Shrink the Gap yourself (an RFI)

Recently I wrote a few posts on economic development and the trade vs. aid debate on Africa, generalizable to the developing world.

Dan, at TDAXP, has put forth the suggestion that the Department of Homeland Security be a uniformed branch of the government. The casual logic works like this:
we should shrink the gap; America currently doesn't have the political will to shrink the gap; capabilities create intentions; create the capability to shrink the gap and the political will to shrink the gap will follow:
We need to give our policy makers a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex so that more problems in the Gap looks like jobs for the Sysadmin.
For those unfamiliar with Thomas Barnett's work, "shrinking the gap" means helping third world countries (the gap) modernize and integrate into the global economy. The Sysadmin is the name he gives to the force that would handle the "everything else" of war - nation building, infrastructure building, investment, counterinsurgency and policing, etc. In effect, the Sysadmin is like aid for the national security functions of developing nations's governments.

Is Thomas Barnett to international security what Bono is to economic development? In his quest to find a mission for America abroad, is he forgetting the role of locals (especially in an open-source security environment common in developing states)? If we create a uniformed service branch of DHS designed to help the developing world "outsource security" to use, does that mean it has all the problems of traditional economic aid, including dependency, blowback, corruption, weaponization, and non-scalability? And have other people (book reviews, blogs, other responses) already asked these questions?

While I've seen his brief and occasionally read his blog, I admit I haven't read either of his books (and I already have a reading list for the summer!). I request input from any who have.


Dan tdaxp said...


Fascinating post! (A quick clarification: DHS should have a uniformed service, but the uniformed service should not be the totality of DHS.)

You're right on the drawbacks of exporting security at a discount to developing states.

I continued the discussion, focusing on the sort of problems you describe, over at tdaxp.

Adrian said...

Thanks for the clarification, and for the link.

"In other words, "too light" and nothing changes, "too heavy" is better than now, and "just right" might actually shrink the gap!"

It's the Three Bears of military footprints.

chirol said...

Barnett's first book The Pentagon's New Map was fantastic and spot on in its descriptions however its prescriptions are questionable. His multilateral proposals tend to create more international bureaucracy and assume that most states will have an equal interest in shrinking the Gap. Some will enjoy spreading it, like Russia, and others unable and unwilling to act, like Europe. There's just no reason to think a new int system for politically bankrupt countries will work.

Michael said...

Chirol, are those reasons his ideas won't work, or problems that have to be overcome before they can work?

Russia is doing what it's always done. Europe is bogged down in inefficiencies and domestic problems. In both cases, our administration's lack of interest and/or ability to get their aid doesn't help. But Russia doesn't have the ability it used to, Europe is starting to take its problems seriously (Sarkoszy and Merkel are at least) and Bush won't be in the White House forever.