August 7, 2006
Wow! That was a fun show!
I listened to both John Pomfret of the Post, whose work I think is consistently superb, and Robert Ross from Boston, who's also been a favorite China-watcher of mine, and I really didn't have much trouble with what they were saying, except that they were sort of aimlessly playing into Lydon's bits about "oil wars" and "laughing all the way to the bank."
So, needless to say, I was eager to get on and shake things up a bit, which I felt I did. When Pomfret straw-manned me on the 5th Generation supposedly taking on American "values" when they got their education here (ooh! He called it "rich!" How East Coasty!), I was very impressed that Lydon called him to task on the misrepresentation.
I feel like I've been on with Lydon before and liked it, but anyway, I did like being on with him very much this time. He's a consistent prompter, just lefty enough to push the subject, but seemingly very open-minded and adept on air. I knew I would confound things a bit by being the Pentagon guy arguing for strategic alliance, but that was fun.
My only regret? Not blowing Ross's bit about this huge U.S. military build-up in Asia (hell, it's just the U.S. Navy in retreat from its own growing strategic irrelevance in the Long War, and the Taiwan Straits is their preferred hiding place) and China's "big"
build-up (oy! we'll spend more on R&D alone for that bomber/fighter Ross referred to than China spends on its entire military in one year!), but better to be gracious and emphasize . . . the future worth creating versus retreading all the old fears of the generation of current leadership on both sides that painfully need to leave the stage and pronto.
Going on PRI's "Open Source" with Christopher Lydon tonight 7-8pm EST (spot = 7:40 til end of hour)
Subject is China and energy and are they "laughing all the way to the energy bank" as we spin our wheels in the Middle East.
Wash Post journalist and Boston-area academic precede me, according to the website (http://www.radioopensource.org/). I'll listen from 7pm and then go on at 7:40.
Not sure how well I will listen, as I'm trying to pay bills online.
Nice job, Dollar Rent-a-Car! [must see update!]
DATELINE: above the garage, Indy, 7 August 2006
Nice DHL-delivered gift today: my lost keys (several fobs worth a lot) sent by Indy branch of Dollar, from whom I rented a car for a week. I had dropped the car off at Indy while racing to meet Steve last Monday in NYC, and clearly left my keys clipped to the Dollar ones (duh! I know!).
Restores my faith on a day when I'm working my banking and trying to assemble this Bowflex I bought for my wife and myself (it stares at me now in the office, daring me to sit down).
Update: Caine Rose send in this picture:
More Iranian experts calling on Bush to deal from the baseline that Iran's getting the bomb
OP-ED: "The Iranian Calculus," by Philip H. Gordon and Kenneth M. Pollack, Wall Street Journal, 3 August 2006, p. A6.Again, this is what I warned about back in early 2005 in Esquire: we either get off the WMD focus or Iran would veto our efforts at peace throughout the region. Now that Iran's gone through with that obvious threat, taking advantage of the unleashed Shiite minorities's anger throughout the region (the main byproduct of the Big Bang), a lot of people who had a hard time with such arguments back then are basically repeating them now.
The upshot? Now more and more security experts are taking Iran's achievement of nukes as a strategic fait accompli, given our competing interests throughout the region (as in, more important fish to fry right now). So the obvious trade is: allow Iran to get the bomb but make that transaction part of a larger solution set for a host of regional security issues.
A lot of naive bullshit 16 months ago.
Looking awfully "realistic" now.
Indonesia as the Seam State without peer right now
ARTICLE: "Indonesian Province Embraces Islamic Law, and Canings," by Jane Perlez, New York Times, 1 August 2006, p. A3.I know, I know. Indonesia is just so page 3, but check out their former-general-turned-president warning of a clash of civilizations and you understand that Indonesia is on the knife right now in the Long War.
ARTICLE: "Aid Groups Are Criticized Over Tsunami Reconstruction: Shoddy Housing Angers Indonesians," by Jane Perlez, New York Times, 27 July 2006, p. A3.
Aceh was kept from the world by the authoritarian regime for decades, out of fear that any connectivity would inflame separatist passions (one of the best wargames I ever attended at Pacific Command in the 1990s explored this scenario, replete with triggering humanitarian aid scenario--hmmmmmmm!).
So the tsunamis hit. Aceh does fairly well in recovery, although there's basically no passing grades for any outside help (so much for the current capabilities for Development-in-a-Box in the Official Developmental Aid arena). Yudhoyono, the new prez, capitalizes wisely on the disaster to open Aceh up to connectivity, and a new peace is forged, along with resumed mil-mil ties with the U.S. that had lagged in recent years. A win-win all around, it would seem.
But here is the natural reaction: you open up and along with the connectivity comes the content controls, as the locals seek to protect group identity. So Aceh is made peaceful and more connected to the outside world, and somehow Sharia raises its scary head as a result?
What gives? Doesn't connectivity solve all--immediately?
This is, of course, the natural yin-yang. Connectivity drives code, and the first codes offered are typically reasserted taboos from local tradition, lest things get out of hand too fast.
The key now is how the rest of Indonesia handles this rising tide for Sharia. Much like Nigeria, splits naturally emerge between "train engines" and "cabooses," otherwise known as coastal port/industrial areas and inward/inland rural poor areas. Guess where the Sharia lands?
No surprise. There is Gap and Core everywhere, just in different amounts, with different critical masses achieved.
But nothing happens in a vacuum. With connectivity comes change and with change comes strife and with strife comes reaction. All of this is preordained. The only truly independent variable is how governments respond to these dynamics: opening up more or less in economics v. politics. The usual model nowadays is to continue on the economics and tighten the politics, but remember the "caboose braking" phenom whereby political unity is held hostage to economic inequality.
When people like Fallows say we shouldn't let our gaze in the Long War fall only on the obvious fire zones like Iraq, they're really talking about places like Indonesia.
The Seam States define the tide in the Long War. They represent the great leaps forward in connectivity and the potential great leaps backwards in social unrest and political violence.
How they tip defines our momentum.
Two articles I've been waiting on re: South Africa and UAVs
ANALYSIS: "Booming South African Economy Faces Test: New Black Middle Class Is Driving Growth, but Rising Rates, Weaker Rand May Curb Spending," by William Eschikson, Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2006, p., A8.When you try to think systematically about global futures, you spend a lot of time waiting for articles/evidence to appear.
ARTICLE: "Drones in Domestic Skies? They're in Demand for Rescue and Surveillance Missions, But Critics Question Safety," by Jonathan Karp and Andy Pasztor, Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2006, p. B1.
These are two such articles I've long waited for.
First one is amazing just because it's all about how South Africa, the continent, and the world are adjusting to its amazing economic resurrection following the cessation of apartheid.
The biggest problem? It's what makes South Africa, along with Brazil, a great microcosm of the Core-Gap split: the highest levels of inequality in the world (only Venezuela approaches the duo).
Clearly, China and the rest of the New Core's resource requirements help drive this resurgence. The question, of course, is what South Africa and the world make of this opportunity.
I would ask a simple question: How is the U.S. taking advantage of South Africa's rise to prep the inevitable battlefield that becomes Africa in this Long War? South Africa is the king of connectivity on the continent. How are we leveraging this strategically?
Second one is just modestly interesting as sign of inevitable: UAVs will penetrate the civilian market just like the Internet and GPS did before. The only thing that's held it up some was 9/11 and the nature of the attack. But clearly, the postwar experience in Iraq has boosted the role of drones big time, proving yet again my point that building for the SysAdmin force is good economics--not just dual-use but universal application.
August 6, 2006
Tom around the web
+ Alan Nelson links Tom with that world happiness map that's been floating around. (And I see, upon searching Alan's site, that he's linked Tom a number of other times, too.)
+ I don't usually link general recommendations in these posts, but I simply can't resist' linking Shiva's recommendation, especially since his brother's name is Rama! :-)
+ But, speaking of general links, Small Wars Journal links Tom in the Blogs section.
+ Sun Bin counter-posed Tom and the other Tom (Friedman) in The key to changing North Korea.
+ Ron Hebron linked Tom's post: The promised word on the WTO Round negotiations' collapse twice (in addition to Michael Barone's column) in Good News - More trade connections and Trade - Signs of Life.
And now, finally, I'm caught up! If I missed something, please let me know.
August 5, 2006
Fallows on "Declaring Victory"
ARTICLE: Declaring Victory, by James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly, September 2006; Volume 298, No. 2; 60-75A couple of readers have asked for a comment. I'm afraid I really don't have much to say. Fallows' stuff is usually a great summary of the emerging conventional wisdom, and this piece fits that tendency. In it, he's basically asking the U.S. to socialize (i.e., make more global and make more "everything else other than war") the challenge of the war on terror so as to avoid seeming stalemates in any one location, like Iraq.
Hard to disagree with, but I don't what to add beyond that. In sum, the article is a good sign of broader approaches reaching the consciousness of the main stream media.
It was cool to pick up the paper edition of U.S. News & World Report
Really thrilling to see that in print. Online is cool, but nothing beats print. Got it Thursday in the CVS with the Calamine lotion and scripts.
That makes two editions in a row for Enterra, coupling that piece with the neat globalization/business story that Steve DeAngelis was quoted in the week before.
Nicely nicely, thank you.
Recalibrating with the family
DATELINE: above the garage, Indy, 5 August 2006
Ah, to sleep in one's own bed.
Yesterday was a nice slow day, punctuated by purchasing the new Pilot, then dominated for a while by my realizing that I've lost my keys somewhere in my travels (been gone so much and driving so many rentals I just stopped carrying the keys with me, hiding them in various luggage over the weeks and now being unable to find them). Just when I thought I would get freaked on the subject (I hate losing things, especially when they're likely trapped somewhere in this house), Jerry asked me to play baseball and so we did.
A good lesson there.
We ended the day with the long-promised viewing of an old horror movie in the home theater. Upshot being I have to sleep with a lot of kids in my bed.
Today I finish polishing something for Warren, and then we're off to visit a local cavern that's a national park south of here. Then mass, and then probably a double feature (one with the kids and one with the spouse).
Tomorrow I take the older kids to an amusement part to kick off their last week before school starts. Hoping to date the missus on Monday, before business travel intrudes mid-week.
Big pile of newspapers to read, but got a load of banking and paperwork to catch up on, plus write my column.
The blogging must suffer a bit for a few days so all others can be satisfied...
August 4, 2006
The triumph of economic over military connections
My treasured mentor Hank Gaffney fires this to me just in time. It fits nicely with what I just offered in reply to TM.
Big Bang: Banging
ARTICLE: Rising Academic Sees Sectarian Split Inflaming Mideast, By Peter Waldman, The Wall Street JournalTom's comment:
From my fav CENTCOM major, who cites this prof as the best class he ever took at Monterey.
This analysis dovetails with mine, and it's the sharpest way to describe what Bush's Big Bang truly triggers. Like my Esquire piece from early 05, Nasr also comes to the same basic conclusion on integrating Iran.
Brilliant stuff (IMHO!). Hope this guy is turning enough heads in DC for a critical mass to emerge.
American Civil War: first true war of globalization
Heads up: this is actually over a year old. But, to update a bit, Curzon has a post on the Confederate Constitution today.
OK, having said all that, here's Tom's comment:
Way cool by Curzon. I have long argued that the North/Core v South/Gap "civil war" was the first true war of globalization (slipping that argument into BFA).
Curzon is pushing some hot buttons. I say, kudos for originality and analysis.
Connectivity is king [updated]
Sidebar denizen and most-frequent-commenter TM Lutas sent a link to Tom called Drezner on Weisberg on sanctions. TM writes:
I think that Dan Drezner is raising a significant objection to your thesis on shrinking the Gap. I think it's rebuttable but I'm not sure that you've sufficiently rebutted it in the past. We've had it out over Iran when I said that Iran will always be able to avoid the economic rulesets of the Core by making itself sufficiently repulsive and, knowing the cost of connectivity to regime survival, that's going to doom any scenarios that are entirely soft-kill. Dan's point seems to be that awareness of rulesets (specifically economic rulesets) and connectivity is fairly well established throughout the Gap and that the logical solution and the real-world solution will be isolation in favor of regime preservation. He sides with you, ultimately, that engagement is better but sees the difference as marginal. That's damning with faint praise. If the difference between engagement with evil regimes (with its inevitable moral compromises) and isolation/sanctions is a mere 1%, why not sacrifice utterly trivial gains in the likelihood of success in order to preserve our souls? This is a foundation that a Buchanan-like isolationist would be glad to argue from.Tom's comment:
I think that the difference is larger than 1% but I find I don't have the metrics to measure it. How should it be measured?
It's fairly simple, IMHO. You distinguish between connectable authoritarianism and unconnectable totalitarianism.
There was Stalin and then there was Brezhnev. There was Mao and then there was Deng. There's Nixonian Ahmadinejad and there's Stalinist Kim.
I connect Iran and the Big Bang keeps banging and we shrink the Gap. I eliminate DPRK and I lock-in China and secure the East, triggering a huge shrinking of the Asian Gap.
There is no one path here, no single rule set. The Gap wants in, but they want to do so at a pace that respects cultural adaption requirements. Anybody who says they ultimately don't want in is absolutely wrong.
The desire for connectivity is universal. Man is a social animal. Rule sets are the key and economics will always lead politics. This is where you and I, TM, fundamentally differ. You see a primacy in politics that I do not.
Deng was right, Gorby wasn't, in my view.
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Maybe we should have set the bar higher and made them interview Steve first ;-)