January 23, 2004

Is Core/Gap Analysis Too Simplistic?

Any long time reader of my writing will detect that I am a believer both in Thomas Barnett's work on US national security threats, identifying non-functioning gap countries as this generation's great security threat and that the work can largely explain current large scale US strategy.

An article recently put up at The Marmot's Hole points to the first article that I've seen in awhile that challenges the underlying theory, or, more accurately, would require a more sophisticated version of it to explain the facts.

The idea is that nationalism is emerging in northeast Asia and that this nationalism is happening despite globalisation. The PRC, Japan, and Korea are all developing along more nationalist lines and this is causing increasing friction in the area despite the fact that all these nations are members of the functioning core category.

I think that part of the problem is the simplistic nature of the core and gap categories. You're in or you're out. The reality, I suspect, is that this is just a presentation simplification. What would be useful is a set of statistics that go into a weighted formula with a dividing line. Thus, we might find that a country is disengaging from the core long before it enters the gap. I suspect, also, that integration into the global economy is not even. The PRC's integration with the US is quite significant but its economic integration with Japan or South Korea may be much less so. Does globalisation via indirect economic connections have the same impact as direct cross-investment and direct sales and labor relationships?

If the PRC loses its race against time and falls into a recession before it has reformed its dysfunctional state economic center and found enough new jobs to stave off revolution, will its remembered hatred of imperial Japan provide a convenient focus to tip itself into aggression despite still being a marginal member of the functioning core camp? The simplicity of the map model may lead people astray. At the very least, the map may need to be colored in varying shades and the factors into those decisions probably need mroe examination.

One example that I've recently seen that mostly does it right is a 2004 electoral site. the formula is public and you get to see not only the gross totals but which states might slip across from one category to another. I believe that core/gap analysis would benefit from a similar examination of border conditions.

Posted by TMLutas at January 23, 2004 12:02 PM