Thursday, November 18

Barnett Today

Changes in Washington?
Bush knows what he wants on his watch: a transformed Middle East. My question is (and it’s the basic query that animates my upcoming Esquire piece): what is he willing to pay for that goal? Cause just putting forth a clear and consistent message front to all the allies who distrust us and dislike us probably won't be enough of a stylistic change, and we won't be moving off that dime in Iraq fast enough over the next four years without some allied help to do anything more than flap our gums on Iran and North Korea. So if Bush is serious about transforming the Middle East, he'll need to start considering which deals he can stomach and which ones he cannot, cause he sure as hell isn't going to be able to unilateral his way through the entire cast of the Axis of Evil by the end of his second term...

Oh, and who does virtually all of Washington blame for the botched occupation? That would be the National Security Council for its gross inability to manage the interagency planning process. Good thing we swapped out that job.
Tom continues to advocate partitioning of Iraq
I was asked by Alex Steffens of WorldChanging about the future of Iraq. I replied that it was probably as bright as Yugoslavia's future. He got my point. There isn't any Yugoslavia any more, and there probably shouldn't be an Iraq anymore.

To me, that's not lowering our goals in Iraq, but rewarding those portions of Iraq that are ready to embrace the future. Noah Feldman may disagree, but I think the whole point of the elections should be to benefit those parts of Iraq that have embraced the notion of federalism, while punishing those that do not. Remember our Civil War. Well, that's how it worked then too, until the South gave up...

That's not betraying the Iraqi people, because there are no Iraqi people—just three tribes living in the Yugoslavia of the Middle East.
Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Tehran
Iran's a big player in both (see the U.S. News cover-story this week on Iran's "connections" to the insurgency in Iraq), plus there's a decent case to be made that Iran is the country behind much of Hezbollah's and Hamas' struggle against Israel.

I'm with Brent Scowcroft on this one: we need dialogue with Tehran that's about more than enriched uranium.
Is Iran playing games? (I'm excerpting this whole short post.)
How good is this deal between the EU and Iran? Probably as solid as the paper it's printed on. Iran has played word games before, and will do so as long as it can, because the more it delays, the more time it has to develop the bomb. Plus the deal seems to have pissed off plenty of Iran's political hard-liners in its parliament.

But the worse reality is that Iran is probably pulling the old Saddam trick: agree to suspension on facility A, only to proceed with facility B ("Oh, you didn't say anything about facility B!"). This is going to go on and on until Iran announces suddenly one day that it has the bomb.

And you know what? There wont' be much we can do about it, especially as Tehran cleverly draws China more and more to its side. China needs Iranian oil and gas, and we need China economically. It's that simple and that complex.

Washington needs to get real ASAP on Iran. Calling them names is one thing, dealing with the reality of their power in the region that we now find ourselves deeply embedded within militarily is another.

Get used to Iran having the bomb.
Here's hoping Kim Jung Il has left the building

I find that 'Dear Leader' stuff unbelievably cloying.

What are the dividends of the oil boom?

Not very much. E.g:
Russia, at least, is credited with stashing away some of its windfall and paying down its external debt, to the delight of the IMF. By while Putin's balancing the books nicely, he's not pushing ahead on structural reforms in the banking sector, liberalizing the energy sector (where monopolies persist) or cutting back on state meddling in the private sector.
As China goes...
Maybe now people will stop describing globalization as an American-led multinational corporation plot to rule the world and start understanding the process as being so much bigger than just the U.S. economy. Increasingly, the purveyor of both pain and delight will be China.
Learning lessons
[T]here needs to be a new nexus between the military and relief organizations if we're really going to secure lasting victories in this global war on terrorism. Also makes you realize that, in the end, the military only starts the show and cannot possibly end it on its own.

Another lesson we need to take away from Iraq is to keep our initial goals simple and direct. You want to win "hearts and minds?" Well, focus on "stomachs and pockets" first, according to Peter Khalil, an Australian who spent 9 months at Paul Bremer's side in the Green Zone...

So we're all learning some new/old lessons on how to rehab a political bankrupt state (I say "old," because we learned most of these same lessons in Somalia and Haiti in the early/mid 1990s and then chose to forget them immediately—at least inside the Pentagon).

Probably the strangest news I've come across regarding charity work since 9/11 is that Muslims in America, wary of giving to overseas groups for fear of supporting terrorism, are now redirecting much of that money to Muslim charities that deal with issues right in their own neighborhoods and cities. They feel the same old religious obligation; they just chose now to do it closer to home.

That is a very good trend in terms of Muslims in America connecting to the country in which they now live, and yet, we need to make sure that good Islamic charities around the world don't go starving as a result. That outcome would do nothing positive for us in this Global War on Terrorism.
The role of RIF in privacy
This whole smart dust thing is going to be the technology that allows America to remain an open society while remaining a safe society. You want to track visitors to the U.S.? Here is your method that's at once somewhat annoying and a bit frightening. But you know what, it'll be a good thing. We need ways to allow maximum connectivity with the outside world while not feeling totally vulnerable to all sorts of things we can't track, trace, follow, or prevent.

As with all technologies that enable freedom and convenience, a loss of privacy seems inevitable. But that's not necessarily true. It just means we need new rule sets to deal with this additional form of connectivity/transparency.
Maybe it won't be as bad as I fear. I still think we need to keep an eye on it re: consumer and civil rights.

The Pentagon's working on a Global Information Grid. Sounds like a hardened, proprietary, intra-Internet.

Russia's progress
Putin is preaching a new sort of quid pro quo. In the last decades of socialism in the Soviet Union, it was said among the masses that "we pretend to work and the state pretends to pay us." I like to describe late Brezhnevism as "the state pretends to rule over us and we pretend to obey."

Well, Putin's proposing something better, something along the lines of "you pay taxes and the state will respect your property rights." Sounds pretty good, huh? Not exactly the return of authoritarianism.

This is my notion on Russia's "progress": so long as Putin doesn't reinstitute vertical control over the economy, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will improve over time. His recent reinstitution of vertical control over the political system tells us little of Russia's potential future evolutions, other than Moscow believes in a Go Slow approach on politics, much like Beijing does.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, it's probably a very good thing. As Putin declares, "Fear in unproductive." To which I add, business likes transparency and certainty.
In China and Russia (and even in the old USSR), it looks to me like you don't have to open up your political system at first. In fact, that can even be harmful. If you open up your ecomonic system (e.g. glasnost and perestroika, Foreign Direct Investment will follow. A closed (read: stable) political system can actually look good to investors, as long as you're open on the economics. If you turn out not to be, they'll take their investment back out. We saw this in the 90s in Russia: FDI fluctuated depending on the local security. It was too insecure for a while. That's why businesses and economic determinists like Barnett like Putin.

Globalization is not Americanization, and in ten years you won't be able to make that mistake any longer. This post focuses on how we see this in movies.
Our cultural content dominated Globalization II (1945-1980) because we were number 1 without a doubt in the scrawny West that existed through that time period. Our cultural content still seems dominant through Globalization III (1980-2001), because the biggest players were still getting their acts together in terms of internal integration (Europe) and joining the global economy (e.g., China, India).

But in Globalization IV (2001 and counting), we will witness the rise of numerous key cultural content pillars, such as the European lifestyle (or dream, as Jeremy Rifkin calls it), Japanese cool (check out what your kids all seem naturally drawn to, and you'll find it's overwhelmingly Japanese in origin), and Chinese hipness (isn't China becoming the center of damn near everything on the go-go?).
Barnett helps me think about other factors relative to the military, especially economics. Case in point:
Is there a growing threat? I think there is a Japan and a China that are both committed to having a bigger military role in both the region and the world at large—ones befitting their mature (Japan) and emerging (China) economic clout. I think both militaries, having nothing better to do, tend to get overly excited about one another out of boredom. Other than the threat which is Taiwan's bid for independence, these two states basically have nothing to fight over, unless you're stupid enough to believe one side's navy is going to be able to enforce some claim over undersea oil reserves believed to lie between the two states. Why the two countries would bother fighting over these reserves instead of simply exploiting them jointly, is apparently beyond the military strategists on both sides (clear proof that military strategists the world over tend to plan for war solely in the context of war instead of taking into account the context of everything else—here, the growing economic integration of the two states)...

Where is this going? Absolutely nowhere, but it does warm the hearts of national insecurity experts within the naval community, who delight in recounting each and every tail, reminding us all unceasingly, that if we'd just give them the chance, we could find ourselves involved in some really cool wars in Asia.
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