[FoRK] anyone read thomas barnett?

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Tue Jan 19 11:22:51 PST 2010


 THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM: "Al-Qaeda seeks to make Yemen its safe
A Saudi crackdown has shifted the threat to its lawless neighbour," by
Andrew England and Matthew Green, *Financial Times*, 5 January 2010.

The essential dynamics of my

The growth of the al-Qaeda movement in Yemen is a prime example of the
dilemma governments face in confronting global Islamic extremism: one
country's crack down can drive the militants next door.

So, not unlike how Israel feels it'll never be safe until state-sponsored
terrorism in the region is completely rooted out, Saudi Arabia and Egypt
(the two prime targets of AQ) can never and will never feel secure so long
as there are nearby failed states to which extremists can flee whenever they
institute crackdowns (e.g., Yemen, Somalia and the Horn in general). This is
simply the Saudis bumping into the same logic that I adhere to regarding the
Gap as a whole: containment (by making oneself super-secure and fencing
one's population/economy/etc. off from the bad neighborhoods) will not work,
nor will focusing strictly on demonstration cases (even as that's certainly
a step in the right direction) like Iraq in the Gulf or Afghanistan in South
Asia. Ultimately, your grand strategy must revolve around the goal of fixing
the entire system.

Can that be done using Iraq-level efforts? Obviously not. A
pol-mil/aid-heavy approach is inherently self-limiting on cost (not to
mention sustainable impact WRT official developmental aid), so even in the
demonstration/"crucial" struggle points, your process needs to move the
situation along--as quickly as possible--toward private-sector opportunities
versus the typical public-sector dependencies. [And yes, if your next point
is that all the local country will end up with is simply private-sector
dependencies/ "enslavement" in the capitalist world scheme/etc., then our
conversation can go no further.]

If you want to fix the entire system, then you need to harness the major
(and profound) forces of penetration and integration found in
globalization's advance. [Again, an ideological stopping-point for a certain
class of thinkers whose emotionalism and backward thinking on this subject
is not all that different from the local extremists seeking civilizational
apartheid as the long-term answer.]

On the surface, this can be caricatured as "our blood for their oil"--a line
I have used for shock value. Your shock can thereupon drive your logic in
one of two directions:

1. Step away from the initial pol-mil challenge (the classic way my point
gets abused by the far Left and Right to justify an
isolationist/who-are-we-to-impose-upon-the-world? argument) or

2. Seek to augment your efforts there and elsewhere by reorienting your
alliance structures away from those suffering your same limitations and
toward those most highly incentivized right now to link up their backend
networking/commercialization efforts with your front-end pol-mil-aid
responses (which naturally dead-end unless they attract business
elements--unless you want to pretend that aid workers and military officers
are enough on their own to build up national economies).

The only way such logic appeals (meaning, can be sustained over the long
haul) is when you appreciate the underlying grand strategic logic--namely,
that America has actively sought to replicate its states-uniting model for
decades now (since WWII), has been enormously successful to date, but in
that success we have created the reality that any further expansion of
globalization's reach and any further extension of its stabilizing rule sets
requires that we recognize our limitations to drive/control the process on
its own and admit that the West no longer constitutes a sufficient quorum.
The accompanying New-Core-sets-the-new-rules logic means that our success
going forward needs to be translated into *their* success in leading
globalization's networking function.

Once you accept that, you should be able to accept the logic that says a
certain amount of division of labor is good (America more the Leviathan
[Why? See anybody else coming up with one any time soon?], other great
powers more the SysAdmin) but that, unless we make our Leviathan efforts
more subject to the collective will of the relevant great powers, they're
simply not going to snap to attention on the backend effort every time we
decide some country needs the front-end pol-mil effort. If it's
unsustainable for Washington to write checks with its own Leviathan force
that its own SysAdmin assets cannot hope to cash all by their lonesome, then
the same logic applies to other great powers (i.e., we can't expect them to
automatically own every backend/post-intervention effort we care to make).

This is the fundamental realization that led me to construct and propose the
A-to-Z system for processing politically-bankrupt states in *Blueprint for
Action*. Naturally, both the primacists and the isolationists on our side
recoil from that logic: the primacists are repelled by the notion that
America should ever submit such decisions to the approval of the collective,
and the serious Lefties are repulsed by the concept that military power
should EVER be applied to the promotion of globalization's ends (because
they consider it simply a larger version of the inherent "evil" that is
capitalism/markets in general).

The middle approach requires that you simultaneously accept that:

1. America will be working with non-democracies (offensive to both extremes)
for quite some time (my notion of the usual half-life of single-party

2. Our interactions with other great powers will involve the modification of
our desired rule sets (compromise!) regarding the change we trigger inside
nations when we intervene or simply promote globalization's peaceful advance

3. At the end of the day (meaning, for the foreseeable future), our grand
strategic approach must be happy enough with triggering the socio-economic
change and being patient on the political end-goals (ultimate

4. In the foreseeable future, that means we accept that globalization's
spread will trigger sufficiently revolutionary socio-economic change that
the local populations will feel a certain amount of abuse and that a certain
subset will find those changes (esp. WRT women) so reprehensible that
they'll fight it tooth and nail--ultimately causing us to, in many
instances, simply resort to hunting them down and killing them (the dirty
work that nobody wants to do themselves and likewise resent and fear America
for doing when it locates sufficient cause [like 9/11] to take up the effort
itself), and

5. Over the long haul, our efforts are all about making the world safe
enough for capitalism to work its magic (economic liberty) and create the
underlying conditions for political liberty to emerge (an eminently bearable
burden so long as the New Core's assets and drive are added to that of the
Old Core and not set in opposition).

Hardest of all for many Americans to accept: the more successful we are in
this grand strategic quest (and yes, we've been IMMENSELY successful to
date), the more the world will perceive that success to constitute a
diminution of our "power."

Is it crazy for us to allow such defeatist logic to cripple our motivation
right now, at this historical moment when our American
System-cum-international liberal trade order-cum-globalization is reaching
its worldwide apogee? *Of course it is.*

And when neocons like Krauthammer somehow pretend that we can have our way
globally and still hope to hold onto a preponderance of global power,
they're being as disastrously self-limiting in their logic as the far Left
is in their instinctive hatred of the military-market nexus (which is hardly
evil, as it's yielded the glorious national union and--by extension--the
vastly improved world we currently inhabit).

The reason why I've spent so much of my life these past several years
promoting the concept of grand strategy (at least the expansive way I define
it--as in system shaping vice merely winning the struggle in question) is
that it's really hard stuff to wrap your mind around. It requires immense
patience and the ability to accept sub-optimal outcomes (e.g., markets now,
but democracies later) in the near term. It requires your ability to deeply
embrace America's role as global leader while working purposefully toward
diminishing it (OMG! You expect me to hold both thoughts in my head at the
same time!). And it requires a mature appreciation of the military-market
nexus (i.e., the warrior exists solely to facilitate the merchant and the
merchant cannot survive without the world of security that the warriors
create) that eschews the usual ideological nonsense on both political
extremes (for the Right, being patient on democracy is too hard; for the
Left, admitting that the military is a force for the good otherwise known as

Personally, I have found it impossible to promote this vision from inside
the government. That's why I moved to the private sector, where I honestly
believe--naïve waif that I am--most of the power in the system is found (and
always will be).

A lengthy rant, I know. But one I needed to indulge this morning.

Everybody wants progress by next week and successful conclusion by the end
of the year (or certainly by the next election). I don't have that need,
cognizant as I am of the fantastic success this vision has already enjoyed
(not strictly *my* vision [puh-leaze!], because I track this thinking all
the way back to Hamilton and forward through Clay, Lincoln-Seward, TR and
his wise men, Wilson, FDR and his wise men, Nixon and Kissinger, Reagan and
Baker and right through the various and sundry globalists found across the
Clinton-Bush-Obama administrations) and confident as I am of its looming
successes as this emerging global middle class stands up in coming years and

I am most definitely the happy warrior, happiest most in picking my points
of career intervention and realizing I've found a tremendous set of partners
in DeAngelis (biz partner), Enterra (my workaday home), Warren (my great
writing mentor), Posda (the vision-spreading mentor), Gates (the publishing
mentor) and Meade (the blog enabler). Toss in the best possible life partner
in Vonne (who wisely counsels me along all these lines, plus engineers my
personal happiness and that of my family), and I've got no reason to be
anything but supremely optimistic.

Would I like my country as a whole to feel similarly? Sure. But let's be
realistic there, as our current series of realignments are inherently
painful and therefore confidence-sapping.

But back to the triggering article: accepting this dynamic doesn't mean
wallowing in some myopic understanding of the tactical, whack-a-mole nature
of the day-to-day struggle. On Walt's level of the individual (or the
subnational level), that's the inescapable truth. But being reminded of that
should only make us more confident to move toward accepting the commensurate
logical leaps on the level of states (the reorientation of alliances) and
the system level (making globalization truly global by shrinking the Gap).
Again, our record of success is our biggest current burden (creating the
seemingly high workload), and everything animating globalization today
favors our goals and fuels the process, so feeling discouraged is not only
unwarranted, it's self-defeating because it blinds us to the
simple-but-not-easy (in generational terms) steps we need to take.

Is Obama doing enough in this regard? No. There's too much on his plate and
too little in his intellectual cupboard (both personally and across his
team). But he's not taking us backward and he is pursuing things that will
strengthen us over time.

Beyond that, the system's evolution will--in combination--both take care of
the rest and suitably incentivize us toward additional necessary tasks as
history unfolds. Ditto for China and the rest of the great powers.

So don't worry, but gear up if you can help in any way. And then enjoy
knowing that your work has real meaning.

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