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  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    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
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The end of the free ride in Russia

"Cash vs. Benefits: Efficiency, of Assault on Russia's Soul? What is a perk worth? More than Putin will give us, many worry," by C.J. Chivers, New York Times, 18 June, p. A3.

Big scary bill in Russia's Duma from Putin: proposing to scrap decades of free this and that for masses, substituting government stipends in their place. A lot of old-timers would suffer most in this scenario. As one independent Duma member put it: "For the Russian people it means completely changing their psychology and their tradition, a Soviet-style tradition of life in Russia."

Putin really wants to prioritize government subsidies for those who need them most, whereas providing things like free public transportation for all means everyone gets something, whether they need it or notósomething this government simply cannot afford as it moves ahead with market reforms.

That Putin is moving ahead with this very difficult dismantling of one of the last vestiges of Soviet central planning only demonstrates how committed he remains to reform.


The usual on China-Taiwan

"China-Taiwan Relations Sour, Dousing Hopes for Major Plans," by Dan Nystedt, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. B2.

Typically overblown reporting on China-Taiwan: famous Taiwanese singer has her concert canceled in China because of local protests against her perceived support for Taiwan's independence movement. It is considered a bad sign of deteriorating relations between the two sides means a host of bilateral issues will be put off.

And they will. But will investment flows slow at all? No. The economic integration proceeds apace. It's just the political and social forms of connectivity that get held up in these periods of official "anger."

Should we be surprised? No. The logic of economic integration continues to work its boring magic, and as that process continues, the reality of the two sides drawing together over economics spurs anxiety for each regarding what should logically be accompanying social and political integration. So the fear factor we see in these spats doesn't speak to a growing disconnectedness between Taiwan and China, but merely reflects the growing economic bonds that progressively draw them together.

Basic lesson we see time and time again on globalization in general: connectivity breeds contempt at first, gradually giving way to peace over time as political and social and security rule sets catch up with the economic connectivity that leads the way.


Not just China scouring for oil

"Indian Oil Firms Scour Globe: Surging Demand Compels World-wide Quest for Energy Supplies," by Eric Bellman, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. A9.

We've all seen lotsa articles like this on China. This is a rare one on India, but expect to see a whole lot more.

This only underscores the reality that both India and China are becoming dependent on secure energy flows from the Persian Gulf, which is why both nations should be in Iraq right now. That they're not only shows the lack of strategic planning and vision inside both the Pentagon and the US Government in general.


Perfect home-away game breakdown

"Senate Votes to Add 20,000 Soldiers to Army: An effort to halt deployment of a missile system fails," by Carl Hulse, New York Times, 18 June, p. A21.

Senate decides to add 20k soldiers on their own to the Army, but fails to stop the costly deployment of the missile defense system the Pentagon wants to erect around the U.S.

The 20k more soldiers are a pure response to the Sys Admin responsibilities this Administration faces in the unfolding Global War on Terrorism, whereas the missile shield is a terrible hangover from the Cold War past that assumes we can somehow firewall ourselves off from the dangers "over there."

Countries firing missiles at us is not the threat we face, and if it's a non-state actor doing it, that bomb will far more likely come in a suitcase. No, we need to stay focused on playing the away game in the Middle East, dealing with terrorism at its roots. 20k new soldiers does that, Star Wars does not.


Saudis debate finer points on when killing foreigners is okay

"Debating Killing of Foreigners in Kingdom: Time is running out for an American held in Saudi Arabia," by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 18 June, p. A11.

The case of Paul Johnson is triggering some unprecedented debates within Saudi society, but the tenor of those debates show how far that society needs to go before it can really join the world. This story details some of the finer points on that debate, like when it's still okay to simply kill any foreigner you may come across. This is why I say comparing the Gap in general to old Wild West of America is not far-fetched. Frontier justice abounds in societies where taking the "law" into your own hands is not just considered okay, but your "sacred duty." These situations simply reflect societies where the development of secular law has been severely retarded.


In the New York Times, finally! A Re- Ö Advertisement!

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 17 June 2004

In case you missed it, my webmaster posted a copy on my site's front page. It's the second ad I've heard of. First one was half-pager for 17 May issue of The New Republic. This once is a nice size (one-third width of page and runs from top of page to crease) and nice placement (above crease, page 9, Arts section). Does it drive traffic and sell books? Putnam described it to me as a "connect the dots" effort for anyone who may have seen or heard about the book on CNN, Headline News, Fox, CNNfn, CNBC, NPR, CSPAN, etc. and just needed to be reminded: "Oh yeah, thaaaaat book!"

My main man at Putnam, Editor-in-Chief Neil Nyren says the books are still moving out of their offices at very solid speed, with significantly more than half the run already in circulation. Assuming the industry standard percentage gets returned unsold, we're already into the tens of thousands of books sold, which feels awfully good because that number sold already surpasses the typical first-printing run of the vast majority of books like mine (political, hefty). I always knew the book would do the usual sort of business for it's type, but this is going way beyond thatówith the NYT Best Seller designation to boot (something very few of those books achieve andófranklyóonly a couple or so hundred achieve in non-fiction across an entire year). So no complaints. As Neil predicted, this book would sell well but in a steady, building fashion. The NYT BSL achievement was driven by the CSPAN Book Notes appearanceófabulous but an anomaly.

Meanwhile, the push for more PR is neverending. Just signed up for live NPR On Point show on 28 June. Just agreed to interview by French journalist writing for L'Express, which is just about the coolest, biggest mag in France. Still waiting on London's Daily Telegraph profile, but if it's anything like the AP effort, it will appear far later than I expect. But that's fine, having PR pop up regularly over the summer is just what the publisher ordered. Just yesterday I got a nice plug online from The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, although it referenced the original Esquire article only and not the book. But still, any mention is better than none and a good mention is better than a bad one, and this one was good.

Over the longer haul, several possibilities exist. I'm working to get on this PBS show out of San Jose called Uncommon Knowledge. Arranging that one is mostly logistics, because you need to get to CA to film it. Got a proposal in front of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for a documentary based on the book. Should get a thumbs up or down by end of summer. Putnam's still pushing me to some big interview shows, and I've signed up to do some pretty big conferences in the fall. Then there will be the hoped-for next iteration of this site. All in all, plenty to look forward to.

But yeah, I'd still the reviews. Washington Post promised one, but we're still waiting (many papers tend to run about 2 months post pub date for everything but instant best sellers). I'd love one from the Wall Street Journal, but they do so few, and Jaffe's story was a quasi review of the best sort (front page), so that's probably too much to hope for. As for the Times, I know exactly who I'd want to review it: David Brooks. But I fear that dream date is already come and gone as a possibility. Word I got from Putnam is that once Times passes on review, they don't change their mind.

Eventually I will stop whining, but damn it! It's all I got for now. Still, gotta take the NYT Best Seller list on Sunday over any review. I just hope to God they don't print some abbreviated version of the list (like to only 12 or 13!) so they can shove the Children's List or How-To List at the bottom of the column, cause they it would feel a bit like a technical knock-out. Even in this virtual age, you want to hold the paper in your hand.

But just in case . . . †

Hardcover Nonfiction

Published: June 20, 2004

1 DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM, by David Sedaris. (Little,Brown,$24.95.) The humorist's latest collection of essays.

2 EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, by Lynne Truss. (Gotham, $17.50.) An Englishwoman expounds on the use and misuse of punctuation marks.

3 BIG RUSS AND ME, by Tim Russert. (Miramax, $22.95.) The host of "Meet the Press" remembers his father and the other important teachers in his life.

4 PLAN OF ATTACK, by Bob Woodward. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) A behind-the-scenes account of the Bush administration's decision making as it drew up plans to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

5 *FATHER JOE, by Tony Hendra. (Random House, $24.95.) A noted satirist recalls his decades-long friendship with an English Benedictine monk. Excerpt

6 BATTLE READY, by Tom Clancy with Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz. (Putnam, $28.95.) The evolution of the United States Marine Corps, from the Vietnam era to the post-9/11 years.

7 ALEXANDER HAMILTON, by Ron Chernow. (Penguin Press, $35.) A biography of the first Treasury secretary and chief author of The Federalist Papers. First Chapter

8 MORE THAN MONEY, by Neil Cavuto. (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, $24.95.) A financial journalist who has multiple sclerosis presents portraits of other people in business who have overcome obstacles. (+)

9 FOUNDING MOTHERS, by Cokie Roberts. (Morrow, $24.95.) The ABC News commentator details the lives of the many women (Abigail Adams and Martha Washington among them) who "raised our nation."

10 ON THE DOWN LOW, by J. L. King with Karen Hunter. (Broadway, $21.95.) Exploring the lives of ostensibly straight black men who have sex with men, and the health consequences for the black community.

11 *SECRETS OF THE CODE, edited by Dan Burstein. (CDS Books/Squibnocket, $21.95.) Essays by a variety of experts ó theologians, art historians, scientists ó on themes relating to "The Da Vinci Code."

12 THREE WEEKS WITH MY BROTHER, by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks. (Warner, $22.) The novelist and his sibling describe their trip around the world.

13 AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, by Richard A. Clarke. (Free Press, $27.) President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator criticizes the administration's handling of events before and after the 9/11 attacks. First Chapter

14 THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. (Putnam, $26.95.) A military analyst assesses the prospects for war and peace in the 21st century.

15 REWRITING HISTORY, by Dick Morris with Eileen McGann. (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, $24.95.) A former adviser to President Bill Clinton "deconstructs" Hillary Clinton's autobiography, "Living History."

16 *TRUTH & BEAUTY, by Ann Patchett. (HarperCollins, $23.95.) A novelist recalls her friendship with Lucy Grealy, the author of "Autobiography of a Face."

Got it? Flaunt it!


The "chilling" report from 9/11 commission

Repost from June 17, 2004

"Sept. 11 Plotters Initially Planned Broader Attacks: Commission Reports Find No Iraq-al Qaeda Link; Mohammad's 'Second Wave,'" by staff, Wall Street Journal, 17 June, p. A1.

"Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11: Challenges Bush: A Chilling Chronology Rewrites the History of the Attacks," by Philip Shenon and Christropher Marquis, New York Times, 17 June, p. A1.

I will confess: I've skimmed all the reports/articles/etc. about the 9/11 plot for the past almost three years, and there is nothing in this commission report that I see as new or particularly "chilling."

The big points one by one:

"Al Qaeda had planned it for years!"

This only confirms the basic pattern of major al Qaeda ops distant from the Middle East: they are very hard to arrange, take a lot of planning, and typically are in the works for years. To me, this news is nothing but good. If we keep the pressure up on the al Qaeda network, the chances of it being able to mount something big and serious in the U.S. is greatly diminished.

"The attack was originally designed to be much larger!"

This we know of from basically every big op they try. Al Qaeda was all set to pull something like 15 planes all hijacked at once well before 9/11. That plot fizzled. So they had grandiose designs on 9/11 too? Big deal. Their limited logistical network convinced Osama to scale it down. So you tell me: which news is more scary/reassuring? The intention to try bigger or the reality that forced them to scale down?

"No connection between Iraq and al Qaeda!"

That one was always a shakey notion at best, one of the three dozen or so rationales offered by various Bush Admin officials during the run-up to the war. It never meant anything to me. Saddam had multiple priors and multiple warrants. We took him down with relative ease when we couldóat a time of our choosing, just like any cops. You don't need to catch Ted Bundy actually killing a woman to arrest him, you do it whenever you can. It's like people wanting us to find Saddam mixing sarin gas with Osama himself, otherwise it was all a sham. But in the end, this is just the incoherence of the Bush Administration's explanations for the war in Iraq coming back to haunt them. As I've said or written many times, I think there's no question that if you want to defeat international terrorism based out of the Middle East, you need to go after the threat in a strategic fashion, meaning you deny them the long-term goal they seek (a hugely disconnected Middle East). Going after Saddam does the trick better than any other target we could have taken on, and if we create a true center of gravity in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq, then so much the better. It's a lot harder chasing them all over the world than simply throwing down the gauntlet in Iraq, and with the bombs now going off in the Persian Gulf and not here in America, the mass violence of this "war" is now located exactly where it needs to beóover there in al Qaeda's neighborhood and not over here in ours. Moreover, professionals are now fighting andóyesódying in this war, but wars are like that, and that is why we have a military. To me, going into Iraq forced America to finally deal with the mess that is the Middle East. Until we deal with that mess, this GWOT isn't going anywhere but toward a stalemate.


Post flash! Saudis finally starting to get al Qaeda as direct threat!

Repost from June 17, 2004

"Saudi Arabia Refines Its Assessment of Al Qaeda Threat: Kingdom Itself Seen as a Target," Washington Post, 8 June, p. A18.

Can I get a Duuuuuuuuuh!

Saudis finally starting to harden all their soft sites around the country. I say, "Join the party, G.D. it! You're the guys paying for it!"

Here's the good excerpt:

"The brewing conflict between the government and the militants has forced many people here to reassess where they stand. In a nation where large segments of society support native son Osama bin Laden's efforts to destroy the United States and its Western allies, mainstream Saudis who cheered him are starting to realize that the government bin Laden and his followers really wanted to topple all along was their own.

'Many people thought that this was just talk, people saying extremist things, but that's it, just talk,' said Abdul Muhsen Akkas, a member of the Saudi consultative council, a group that advises the royal family. 'Somehow we had the belief that our people would never cross that bridge' and attack the kingdom's economy and social structure.'"

The article goes on to say that the House of Saud now seems very committed to fighting terrorism inside Saudi Arabia (i.e., saving their own skin) and doesn't look like it's losing its grip on power whatsoever.

You note, the House of Saud isn't exactly cracking ass to run around the world and help anyone other than themselves deal with al Qaeda. So yes, they'll crack down at home and yes, they'll try to stop the "charity" funding that flows to the terrorists, and yes, they'll rethink the whole madrasses educational system, but know this: the House of Saud isn't really interested in building any connectivity (security, political, economic, social) that calls into questionóin the slightestóthe legitimacy of their rule. That legitimacy is slowly eroded by globalization's creeping advance into the region, because the resulting connectivity and content flows are threatening to the House of Saud's still very traditional definition of society.

So they try to keep the world out as far as the masses are concerned, whereas the rich elite go wherever they want in the Core and do whatever they want when they get thereósort of like they shed their "observant Muslim" thing the second the Saudi Air flight leaves the tarmac in Riyadh, only to reacquire it the second their return flight touches down. Neat sort of piousness if you can stand it.

But simultaneously enjoying globalization (at least the elite) while keeping it at bay is a deeply self-limiting strategy on two counts: 1) you don't really develop economically and thus remain vulnerable on the question of regime legitimacy, and 2) your inherent lack of broadband connectivity makes you an attractive target to extremists who dream of disconnecting you completely in order to institute their hoped-for authoritarian regime.

You can't go half-way on globalization, although you can work the speed of integration somewhat. But the House of Saud seems to want to keep the content flows and connectivity highly segmented within their society: for all on top, some below, but largely non-existent for the observant, in-the-dark masses. One way they manage this is to use a lot of external labor as guest workers.†

But it's a decrepit system that breeds complacency and lack of vision. Here's the killer excerpt that really makes the point:

'The regime in Saudi Arabia today is a regime of old men. It is like the Soviet days,' said Ferhad Ibrahim, a political science professor and Middle East specialist at the Free University of Berlin. 'They don't have a strategy against the terrorists. They have a crisis. The whole political system has a hard time functioning.'

Even so, some Saudi intellectuals say, the attacks have renewed popular support for the government and sparked a backlash against the militants. They say many Saudis are afraid that al Qaeda is trying to ruin the nation's economy and isolate the kingdom from the rest of the world."

Al Qaeda's strategy is one of disconnecting Saudi Arabia from the outside world?

Yeah, I'd say they're beginning to get it.


Vonne Mei Ling Barnett was born on 4 November 2003

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 16 June 2004

Yesterday afternoon I received the call from our adoption agency in Texas (Great Wall Adoption Agency) announcing the official "referral" from the Chinese government agency that oversees all foreign adoptions. That referral revealed the identity of the baby girl our family is adopting as our fourth child, following in the footsteps of our three biological children, Emily, Kevin and Jerome. That phone call was the official tipping point in a bureaucratic process stretching back 15 months, and it was a latest, most-amazing moment in our lives led togetheróVonne and I.

Our fourth child was born Yong Ling Zhou, but she will be known to us as Vonne Mei Ling Barnett. Her original name meant something along the lines of "the gift of harmonious chimes," and we will keep the "chimes" part as a legacy from her origins.

Her new name is designed to bond her deeply with our family.

Vonne Mei, her two-part first name, will link her to her new mother (first name Vonne), her new older sister Emily (middle name Vonne), and her new maternal grandmother (middle name Vonne, used as her first name). Thus Vonne becomes our daughter's firm link to our extended Meussling family's legacy of Vonnes.

Mei, the second part of her first name, links our new daughter to my side of the family, as Mae was my maternal grandmother (never met). We use the Chinese spelling of this name because we want that connection as well, and because Mei means "beautiful" in Chinese.

Ling, our daughter's middle name, will preserve her original Chinese first name as her legacy to her biological family. As this point, we do not know if this first name was chosen by her original parents (occasionally true) or given to her by her orphanage in Jiangxi Province (more typically the case). Either way, that name is a huge and very important link to her past, something we seek to respect deeply over the course of her life in our now-enlarged family. Ling means "chimes" in Chinese.

By preserving her original first name and using the Chinese spelling Mei, our new daughter is linked culturally to her cousin, adopted from Guangdong Province by my older sister Maggie approximately three years ago.

And finally, by legally adopting her in the United States under the surname Barnett, our Vonne Mei will be permanently joined to that extended family on my side.

Vonne Mei Ling Barnett was born on 4 November 2003, to a woman or couple that decided she would not be able to thrive in China, and so made the difficult choice to grant her a different pathway somewhere outside of China. That incalculable gift establishes a very strong link between our family and the civilization that is China.

In one phone call, we have become a Chinese-American family, and a new connection is born between China and the United States.

Here's today's catch:

Rule-set resets are a very tricky thing in the GWOT

"Redefining Torture: Did the U.S. go too far in changing the rules, or did it apply the new rules to the wrong people?" by Amanda Ripley, Time, 21 June, p. 49
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.
The latest sign of Mugabe's complete madness
"Zimbabwe Stocks Up On Jets, Arms," by Tom Carter, Washington Times, 15 June, p. 1.
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.

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.
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, NYT, 16 June, p. A12.
Border, smorder! Another example of US and Mexico merging politically
"Fox Seeks to Allow Mexicans Living Abroad to Vote in 2006," by Tim Weiner, NYT, 16 June, p. A6.


Rule-set resets are a very tricky thing in the GWOT

"Redefining Torture: Did the U.S. go too far in changing the rules, or did it apply the new rules to the wrong people?" by Amanda Ripley, Time, 21 June, p. 49.

This one almost writes itself thanks to the sub-title. A major theme in my book is that 9/11 and the resulting Global War on Terrorism triggers a rule-set reset not just across America, but much of the world (e.g., there has been a huge upsurge in new laws targeting terrorism throughout the Core). This reset consists mostly of adding in new rules where gaps are now perceived to exist, as in, "Clearly, we're missing the rules to deal with this particular problem."

Nowhere has this rule-set reset been trickier than in the area of handling, interrogating, and putting on trial suspected terrorists. Surest sign? Most of our internal debates have been about what to call these people (Enemy combatants? Terrorists? Criminals?) and which of our legal systems should handle them (the whole debate about courts versus military tribunals versus internationally sanctioned courts). The new rules on interrogating prisoners in the GWOT stayed out of the headlines by and large until Abu Ghraib broke as a story. Yes, there were ongoing complaints about Guantanamo, but the US Government, the media, and the public pretty much let that slide until Abu Ghraib put all these issues squarely on the table.

Should we be surprised that memos are being discovered that suggest "that since late 2001 the Administration has been quietly but fundamentally reshaping America's stance on torture," as the Time article reports? Not really. After 9/11, this administrationóand frankly any that followsóknows that the public will hold them far more responsible for the next 9/11 than they did for the original. I don't want an administration that is too timid in this response, because I expect my judicial system and my legislative arm to deal with any excesses. To expect the executive branch to self-police itself in zealousness is, in my opinion, the wrong expectation. We get to vote them out of office every four years if we're unhappy with their record.

Will any administration have the opportunity to race ahead of the courts and legislative branches in this ongoing rule-set reset? Absolutely, because that's what an executive function is for: dealing with the day-to-day stuff at the speed required. It's up to the other two branches of the government to self-correct and recalibrate over time, so there should be no surprise that the sequence is: executive branch races ahead, oversteps here and there, and later gets investigated by Congress (resulting in new laws of protection) and "struck down" in various instances by the Supreme Court.

My point is this: no one wants more 9/11s, and to avoid them requires a certain tightening up of the rule set. For the current administration to pursue this with vigor does not signal some Orwellian future or some tilt toward fascism, but merely the executive branch doing what it is designed to do in times of crisis. The rule-set reset is proceeding in a completely normal fashion. Our job as citizens is to speak up when we're unhappy with what the press uncovers, and push our representatives in Congress to pursue any abuses with their customary vigor, expecting the courts to step in as they can in response to suits, constitutional challenges, etc.

Bottom line: our political system is operating just fine. The rule-set reset was both necessary and quite typical in how it's unfolding.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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).


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?


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."


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.


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:


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.


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!").


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.


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.