The primary question today
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:10AM
Thomas P.M. Barnett in Citation Post, Pentagon's New Map, global economy, security

FT column by Philip Stephens that asks the question, "To what degree will the big powers locate their foreign policies in a shared understanding of collective security?"

The Old Think says this is impossible, and that national interests demand zero-sum competition--especially over raw materials. The New Think understands international economics in the age of globalization, meaning globally integrated production chains rule out zero-sum competition over resources ("I'm going to fight you tooth and nail for resources, pissing you off incredibly, and THEN expect to conduct relatively free trade with you that monetizes my victory?"  "Aha," says the Cold Warrior.  "They will somehow enslave their regions to accept this long-term unfavorable transaction, scaring them into become economic vassals with their military might!"--I know, it's almost too stupid to even type but there it is.).

Stephens here, unfortunately, feels the need to resurrect a bad historical analogy: the 19th century Congress of Vienna (ah yes, pre-nuclear analogies for an increasingly post-nuclear world). Naturally, Stephens fears a world of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, because that's such a standard scare tactic ("Look! Over there, two dozen new nuclear powers!"). Stephens knows this is just around the corner because he went to an IISS conference where State's James Steinberg and Henry Kissinger both said so (the "dangerous game changer"!).

Then he moves onto the intelligent stuff, which he likewise credits to both Steinberg and Kissinger (apparently, the usual credo of proliferation cited, both speakers moved onto to reality): the rise of economic interdependency accompanied by environmental and resource interdependencies.

Naturally, everybody laments that rising Asia seems stuck in myopic nationalism--a good critique.  Their rise forces them to grow up very quickly, without the benefits and wisdom afforded by Eurasia's World Wars.

Nonetheless, the IISS, in a new study, feels comfortable enough to lecture rising Asia to pick up the pace and realize that "interdependence should be driving demand for more collective action."

Then Stephens hits the nail on the head:  the pol-mil cooperation venues haven't kept pace with the rising network and economic connectivity--my primary theme of the need for new rules in PNM. Within that observation I locate the crux of the matter: China and America's pol relationship remains stunted because of the mil residual called Taiwan--thus my call in Blueprint to "lock in China at today's prices" (and yes, as I warned back then, that price has gone up since!).

Stephens whines on a bit about the lack of improvement in transatlantic relations as promised by candidate Obama.  I couldn't care less.

Article originally appeared on Thomas P.M. Barnett (http://thomaspmbarnett.com/).
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