We don't do much military strategy around here at Defense Tech. I don't think I'm smart enough for it, frankly.But guys like John Robb and Thomas P.M. Barnett, they're different. Both of them have brains bigger than watermelons in July. And they both have had fascinating posts in the last week on the changing nature of war."Is business war?" Robb asks, over on his Global Guerillas blog. "It is in the world of post-industrial, post-state conflict."Case in point: Equipment Express CEO Jeffrey Ake, who was taken hostage in Iraq earlier this month.
CEO kidnapping isn't new. It is common practice in Brazil, Mexico, etc. The difference in Iraq is the motive. In Iraq, it isn't purely financial gain. It is being used as a way to unravel the fledgling Iraqi government.Here's why. America's second largest ally in Iraq isn't the UK. Not even close. Corporations like Halliburton provide almost as many trigger pullers and engineers as the US Army. They are the battalions of foot soldiers in Thomas Barnett's sys-admin force -- connecting Iraq to the US and the world.This role converts CEOs into generals/colonels in the US globalization machine... They are now legitimate and highly prized targets.That's because the CEO is so central -- too central, in fact -- to his company's success. It makes him "a single point of failure for the entire corporate organism," Robb says. With comapnies so important these days to the American war effort, this centrality makes CEOs "better targets than government or military officials."Barnett, on the other hand, is focusing on what people are calling this struggle with Islamic extremism. Since 9/11, some administration officials and their tag-along reporters have are gotten used to calling this fight "World War IV" (the Cold War was III). Barnett, author of The Pentagon's New Map, says that's dead wrong. Click here to find out why.
The WWIV crowd wants to use this notion to rally the nation, to make it the defining cause of the next "greatest generation." In reality, the struggle has little to do with America, which may have started the current iteration of globalization This struggle is currently about how Islam adapts itself to globalization. America is a distant "devil" in this fundamentally intra-civilizational process, a convenient scapegoat for past failures and current deficiencies, but nothing more. Trying to make this all about us is the height of historical arrogance, and a fundamental misreading of history. Globalization comes with rules, not a ruler. America plays globalization's bodyguard, but hardly its sole defender. Yes, 9/11 was the prompt for us to step up and assume our rightful strategic role, but let's argue this role rationally, without invoking any war clause that the unscrupulous will inevitably use to shout down opponents and their criticisms of current policy. There is no with-us-or-against-us dynamic at work here, but rather a with globalization-or-against-it choice that America makes for no nation, no culture, no individual.Worse still, Barnett says, is that WWIV "is a self-serving concept that encourages us to rationalize failure."
All's fair in love and war, or so we are told. But nothing could be further from the truth, especially in this struggle, which will involve elements of warfare but hardly be dominated by them. Since warfare will be but a means and never the sole determinant of our achievement of ends, how we wage war will be incredibly important. It has to be contextualized within the larger framework of rule-set extension, meaning we fight and kill and die not just by example but for example. Demonstration of values means everything in this conflict, and so the rationale that some failure can be excused simply because "we're at wardamnit!" is wrongvery wrong.We don't wage warfare simply to deny our enemies their desired future (although that is an outcome we seek), but rather to invite [other] societies to join our inevitable, shared future. Globalization will win out in the end, because connectivity trumps disconnectedness, and if we have confidence in that outcome, then we must temper our desire for short-term successes with a sense of playing out history's clock and understanding that if we cannot look our opponents in the eye upon any conflict's resolution, our victories will seem hollow indeed. There will be no globalization at the barrel of a gun, but rather at the acceptance of legitimate rule sets to which we likewise must submit in both wartime and peace. Abu Ghraib was wrong, as is Guantanamo, as is rendering terrorist suspects to Gap states which use torture. "WWIV" is easily distorted to excuse all these failures of judgment and action, and for that reason alone it does us far more harm than good.