The Pentagon’s New Map

The Pentagon’s New Map represents Thomas P.M. Barnett’s vision for a new national security strategy for the United States military establishment. Barnett believes that the world is divided into two distinct camps, which he refers to as the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap, and that the disconnectedness, as he calls it, of the Non-Integrating Gap threatens the long-term national security interests of the United States and other primarily Western nations, or the so-called Functioning Core. He further believes that the United States must lead the way in the exportation of security in order to promote the advancement of globalization and, ultimately, of world peace. It is Barnett’s belief that America, as the only nation capable of carrying out the task at hand, must reshape its military in order to actively eliminate the bad actors from the international stage, effectively becoming the world’s police force.

This paper will argue that while Barnett’s map of the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap has some validity for explaining the state of the world in the post-Cold War era, America cannot maintain the military force sought by Barnett, nor can America solve all of the world’s problems and act as an international “cop-on-the-beat.” The paper will begin with a brief overview of Barnett’s thesis, and will explain Barnett’s view of the world in which we live. It will then discuss Barnett’s new strategy for the Pentagon and his proposals for reshaping the United States military to support the active exploitation of security into the Gap. Finally, the paper will conclude with an assessment of Barnett’s proposed strategy for dealing with those parts of the world that are not part of globalization’s advance.


Barnett’s thesis can be best described in two parts. First, Barnett believes that the world is divided into two distinct components, one that is part of globalization’s advance and one that is not. Those nations participating in the advance of globalization are reaping life’s rewards, while those nations not participating in the advance of globalization are essentially left out in the cold. As Barnett puts it, “Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and-most important-the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap” (Barnett, 2004, p. 9).

Central to Barnett’s thesis concerning the Core and the Gap is what he refers to as the “disconnectedness” of the Gap. As Barnett tells us, “In this century, it is disconnectedness that defines danger. Disconnectedness allows bad actors to flourish by keeping entire societies detached from the global community and under their control. Eradicating disconnectedness, therefore, becomes the defining security task of our age. Just as important, however, is the result that by expanding the connectivity of globalization, we increase peace and prosperity planet-wide” (Barnett, p. 8).

Disconnectedness, according to Barnett, means, “âÂ?¦to be kept isolated, deprived, repressed, and uneducated” (Barnett, p. 49). Barnett goes on to explain, “For the masses, being disconnected means a lack of choice and scarce access to ideas, capital, travel, entertainment, and loved ones overseas. For the elite, maintaining disconnectedness means control and the ability to hoard wealth, especially that generated by the exploitation of valued raw materials” (Barnett, p. 49). On the other hand, “A person with connectivity always has options: to move, to change careers, to get more education, to do whatever it takes to make something better happen for his or her kids” (Barnett, p. 217). For Barnett, though, those persons in the Gap without connectivity, or the disconnected, “âÂ?¦have no options” (Barnett, p. 217). It is the disconnected that pose a national security threat to the United States, for as Barnett asserts, they will eventually migrate their problems to those countries enjoying globalization’s connectivity. The roots of this part of Barnett’s theory can be found in the writings of Robert Kaplan, who according to Donald Snow “âÂ?¦argues that the response to worsening conditions in the Second Tier will be their transfer to the First Tier. As the misery in the least developed countries becomes more intolerable, he believes that the result will be massive migration by the disaffected to the seat of power and prosperity-to the countries of the First Tier” (Snow, 2004, p. 184).

The second part of Barnett’s thesis promotes the idea that the United States must lead the way in promoting connectivity within the Gap, what he calls “shrinking” the Gap, by exporting security in order to create an environment in which globalization can progress and ultimately bring about the end of war as we know it. America must lead the way, according to Barnett, because “We are the only country in the world purposely built around the ideals that animate globalization’s advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified” (Barnett, p. 50).

In order to do this, the United States must transform its military into two separate forces, what Barnett calls a bifurcated force, in order to effectively support the exportation of security into the countries that make up the Gap. The Pentagon’s New Map is intended to provide direction for a defense establishment in search of a strategy following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the bipolar world that had existed for nearly fifty years. As Barnett says, “My purpose here must be clear from the outset: I am proposing a new grand strategy on a par with the Cold War strategy of containment-in effect, its historical successor” (Barnett, p. 7). Barnett believes his shrink-the-Gap strategy is important “âÂ?¦for dealing with the present danger that will-on regular occasion, I believe-reach into our good life and cause us much pain if we continue to ignore it” (Barnett, p. 161).

Barnett, originally trained as an expert on the Soviet Union, served as a national security analyst for the United States government and later led a research project designed “âÂ?¦to explore how globalization was remaking the global security environmentâÂ?¦ (Barnett, p. 5). Barnett then worked as Assistant for Strategic Futures in the Office of Force Transformation, an office whose primary purpose was to “âÂ?¦refocus the Pentagon’s strategic vision of future war” (Barnett, p. 6). His work on the effects of globalization and his research on the possible future conflicts involving the United States military provide a background well-suited to offering a possible national security strategy for the United States military establishment.


According to Barnett, “Understanding where globalization has taken root and where it has not is the first step toward mapping the international security environment of the twenty-first century” (Barnett, p. 121). Barnett’s division of the world into a Functioning Core and a Non-Integrating Gap provides a useful method for defining which nations are part of globalization’s advance and which ones are not. As he said in an article for the Providence Journal-Bulletin in 2002, “As globalization deepens and spreads, two groups of states are essentially pitted against one another: countries seeking to align their internal rule sets with the emerging global rule set (e.g., advanced Western democracies, Japan and Asia’s emerging economies, Putin’s Russia) and countries that either refuse such internal realignment or cannot achieve it because of political / cultural rigidity or continuing abject poverty (much of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America) (Barnett, 2002).

For Barnett, the characteristics which place a country in either the Core or the Gap are clear. When describing those nations he considers part of the Functioning Core, Barnett says, “First and foremost, a country or region is functioning within globalization if it accepts the connectivity and can handle the content flows associated with integrating one’s national economy to the global economy” (Barnett, p. 125). Second, a country is considered to be part of the Functioning Core “âÂ?¦when it seeks to harmonize its internal rule sets with the emerging global rule of democracy, rule of law, and free markets” (Barnett, p. 127).

On the other hand, those nations struggling in the world today, those nations that are not part of globalization’s advance, are the nations that make up Barnett’s Non-Integrating Gap. For Barnett, the world is thus divided between the Core and the Gap. But the divide is not as simple as separating “rich” countries from “poor” countries. There have always been rich and poor countries, and there will always be rich and poor countries. The difference for Barnett is not one of riches, but one of progression and advancement. His world division consists of those countries that are advancing within globalization and those that are not.

This division in the world resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resultant end of the Cold War. According to Bevin Alexander, “With the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the discipline that had held the world firmly in two antagonistic ideological camps abruptly snapped. For a euphoric moment much of the world believed that the principal divisions on the planet had been healed and that we could look forward to a peaceful, cooperative future” (Alexander, 1995, pp. 9-10). Additionally, Richard Haass tells us, “There were grounds for supposing that the end of the Cold War would usher in a period of international relations in which political and military competition would diminish and the need to use force abroad would decline” (Haass, 1999, p. 2).

This optimism, however, did not come to fruition, as Alexander states, “We quickly learned how wrong we were. Ethnic, religious, and nationalistic conflicts that had been suppressed for generations by East-West bipolarity suddenly reemerged throughout the world, especially in the former Soviet Union and among its erstwhile satellites” (Alexander, p. 10). Benjamin Netanyahu echoes this sentiment when he says, “As by now nearly everyone understands, ‘history’ did not end with the collapse of Soviet Communism. The New World Disorder is not merely a hodgepodge of local nuisances that pose no substantial threat to our civilization and our way of life” (Netanyahu, 2001, p. 129). Finally, according to Haass, “On balance, the post-Cold War world promises to be a messy one where violence is common, where conflicts within and between nation-states abound, and where the question of U.S. military intervention becomes more rather than less commonplace and more rather than less complicated” (Haass, p. 2).

However, according to Snow, the current state of the world is not as bad as it may seem: “Overall, the major conclusion one must reach is that the post-Cold War world, despite the intrusion of international terrorism, is a more secure, less threatening place than before for the United States, and one in which the country is basically better able to realize its interests than it was during the Cold War” (Snow, p. 178). Despite the disagreement over the level of instability in the post-Cold War environment, the Pentagon must still develop a national security strategy to replace the strategy of containment that was the dominant theory during the Cold War. Barnett proposes such a theory for the United States military in The Pentagon’s New Map.


Having divided the world into those countries belonging to the Core and those countries belonging to the Gap, Barnett concluded that it was the nations in the Gap that would pose the greatest long-term threat to U.S. national security because of the disconnectedness of the regions that were excluded from the Core. As he says in The Pentagon’s New Map, “âÂ?¦look beyond globalization’s frontier, and there you will find the failed states that command our attention, the rogue states that demand our vigilance, and the endemic conflicts that fuel the terror we now recognize as the dominant threat not just to American’s future security, but to globalization’s continued advance” (Barnett, p. 122). He goes further to state, “The real asymmetrical challenge we will face will come from globalization’s disenfranchised, or the losers largely left behind in the states most disconnected from globalization’s advance” (Barnett, p. 93).

So, what do we do to counter the new threat we face in this post-Cold War era? According to Barnett, “Rather than dwell on the unpredictability of future threats or attacks, our strategic vision for national security needs to focus on growing the community of states that recognize a stable set of rules regarding war and peaceâÂ?¦” (Barnett, p. 25). To “grow this community of states,” Barnett proposes a new national security strategy for dealing with the threats posed by the disconnectedness of the nations of the Non-Integrating Gap.

For Barnett, the strategy is a simple one. The only way to deal with the threat posed by the disconnectedness of the Gap is to reduce the level of disconnectedness, in effect, to “shrink” the Gap. He maintains “America can only increase its security when it extends connectivity or expands globalization’s reach, and by doing so, progressively reduces the trouble spots or off-grid locations where security problems and instability tend to concentrate” (Barnett, p. 56). He goes on to say, “âÂ?¦America’s avowed goal should be extending our culturally neutral, rules-based ‘civilization’ called globalization, because if we do not all live under the same basic rule set, there will always be a global hierarchy by which some rule and others are ruled. Until there are equal rules, we are not all equal” (Barnett, p. 54).

The problem with this is that Barnett assumes that the nations of the Gap want us to extend our rule sets to them. It is true that America is often seen as the world’s leader in the advancement of globalization. As Caleb Carr says, “Over the last twenty years, the United States has become particularly identified, with much justification, as the most powerful force behind the propagation throughout the world of Western values, the Western economic system, and Western popular culture” (Carr, 2002, p. 222). But our presence throughout the world is not always welcomed by other nations. As Snow tells us, “One objection coming from the Second Tier is that the American model, which has dominated participation in the globalizing economyâÂ?¦is too rigidly American and thus cannot be imposed uniformly on very different cultures and systems” (Snow, p. 149). Snow goes on to say, “Some countries and regions reject the cultural intrusion and destructiveness of globalization for local cultural, religious, or other practices” (Snow, p. 186).

For Barnett, the only way to extend the Core’s connectivity to the Gap is to export the Core’s security to the Gap. As he says, “The Core’s investment funds will not flow into war zones, failed states, and terrorist havens, so the Pentagon’s essential task is to export security into those national and regional deficit situations that currently hold up economic integration. Saddam Hussein’s regime was such a black hole, as was Charles Taylor’s in Liberia. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is probably the worst of the bunch. The drug lords in Columbia are a security sinkhole. So is basically any repressive leader inside the Gap who simply refuses to leave power, like Castro in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and Qaddafi in Libya-to name just a few ‘big men.’ They should all go, and none of them should be succeeded by the idiot son, brother, nephew, or cousin” (Barnett, p. 305). It was for this reason that Barnett supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq: “Hussein’s regime was a textbook example of everything we need to eliminate in the Gap: a bad leader who stuck around way past his expiration date, a regime that terrorized its population for decades, and a society so decimated from violence that it could take years to find and dig up all the mass graves-much less identify the remains” (Barnett, p. 155).

The biggest problem with cleaning up the world, as Barnett would like the United States to do, is that the United States just cannot do it alone. And for all of his theory about the United States leading the exportation of security into the Gap with the support of the Functioning Core as a whole, Barnett fails to recognize that much of the Core does not share the same foreign policy or national security priorities of the United States. This was clearly evidenced in the United Nations Security Council deliberations during the pre-Iraq war debate in late-2002 and early-2003. And, as Alexander says, “Not only would it be an intolerable burden on the United States to take responsibility for everything, everywhere, but other nations will not accept the United States in that role” (Alexander, p. 66).

The question then becomes one of where to intervene with the limited resources and capabilities available to the United States military establishment. Snow sums this up when he says, “Failed and failing, or noncompetitive, states are places that are obviously in trouble, and their troubles may make some of them unstable and violent. As a result, they present problems for themselves and potentially for others, who may be drawn into their difficulties for one reason or another. These are states that rank high on anyone’s index of misery. The questions for national security are whether these problems make any difference to us; if so, how much difference; and what efforts, if any, we are willing to undertake to try to alleviate the misery” (Snow, p. 311).


To accomplish the task of exporting security to the Gap, Barnett believes that the Pentagon must reshape the United States military in a shift away from focusing on traditional, large-scale symmetrical wars to a force that is structured to meet the challenges posed by the disconnectedness of the Gap. Following the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon continued to plan for future wars by focusing on nation-states and the potential for major conflict based on the models of twentieth century warfare. According to Barnett, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. changed everything: “The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks did the U.S. national security establishment a huge favor by pulling us away from the abstract planning of future high-tech wars against make-believe “near peers” into the here-and-now concrete threats to global order” (Barnett, 2002).

So what must the Pentagon do to change its focus? According to Barnett, the Pentagon “âÂ?¦must first and foremost reshape the U.S. military to facilitate its crisis-response capabilities, and all the Military Operations Other Than War skill sets and resources that go with it, while simultaneously downgrading the Defense Department’s long-term preparation for the Big One with some future near-peer. This involves nothing less than turning upside down more than half a century of Pentagon practice-in effect, reversing the priorities that have defined America’s long-range strategic planning since the Defense Act of 1947” (Barnett, pp. 141-142).

Barnett advocates splitting the U.S. military into two distinct forces: “I believe the time has come to admit that we need two militaries: one to fight wars and one to wage peace” (Barnett, p. 299). He believes the United States needs both forces because “We need both the capacity for deterrence and preemptionâÂ?¦andâÂ?¦postwar security-generationâÂ?¦” (Barnett, p. 303). Barnett refers to these forces as the Leviathan force and the System Administrator force. He describes them as follows: “By Leviathan, I mean America provides the might that will eventually outlaw all mass violence in the Gap, and by System Administrator, I mean America must make right every security deficit it seeks to fill throughout the Gap” (Barnett, p. 310). He goes on to say, “The first force would serve as America’s ‘killer application’ for the twenty-first century, or the big stick we would pull out as needed to unilaterally crush enemies that rose up, while the second force would serve as America’s cop on the beat, managing the world day to day in an integrated fashion with other U.S. federal agencies, the United Nations, and allied militaries. These two forces would operate under different rules, would pursue different missions and goalsâÂ?¦” (Barnett, p. 316).

To expand the discussion further, Barnett tells us that the Leviathan force “âÂ?¦will be combat orientedâÂ?¦” and that it “âÂ?¦will focus on killing and removing bad actors while leaving behind societies otherwise unimpaired; it will surgically remove unwanted tissue, not riddle the body politic with smoking holes” (Barnett, pp. 323-324). Additionally, the Leviathan force “âÂ?¦will be young, overwhelmingly male, and preferably unmarriedâÂ?¦” and “âÂ?¦will remain under military law, and will not submit to oversight from the International Criminal Court (ICC)” (Barnett, p. 321). The System Administrator Force, by contrast, “âÂ?¦will be far older, more educated, gender-balanced, and often married with children” (Barnett, p. 321). Additionally, this force “âÂ?¦will demonstrate our willingness to follow through on the interventions started by the Leviathan force, while simultaneously offering broader coalition opportunities to allied militaries that simply cannot keep pace with the transformation of our combat capabilities” (Barnett, p. 302). Barnett goes further to say this force “âÂ?¦will not be in a hurry to leave, and will remain until the locals are ready to assume control or the UN mission is up and running. All the broken windows will be fixed before this force departs, and the American public will come to understand that these are the troops that remain after we ‘bring the boys home'” (Barnett, p. 321).

Barnett cites the current situation in Iraq as an example of why we need two different types of military forces: “Then came the hard part: dealing with a devastated economy, a brutalized society, and significant numbers of post conflict guerrillas and terrorists more than happy to wage asymmetrical war against a sitting force both ill prepared to manage the transition and eager as hell to leave. The warrior force was immediately transmutedâÂ?¦into an occupation force. The Leviathan was transformed into System AdministratorâÂ?¦” (Barnett, p. 318).

Barnett’s vision of a Leviathan force is readily realized in the current warfighting capabilities of the United States military. The current U.S. military is capable of waging war anywhere around the globe and stands ready to crush any threat to U.S. national security. The System Administrator force, however, is a much more difficult challenge. Barnett is, in effect, advocating an American police force for use on the international stage, to be employed after the U.S. military’s Leviathan force has cleaned up all of the trouble spots within the Gap. He optimistically assumes that our allies will just jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, as we go around the world attempting to clean up all of the tyrants and dictators that are keeping the Gap disconnected from the Core. As Haas argues, “Using military force to intervene on behalf of a people against their government or nongovernmental forces is a complicated undertaking that can place the intervening party squarely in the middle of another nation’s politics” (Haass, pp. 137-138).

The realist tendencies that currently dominate the world of international relations make it unlikely that the world community will join together, with America in the lead, to clean up the Gap. Barnett seems to acknowledge this fact when he says, “I know my Core-Gap division often makes the world seem too neat, because, in reality, there are plenty of forces within the Core who favor disconnectedness over connectedness, and we will face as many battles with them in coming years as we will face with the bin Ladens of the Gap. That is because many governments in the Core still view the world system as a balance of powers, and so any rise in U.S. influence or presenceâÂ?¦is seen as a loss of their influence or presence there. Too many of these ‘great powers’âÂ?¦prefer America’s failures to the Core’s expansion, because they see their national interests enhanced by the former and diminished by the latter. They prefer the Gap’s continued suffering to their own loss of prestige, and they should be ashamed for their selfishness” (Barnett, p. 288).

In addition to the problems presented by relations with other nations, there are difficulties with the structure of Barnett’s proposed bifurcated U.S. military. Haass addresses the issue from several perspectives: “âÂ?¦U.S. force levels are already barely adequate-or perhaps even inadequate-relative to existing requirements. Setting aside a significant number of troops for peacekeeping, peacemaking, and nation-building purposes would only exacerbate this. Separate troops would also limit U.S. deployment flexibility. And having separate forces probably exaggerated the difference between peacemaking and warfighting. Better would be an approach along the lines of current policy, i.e., one Army prepared to undertake a range of missions, with personnel receiving special mission-specific training just prior to departure” (Haass, p. 141).

Alexander echoes Haass’ proposal to maintain current policy by saying, “The tactics now being developed can be adapted to whatever wars we fight, whether conventional against heavily armed enemies or low-intensity against light forces” (Alexander, p. 64). Finally, Snow adds an argument for not diminishing the current conventional capabilities of the U.S. military: “âÂ?¦eliminating or drastically cutting back heavy armed forces would eliminate the principal military advantage the United States has in the world” (Snow, p. 232). In sum, the current transformation being undertaken by the Pentagon to make the U.S. military lighter, more mobile, and more rapidly deployable will yield a military capable of facing any symmetrical or asymmetrical threat that may present itself. It will not yield an exclusive police force for use on the international stage, but will increase the numbers of military police and civil affairs-type units so desperately needed in a post-war occupation.


Barnett’s division of the world into a Functioning Core and a Non-Integrating Gap provides a useful model for determining the regions of the world where the United States is likely to encounter its most serious national security threats. A careful look at Barnett’s map of the Non-Integrating Gap reveals the majority of the trouble spots that have drawn American military attention since the end of the Cold War.

Similarly, Barnett’s strategy of exporting security seeks to achieve a very noble purpose: “What America gets in return is the end of war as we know it. It gets a global economy with nobody left on the outside, noses pressed to the glass. Most important, it gets a definition of what constitutes the finish line in this global war on terrorism. In sum, shrinking the Gap gets us the final peace to the puzzle that is global peace” (Barnett, p. 304). However, Barnett also acknowledges that America cannot force the nations of the Gap to accept the rule sets of globalization when he says, “All we can offer is choice, the connectivity to escape isolation, and the safety within which freedom finds practical expression. None of this can be imposed, only offered” (Barnett, p. 356).

Barnett advocates the removal from power of all of the global “bad boys” through the use of U.S. military power because he believes that the active exportation of security by the United States will result in a world in which all nations enjoy the benefits of globalization that have been realized by the nations of the Functioning Core. Barnett’s thesis assumes that the rest of the world will join the United States in cleaning up the Gap, disregarding the fact that many nations do not share our national security or foreign policy priorities. He also disregards the challenges within the United States of manning and equipping two separate forces, and the public sentiment involved when talking about using U.S. military forces to police the world.

The biggest problem with Barnett’s thesis, though, is that it appears to be too idealistic and too optimistic. Barnett says, “America has basically arrived at a point in world history where-if we really want to-we can render organized mass violence of all sorts essentially obsolete” (Barnett, p.272). He goes on to say, “In my world, women aren’t raped en masse as a tool of political terror. In my world, people don’t rise up en masse and hack to death with machetes and axes everyone they can find from some other ethnic group” (Barnett, p. 152). He continues his idealistic thought by saying, “I see a world in which wars have become obsolete, where dictators fear for their lives more than democratically elected leaders, and where the world’s great armies no longer plan great wars but instead focus on stopping bad individuals from doing bad things” (Barnett, p. 368). The problem is that the world is not that simple and a viable national security strategy has to be based on something more concrete than just a vision for a better world.


Alexander, B. (1995). The Future of Warfare. New York: W. W. Norton, Inc.
Barnett, T. (2004). The Pentagon’s New Map. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Barnett, T. (2002). The ‘Core’ and the ‘Gap’. Providence Journal-Bulletin, November, 2002. Retrieved from Ebscohost database on the World Wide Web:
Carr, C. (2002). The Lessons of Terror. New York: Random House.
Haass, R. (1999). Intervention. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Netanyahu, B. (2001). Fighting Terrorism. New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux.
Snow, D. (2004). National Security Policy. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ eight = 13