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From The "Planning Is Everything" Department

Thomas P. M. Barnett, of the Naval War College, on Getting What You Wish For: "... Rumsfeld's answer was that 'sometimes you go to the war with the army that you have, not the army that you want' -- not exactly. You go to the war with the army you've been wanting." Because that's the army you've got: "we've been wanting for the past 15 years an army that doesn't do peacekeeping, doesn't do nation building, doesn't do post-conflict stabilization." [Thomas P. M. Barnett, "The Pentagon's New Map", on ME 2005-01-18] [as RealAudio] So what we got was an army on the ground in Iraq that couldn't handle "winning the peace", just as General Eric Shinseki predicted.

Alas, we didn't wish for Iraq to become the world's new terrorist training ground. But we got it. What do these things have in common? That they were both predicted by anyone who bothered to think about it. That they were both obvious consequences of the way we chose to do things. That people responsible for seeing this stuff in advance, did see it, and did raise warnings. That people responsible for listening to those warnings did not heed them (and perhaps did not even listen).

But common sense has never traded well in American politics. If it did, we'd have taken the common sense approach that Barnett advocates and opened trade with Cuba. That would have brought Cuba into economic contact with the rest of the world. Barnett argues that when nations are brought into economic contact with the world -- when they're given a stake in the world community, as it were -- they don't cause problems. Ergo, if we wanted to make Cuba play well with the rest of the world, we should have practiced a little [ahem!] constructive engagement. (If it's good enough for China, why not for Cuba? Oh, wait, that's logic...)

Since this is basically consonant with orthodox market theory, with conservatives theories of personal responsibility, and also plays well with the "liberal" comprehension of the fact that we've gotten ourselves far up the excrement race with no apparent means of propulsion, I'll be curious to see what kind of traction these ideas get.

Barnett's a military historian, so there's a military angle to all of this, too, of course: He seems to suggest basically that if we're to become colonial lords, we should make our army fit that bill. We should procure and plan and train for a force and force structure that is suited to peacekeeping, is suited to nation building, is suited to post-conflict stabilization. Common sense. Though I'm afraid having such a force might make us more likely to meddle in the business of other countries (I'd rather not see us as colonial lords), perhaps we'd get into less trouble if our army weren't well-suited for large-scale invasions. I'll be curious to see his reviews.

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