Sunday, February 18, 2007

Moises Naim and Thomas Barnett on Globalization

Moises Naim is editor of Foreign Policy Magazine. His observations of how global connectedness are up to the minute and prescient.

Thomas Barnett is known most recently as the author of The Pentagon's New Map, which outlines a paradigm of military/diplomatic analysis that is all the rage in many quarters.

"Chirol" at Coming Anarchy makes a trenchant observation intersecting these two analysts.

The idea if connectedness and disconnectedness is one important part of Thomas Barnett’s Core/Gap theory. According to the theory, the more disconnected a country is the more dangerous it is. Connectivity is measured in terms of flows of people, money, goods, energy and information. Therefore, the stronger the flow is, the less of a threat the country is. In addition, the economics of any given country are a much stronger indicator than politics of whether it is a threat or ally.

Yet, in his book Illicit, Moises Naim speaks of a similar phenomenon using the terms “bright spot” and “black hole” along the same lines as Barnett’s Core/Gap:

“The more the fortified and successful bright spots are at defending themselves, the more value there is in breaching their fortifications. The brighter the bright spot, the more attractive and lucrative it is for the networks operating from black holes to find ways to deliver their products and services inside it. Illicit trade is essentially determined by price differences. “

Thus, the cocaine that sells in the United States for hundreds of times what it costs in Columbia provides a strong incentive to be smuggled. The same goes for weapons, exotic plants and animals and other illegal goods. One could say in a globalized world, goods naturally gravitate to where they can be sold for the highest price, legally or illegally. The same could be said for a Walmart toy produced for pennies in China and sold for 10 times more in the United States. Globalization’s centrifugal effect leads goods, people, money and energy to move to the top of the value chain so to say. Imagine a drop of oil rising to the top of a glass of water.

It therefore would be prudent to revamp Core/Gap theory as thus far it has been assumed that connectivity in and of itself is a good thing like no bad publicity, yet much of Barnett’s so-called Gap is indeed very well connected to the rest of the world via black globalization. Countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria and Iraq are well connected smuggling arms, black market oil, drugs and more easily in and out of the country. The same could be said for human trafficking in Eastern Europe. It is exactly this connectivity that makes them global threats. Thus, despite the constant flow of goods, people and services these areas are still indeed the Gap. The key point is that Gap isn’t just a lack of “Core” properties. It isn’t the opposite, it’s simply a member of another group inside the same network.

A splendid graph at the link illustrates the point.

I have been trying to make sense of why the newly-revamped, American-designed model of Afghanistan continues to be the world's principle source of illegal narcotics. Come to think of it, Mexico, our NAFTA buddy here in North America, seems to be part of the same pipeline. Maybe we can't do much about it, but at least this explanation makes sense.

The more I read, the more I come to the conclusion that legalization of narcotics is inevitable.

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