04 November 2005

Thomas Barnett on Fundamentalists vs. Evangelicals

Last weekend, I watched a thought-provoking interview on C-SPAN2's Book TV with Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century and its follow-up Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating. He has some surprising recommendations about U.S. policies toward both Iran and China. Surprising for a Neocon. Not so surprising for a Realist.

The initial shocker to me was that the interviewer was a U.S. Congressman (Rep. Tom Feeney, R-FL) who could ask intelligent questions--and then wait for an extended answer. It doesn't matter if he was Republican or Democrat, Representative or Senator. I was just impressed that Feeney could yield camera time for extended periods to a lowly, unelected book author. I haven't been able to find a transcript yet, but the whole interview is available on (RealPlayer) video.

One insight I've been mulling over is the distinction Barnett makes between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Barnett sees the world as divided into a globalized Functioning Core (basically, the G20) and a Non-Integrating (often self-isolating) Gap. He sees fundamentalists--whether Muslim or Christian (and I would add, back-to-nature secularist)--as those who reject globalization, whereas evangelicals, in Barnett's view, are some of the most ardent globalizers. Here's my transcription of a bit of the tail end of the interview.
FEENEY: We only have a very brief time left. One of the many subpremises of your book, which is again a fascinating book, A Blueprint for Action, is that evangelical Christians may be the best opportunity to turn these Third World countries into a connected, friendly, peace-loving community. You point out that there are more people attending Christian services in China than in western Europe put together. Is this the peaceful version of the Crusades that's going to bring world peace?

BARNETT: Well, you know, I really stress *not* making Islam the enemy. There are parts of every religion who are fundamentalist. They believe to be a true believer is to separate oneself from the rest of society. In the United States, we have the Amish, for example. They do this peacefully. What we see in the global Salafi/Jihadist movement are fundamentalists who seek separation through violent means. I think we have to distinguish between fundamentalists and evangelicals, of all religions, who basically seek connectivity through the spread of their faith. My argument is, it's become a huge connective force, a very positive thing, and we need to seek to promote it as much as possible. Not surprisingly, evangelicals in this country are some of the biggest internationalists right now: most concerned about the environment, most concerned about human rights, most concerned about economic justice.
That rings true to me. I see the outgoing wave of U.S. missionary evangelists of my parents' generation after World War II as the religious equivalents of the wave of secular Peace Corps evangelists of my generation. (I was never in the Peace Corps, but my wife was.) Even the Southern Baptist missionaries of my parents' generation were much more internationalist than those fundamentalists who later took over the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s.

UPDATE: More on Thomas Barnett vs. Robert Kaplan on China and the U.S. here and here (via Simon World).

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