(re-post from main blog 20 June 2004)
Many of my friends and family members have asked me just what has happened to me that I would essentially quit (or at least put on long-term hold) a successful, nine-year career in software to enlist in the Army Reserve, even forgoing an officer's commission for an enlistment as a Civil Affairs specialist, and all at the age of 32. Inside jokes about the software development industry being so banal as to make getting shot at seem like a pleasant respite aside, the true answer was obviously pretty complex. In fact, I started this website in order to structure the myriad of sociological, cultural, spiritual and psychological thought processes into a cogent vision that others might find useful.However, I have recently discovered, read and re-read a truly amazing new book
by Thomas P. M. Barnett
a former professor at Harvard now at the U.S. Naval War College and former Director of the New Rule Sets Project
at the Pentagon. I'm thrilled to say that I now have my shorthand answer: Read this book! I joined the Army, and more specifically, I joined as a Civil Affairs specialist, because I share Mr. Barnett's vision and believe that is exactly what must and will happen. The raison d'tere of the United States Military is domestic security and in our age this increasingly implies global security by extension. I won't attempt to summarize Mr. Barnett's entire thesis here as I would encourage you to read his own summation in the link provided (and then the book), but in essence he sees the rising global discord a result of disconnectedness and the desire of some minority interests (read: terrorists) to maintain a cultural apartheid between the functioning, modern and economically integrated "Core" and an increasingly desperate and disconnected "Gap". The existence of this sociological dichotomy has given rise to the need for two separate and distinct "Rule Sets" to govern security operations within each. While the functioning "Core" becomes increasingly reliant on legislative remedies to settle disputes among its members, the "Gap" will require an radically new invasive, yet profoundly more humane approach that will required two very different roles to be assumed by our men and women in uniform. The first he calls the "Leviathan" is the more traditional military fighting force will provide for a secure operational environment, while the other, referred to often as the "System Administrator" will take on the task of building the infrastructure and economic and political stability necessary to attract foreign investment and thereby bring connectivity to otherwise non-communicative peoples and nations.My intuition leads me to believe that Civil Affairs and the rest of the United States Army Special Operation Command will be the chip off the block that will ultimately fulfill the System Administrator role that, with the occasional assistance of the more traditional force-projection military will finally harness the immense potential of this country to change the world for the better - permanently.It is critical that we begin to understand the importance of preventative, pro-active use of our military power to implement a more enlightened, long-term national interest. More specifically, a semi-demilitarized branch of the military whose mandate is a generations-long series of "soft-interventions" to rehabilitate at-risk states before they fail will be instrumental in order to prevent future enemies from ever becoming thus by enhancing connectivity - both cultural and economic.The most important aspect of this initiative will be to reinstate a collective sense of purpose to America - to re-invigorate us all with a new vision of true equality of opportunity for all mankind. I ask you to imagine an America where those who aspire to help there fellow humans build a better world have an outlet with the fiscal capacity of the U.S. military to avail themselves of. Imagine if they were extended the same prestige and importance as given to those that choose the more traditional military roles, receiving the same life-long VA benefits, have songs written about their courage and integrity and have recruiters spending the DoD’s advertising dollars to find the best and brightest to join them.Many Americans like myself have suffered from a crisis of cynicism and guilt. We don’t see the “American Way of Life” in its conventional definition so much as a blessing, but as a blessing squandered in an exceptionalist, isolationist mindset that is mostly indifferent to the suffering of the outside world. Those of us who haven’t drowned out the voice of empathy in our heads with self-indulgent thoughts of incessant material gratification and personal status are painfully aware of how blessed we are, and of the responsibilities those blessings entail. We know that love and hope are universal human qualities that have no borders or nationality. It is my hope that we, the privileged sons and daughters of the West have begun to awaken from the old American Dream defined by its material comforts, its fears and insecurities and are rediscovering the pioneering spirit that made this country great. We will blaze trails in the new frontier of the human heart. We can and we will bear a light of hope that will indeed someday bring peace and hope to all peoples of the world.I hope to see a day where my children seek a new definition of success in their lives that is measured in how many others they have positively affected.Perhaps you find these thoughts challenging; even frightening. Perhaps you think I’m wrong and its possible, I may be wrong. But I for one am betting the rest of my days that I’m right because if I’m not, I'm not sure I'd want to be here anymore anyway. And if you’re betting against people like me, it might be a revealing exercise to ask yourself why.