Wednesday, November 24

Barnett at Langley

(I write 'Langley' cuz I'm all down with Intel lingo! ;-)

And in this post he talks about something I've been waiting to read from him recently: his take on Intelligence reform. Quick version: it's not that bad.
If we would only dial down the classification requirements, this network would work just fine. But because we stovepipe the information in this manner, the networks aren't allowed to function anywhere near peak capacity.

But instead of just dialing down the secrecy, we propose centralization, which by and large negates most of the best attributes of having that distributed network of agencies who all collect, process, and analyze a bit differently from one another. In short, we're more likely to get group think with a National Intelligence Director than without one. But until we rethink the ultra-secrecy of most of these information flows, no amount of deck-chair rearranging will do the trick.

The Pentagon isn't going to give up its control over the overhead assets (where the real money is) to a NID, and frankly, it should logically seek to pull CIA's covert stuff over into its bailiwick, because the overhead stuff defines the information superiority for the Leviathan warfighter, and the CIA muscle logically belongs there as well. This fight over the intell reform bill stems fundamentally from the lack of understanding regarding the natural bifurcation of the intelligence community in response to the natural post-cold-war bifurcation of the US military. In short, certain assets logically migrate to the Leviathan, whereas most of what Congress really wants to see centralized (if they thought about it for a minute) under a NID is far more logically associated with the SysAdmin force...

It was interesting to talk with my hosts after the brief, because the same reform-minded elements who invited me today invite me everywhere else I go in the national security community. As with all cannibalizing agents, they tend to think horizontally and plan adaptively. Never ones to wait on the perfect plan, they more interested in moving ahead and letting the chips fall where they may. But alas, that is always the problem for such reformers: the heavies on top want to see everything clearly before committing, less they lose budgetary control of the process. So again, the enemies of performance tend to be centralization and greed, whereas the proponents of reform tend to favor networking and sharing without reference to cost capture.

Guess which side is better suited to fighting a transnational insurgency of terrorists?
Growing rubber in China
In our tradition, we rely on our land to feed us," said Li [Ziqie, 25], who was a boy when the first meeting about the rubber project was held here. "We were really suspicious at first. My father wanted us to use just a small portion of our land for a pilot project. Some people said, 'Why plant rubber? You cannot eat the trees.' But eventually, he agreed to devote 30 mu. We were really nervous. If we couldn't grow enough food, then what?"

The Li family reached into meager savings and sank nearly $80 into the project. They planted 800 trees.

By 1996 the Li family was generating income in the range of $800 per year, and some families now earn upwards of $4,000/yr, which is a huge income in China.

Here's the real change: now Li's father no longer plants rice, instead buying that in the village. That's connectivity. That's mutually-assured dependence. That's the creation of real wealth where none previously could be generated...

The downside of all that consumer demand, however, is the requirement for far more energy than the country can generate on its own, which is why China, like India, is scouring the planet for oil, often going where Old Core companies fear to tread (like shaky Ecuador) or simply cannot because of political restrictions (Iran).

The other downside to this process of expansive growth is that—traditionally—what goes up must eventually come down somewhat, which is why you're seeing Wall Street beginning to discount, largely through derivatives at this point, the inevitably recession that must someday afflict China.

Here's hoping that, when that fall inevitably occurs, our security relationship with China is one helluva lot more secure than it is today. To me, that would be the U.S. government discounting that danger politically, reflecting what I hope would be our leadership's ability to start seeing China within the context of everything else so that it understands why any military conflict with China would invariably affect that everything else.

More on immigrants running for President

One of the reasons why I support letting non-native born Americans run for president is that this country is essentially mongrel in character and will only grow more so in coming decades. We've never had a higher percentage of foreign-born citizens than we do right now, and that's primarily a result of the huge influx of immigrants (unprecedented in sheer numbers) across the 1990s, the first decade of nearly-global globalization (with the Core expanding to include two-thirds of humanity).

For the U.S. to remain open to this historic process, I favor the quickest and simplest routes for immigrants to become citizens, and for foreign-born citizens, after living in the U.S. for a quarter-century or more, to be granted the right to run for national office (we have only two—president and vice-president)...

I don't doubt a Tony Blair would clean up here in any presidential run...

One of the great efficiencies of our system is that, if you're secretly Bill Gates, or Steven Spielberg, or Michael Jordan, this is the place to come and find full outlet for that talent. There is no economic system in the world that rewards talent like ours, which is why the U.S. has so long been such an incredible magnet for talents professionals from all over the world.

That magnetic attraction will naturally diminish as other rising poles of the Functioning Core (like China, India, etc.) grow their own forms of magnetism, but it can also be artificially depressed by our own policies toward guest workers, student visas, and immigration in general.

I am scared, as is my former fellow grad student Fareed Zakaria, by the heavy drop in foreign students studying in the U.S. since 9/11, because this is the first downward movement in that trend in more than three decades. Undergrads from China have dropped 20 percent in 2004 (45 percent in grad students), and the similar numbers for India are 9 percent (undergrads) and 28 percent (grads).

This is a great post on these issues. Instead of excerpting the whole thing, just go read it if you're interested.

Why Puerto Rico is more disconnected than connected
What has pushed this up-tick since 9/11 is the U.S.'s crackdown on traditional smuggling routes through Mexico and Central America, which means Puerto Rico has become more Gap-like as a result of America's attempt to firewall itself off from bad things vectoring into the continental U.S. So thanks to the System Perturbation of 9/11, Puerto Rico is more negatively connected to the United States.
Yes, but where would Tom like to see this one go? On the one hand, he argues for keeping drugs, terrorism, and disease from coming in from the Gap. On the other hand, he wants more connectivity. How does that work in the case of PR?
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