The world is a very different place than it was before the terror attacks of September 2001, and America's place in it has also changed. In his new book, Great Powers, military analyst Thomas Barnett lays out a plan for the United States to recapture the world's trust and regain its status in a newly globalized world.
Globalization, Barnett says, is an idea based on American economic and social systems.
"Globalization, in my mind, is a model of states uniting, economies integrating, collective security, network development, high transaction rates and ultimately - and most contentiously - a competitive religious landscape where people are free to change religions," he says.
But the United States has lost control over the process of globalization, both economically and socially. Barnett says recognizing that is the first step toward restoring America's reputation.
"You got to understand, America is basically powerless over globalization. We have great power in terms of getting our house in order," he says. "We do not have much power at all over globalization.
"Globalization has become so vast, so complex, all that kind of activities creates a lot of code, a lot of rules. We can't possibly be in charge of all those rules. So, I say globalization comes with rules, but not a ruler, and get used to that. Admit that you're no longer in control of the system like you were [in control] of the West, say 30, 40 years ago."
Questioning America's tendency toward unilateralism
Barnett says the United States must prepare itself to work with the international community in a whole new way, and he suggests that President Obama reverse America's recent tendency toward unilateralism.
"We go into Iraq and we say, 'We want to transform the Middle East.' That's a big, scary prospect for a world that gets a lot of its oil out of that region," he says. "You're looking at Asia, it's much more dependent on the Persian Gulf oil than the United States is. We only take one out of every 10 barrels that the Persian Gulf exports every day, and yet we took it upon ourselves to make transformation of the Middle East, which I think is a good goal, because the Middle East is poorly connected to globalization, very thinly so, just with the oil, and has a lot of authoritarian regimes, real democracy deficit.
"It's going to have to change. Good idea to try to accelerate that change, but then the U.S. says, 'Hey, we're going to do it basically on our own.' That kind of unilateralism got us a situation that is reasonably described as a quagmire. And it was really shortsighted, because look at who's building the infrastructure in Iraq now: It's the Turks. It's the Iranians. It's the Indians. It's the Chinese. It's none of the countries that showed up for the war, so our arrogance in making that declaration going into Iraq just isolated us in terms of the post-war recovery."
Diplomacy and other means of cooperation, Barnett says, can address that isolation and help to find a solution to U.S. involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We're going to draw down in Iraq. We're going to leave residual troops. I hope we leave them in Kurdistan," he says. "In Afghanistan, we got to bring the Russians in, the Chinese in, the Indians in. We should make this a very, very regional solution. The key between both situations [Iraq and Afghanistan] is Iran. Iran has achieved great power status, whether we like it or not, in terms of their energy relationships with India, China and Russia. So we have to find some sort of accommodation with Iran."
Democracy should be promoted, not forced, author says
Barnett suggests that America should also review its goal of aggressively promoting transitions to democracy.
"That's not something we should be pursuing in every single instance," he says. "If you look historically, democracy comes about in countries with substantial middle classes. It comes about in countries where you don't have youth bulges. You tend to have a center, demographically speaking, in the middle-aged years. So, middle class and middle-aged, that's what democracies tend to be associated with.
"So trying to make a very young country that has very little income an overnight democracy, you usually end up with radical solutions. So I argue that you've got to be more patient on this score. Yes, we want to see democracy happen. We should be dedicated to creating it everywhere, but committed to forcing it nowhere."
Rising powers could play critical role
To make globalization truly global, Barnett says, America must create strategic alliances with rising powers through diplomatic linkages and military-to-military cooperation. Barnett believes that would help create what he calls "enlightened globalization."
"We really need a third pillar, a third reserve currency, a basket currency coming out of Asia to balance the euro, to balance the dollar, because the global economy has just gotten so big. We can't rely on the dollar as being the only source of a reserve currency," he says. "It's not going to be the Europeans who are our No. 1 ally in this process. They don't have the bodies. They don't have the bucks. They don't have the will to do this.
"As we look at the future, it's really going to be the Chinas and the Indias of the world that are going to be the main actors of this integration process. That's why America has to look upon them as its most important strategic allies in the future.
Russia, Barnett says, also is considered an emerging power that should be integrated in this process.
"Russia has the capacity and the desire to play a certain role in Central Asia and the Caucasus, not well played by Putin recently in terms of the quick intervention into Georgia, but it's not going to have the same kind of big-time power that India and China do, primarily because of its demographics," he says. "Yet, ultimately it's a very rich country in terms of resources, and it's a very smart country. The best programmers in the world in the information technology are Russians. So we really need Russia to raise the next generation of people who are going to be more sophisticated in their understanding. But I don't worry about Russia much because it doesn't really have an ideology now."
Barnett says America needs to not only adapt itself to the challenges posed by globalization's rapid expansion, but also be patient with other countries. Globalization, he says, poses huge social and spiritual challenges for traditional societies, and America must be willing to give these countries time to adjust to the new realities of the modern world.