understanding as to what the repercussions and what the responsibilities of not just the United States, but other advanced powers to deal with the aftermath of that kind of situation. That’s the rule set that hasn’t emerged yet, although we’re getting closer.

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