Tuesday, March 29, 2005

My little mind is confused at the state of affairs: I attempt to integrate theories and come up empty

I can see a bad thing coming, even if I don't quite grasp all the complexities. In today's news, Reuters gives us this:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has alarmed many reformist Arabs with comments suggesting a new U.S. approach that promotes rapid political change without regard for internal stability.

Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post last week the Middle East status quo was not stable and she doubted it would be stable soon. Washington would speak out for "freedom" without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be.
This is one of those times: I know this isn't good; I know this is somehow linked to the theory of New Rule Sets and the Pentagon's New Map, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

You may remember the Pentagon's New Map as the policy book by the-now-former professor from the Naval War College, Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett's book -- notions of which many outside the Naval War College community first saw in Esquire magazine -- hinges on the idea that where there is no connectedness in the world, there is where we find instability. Wrote Barnett more than two years ago:
LET ME TELL YOU why military engagement with Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad is not only necessary and inevitable, but good. When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

That is why the public debate about this war has been so important: It forces Americans to come to terms with what I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger. Saddam Hussein's outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured dependence.

The problem with most discussion of globalization is that too many experts treat it as a binary outcome: Either it is great and sweeping the planet, or it is horrid and failing humanity everywhere. Neither view really works, because globalization as a historical process is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments. Instead, this new world must be defined by where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.
Where exactly is the Gap? Look at
United States military responses to global crises from 1990 to 2002. Notice that a pattern emerges. Any time American troops show up—be it combat, a battle group pulling up off the coast as a reminder, or a peacekeeping mission—it tends to be in a place that is relatively disconnected from the world, where globalization hasn't taken root because of a repressive regime, abject poverty, or the lack of a robust legal system. It's these places that incubate global terrorism. Draw a line around these military engagements and you've got what I call the Non-Integrating Gap. Everything else is the Functioning Core. The goal of this new strategy is simple: Shrink the Gap. Don't contain it, shrink it.
Okay, that makes sense (I think). Then my small mind drifts back to Rice and today's news.
A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."

U.S. policy in the Middle East has traditionally given priority to the stability of cooperative governments such as those in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, while turning a blind eye to the way those governments treat their peoples.

Mohamed el-Sayed Said, a liberal who has challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to his face over authoritarian government, said Arab societies were too fragile for the kind of rapid and unchecked change that Rice appears to welcome.

Apart from the danger of extremists coming to power, the Arab world would face the threat that societies and states could collapse completely, he told Reuters.
What I'm struck with is that Rice seems to be saying let's just muck about in the Gap and see what happens. Is that a strategy?

Last year, Barnett wrote an open letter to the President, again using Esquire as the medium.
So you say you have no concern for your legacy. That some historian eighty years from now will figure out if you were a good president or not. Fair enough, but let's review so far.

Your big-bang strategy to reform the Middle East took down Saddam, which was good; you've completely screwed up the Iraq occupation, which is bad; and now you don't seem to know exactly where you're going, which is not so great.

This brings me to the bad news. The two players with the greatest potential for hog-tying your second term and derailing your big-bang strategy don't even live in the Middle East. Instead, they're located on little islands of unreality much like Washington, D.C.: Taiwan and North Korea. When either Taipei or Pyongyang decide to sneeze, it's gonna be your legacy that catches a cold, and here's why: Either country can effectively pull all your attention away from the Middle East while simultaneously torpedoing the most important strategic relationship America has right now.

Yeah, I'm talking about China, a country your old man knows a thing or two about (hint, hint), even if the neocons don't have a clue. Your posse rode into town four years ago convinced that China was the rising military threat to America, only to be proven wrong by bin Laden on 9/11. Enough said.

What I'm here to tell you is this: You can achieve the fabled Middle East peace, but only if you lay down an effective fire wall between that region and the two potential flash points that can still ignite East Asia and send this whole global economy up in flames in a heartbeat. China is the baby you can't throw out with the bathwater you've dubbed the "global war on terrorism." You lose China, you might just kill globalization, and if that happens, it won't be just a matter of what historians write eighty years from now; you'll spend the rest of your days wondering why the world thinks you personally destroyed the planet's best hope for ending war as we know it.

So here's the package you need to pursue: Co-opt Iran, lock in China, and take down North Korea. Let's get started, shall we?
Hmmm. I know there's a link between Rice and Barnett, I just can't seem to put my fingers on it.

Can anyone help?

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