Tags
Recent Comments
Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Where I write
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Search the Site
Subscribe to Blog
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
2:23AM

Oh, the farmer and the cowboy should be friends . . .

"Where the Land Is a Tinderbox, the Killing Is a Frenzy: Across Africa's midsection, man and nature conspire to set off murderous outbursts," by Somini Sengupta, New York Times, 16 June, p. A4.


Great NYT article on persistent conflicts in central Africa, arguing that you need to think of all the competing pressures as though you're looking at a Russian nesting, or matryoshka doll. Yes, in the outer layers you find all the familiar pieces: "tribe and creed, resentment against outsiders, competition for political power, an overabundance of guns and frustrated young men to put them to use." But the little "doll" you find at the middle of it all is the age-old fight between the farmer and the cowboy.


I know, it's almost enough to make you want to start singing that song from the musical "Oklahoma": "Oh the cowboy and the farmer should be friends . . .."


But it's basically true: many of these violent outbursts in central Africa get dressed up by the media and experts with all the "outer layer" explanations, when in reality they start with struggles over who gets to control the land and how. As the reporter puts it, "It is as old as civilization itself, the clash of men attached to their cattle and men attached to their land. It is a clash of two cultures, two ways of being in the world."


What drives this fight more and more is a combination of factors, such as desertification, over-harvesting of trees for firewood, and soaring populations. In short, this is all about sustainable development. Sure, once the machetes come out, then it's all about tribes and religions and ethnic cleansing and political power, but the driving force beneath all that is the inability to pursue sustainable development pathways.


You can say, "give them more aid and that'll do the trick," but you'd be only partly correct. Until better rules are put in place to attract foreign investment and external trade that involves something other than raw materials or simple commodities like food, this cycle is unlikely to end: people will continue to barely scratch out a living, having as many babies as possible to man the farms/herds, etc., and keeping their daughters home from school as a result.


What tends to stand in the way of such better rule sets emerging? That would be Africa's "Big Man" problem, or the corrupt dictators who tend to treat the national economy primarily as an unending source of personal enrichment. That's the biggest rule set reset required for Africa: ending the notion that the only way to become rich is to control the government and exploit that power for all the corrupt gain it's worth. That's why they're so few millionaires there, because it's very hard to become rich in Africa without being part of the corrupt political systems of rule.

2:21AM

The latest sign of Mugabe's complete madness

"Zimbabwe Stocks Up On Jets, Arms," by Tom Carter, Washington Times, 15 June, p. 1.


Robert Mugabe, long-time brutal dictator of Zimbabwe, whose people face possible starvation in coming months (the UN estimates that two-thirds of the population lacks access to sufficient nutrition), has decided that his government needs to buy $240m worth of jets and other military equipment from . . . China.


What threats does this man face? Only internal resistance or, if the UN ever got off its ass and actually did anything, possibly even more international sanctions. What Mugabe should really fear is a U.S.-led regime-change force swooping in and arresting the S.O.B. and carting him off to the International Criminal Court for a laundry list of charges, but don't hold your breath on that oneóthe suffering of black Africans rarely gets anyone inside the Core excited enough to do anything more than throw another sanction on the fire.


Why is China selling the goods? Simply to make money. Beijing has forced the military to stop self-financing by producing consumer goods in recent years, which only puts more pressure on it to reap whatever profits it can by selling arms overseas. China's military argues that it needs lotsa funding to continue their long-term military build-up for a lot of the usual "national prestige" reasons, but let me be clear: that sales job is greatly facilitated because our Pentagon, in its own internal logic, centers its long-term plans for great power war around the assumption that China is the rising near-peer competitor we must inevitably fight.


Thanksóin no small partóto that international security dynamic which keeps the military-industrial complexes both here and in China feeling good about themselves, Zimbabwe gets the arms it so desperately needs . . ..


Mmmmóthat's a good warm feeling, yes?

2:12AM

Generating the right business rule sets in Russia and China

"Russian Trial Opens Messy Chapter: Yukos Case Could Influence Course of Commercial Law And Business Under Putin," by Guy Chazan, Wall Street Journal, 16 June, p. A12.


"Investors Worry About China: D'Long's Plight Suggests Problems With Nation's Stock Markets," by Kathy Chen, WSJ, 16 June, p. C14.


"China's Growing Clout Alarms Smaller Neighbors," by Michael Vatikiotis, WSJ, 16 June, p. A12.


"Foreign Buying of Securities Is Strong," by Dow Jones Newswires, WSJ, 16 June, p. B9.


I wrote in the book that Mikhail Khodorkovsky's trial (fmr CEO Yukos) would end up being a defining moment for Vladimir Putin's rule, and it's finally starting today in a Moscow courtroom (you gotta remember I was writing last fall).


Here's the opening paras from the great WSJ article:

"The trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, due to start today, is one of the most ambitious prosecutions ever launched by Russia's post-Soviet authorities and reopens the murkiest chapter of the country's recent pastóthe messy privatization of the 1990s.


Seen in capitals and boardrooms east and west as a crucial signal of the way Russia is heading politically under President Vladimir Putin, the Khodorkovsky case also could have profound ramifications for the way business is done and commercial law is interpreted in Mr. Putin's Russia. Already, the case has raised questions about the former KGB agent's commitment to the rule of law and other basic democratic institutions.


Defenders of Mr. Khordovsky, the founder of the Russian oil giant OAO Yukos, denounce the charges as retribution for the billionaire's funding of opposition parties that challenged the Kremlin. His lawyers have categorized a litany of violations of due process they allege have taken place since the case began last July with the arrest of co-defendant and close Khordovsky associate Platon Lebedev on charges of fraud and tax evasion.


Mr. Putin insists that the case is a criminal matter for the courts to decide.


In contrast to other indictments of high-profile financial crimes in Russia, which have sometimes fallen apart in court, the charges prosecutors have made public against Messrs. Khordovsky and Lebedev appear to stand up to scrutiny. Western experts say they describe fairly straightforward acts of criminal fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion, and are generally well-written and well-pled."

No doubt the prosecutors have made mistakes, since doing something of this stature and breadth is relatively new to them. Hell, just reading about other cases "falling apart" under scrutiny in Russian courts is G.D. amazing to this former Soviet expert! After all, Russia is the original land of political show trials. So don't be surprised that some of the defense charges stick.


But also don't be surprised that Khordovsky goes down hard. Many a Russian will tell you that the theft and fraud of the early 1990s' privatization process was unbelievable. I had one Russian give me his privatization voucher as a souvenir (worth 10,000 rubles at the timeóbefore the hyper-inflation kicked in) even before the process beganóso convinced was he that it was a complete sham (I still have itósee!).



The check was the government's way of giving average Russians a chance to buy into the newly-minted companies being created by privatization, but my friend was so convinced that a few insiders would acquire these huge government assets for a song, that he didn't even bother to cash his. If I asked him today about Khordovsky's trial, I'm sure he'd say this guy was getting his just rewards. As one Russian friend recently told me, imagine Bill Gates "buying" the Microsoft of 1993 from the U.S. Government lock, stock and barrel for $500 million and then becoming America's richest man as a result. If he went down in a trial, would you cry for him?


Well, Bill had his trial over monopoly charges not too longer after Russia's slimy privatization process, but his court case was about ten steps past this trial in what it said abut the state of American business rule sets today compared to those of Russia today. You have to remember, Russia blew right out of its lengthy period of state-owned monopolies and into a sped-up, robber-baron capitalism phase, and now it's storming into Teddy Roosevelt-like attempts to tame andóin some instancesóbust up such huge conglomerates using showy corruption trials.


My point is this: don't get all afraid for democracy and free markets on the basis of this trial. This is a Russian rule-set reset and it's a totally expected and necessary step in Russia's continued evolution toward firm, private-sector-oriented, business rule-set development.


China's seems farther along that path, and in many ways it is, but that doesn't mean rule-set resets aren't always lurking around each possible corner. There will be many scandals exposed within companies across China as more and more of them come under investor scrutiny thanks to their public listings on stock exchanges. The more money China accepts from foreign investors, the more transparency they will demand.


But the more transparency that foreign investors demand, the more at ease the world will inevitably become regarding China's rising economic poweróif those demands for transparency are met.


Right now China is concluding bilateral trade agreements with individual Asian states, and it can seem like they're strong-arming each and every one for the best possible deals thanks to their new-found power as not just producer of damn near everything, butófar more importantlyóthe voracious consumer of damn near everything.


Rather than fretting over these bilats, the US and Japan should be helping small Asian states maneuver China toward a serious Pacific Rim free trade agreement, or a multilat that would bond the U.S. and China together with Japan, South Korea, and others regarding East Asia's economic future. Even just working hard in that direction would be worthwhile, because of the discussions of merging rule sets that would necessarily occur as part of the process of dialogue.


Plus, such merging of economic rule sets could only encourage the development of similar bonds in the security realm.


Why push for such things? Need I remind you again about China and Japan being so nice about buying all that sovereign debt we continue to floatóthat public deficit-driven debt that allows us to wage a Global War on Terrorism?


Yet another example of the military-market nexus we all need to pay far more attention toóon Wall Street, on Main Street, and inside both the Pentagon and Beijing's Forbidden City.

2:03AM

One hopes Saudi Arabia is paying attention to Iraq

"Attacks on Iraqi Pipelines Halt Most of Country's Oil Exports," by Hassan Hafidh, WSJ, 16 June, p. A3.


There has long been the much-touted security scenario (vertical in the extreme) that says everyone vastly underestimates how little it would take from terrorists to stop virtually all of the oil coming out of the Persian Gulf for weeks or even months on end. The horizontal tails resulting from that one would be profound, triggering rule-set resets all over the dial (possibly far more in Asia than in the U.S.).


All I'm saying when I highlight this apparent insurgency/terrorist success in turning off the flow in Iraq is: don't think it can't be done in Saudi Arabia, no matter how much the House of Saud pretends otherwise.

2:00AM

Lockerbie families say, "We want our $, so let Qaddafi have his!"

"Bloc of Lockerbie Families Urges End to Libya Penalties: Deep divisions over whether even to talk with Qaddafi," by Matthew L. Wald, New York Times 16 June, p. A12.


This is a sad story: Lockerbie families pushing the White House to end the sanctions on Libya. Why? Because they believe our leopard friend has really changed his spots? Because they totally discount the recent stories about Qaddafi ordering a hit on the ruling member of the House of Saud?


Not really.


Most families got an initial payment of $4m from Libya last September as part of the UN-sanctioned deal to end its sanctions on Qaddafi's regime. However, $6m still sits on the table, and that $6 mil ain't moving until the US Government officially ends its sanctions (freeing up $4m) and takes Libya off the list of countries it says sponsors terrorism (the other $2m).


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


Is this a global "war" on terrorism or a global torts case on terrorism? I mean, if it's all just about compensation, why not simply figure out our bill and mail it to Osama himself?

1:00AM

Border, smorder! Another example of US and Mexico merging politically

"Fox Seeks to Allow Mexicans Living Abroad to Vote in 2006," by Tim Weiner, New York Times, 16 June, p. A6.


Mexican president Vicente Fox will push his Congress to allow Mexican ex-pats living in the U.S. to vote in future elections for president there.


Fox can't run for re-election, but clearly he's doing this because his pro-business party would benefit over the long haul. But it's not just the rightist party in Mexico that favors this, because the leftist and centrist parties favor it as well.


Fox says he pushes this measure as something that would end "an unjust form of political discrimination."


Huh?


All this effort says to me is that the political overlap between Mexico and the U.S. will only continue to grow more profound thanks to the ever-increasing economic integration that makes Mexico such an integral part of the U.S. economic union. But more than that, this development tells me that the eventual joining of these Mexican states into some larger political union with these United States seems both inevitable and historically logical.


There is nothing sacred about 50 member states belonging to this union. Remember, we started with only thirteen.

3:25PM

Notes from a System Administrator in Falluja

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 15 June 2004


Got an interesting email from Iraq yesterday. Here's what it had to say:

Sir,


I am presently in Iraq, and just finished reading The Pentagon's New Map last night. Many of the items discussed in your System Administrator function are currently underway, but from my perspective in a very uncoordinated effort. I am a US Navy Seabee, and for some time I have been hoping that our senior leadership finally confesses that our construction function has long been sold out to Kellogg, Brown & Root. It is time for us to find a new niche, and with added resources, or consolidating resources with current Civil Affairs Groups, we could stand at the forefront of a "hands-on" System Administrator team. What are your thoughts, and could you possibly guide me in developing a point paper to this end?


And again, Sir, your book was a wonderful read.



Very Respectfully,


[rank withheld] [name withheld]

[unit withheld], Detail Falluja

Across the nineties, the growth of Military Operations Other Than War (or MOOTW) was huge, increasing in combined service crisis response days roughly 4-fold from the total of the previous decades. All this while our end-strength (numbers of people in uniform) steadily decreased across the decade by roughly 1/3rd. Actual combat ops didn't rise much across the nineties, so it wasn't a matter of that much more war, just an exponential growth of the "everything else" that both precedes and follows war, or what they're calling the Phase IV in Iraq (everything else after Bush declares "mission accomplished" in early May 2003).


How did we deal with this reality as it emerged over the post-Cold War era?


First, we pretended it wasn't there. That was called the Powell Doctrine (shooting stops, I'm outta here!).


Second, we technologized the problem as much as possible, but since most of that technology and acquisition spending went to the Leviathan side of the house, our warfighting capacity grew, but our Sys Admin/MOOTW capacity did not. Thus we enter Iraq with a Humvee population of 100k units, but only 2% of them are armored ("Who wants to draw straws for the armored Humvee seats today?")


Third, we ran our people ragged, tapping our Reserve Component for things like Civil Affairs so much these guys and gals became de facto Active Duty.


Fourth, we outsourced like crazy, which is where all the Brown and Roots come in. Most of these companies come from the oilfield services industry, which only makes sense: over the years, oil and mining firms were the only companies willing to enter war zones to acquire the resources trapped there, so such protective services sprang up around them out of the original oilfield/mine services industry (originally just about fixing and maintaining oil wells, mining sites, etc.).


What's scary about out-sourcing the Sys Admin role inside the Gap? The biggest problem is that you're asking the private sector to impose security rule sets on environments that are fairly chaotic, and being the private sector, they're gonna do what they need to (at cost) and nothing more than what is necessary to make the client happy. Serving the larger collective security needs of the people stuck in that chaotic environment is not part of their contracts, so they do the minimal and nothing more. In sum, they do not invest in the future security of any environment, they simply provide it as a short-term service.


Who should naturally provide security as a long-term collective good? Well, that's naturally the venue of governments. But who will provide it for the Gap, where governments are weak? UN won't do it, cause it's too respectful of national sovereignty (At least they can die and suffer knowing they're doing so as members of a sovereign state!). The U.S. can do it, but it tends to have to get itself all worked up to make the effort (sort of a mob justice on the high end, and the mournful CNN-effect induced pity on the low end).


What's lacking in the global system is a system for dealing with negative security situations in the Gap, or politically bankrupt regimes. UN Security Council starts the process by pointing fingers (and little else) and International Criminal Court sits on far end ready to judge the guilty parties (just that little issue of actually arresting anyone and bringing them to justice). In between those two reasonably worthy starting and end points is a vast wasteland of capability disabled by disorganization, lack of enunciated vision, and simple agreements among the main playersóin large part because they don't all actually sit around a table on these issues.


I argue here and elsewhere that if the US shows it can field and successfully employ a Sys Admin force that follow up to its peerless warfighting Leviathan force, then we'll enable the global system as a whole to fill in the blanks on this much needed A-to-Z global rule set on processing politically bankrupt statesóand that this accomplishment is a crucial first step to solving the security issues inside the Gap that prevent its shrinkage and absorption into the Functioning Core of globalization.


All my Seabee on the ground in Falluja is asking for is permission (from someone, please!) to start the dialogue needed within the Defense Department on how to rationally restructure itself for the Sys Admin role. His main beef is the blurry line between public and private-sector issues, and that's a great one to focus one, but there are others.


In answer to this guy's question, here's what I wrote back:

Glad you found the book useful; it was meant to be.


Off the top of my head, I think your point paper would need to offer the following:


1) overview construct for categorizing what needs to be done in any "sys admin" effort (sorting scheme)


2) diagnostic of who's doing what now (ex of Iraq)


3) diagnostic of who's overperforming/underperforming/mispositioned


4) series of possible new models of configuration, offering some analysis of mutations over time as the process progresses (Phase IV is likely to be a series of mini-phases)


5) analysis of the plusses and minuses of each model


6) your preferred chop of Model 1 for Phase IV-A, moving onto Model 2 for Phase IV-B, and so on


7) list of recommendations/next steps for actions or studies/what this would mean for your particular speciality/etc.


I would be very interested in seeing something like that written from a boots-on-the-ground perspective, meaning I think it could be magnificently impactful on thinking back here. It is a tall order, no doubt, but I assume you feel up to it based simply on your raising the possibility.


I would be happy to see drafts of what you're attempting and to offer advice as your effort unfolds. I admire your ambition and dedication for thinking this up. I hope the book inspired this.


Thanks for serving America and the world,


Tom Barnett

And thus another fire is lit. But his is not the only one. All my book really has done is to give voice to a lot of discontent within the ranks about how we should be doing the Sys Admin function better in Iraq, and what that experience needs to tell us about the future of war and peace in the twenty-first century.


The emails keep coming from Iraq and the Green Zone and Central Command and Special Operations Command. These guys and gals are all working the global war on terrorism at the front lines. Why PNM speaks to them is because it accurately describes the world they find themselves in. Many people don't want to hear about that world or the changes it demands from us, but for those stuck out there dealing with it on a day-to-day basis, all PNM really does is provide the language for a debate they're desperately eager to have.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Here's today's catch:


Outsourcing the Sys Admin function to lowest bidders in Iraq

"Nation Builders and Low Bidder in Iraq: After Abu Ghraib and Falluja, why are we still outsourcing?" by P.W. Singer, New York Times, 15 June, p. A23.


"21 Killed In Iraq And Dozens Hurt In Bomb Attacks: Blast Strikes a Convoy: Iraqi Leader Is Outraged at a Suicide Assault as the Violence Surges," by Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT, 15 June, p. A1.

The greening of China comes through development, not in opposition
"Green Groups Bloom in China: New Generation of Activists Attempts to Clean Up Country," by Peter Wonacott, Wall Street Journal, 15 June, p. A13.


"To Conserve Water, China Lifts Its Price," by Peter Wonacott, WSJ, 15 June, p. A13.

Millionaires, millionairesówho's got the millionaires? The Core, of course
"U.S. Led a Resurgence Last Year Among Millionaires World-Wide," by Robert Frank, WSJ, 15 June, p. A1.
Maoists, Maoistsówho's got the Maoists? The Gap, of course
"A Glass Bubble That's Bringing Beijing to a Boil," by Joseph Kahn, NYT, 15 June, p. A1.


"Maoist Attack In Nepal Kills 21 Policemen," by Reuters, NYT, 15 June, p. A8.

Disconnectedness inside the Gap: a form of connectivity cannibalism
"Cable Thievery Is Darkening Daily Life in Mozambique," by Michael Wines, NYT, 15 June, p. A3.
A nice bit of connectivity emerges for Iran
"World Briefing: Iran: A Nobel Advocate," by Reuters, NYT, 15 June, p. A6.

3:12PM

Outsourcing the Sys Admin function to lowest bidders in Iraq

"Nation Builders and Low Bidder in Iraq: After Abu Ghraib and Falluja, why are we still outsourcing?" by P.W. Singer, New York Times, 15 June, p. A23.


"21 Killed In Iraq And Dozens Hurt In Bomb Attacks: Blast Strikes a Convoy: Iraqi Leader Is Outraged at a Suicide Assault as the Violence Surges," by Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT, 15 June, p. A1.


First article is a great op-ed by a noted expert on the privatization of military functions since the end of the Cold War.


Here's the opening and closing paragraphs:

"From the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison to the mutilation of American civilians at Falluja, many of the worst moments of the Iraqi occupation have involved private military contractors 'outsourced' by the Pentagon. With no public or Congressional oversight, the Pentagon has paid billions of dollars to companies that now have as many as 20,000 employees carrying out military functions ranging from logistics and troop training to convoy escort and interrogations. Yet despite the problems and the widespread accusations of overbilling, it appears the civilian leadership at the Pentagon has learned absolutely nothing from the whole experienceÖ


The strength of systems of democracy and capitalism are that they are supposed to be self-correcting and self-improving. When mistakes are made, lessons are learned so that the errors are not repeated. When it comes to the private military world, though, our government seems to be doing its utmost to learn nothing. It repeatedly ignores not just the basic lessons of better business, but also those of smart public policy."

Sounds a lot like my Seabee from Falluja, yes?


Meanwhile, as the bombings experience the inevitable uptick the closer we get to the hand-off (if nothing else, the insurgents "claim" the bombs forced the Americans to "capitulate"óan old terrorist strategy whenever gifts are offered), we can see the real tipping point emerging in Iraq: Will Iraqis be able to handle even the limited self-government we offer on 30 June? Here's the analysis from the page 1 NYT story:

"Yet even as the violence is peaking in Iraq, American forces are deferring, more and more each day, to Iraqi security services. Much of the political handover has already happened, and American officials say it is now important to allow Iraqi security services to play a bigger role. As a result, a power vacuum seems to be forming."
Why is this happening? As one Iraqi policeman exclaimed when asked why he was just standing by, watching a crowd riot around a recently bombed site: "What are we to do? If we try to stop them, they will think we are helping the Americans. Then they will turn on us."


This culture has enjoyed no responsibility for their own order for so long, they simply have no sense for it. Decades of Baathist authoritarianism have left Iraqi in a state of infantile development regarding political order: they simply lack the self-respect needed to order themselves. They have lost the father figure and so glom onto the next one that appears: the U.S. Leviathan force.


Why reconfiguring ourselves better for the functions of the Sys Admin force is so crucial is that we need to be able to guide such brutalized and infantilized societies back to the point of sufficient self-respect and self-confidence to be able to rule themselves. That is not an overnight process, as Iraq demonstrates, meaning we'll need to stay for a long time, but stay in the form of a force optimized for enabling that growth to occur within that society, not something simply imposed by a superior warfighting force.


That's why I call the Leviathan your Dad's military ("Don't make me come in there!") and the Sys Admin force your Mom's military ("Oh, you make me so proud when you do that for yourself!").

3:05PM

The greening of China comes through development, not in opposition

"Green Groups Bloom in China: New Generation of Activists Attempts to Clean Up Country," by Peter Wonacott, Wall Street Journal, 15 June, p. A13.


"To Conserve Water, China Lifts Its Price," by Peter Wonacott, WSJ, 15 June, p. A13.


As China develops it learns to value things differently, especially in terms of the environment. There was no such thing as any environmentalism inside China under the Communists, but as the CCP mutates into whatever it's claiming to be right now, it's clear that the resulting personal freedoms accompanying all this economic development is leading to more grass-roots activism on environmental issues.


Will it happen overnight? No. But will it continue to blossom along with the development? Absolutely. China is traversing history right now at an amazing pace, and this is just another good example of the right direction it's heading in.


And it's heading in that direction primarily because it's learning to let the market price things more logically than central planners, armed with the idiotic logic of Marxism-Leninism could. Water is treated as free until you price it, and as China starts pricing it more realistically, protections will emerge. Why? Societies protect things of valueóit's as simple as that.

3:03PM

Millionaires, millionairesówho's got the millionaires? The Core, of course

"U.S. Led a Resurgence Last Year Among Millionaires World-Wide," by Robert Frank, Wall Street Journal, 15 June, p. A1.


Neat article about the global growth in millionaires last year. What I liked best were the regional breakdowns:

  • 2.6 m in Europe


  • 2.5 m in North America


  • 2.0 m in Asia-Pacific


  • 0.6 m in Latin America, Middle East and Africa combined.


With some obvious mismatches (forgetting my ABC trio from South America), this breakdown is roughly Core (Europe, N.A., A-P) versus Gap (rest of world), and so there's no surprise that the Core (roughly 2/3rd of world population) possesses virtually all of the millionaires, while the Gap has less than 10 percent of them (and I bet most of those are found in Argentina, Brazil, Chile [part of my New Core] and a few key oil families in the Persian Gulf).


The existence of millionaires speaks to economic rule sets that promote and protect wealth-generation. Where you don't have that, wealth tends to be subject to zero-sum rule sets, as in, there's only so much to go around. Lacking such firm economic rule sets is the key reason why the Gap remains the Gap.

3:00PM

Maoists, Maoistsówho's got the Maoists? The Gap, of course

"A Glass Bubble That's Bringing Beijing to a Boil," by Joseph Kahn, New York Times, 15 June, p. A1.


"Maoist Attack In Nepal Kills 21 Policemen," by Reuters, NYT, 15 June, p. A8.


There are no Maoists in the birthplace of Mao anymore. Instead there's a booming economy where many do really well, others just okay, and still more are scrambling to join the partyóbasically a microcosm of the global economy.


So Beijing is now a place that's undergoing a massive facelift in anticipation of the Olympics, and in that massive facelift all sorts of public debates emerge about the aesthetics and morality of new urban developments such as the monstrous glass-domed National Theater building going up now. What's at stakes are all sorts of things: preservation of Chinese culture, definitions of Chinese culture, definitions of Chinese greatness, and so on and so forth.


These are all problems of success, not failure, which is why there are no more Maoists in China today. Maoism basically takes Leninism further back into the past in order to achieve its revolutionary goals of authoritarian rule: it says you need to go all the way back to the time of the peasants to effect a true socialist revolution. That retreat back into time shows how bankrupt Maoism was as a development model ("I dunno, maybe we could simply make a great leap forward and catch up!"), and explains why China went nowhere economically until Mao died and Deng took over. In the end, Deng will go down as the true father of modern China, not Mao, who gets credited with uniting the precapitalist collection of regions that China was pre-WWII under a single political rule and nothing more.


Maoism is basically a Gap ideology: "Revel in your precapitalism! It only means you're that much closer to achieving a truly socialist brand of egalitarian poverty whereby your countrymen can be united under a brutally centralized authoritarian leadership!" So where do we find it thriving today? In only the most disconnected regions of the world, like Nepal.

2:55PM

Disconnectedness inside the Gap: a form of connectivity cannibalism

"Cable Thievery Is Darkening Daily Life in Mozambique," by Michael Wines, New York Times, 15 June, p. A3.


One of the saddest examples of why a Gap state like Mozambique doesn't get anywhere over time: There is so little there of value other than the raw materials that people can get their hands on, that thieves will steal the very elements of connectivity that would have otherwise served as the basic infrastructure for development. Mozambique's stunted development means the people there are forced to eat their seed corn on a regular basis to achieve something so basic as producing aluminum pots and pans. The country's only aluminum smelter produces only for export, and the economy imports no aluminum, so the people make do on their own by tearing down electrical cables and smelting the aluminum found therein. It's like watching the snake devour its own tail.


Simply put, Mozambique is so disconnected from the global economy that it can't make something like the importing of aluminum pots and pans happen. What do you need to make that happen? I mean, I know there are companies that want to sell aluminum pots and pans there. It takes enough rule sets and infrastructure to draw that economic connectivity in from the world outside, and apparently Mozambique's government can't manage even that. So the eating of the seed corn continues apace and Mozambique remains firmly stuck deep inside the Gap.

2:51PM

A nice bit of connectivity emerges for Iran

"World Briefing: Iran: A Nobel Advocate," by Reuters, New York Times, 15 June, p. A6.


A Canadian journalist has her head bashed in by Iranian police and dies. She had been arrested for taking pictures outside a prison where political dissidents are held. Now her family is effectively trying to seek prosecution of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry official believed responsible for her death. This story announces that the Nobel Peace Prize human rights activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi is going to be allowed to represent the family in the proceedings that will result in Iran's hard-line judiciary system, where the government official is to be tried for "semi-intentional murder."


Do not think for a minute that Ebadi gets this very dicey trial without the global recognition afforded by her Nobel prize. That sliver of connectivity empowers her to continue pursuing the good work she does to promote human rights inside the cowered nation that is Iran under the mullahs' continued authoritarian rule.

7:17PM

Countering the Reagan effect: the Clinton sales job

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 14 June 2004


Clinton announces his massive book tour will not just be about selling books, but will also involve a campaign of ideas in support of John Kerryís campaign for president (ìClinton Planning To Use Book Tour To Assist Kerry: Coordinating With Party,î by David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, 14 June, p. A1.). Clinton will be touting his legacy, and offering it in sharp contrast to the scary security environment and tough economic times of the past four years under Bush. Clintonís plugging for his book and Kerry will be identical in nature: werenít you better off four years ago? Didnít it seem safer? America more respected in the world? Remember the projected budget surpluses and the elimination of the national debt?


Will Clintonís book tour cast a stronger political spell than the just-concluded Reagan extravaganza? Perhaps. Reaganís pull on the popular imagination naturally wanes with time. The youngest people around who were able to vote for him are now in their mid-30s. Plus, Reaganís pitch was a one-time if week-long deal, whereas Clinton will be giving speech after speech, and we all know what a great campaigner he is.


Here, the strategic pause generated by Reaganís passing may actually help Kerry. Now it will be Clinton all over the dial, reminding everyone of what it means to be Democrats who win. If Iraq fades as an issue, then Kerry can focus on the economy, the deficit, and generalized fears of terrorism and increasing isolation from long-time alliesóall items that can be sold as issues Clinton and a Democratic White House proved better at dealing with across the 1990s than the Bush White House has done since 2000. It wonít all be true, but it wonít exactly be a hard sales job.


But Clinton is a bit of a glory hound, and overshadowing stale Kerry is also a possibility, one that plays better to Hillaryís run for the White House in 2008 after the public can logically be expected to be really tired of Bush (yes, it almost always happens after 8 years). So itíll be interesting how Billy, the Comeback Kid, comes back this time. Will a dead icon stir more memories than a tarnished living one?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Todayís catch:


The political solution set emerging in Iraq?

ìShiite Cleric Is Forming Party That May Play Role in Elections: Moqtada al-Sadr, a rebel, moves toward the mainstream,î by Edward Wong, New York Times, 14 June, p. A7.


ìIn Race to Give Power to Iraqis, Electricity Lags: U.S. Falls Short of Goal for Reviving Output,î by James Glanz, NYT, 14 June, p. A1.

The difficulty of recruitment in war time
ìIn Saudi Arabia, Lives of Fear: Why Some Westerners Struggle to Stay as Terrorist Attacks Mount,î by Hugh Pope, Wall Street Journal, 14 June, p. A15.


ìRecruiters Try New Tactics to Sell Wartime Army,î by Monica Davey, NYT, 14 June, p. A1.

Orville and Wilbur get ready for orbit
ìPrivate Space Mission Is Ready for Takeoff,î by J. Lynn Lunsford, WSJ, 14 June, p. B1.

7:10PM

The political solution set emerging in Iraq?

ìShiite Cleric Is Forming Party That May Play Role in Elections: Moqtada al-Sadr, a rebel, moves toward the mainstream,î by Edward Wong, New York Times, 14 June, p. A7.


ìIn Race to Give Power to Iraqis, Electricity Lags: U.S. Falls Short of Goal for Reviving Output,î by James Glanz, NYT, 14 June, p. A1.


Moqtada al-Sadr sends strong signals he wants to come in from the cold and be accepted as a legitimate political player in the upcoming elections. He wants to turn his military capital into political gain, and heís pretty wily to do so. He can be washed clean of a lot of heinous acts all at once by doing so, because his acceptance of the legitimacy of the upcoming elections will be impossible for anyone to trump with old charges. Everyone in the interim government and the U.S.-led occupational authority will be forced to accept his change of heart at face value, grateful they all will be for any realized decline in violence.


Yes, eventually Sadr would run out of militia men willing to be killed, and this switcheroo immediately allows him to distance himself from all those deaths in his name, but the temptation of actually gaining a seat at the table of power that will emerge from this election is probably too much to pass up. After all, Shiites are the largest voting block in the country and Sadr is riding high in popular imagination after calling for and directing much of the Shiite-based counterinsurgency effort of the past weeks.


Sadrís no dummy. He knew the political handoff was coming on 30 June no matter what, but if it comes peacefully, heís clearly the second banana to Ayatollah Sistani. Starting a no-win insurgency and losing lots of followers might have seemed like a waste of lives, but the great man has won much political capital in the process, and now that the inevitable is arriving, itís time to cash in those chips for whatever theyíre worth. Sadrís at least Sistaniís political equal as a result of the insurgency, no matter the outcome, and if the would-be Big Man had to waste a host of young lives in the process, then so be it.


Once the election has occurred, the sense of authority and ownership over the situation in Iraq will shift dramatically from America to Iraqis themselvesóthe newly elected government. At that point, itíll be important to actually prove the government can work on some level, to deliver the goodsóso to speak. So destroying the infrastructure really gets to be counterproductive as self-rule approachesóeven for al Sadr. Once heís won his share of votes, he wants to be able to take credit for things like stable utilities just like any other politician.

7:07PM

The difficulty of recruitment in war time

ìIn Saudi Arabia, Lives of Fear: Why Some Westerners Struggle to Stay as Terrorist Attacks Mount,î by Hugh Pope, Wall Street Journal, 14 June, p. A15.


ìRecruiters Try New Tactics to Sell Wartime Army,î by Monica Davey, New York Times, 14 June, p. A1.


Westerners have been working quietly in Saudi Arabia for decades. My sister-in-lawís parents were teachers within this large ex-pat community in the kingdom for many years before retiring and coming back to America, and they told of a very good life there.


But that life is fast disappearing thanks to al Qaedaís concerted and consistent effort to target Westerners with terrorism. Many long-timers are leaving, some for good and someóas per their customófor a long summer holiday back in the States. Whether or not they return in the fall will depend on whether or not the situation improves. But this much is clear, when the long-timers start leaving the ship, itís really sinking fast.


Saudi Arabia used to feature a per capita income of about $28k a generation ago. Now itís about $6-7k and itís dropping fast, thanks to the huge demographic youth bulge that drives up the total population year after year. Almost all of the mass violence in the world occurs in states with per capita incomes of $3k or less, and at the rate theyíre going, the Saudis will close in on that number faster than anyone could have anticipated 20 years ago. Westerners may well be right in leaving before the inevitable civil strife spreads beyond just specific terrorist acts against ìinfidels.î


If you think itís hard for companies to recruit for war zones, itís also hard for the military to recruit during an extended war periodósomething weíve never done in this all-volunteer force of the past three decades. Thereís little illusion in joining the Guard and Reserves nowadays, as there was in past years. Recruits know full well itís not just some weekends and a fat chance of going overseas. Since the military canít really afford to jack up the financial inducements too much, theyíre offering some unusual options regarding length of service and the ability to serve side-by-side with friends.


Expect more such innovations in coming years, because there will inevitably be a great renegotiation of what military service means as this global war on terrorism unfolds. Some ìboysî will go to wars and come back, but others will head out for peacekeeping missions and simply rotate, rotate, and rotate for years on endóeffectively never coming home. Those two distinct missions will eventually yield two very different recruiting strategiesónot to mention two very different militaries.

7:03PM

Orville and Wilbur get ready for orbit

ìPrivate Space Mission Is Ready for Takeoff,î by J. Lynn Lunsford, Wall Street Journal, 14 June, p. B1.


Since the beginning of space exploration decades ago, it has remained fundamentally a public-sector affair, which of course has yielded one very slow growth curve following the ìspace raceî between the superpowers. That public-sector dominance has kept the private-sector entrepreneurs out of the game for far too long.


You will say, ìBut space travel is dangerous!î Any more than the early years of experimental flight and the subsequent emergence of commercial flying? People seem to forget all the scores of pioneers who lost their lives in that great historical endeavor, but itís what yielded the incredibly safe system we have today.


Instead of treating space travel as similar, weíve deified it to the point of absurdity. We lose some astronauts and itís a great national tragedy that shuts down NASA for months on end. I have never figured out whatís so damned sacred about dying in space (much less flying to or from space). Imagine how long it would have taken to achieve the commercial airline industry if we had been that anguished over every fly boy who killed himself in the early years of aviation.


As commercial space flight nears, we will finally begin to see the rapid explosion of human space travel that weíve all been dreaming about for decades. Yes, people will die in horrible accidents, but it wonít be any more tragic than your average car wreckósomething that happens every day all around us. And I say that development is not just good, itís great. We need new challenges and adventuresónot just for the guys with ìright stuffî but for anyone willing to take on the challenge.


But even more than any of that, we need to get out there in near space and fill it with commercial activities that dissuade our own governments from militarizing the region with their nonsensical dreams of Star Wars. Weíll spend quite a few lives in the process, but itíll be well worth it.

1:07PM

God bless the Wall Street Journal (another book plug)

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 14 June 2004


Since I spent yesterday whining about the Times not reviewing my book (there, got that out of the way fast today!), let me start out today by noting my undying love for the Wall Street Journal (capitalist rag that it is!).


Got this email from Mike Downing, a regular visitor and PNM reader:

Don't know if you're aware of it, but there's a weekly TV show called the Wall St. Journal Report, usually on at an obscure time. Here in Columbus, OH. It's 6:00 am Sunday. I happened at wake up early this morning and catch it.


They were doing a little segment at the end of the show on Father's Day

gifts, including a section on books. PNM was the first book they

mentioned(and held up prominently for the camera). I don't remember the comment exactly, but it was something along the lines of "a fascinating new way of looking at the world."

That's why I read the Journal lovingly every day.


Thanks to Mike for telling me about this.


As for the Grey Lady . . . I am told by Putnam to expect an advertisement from them to appear in the New York Times around Thursday of this week. AHA! We are inside the castle walls with this one!

12:37PM

PNM to be published inside Turkey

Dateline: above the garage in Portstmouth RI, 14 June 2004


My agency just forwarded me an offer from Yayinlari, a publishing house in Turkey. My agent Jennifer says it is one of the most prominent and efficient Turkish publishers. A modest run of 3,000 books with an appropriate advance, but I couldn't be more thrilled. I mean, who I am to publish a book in Turkey (much less Turkish!)?


So now PNM will be in three languages: English (okay, American given all the slang and pop culture references), Japanese and Turkish.


Apparently, the Turkish publishers who are buying the rights do not take offense at my designating Turkey as part of the Gap. I know 3,000 copies probably aren't enough to pull Turkey into the Core.


Then again, if the right 3,000 Turks read it . . ..


Nah, I got it backwards on that one: I need the right 3,000 or so European Union bureaucrats to read it.

11:54AM

Why the Sunday NYT is the best newspaper in the world


Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 13 June 2004


Despite my continuing anger and embarrassment over the New York Timesí refusal to review my book (or perhaps driving it), I just love reading the Sunday Times. Thereís no Sunday Wall Street Journal, and frankly, the Washington Post, outside of the Outlook section, is significantly weaker than the weekday version (not surprising for workaholic DC). But the Sunday Times is strong from stem to stern. The Week in Review is typically strong, the book reviews are among the best, Arts & Leisure is probably the strongest of the bunch (giving you all sorts of overview analysis of movies, music, theater, opera and so on), and the Sunday magazine often contains one or even two really solid stories worth reading all the way through (although James Traubís article today on Iranís nuclear program was a complete snooze).


But what always amazes me about the paper is how many great stories there tends to be in the A section. Without a doubt, one of the best bets to find several great stories on how things are moving across the country and the world is the main section of the Sunday Times. Itís almost a barometer of my futurology fitness: if Iíve spent the week wondering about some issues and then I see the articles capturing the same emerging sentiment or analysis on page 1 of the Sunday Times, I feel ìfitî versus ìflabbyî in my ability to sniff out tipping points. If I were to locate the brain of the NYT, it would be on page 1 of the Sunday Times.


As for the ego, that would definitely be the op-ed page, which has become such an avowed star-system with the Times that the quality has really gone downhill in recent years. Itís almost like a daily reminder of the Heisenberg Principle (or Observer Created Reality): once you make the reporter the center of attention, all the analysis goes downhill. Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd are the worst examples, but Thomas Friedman is catching up. For now, Nicholas Kristof is keeping it together, but slippage is inevitable. You have to admit, though, itís an efficient production system, because all they need to do is bag up the op-eds every two years and itís an instant bestseller, with a guaranteed review in the Times and lots of advertisements and TV appearances that all come together to pretty much predetermine its ìbrillianceííóeven if itís only a rehashed collection of op-eds. But think of it, you pay something like $40 a month for the op-eds in the first place, and then they nab you for $25 later just to have them all stitched together.


But enough with the carping and back to the main point: yesterday I wrote about how the Reagan funeral extravaganza created this profound pause in the whole Bush-is-going-down-because-Iraq-is-a-disaster scenario that many political analysts seem to buying whole cloth. I mean, everybody likes a sequel of a popular story, but the problem is Bush 43 is a real improvement on Bush 41 and Kerry just ainít Bill Clinton (unless heís waiting to break out a can of I-can-feel-your-pain whupass on the campaign trail).


My points were basically that it shut down Kerry for a significant period during which Bush seemed like he was bottoming out due to Iraq, meanwhile the whole Iraq thing quietly shifted from a complete-disaster-of-neocon-making into something a whole lot more hopeful, primarily because itís now Iraqis running the show with the U.S. slipping into the background and working more as System Administrators dispensing aid that rebuilds Iraqís social networks and economic infrastructure and as the on-site military Leviathan dedicated to serving as the fledgling regimeís bodyguard.


Judging by the emails Iíve gotten from various people on-site in the Green Zone, the splitting of the U.S. military force into Sys Admin and Leviathan roles isnít just emerging, itís basically there. Itís not a question of predictive powers oróeven more ludicrouslyóthe notion of influence, but simply the ability to spot undeniable strategic realities as they emerge. Itís not a gift, but a skill. It can be learned, taught, self-developed, and kept up through consistent use.


Why I say that is because I feel strongly that anybody can develop this skill with enough effort and that America as a whole needs to develop this muscle if weíre going to ever reach a happy ending in this global war on terrorism, moving far beyond that limited goal to what I call the global future worth creating.


So hereís my answer to the eternal question of what is the one thing Iíd want when stranded on the desert island in terms of information flow: the Sunday New York Times. Pound for pound, itís the best.


Todayís evidence includes:


Will this election be determined by Iraq?

ìIraqis Start to Exercise Power Even Before Date for Turnover,î by Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, 13 June, p. A1.


ìRoad for Relief Team Is Gauntlet of Enemy Fire: ëWe canít fix anything if theyíre shooting at us,î by Michale Kamber, NYT, 13 June, p. A16.


ìBehind the Scenes, a Restless and Relentless Kerry,î by Jodi Wilgoren, NYT, 13 June, p. A1.


ìApproval in May,î results Gallup Polls, NYT, 13 June, p. A25.


ìA Nation Divided? Who Says? On gay rights, gun control and abortion, thereís a whole lot of agreeing going on,î by John Tierney, NYT, 13 June, p. WK1.


ìWhy America Sees the Silver Lining: ëSuccess in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,î by John Leland, NYT, 13 June, p. WK1.


ìAnd Yes, He Was a Great Communicator: A presidentís debt to Jefferson Smith, George Bailey and Tom Joad,î by Geoffrey Nunberg, NYT, 13 June, p. WK5.

ìHello, this is God speaking,î volunteers Vishnu in a perfect American accent
ìShort on Priests, U.S. Catholics Outsource Prayers to Indian Clergy,î by Saritha Rai, NYT, 13 June, p. A13.
The disconnecting strategy gets more perverse by the day
ìSaudi Gunmen Kill American; Qaeda Claims Another Death,î by AP, NYT, 13 June, p. A8.


ìIsrael Says Children Enlist Children as Suicide Bombers: Peer pressure among Palestinian teenagers to become martyrs,î by Greg Myre, NYT, 13 June, p. A3.