Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Search the Site
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
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
8:48AM

Test: PNM News and Mail Bag

Just posting this to see how RSS feeds are rendered.


PNMNews: at /news/news_index.htm


And, some responses to the book Tom received via email.


Oh, the FQA about the PNM is posted now, too.

10:10AM

China's Self-Synchronization of Rule Sets on Finance

(1) "China's Listings Lose Steam: Several Big Stock Sales Are Put Off Amid Accounting Questions," by Joel Baglole, Wall Street Journal, 26 April. p. A13.


Great story on how international investors are beginning to raise more questions about accounting practices in China. Yet another sign that as China opens up to the world to get funding for all that development, it will be forced to import the Core's rule sets more and more. Remember: no rules, no money; no money, no infrastructure, etc.

10:09AM

That's why I call it a "global" transaction strategy!

(2) "Could Overseas Financing Hurt the U.S.?" by Greg Ip. Wall Street Journal, 26 April, p. A2.


Basic theme of PNM book is that US conducts a series of grand transactions with rest of world in terms of what we offer and what we expect in return. One thing we offer world through our willingness to overspend on our budget is a military that can export security to the world. How do we pay for this? We don't on many levels. That sovereign debt is purchased by other nations that prefer to "import" that service from us.


Good article raises the new bugaboo for those smart observers who are catching on to this reality. We are world's biggest debtor, so someone is paying for all that defense buildup after 9/11, plus the two wars, plus the Iraq occupation. That someone is first and foremost China and Japan. Together they now hold roughly a trillion dollars of U.S. Treasury bonds. What they do with those bonds can have huge impact on the U.S. economy, and thus our continued ability to fund defense.


So if you think we're just spending on defense for ourselves, you're wrong. Someone else is buying this service as well, so if we pretend to wage war solely within the context of war and ignore the everything elseólike who pays for itówe're just kidding ourselves about our "unilateralism." China and Japan better continue to approve of the security exports we offer the world, because when they stop approving of that service, we will be hard pressed to continue offering it and the world will suffer.


This is why I say the Core is in this Global War On Terror together or not at all. That's why how we explain ourselves in this GWOT is crucialóno happy ending revealed means no one willing to fund the war.

10:08AM

Building the Sys Admin force on the fly in Iraq

(3) "Army Seeks Ways to Bolster Force in Iraq," by Greg Jaffe, Wall Street Journal, 26 April, p. A4.


Another great article on change within DoD from Greg Jaffe. Speaks to realities like the Pentagon "burning through military police" and "running short of construction-engineer units" in its ongoing occupation of Iraq.


I will say it again: we field a first-half team in a league that keeps score until the end of the game. We are watching halftime adjustments here that would make Bill Walsh shudder with anguish, but make them we must. We need the Sys Admin force here and now in Iraq, and if we have to remake the Reserve Component to get it, we will.

10:07AM

Woodward carrying the White House's water

(4) "The Book That Tops the White House Best-Spinner List," by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, 26 April, p. A17.


No surprise here: Woodward's success is so built on access that he has totally been spun by the Bush White House. He thinks he's got some real revelations in his book (not true, as I've noted), but the Bush White House got something far better: validation from the "world's great investigative (hardy har!) reporter" that Bush is firmly in command of the Global War On Terror. Guess who spun who in this national election year?


Woodward is nothing more than a journalistic butt-boy to D.C.'s power elite.

10:06AM

Europe may regret saying no to Osama's offer of civilizational apartheid

(5) "Militants in Europe Openly Call For Jihad and the Rule of Islam," by Patrick E. Tyler and Don Van Natta, Jr., New York Times, 26 April, p. A1.


Some in Europe may believe they can sit on the sidelines in the Global War On Terro, letting the U.S. and others do the dirty work. But if this article's main thesis rings at all true, time may be running short on their ability to maintain geopolitical apathy regarding the world outside Europe.


The U.S. primarily imports Latinos for immigrants, but Europe primarily imports Muslims. Guess who will have a harder time pretending they can live behind firewalls?

2:47PM

Warfighters within the context of everything else

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 25 April


Reference: ìWith Breadwinners Overseas, Guard Families Face Struggle,î by Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, 25 April, p. A1.


Classic story: guy has a dream of running his own catering business. Signs up for the Guard for a little extra money, expectingóat worstósix months somewhere. Now in his 18th month of deployment, his dreams of small business success are coming apart at seams. His military service is bankrupting his family in more ways than one.


His duty? Heís a military police. Why are they being run ragged in Iraq? The Pentagon has spent a decade and a half denigrating Military Operations Other than War. Didnít buy for it. Didnít train enough people for it. Didnít prioritize it. Hid it as much as possible in the Guard, which remains chock-full of artillery batteries that havenít been used in so many years they are almost museum pieces.


S--- hits the fan in the second half in Iraq, and guess who gets holding the back? Reality is: our great Leviathan warfighting force writes checks our embryonic Sys Admin peacekeeping force cannot possibly cover with its meager resources.


Why is this Sys Admin force so starved for money? The Pentagon prefers to think about, plan for, buy for, and wage war within the context of warónot caring about the back half effort such war invariably generates. When youíre planning for great power war with China in the straits of Taiwan in 2025, youíre not planning for a lot of MPs, or armored Humvees, or any of that crap. No sir, those remain ìlesser includeds,î as in, weíll make do with what we have in stock.


Who pays for this bias? The National Guard does (for one), and so does their families.


A Pentagon still obsessed with near-peer competitors does not feel their pain. And a ìwar presidentî canít be bothered with such details.


But a Pentagon committed to fighting a global war on terrorism would care, and a president who worried about the ìeverything elseî portion of that global war on terrorism would understand that victory lies in the smallest details.

2:21PM

Telling, Timing, and Selling: Soul'd to Sony

Richard Clarkeís stunning vision for the future


Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 25 April


Reference: ìThe Wrong Debate on Terrorism,î by Richard Clarke, New York Times, 25 April, p. WK15.


Classic Richard Clarke: read this op-ed and see if you can find one decent answer, one transformational proposal, one scrap of strategy, or even one shred of vision about how we win a global war on terrorism. Clarke was always the consummate bureaucrat and it shows: if you need somebody to edit a policy documents, hereís your man. But if you want someone with a vision of what to do next, heís not.


This isnít even an op-ed, itís a bad policy memo.


Here are some of the brilliant, backward looking observations. See if any strike you as new:


  • ìÖwe are seriously threatened by an ideological war within Islam.î [never heard that one before]


  • ìI do not pretend to know the formula for winning that ideological war.î [which is why you have a bestselling book on combating global terrorism?]


  • ìBut I do know we cannot win it without significant help from our Muslim friends.î [do you mean that if weíre going to win this ideological war, some of those people actually have to like us and agree with us?]


  • ìWhat we have tried in the war of ideas has also fallen short.î [hmmm, so true]


  • We shouldnít undermine existing regimes in the Middle East unless we have game plans for their replacement. [do you think heís talking about Iraq?]


  • We have to deal with Israel and Palestine too. [thanks, forgot about that one completely]


  • The law enforcement community and the intelligence community werenít prepared for 9/11. [easy for him to say, he was a big player in the latter for about two decadesówhat a minute!]


  • ìRather than creating new organizations, we need to give the C.I.A. and F.B.I. makeovers. They cannot continue to be dominated by careerists . . .î [not that he was one]


  • ìIn the new F.B.I., marksmanship, arrests and skill on the physical training obstacle course should no longer be prerequisites for recruitment and retention.î [man, I think heís onto something really big here!]


  • ìFinally, we must try to achieve a level of public discourse on these issues that is simultaneously energetic and mutually respectful.î [this from a man whoís famous for consistently displaying a lack of ability to play well with others over a very long bureaucratic careeróin short, a celebrated asshole.]


Wow, what an article! This gist of it captured in the highlighted text box: ìTo defeat Al Qaeda, weíll have to stop playing politics.î


This guy is good. Damn it! Heís brilliant. Answering so many questions about what to do and where to go and how we can succeed in the endóif only we stop playing politics.


Like telling stories against your former bosses in government.


Like timing your book release to your testimony in front of blue-ribbon commissions.


Like selling your policy book to Hollywood.

2:08PM

Capturing future leaders: College textbook lists

Former government officials dominate bestseller lists


Reference: ìWhy Books Are The Hot Medium,î by David Kirkpatrick, New York Times, 25 April, p. WK1.


Clarke, OíNeill channeled by Suskind, Karen Hughes, House of Saud/House of Bush, Woodward, and Kitty Kelleyóall bestsellers or certain to be.


All backward looking. All deciding whoís really to blame (or praiseófor Hughes). Almost nothing worth reading about the future. No answers to anything pressing right now. Just finger-pointing. Who knew what and when did they know it. Gotcha journalism elevated to literary pretensions.


Publishers are loving all these best-sellers, but some in the industry fret that serious non-fiction books are being hurt in the process, claiming these instant histories are just very large magazine stories. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic says all of the books ìlacked thoughtfulness, interpretative insight or literary quality that should distinguish books from newspapers or magazinesî (this is the journalist writing, not an exact quote).


Clearly, I hope my book doesnít get seen as falling into that category. Iím not enough of an insider to tell all, plus I havenít left the government in a snit. I hope people do see some thoughtfulness in the material, otherwise it has been a waste of time. I guess the biggest mistake I have made in the book was my decision to blame generally and praise specifically. When I was on my Premediated Media Tour in DC a month ago, a very famous political talk show host I met asked me pointedly about the book: ìIs it hard on Rummy? Cause if youíve got something specific, weíll have you on.î


Wow. What a concept. Have my entire career reduced to crapping on Rummy on national television. Something to tell my grandkids.


Thatís the game right now. Finger someone and run with it for all its worth. I think Iím going to have to satisfy myself with capturing future leadersóboth inside the military and inside politicsówith the vision Iím pushing. Todayís leaders are simply too caught up in the political games of DC to reach with anything this complex and demanding.


Forget the bestseller list, Iím shooting for the college textbook lists.

2:00PM

Jobs that belong with governments: Waging war

In the Gap theyíre ìmercenaries,î but in the Core itís called ìprivate securityî


Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 25 April


Reference: ìíOutsourcedí or ëMercenary,í Heís No Soldier,î by James Dao, New York Times, 25 April, p. WK3.


Story about role of private security firms in Iraq: is this new phenom? No, say experts. We can show you long history of such entities in international affairs.


Reality is: whenever youíre talking about stable security rule sets, like we have inside the Core today, these entities are basically rent-a-cops. But move inside the Gap, where the security rule-sets are weak or absent, and these entities add bulk to the point of becoming private armies. So long as we have the Gap, weíll have these mercs, but theyíre not a way to shrink the Gap. You will find these guys where things are really bad, and they are nothing but stop-gap measures for private companies trying hard to do business in security-less situations. In short, the firms are the equivalent of sending a boy to do a manís job.


My vision of the Sys Admin force that the U.S. military fields, along with other states, would keep these guys largely at the margins in the Gap, filling up the corners instead of tackling central jobs like Iraq. Trying to shrink the Gap on the cheap involves a lot of mercenaries, but itís not a recipe for success. The Coreís corporations will come and go in the Gap, entering and leaving according to business decisions regarding profit and loss. We wonít be integrating Iraq into the wider world on the basis of business decisions alone. War isnít out-sourced in such an easy fashion.


So yes, wage war within the context of everything else, but donít pretend you can just push it off on somebody else. There are simply some jobs that belong with governments, and waging war in one of them.

4:56PM

The Selling of PNM has begunófor real

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 24 April


Getting emails from people around the country who say theyíve bought the book in a store and have begun reading it, which is exciting. Seems Putnamís ìembargoî date of 27 April either wasnít that strict or stores just want to get it out. War College prof just back from Atlanta said he saw it all over the airport down there.


Feeling pretty good: generated all the material I wanted to generate about the book for the site (directorís commentary by chapter, bibliographies by chapter and total one for book in alphabetical listing, 27 deleted scenes with commentary, reviews with commentary, glossary, errata page, etc.). Add it all up and itís tens of thousands of words that either bring delight or pain to the interested reader.


Feel like Iíve gotten the blogging concept down reasonably well. Got my new suits. Got my haircut on Friday. Got my plane/train tickets and hotels set up by Putnam for the 10-day tour.


And then the media tour agenda arrived from Putnam yesterday, and I must admit it is a bit intimidating.


Today started easy: Got up, coached son Kevin in YMCA baseball game (we rocked) along the shore of Narragansett Bay (awesome view), then painted faces at kidsí Catholic grade school annual spring fund raiser for 6 hours, breaking (in full face paint as ìred salamanderî) for 30 minutes to do on-phone live radio interview with NJ station with big Indian following both in US and in India (via web simulcast) in principalís office. Decent interview. I love talking about Indiaís growing importance in the world, and frankly, most Indians love hearing it.


So Day 1 not exactly a killer scheduleóexcept for painting about 25 kids faces in full animal masks (I mean goodólike at Disney World ìgoodî).


Sunday I rest up, clean the house, teach youngest son a thing or two about riding on training wheels, and then the fun really beginsÖ



Here are some of the possible highlights (all subject to change with almost no notice to me):

Monday, 26 April: Hannity & Colmes show on Fox at 9pm. (Cancelled)


Tuesday, 27 April: Fox News Live (10am hour), Laura Ingraham (11am hour), Paula Zahn on CNN (8pm hour), Headline News CNN (9pm hour), and Dennis Miller CNBC (late night).


Wednesday, 28 April: Diane Rehm on NPR at 11am hour, and Jim Bohannon on Westwood One Radio at 10pm live.


Friday, 30 April will be national radio satellite tour, when I ìvisitî Atlanta, Dallas, Philly, Grand Rapids, Hartford, California, Washington DC and St. Louis in an early morning span of about 4 hours. I will be bending the space-time continuum to accomplish this, so expect waves.


Saturday, 1 May, itís Tony Snow on Fox at 12 noon.


Monday, 3 May, itís the David Brudnoy Show on WBZ-AM in Boston at 9pm.


Tuesday, 4 May I do an evening at CUNY at 7pm in Manhattan (interview on stage, Q&A from audience, and sign books). People will actually pay for this.


Those are the main upcoming highlightsóall subject to cancellation at a momentís notice. I expert more than a few things will be added on the fly.


I am excited but a bit scared by all this engineered tumult. I know I set it all in motion but . . .


I can tell I will need a good stiff drink before falling asleep tonight. The train has definitely left the station and life is about to become very interesting. I hope I donít screw anything up. Will just have to trust my instincts and go with the flow.

2:54AM

The Pentagon's New Map: Errata

Typos found in the first edition


Here's my list to date:


1) p. 418, second line from top of page: "Arab Human Developmen\t Report" should read "Arab Human Development Report"


2) p. 422, under Chapter 7 heading, The Myth of Global Chaos, 5th line down: "Peace and Conflicts 2003" should read "Peace and Conflict 2003"


3) p. 424, second line from top of page: "found online at www.aei.org/publications.." should read "www.aei.org/publications."


If you find any not listed here, please enter them as comments to this page.


Corrections will be reflected at The Pentagon's New Map Errata

10:53AM

Honored by Japanese request

Taking PNM overseas! Banzai!


Dateline: over the garage, Portsmouth RI, 23 April


Agent calls today and says we have a nice offer from a Japanese publishing house for rights there, so we're taking the deal.


I am thrilled with the interest level in Japan. Few things would make me happier than to have some genuine impact on the public debate there about Japan's role in the world. I so admire Japanese society and culture that I want to see Tokyo play a far larger role in global affairs.


Plus, once the book is translated and published, I can give a copy to my brother Jerome who works for a big Japanese trading house as its general counsel. Imagine how cool that will be!

10:41AM

The let-them-eat-cake Saudis

Is jihad the best Saudis have to offer their youth?


Dateline: over the garage, Portsmouth RI, 23 April


Reference: "Saudis Support A Jihad in Iraq, Not Back Home: Riyadh Bombing Stirs Widespread Outrage," by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 23 April, p. A1.


The brilliant juxtaposition in the first paragraph: widespread outrage in Saudi Arabia over a suicide bomber demolishing a police station on same day a Saudi family is receiving congratulations from the neighborhood on the news that their son just died waging jihad against the Americans in Iraq. People are stunned! Is there a connection?


I guess I would call this waging jihad strictly within the context of jihad, instead of understanding jihad within the context of everything else.


So the Saudis want to have their cake (jihad against Americans) and eat it too (remain totally isolated from the consequences)óbig deal!


Saudi officials, the article says, are trying to relieve the building pressure among their radicalized youth by letting them vent angrily against America in mosques across the country. They hope this will stop Saudis from rushing into jihad in Iraq.


Meanwhile, the parents of the Saudi man who gave it his all in Iraq are accepting compliments from all sides. "People are calling all the time to congratulate usócrying from happiness and envy."


Tell me this is a sustainable relationship and I will tell you America needs to pursue the Big Bang in the Middle East for all it's worth.

10:39AM

America: Losing the connectivity of tourism?

Malaysia: The Goldilocks vacation spot for Muslims


Dateline: over the garage, Portsmouth RI, 23 April


Reference: "Malaysia Draws New Tourists: Middle Easterners Wary of the U.S. Find Appealing Alternative," by John Krich, Wall Street Journal, 23 April, p. A13.


Malaysia is just right for Muslims from the Middle East who just want to relax overseas, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is the Goldilocks middle-ground "between the too-open freedom of the West and the too-closed conservatism of the Middle East," according to an Iraqi immigrant living there since 1975.


Good for Malaysia's tourism industry, but reflective of the firewalls we've put up between America and the outside world since 9/11. In the three years since, tourism from the Middle East to America has dropped by more than one-third.


Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that Malaysia is playing this role for the Middle East. It's doing Allah's work on this one, and anything that increases connectivity of the human sort is good for globalization as a whole. But it's sad to think America has become such a scary place for Muslims from the Middle East. I saw a woman walking on the base here in Newport yesterday as I drove homeóshe was head to toe in a black chador, probably on her way to the PX. Imagine the opposite scene in the Middle East, and your storyline could easily end in a riot. But here, in this strangely egalitarian society called the U.S. military, there is not a second glance from anyone.


We lose something important if we lose the connectivity of tourism. Visiting America is like visiting the future for the rest of the world. It saysófor good or illóthis is the direction you go when you globalize. There is an old Russian saying about seeing something once with your own eyes being worth more than hearing about it from others a hundred times. Malaysia, as good as it gets, is but a way-station to the future. I hate to see this candleóthis global future worth creatingóbe hidden under a basket.

1:03PM

Iraq: Democracy is the end, not the means

Parsing words on Iraqóthe "realpolitik" of Kerry


Datelineóabove the garage, Portsmouth RI, 22 April


Reference: "Kerry's Iraq 'Stability,'" by an otherwise intelligent Wall Street Journal editorial board, 22 April, p. A18.


This makes it 0-for-2 for the Journal today ó my favorite paper.


No, I don't expect them to favor Kerry over Bush, but this analysis of Kerry's supposed backtracking from democracy as a goal in Iraq to mere "stability" is just silly.


Yes, I'm on board with the WSJ's thoughts regarding the Middle East in general: the "stability" of the past three decades has sucked big-time, generating 9/11 and the GWOT. If that's "stability," I too will vote for transformation, and have in print myself. But when Kerry now stresses stability over democracy as a goal for the Iraq occupation, he's being realistic in the best sense of the word. Again, democracy is the end, not the means.


I myself have very little expectation of democracy in Iraq any time soon, and support the idea of American troops staying there for the long haul, because I honestly believe fewer American lives will be lost this way ó as opposed to cutting and running and watching terror take hold in that country and spread elsewhere. Frankly, if the choice is fighting terrorists in Baghdad versus Boston, using professional soldiers versus unaware citizens, I will chose Baghdad every single time. And I don't know of any soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines who think differently. All of them take real pride in being on the front lines, and keeping those front lines over there.


But we're kidding ourselves when we argue that democracy is the answer for Iraq. Connectivity is the answer, because connectivity will get us stability in ways that democracy rarely does absent a host of wonderfully interrelated and mutually-supporting outcomes. Democracy doesn't mean squat when 70% are unemployed in Iraq, but connectivity can because it creates options, seams, opportunities, schemes, etc. Little stuff that ordinary people can act on and exploit. Democracy will be an empty exercise absent the economic opportunity that comes with broadband connectivity with the outside world that taps into the ambitions and desires of average citizens.


Pushing for that sort of "stability" doesn't make you a hard-headed realpolitik thinker, it makes you a realist pure and simple.


So please, WSJ, skip the word parsing. Skip the "remarkable reversal" talk about Democrats. Hell, skip the argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin while you're at it.


No one has to sign up to "democracy" in the Middle East to support our troops and what they're doing there right now. We need to stay focused on the tasks at hand, and they are: 1) stability; 2) connectivity; 3) economic growth and then ó and only then ó way down the road . . . 4) democracy.


We all need to get "real" on Iraq.

1:01PM

You mean you want us to plan for wars in advance?

Datelineóabove the garage, Portsmouth RI, 22 April


Reference: "Pentagon Funded Mideast Plans In Secret Prior to Iraq-War Vote," by David Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 22 April, p. A4.


I must be too cynical for my own good, or too much of a military insider to find anything surprising in Bob Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack." Everyone I know or interacted with in this business following 9/11 knew that Saddam was in the crosshairs as far as this administration was concerned. The White House said it was in a war and was determined to lay a shock on the Middle East just like bin Laden had on the U.S. Scores were going to be settled. Saddam would be given time and chances galore to avoid his fate, but the endgame was to be set in motion ó if he did not step aside or give up everything asked for, he would be forcibly removed. Again, none of this was a secret to anyone I know or interact with in the defense community. Nor were any of these efforts to put in place the equipment, infrastructure, personnel, understandings with allied militaries, etc. needed to make the threat of war not only credible but on target and on schedule should Saddam pass up his final chances.


How did the Pentagon pay for this? Same way it always does, stealing from Peter to pay Paul within its budget. Did any of this spending constitute an act of war? Hardly. All of it could be rationalized within the existing efforts to squeeze Saddam and keep his forces within the box of the northern and southern fly zones. No secret war, no secret funds ó unless you somehow expected the Pentagon to pull a war plan out of its ass the day after our final offer to Saddam expired.


I must confess, I find nothing in Woodward's book compelling or new or enlightening. I find it one big spin-athon by everyone in this administration looking over his or her shoulder toward their individual legacies. True to form, Colin Powell plays it both ways. That man's entire career has been one giant exercise in putting off tough decisions til the last possible moment, choosing wrongly almost every single time a gut-check decision was required, and then later lamenting that his 20/20 hindsight wasn't respected. Tell me, other than simply holding a lot of fabulous jobs, can anyone name a genuine success within his widely assumed legacy of "great leadership"? Anything at all?


And if you say the Powell Doctrine, then let's lay the blame right here and now for the mess in Iraq in his lap. The Powell Doctrine has done nothing more than pervert our military force structure over the past 15 years, generating a first-half force in a league that keeps score until the end of the game.


But I digress . . .


I know how important it is inside the Beltway to ask "what did he know and when did he know it?" That's why Woodward is such a world-class journalist. He epitomizes what Washington has become ó almost leaderless but rife with investigations.


The Pentagon is always planning for war in secret. That's what it does for a living. It would matter what Congress approved or didn't approve if we still actually lived in a world where the United States declares war, but we no longer live in that world. Woodward's book and his charges are completely irrelevant to the tasks and questions at hand. When you get the press breathlessly reporting this sort of crap (the Wall Street Journal . . . come on!), you know we're hitting rock bottom in a political season.

12:58PM

"Democracy emerges when..."

Handicapping the Gap (Latin America)


Datelineóabove the garage, Portsmouth RI, 22 April


Reference: "Latin America Losing Hope In Democracy, Report Says," by Warren Hoge, New York Times, 22 April, p. A3.


A stupid headline, based on weak analysis of a poorly designed poll. The UN Development Program polls 18,000 and interviews several hundred opinion leaders across Latin America. Basic upshot? Just over half the people say that economic development is more important than maintaining democracy. Can you believe it? People prefer eating over voting!


Gosh, what will the UN think of testing next? Democracy versus cancer?


Wonderfully stupid quote: "This shows that democracy is not something that has taken hold of people's minds as strongly as we had thought it would," so sayeth Mexico's UN ambassador, clearly forgetting about the people's stomachs.


Betcha he eats just fine.


Latin America underwent a wave of democratization starting in the early 1980s, but that alone isn't enough to ensure broadband economic development. Go figure! And when people in the region still suffer from abusive police, weak judicial systems, and widespread corruption in their governments, roughly half are open to having more order and less injustice. My guess is that the international financial community would welcome it as well, along with a radical revamping of existing laws regarding property ownership, which historically have been biased toward the needs of the upper elite who ó not surprisingly ó basically own all the property.



Democracy emerges when a lot of other good things are already in place and working. That sort of freedom sits fairly high on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You've got to take care of the body itself before you can worry about the body politic. You have to provide for it (physiological), keep it secure (safety), allow for connectivity to bloom (love) and personalóusually economically expressedóambition to be reach (esteem, aka the middle class), then we're talking the self-actualization of democracy. You remove any of the pillars below that top one, and it can easily come tumbling down in terms of people's expectations, devotion, and willing to sacrifice for it.



Democracy is not a means, but an end. We cannot shrink the Gap until we start understanding the pathways realistically involved for those whom we would help. You want to help democracy in Latin America, propose a Free Trade Area of the Americas deal that Latin American states can live with! Open up America for more member states!


Show them the money and the love connection . . .

12:16PM

Seam(y) Expectations

Handicapping the Gap (Thailand)


Datelineóabove the garage, Portsmouth RI, 21 April


Reference: "U.S. Ally in Asia May Have Crossed Line in Terror Fight: Thailand Admits Its Police Abducted Muslim Suspects In Wake of Brutal Attacks," by Shawn W. Crispin, Wall Street Journal, 21 April, p. A1.


Such are the trade-offs of working with key seam states such as Thailand, which has become a key U.S. ally in the Global War on Terrorism since 9/11. This country hosts a joint counter-terrorism intell center with the U.S.. The Thais are credited with the capture of the Bali bombing mastermind Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin). Thailand has been declared a "non-NATO ally" of the U.S., meaning it gets access to state-of-the-art military technology restricted to others. And the markets have liked it too: last year its stock market was the world's best.


But now there's evidence emerging of more than 100 Thai Muslims disappearing in police raids, and that sort of stink, coming on the heels of the government's very bloody crackdown on drug dealers last year in which more than 2,500 lives were ended with extreme prejudice, is beginning to have an effect. The stock market, for example, is down for the year, and the Muslims are up in protest.


What have we gotten into here? Thailand has battled with drugs (Golden Triangle area it shares with Laos and Myanmar) and Muslim separatists for decades, but that violence has flown under our normative radar the vast majority of the time. It's only when we really need Thailand's help in security, like during the Vietnam War or now in the GWOT, that we tend to notice. So the State Department issues a human rights report in February and notes the "worsening" situation there, and the local PM responds by calling the U.S. a "useless friend."


Hypocrite would be a better term.


America needs to be realistic about what it can expect from allies whose geography places them between the Core and Gap. If we want them to tighten their security rule sets enough to make sure bad things don't come out of that Gap and into the Core, we cannot simultaneously hold them to the standards of human rights security that we may enjoy deep inside the Core (and yeah, America is basically a long ways away from the serious trouble spots of the world, Colombia being about the closest).


On the other hand, we don't turn a blind eye either, because too much stickóespecially if it gets clearly out of hand or is wielded corruptlyóends up making the situation inside the country or region even worse. For example, there are signs that Muslims in Thailand are more restive as a result of these crackdowns, but then again, who wouldn't beóMuslim or not?


My larger point is this: the security rule sets we enjoy inside the Core simply do not penetrate much of the Gap, and along the Seam things can get very cloudy. We need to keep these distinctions in mind as we deal with friends and foes alike.

12:14PM

Russia: Give pace a chance

Democracy as a controllable condition (Russia)


Datelineóabove the garage, Portsmouth RI, 21 April


Reference: "Give Me Liberty, but Not Too Much: This Is Russia," by Seth Mydans, New York Times, 21 April, p. A4.


Ah the perplexing mystery that is Russia Ö


It has opened its borders like never before in history. It has embraced markets like never before in its history. It currently poses less of a military threat to the West than ever before in its history (except when we were beating on it in this or that European war).


And yet we are somehow disappointed, yes? Not enough democracy. Russia has become almost boring in its political functioning, and now we have a new name for this odd conditionócontrollable democracy.


Former Soviet experts who adeptly adjusted their career paths to become Russian experts tend to be a fairly sullen lot. Almost none ever have anything good to say about RussiaóMarshall Goldman being the prime example. Russia, in their view, is always going to hell in a handbasketóexcept it isn't. It's situation is . . . kak skazat pa-Amerikansky? Kontrollable.


Da, all is in order. So I guess our main disappointment is that Russia is taking its own sweet time in replicating American-style democracy. It's going slowly along that pathway, much like dawdling China. And judging by the lack of raging protest in each, and the rising incidents of class-action lawsuits and people trying toóget this!óactually sue the government for wrong-doing in certain limited instances, I guess we can say that the masses in both countries are reasonably satisfied by the pace of political change and their outlets for making their dissatisfaction known.


Might it always be faster? Sure. But going slow has its virtues, like staying out of the front pages and avoiding any slippage in the direction of the Gap.


I say, give the pace a chance.