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24 May 2017
Evening Sedition

The Functioning Core versus the Non-Integrating Gap

Thomas Barnett's analysis of the modern world, the future of globalism, the industrialized nations versus the non-industrialized disconnected ones, etc. is guaranteed to make you think about the world in a totally different way. He is a war strategist — formerly a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island until his successful book forced him to change careers — who distills down the future of commerce and war into very comprehensible terms.

Thomas Barnett

Thomas Barnett

His book, The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, offers a new perspective on why the political and economic worlds looks the way they do.

Thomas Barnett

Cover for The Pentagon's New Map book

Even if you don't have time for his book — these days, I don't, either — spend a little time reading the excerpts here, or listen to the video or audio of his presentations. Here are some excerpts that will give you the salient arguments, at least enough to impress people at cocktail parties. ( I'd say "core arguments" to impress people with a knowledge "gap" except that would be a bad pun given the subject matter, and I'd never stoop to such depths.) :

Q:The Pentagon's New Map basically divides the world into two groups: a Functioning Core and a Non-Integrating Gap. What are the main hallmarks of these two groups?

A:The Functioning Core consists of basically those states or regions that have already integrated themselves deeply into the global economy or are currently working to do so. By my way of thinking, that includes North America, Europe (both old and new), Russia under Putin's "dictatorship of the law" (yes, with some recent slippage), India, China, Japan, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa and the ABCs of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile). My Core therefore includes not just the West, but a host of emerging markets that have joined globalization over the past twenty years. That collection accounts for roughly two-thirds of the global population.

Contrasting the Functioning Core of globalization are those regions I categorize as falling into its Non-Integrating Gap. These regions include the Caribbean rim of Central and South America, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. These regions constitute globalization's "ozone hole" or "bald spot," where connectivity - no matter how you measure it (trade, people movement, communications) - is relatively thin and, in many cases, getting thinner over time. These countries either reject globalization because of its content flows, or new ideas (think of the ruling Muslim clerics in Iran) or are losing out to its advance because they simply cannot attract the foreign direct investment that ultimately leads to economic integration.

What's crucial about this global breakdown is this: virtually all of the U.S. military crisis response activity (or overseas military interventions) since the end of the Cold War have occurred inside the Gap. So either we shrink the Gap and eliminate those endemic conflicts and diminished expectations that give rise to transnational terrorism or America had better be prepared to retreat from the world dramatically and let globalization possibly suffer the same fate it did in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Frankly, those are the historical stakes we face today. Either we make globalization truly global or we condemn one-third of humanity to long-term violence and suffering that will inevitably intrude upon our "good life" on a regular basis. This isn't about charity or any religious-inspired crusade. It all comes down logically to acting in our own best interest while making the world a better place over the long run.

Interview With Thomas Barnett

Now consider this in the context of China and the terrorist attacks upon the West by Islamic fundamentalists:

Understanding that the line between the Core and Gap is constantly shifting, let me suggest that the direction of change is more critical than the degree. So, yes, Beijing is still ruled by a — Communist party — whose ideological formula is 30 percent Marxist-Leninist and 70 percent Sopranos, but China just signed on to the World Trade Organization, and over the long run, that is far more important in securing the country's permanent Core status. Why? Because it forces China to harmonize its internal rule set with that of globalization — banking, tariffs, copyright protection, environmental standards.

...

Think about it: Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are pure products of the Gap — in effect, its most violent feedback to the Core. They tell us how we are doing in exporting security to these lawless areas (not very well) and which states they would like to take "off line" from globalization and return to some seventh-century definition of the good life (any Gap state with a sizable Muslim population, especially Saudi Arabia).

If you take this message from Osama and combine it with our military-intervention record of the last decade, a simple security rule set emerges: A country's potential to warrant a U.S. military response is inversely related to its globalization connectivity. There is a good reason why Al Qaeda was based first in Sudan and then later in Afghanistan: These are two of the most disconnected countries in the world. Look at the other places U.S. Special Operations Forces have recently zeroed in on: northwestern Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. We are talking about the ends of the earth as far as globalization is concerned.

Article in Esquire

A short Q&A with Barnett is available on World Changing.

C-SPAN has a fascinating video of a 90 minute talk by Barnett. The video is available directly if you have a streamripper that can download it to your hard drive. (C-SPAN doesn't archive forever.) I listened to part of this and was very intrigued. (But my streamripper, alas, crashes before it gets more than 15% of the way done. Sigh.)

IT Conversations has an MP3 of an interview with Barnett which is perfect for your portable player. I haven't had the time to listen to this yet.

That ought to hold you for a while.

Kool in da House. Err, Koolhaas, that is.

Koolhaas Design, Distance View

Koolhaas Design for Les Halles (Distance View)

This continues our "Modern Architecture We Like" entry of a few days ago. I noticed in today's New York Times that a final design has been chosen for the Les Halles project. The final design is, like anything picked by a committee, truly horrid, but one of the four finalists was very interesting. But first, some history of Les Halle and then the interesting modern architecture design.

In 1135. King Louis VI, also known as "Louis the Fat" (who knew they had made guys back then?) moved the markets of Paris on the Place de Greve, near city hall, to Les Halles. The area was known as the "belly of Paris" because it sold foodstuffs — meat and vegetables, both wholesale and retail — and also had numerous restaurants serving the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But it also had a variety of non-food merchants, including those selling textiles and shoes. In the 1850s huge iron halls were constructed, and Les Halles became famous for these.

The markets remained in the same location for over eight hundred and fifty years until 1969, when the French government decided it was time for some urban renewal, and just up and razed most of it. (Some Parisians regard this as a sacrilege as being as bad as the destruction of Penn Station. Uh, yeah, sure.) The markets were relocated to Rungis, in the outskirts south of Paris, to eliminate complaints about traffic in the city proper caused by delivery trucks.

The goal of the then mayor of Paris, one Jacque Chirac (yes, that Chirac) was to create Europe's largest shopping mall and an underground rail hub. He envisioned a bustling tourist attraction as his legacy, but it didn't work out as planned. Not even close. His new approach created an above-ground area for the shopping mall and a below-ground area for the bazaars of old. Today, the underground area is overrun with vagrants, drug dealers, muggers, and violent criminals. (Let's just say that most Parisians aren't thrilled about it.) Even the above-ground portion is not a place Parisians happily venture after dark. Most of the 800,000 commuters who pass through the rail hub don't linger.

Le Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou at Les Halles

The famed Centre Pompidou was built on part of the land, and finished in 1978. It has been described as an "oil refinery" since it is in inverted building; the insides, including support girders, are all on the outside and are color coded: electricity conduits are yellow, water pipes are green, air-conditioning ducts are blue, escalators are red, ventilation shafts are white. See for yourself, in the original French or in badly translated English. (Four years of studying French and I've forgotten so much that I need to use the translation to jog my memory of the idioms. And to think that I once could read Le Monde and technical documents en Francais. Sigh.)

Current View of Les Halles

Current View of Les Halles

Now the French government wants to revitalize the area — leaving 17 acres of prime real estate fallow is a waste of taxable land — by building a new Les Halles And so, in the grand tradition, they solicited designs likely knowing full well whom would win.

Koolhaas Design, Above Ground

Koolhaas Design for Les Halles (Above Ground)

One of four finalist designers was Rem Koolhaas, who created, among other projects, a very interesting store for Prada in Manhattan and an attractive, but utterly nonfunctional, library for Portland. (When I was doing system architecture in another life, I always told people that the architect's job was to find the most harmonious mean between the materials available and the required functions to be performed such that the solution had as much elegance, beauty, and quality as possible. Too bad more architects don't put the client before showboating or winning awards for "innovation"; if they did, we'd have more usable, attractive buildings.)

Koolhaas Design, Cutaway View

Koolhaas Design for Les Halles (Cutaway View)

Anyway, Koolhaas envisoned a totally new look based on brightly colored glass towers 120 feet high, bringing light into a new, underground mall. Supporters call the towers "perfume bottles"; detractors deride them as "popsicles". Personally, I like them, and find the design airy, inviting, interesting, innovative, and attractive. Needless to say, the French didn't ask me, and Koolhaas didn't win. Some awful design did. I don't like this design. At all. More modern architecture crap. Bleh.

Koolhaas Design, Interior

Koolhaas Design for Les Halles (Interior)

The problem is that Koolhaas's Website at Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) uses Flash so it is impossible to link into. (And impossible to use effectively, but that's a topic for a rant on why I hate Flash.) If you want to hunt for images and a description there, feel free.

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