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Entries in Africa (89)

8:40AM

The long war: same as it ever was - same as it ever was

And you might find yourself in a beautiful dynamic (Arab Spring), with a beautiful ally (French) ...

And you may ask yourself, How did I get here?

The French did God's work in Mali:  cleared out the nutcases who went medieval on the north during their year of ruling dangerously.

But with the "clear" comes responsibility to "hold" (nay, even to "build") and now the locals naturally fear the return of the AQIM-affiliated types who imposed their version of 7th-century morality over the past year or so.

With France planning to start withdrawing its troops from Mali next month, Western and African officials are increasingly concerned that the African soldiers who will be relied on to continue the campaign against militants linked to Al Qaeda there do not have the training or equipment for the job.

The heaviest fighting so far, which has driven the militants out of the towns and cities of northeastern Mali, has been borne by French and Chadian forces, more or less alone. Those forces are now mostly conducting patrols in the north, while troops sent by Mali’s other regional allies, including Nigeria and Senegal, have been slow to arrive and have focused on peacekeeping rather than combat, prompting grumbles from Chad’s president, Idriss Déby Itno.

The outcome of the fighting in Mali carries major implications not only for France, but also for the Obama administration, which is worried that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant groups could retain a smaller but enduring haven in remote mountain redoubts in the Malian desert.

To help the French, the United States began flying unarmed surveillance drones over the region last month from a new base in Niger. And the administration has spent more than $550 million over the past four years to help train and equip West African armies to fight militants so that the Pentagon would not have to. But critics contend that the United States seems to have little to show for that effort. 

Turning Mali’s own fractured army into a cohesive and effective force would entail “a huge amount of work,” according to Brig. Gen. Francois Lecointre of France, who is leading the effort to retrain Mali’s Army. As if to underscore the point, a group of Malian troops briefly abandoned their posts recently and fired shots in the air to demand a deployment bonus.

Here in the southeastern corner of Mauritania, about 100 miles from the border with Mali, an exercise conducted this month by the United States military to train African armies to foil ambushes, raid militant hide-outs and win over local populations offered the administration more reasons for worry, as well as some encouraging signs.

The exercise offered a rare glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of several of the African armies that are poised to help take over the mission in Mali. In a few weeks, the United Nations Security Council is expected to decide whether to authorize a peacekeeping force for Mali and how to compose it.

France, we are told, will leave behind a small unit of headhunters - counter-terror personnel.  And then there's always America's "limited regret" drones (the gun that's settling the Gap), but we all know that this is temporizing the situation (think back to Ignatius' latest lament on the lack of a SysAdmin-like force).  This is why I continue to rail (per my recent piece in Foreign Policy) against retreating to renewed fantasies of great power war as a means of denying the strategic reality still lying out there.

We can most definitely choose to low-ball our responses to such events; we just don't need to blame it on the Chinese, who are - oddly enough - most incentivized to likewise deal with such enduring instabilities.

12:27PM

Get yourself some Chinese (part II) and conquer the BOTP

 

Missed yesterday on 20-hour workday that featured 4 flights - sweet!  Just to go to fricking Norfolk from Indy. Such is the cost of being able to sleep in your own bed both nights (I have had all the hotels in this world that I care to). Unbelievable logistics that left my head aching from all the up-and-down.  I am going to build a future that has minimal flying and maximum time on the waves.  Count on it.

MS and Huawei do a GM-SAIC (my fave example of getting yourself some Chinese to capture the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid).

Gist:

Microsoft, taking aim at the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, said on Monday that it would team up with Huawei of China to sell a low-cost Windows smartphone in Africa.

The phone, called the Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone, will cost $150 and initially be sold in seven countries.

Slick connection, yes?

Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region for smartphones, with an average sales growth of 43 percent a year since 2000, according to the GSM Association, an industry trade group based in London.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 10 percent of the 445 million cellphone users have smartphones, but that is expected to increase rapidly as operators expand high-speed networks.

By 2017, most consumers in South Africa will be using smartphones, up from 20 percent last year, according to the GSM Association. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, the outlook for sustained growth is even greater, with smartphone penetration projected to reach just 30 percent by 2017.

The World Bank says that roughly a quarter of the one billion people on the continent are middle-class wage earners, the target group that Microsoft will try to reach with the Huawei phone, Mr. de Sousa said.

“Africans are generally quite conscious of brand, quality and image,” he said.

Some serious bottom-of-the-pyramid stuff.

Think about it:  MS and Wal-Mart making these big moves in Africa.

Biggest analytic mistake I've ever made was overestimating how slowly (yes, my original post had me mis-stating this) Africa would embrace globalization and succeed with it.  Totally blew it.

And that mistake taught me:  the bias of the national security type toward pessimism is a huge analytic weakness WRT globalization.   It really means Washington, by and large, doesn't have a clue - PNT worst of all.

And that's a weird realization, when you remember that this era of globalization is a US-led creation, but now, here we are, and the progenitor and long-time bodyguard has lost its analytic ability to understand its own creation.

8:52AM

The global security system's latest "gap"

New location, old story.

Been saying for about a decade now that Long War eventually migrates to Central Asia (less likely) and Africa (more likely), because it's "losing proposition" would eventually wear out its welcome in the Middle East (latest version now unfolding in Syria).  Will it succeed in Africa?  Only in the harshest locations above and around the tenth parallel that divides a predominately Muslim north ("cowboy" in American parlance, which sounds better than "herder") and a predominately Christian/animist south ("farmer" or any location-fixed economic activity). These two characters have never been friends anywhere and anytime in this world - no matter what Rodgers and Hammerstein said.

What is the dynamic we see?  We see a crisis du jour (Tuaregs in North Mali) attract co-ethnic mercenaries with nothing to do after Libya (and flush with small arms).  We also see an extremist Islamic uptick as an identity unifier.  Then, to no surprise, al-Qaeda shows up.  Where is this place?  Unbelievably remote.  Hillary Clinton called it "one of the remotest places in the world." (How many times have we heard that?).

Next, the words "save haven" pop up and we have a Western intervention seguing into all the usual insurgency/counterinsurgency dynamics.  The Long War doesn't go away because America takes most of its "ball" and goes home (or to East Asia); it merely keeps shifting location - as it has done for a couple of decades now (check out AQ Central's many addresses over the years - all garden spots).

This is the small-wars world we live in (subject of my upcoming "think again" piece in Foreign Policy).  We can get all jacked about China but, quite frankly, that's a self-liquidating problem (China's slowdown and other internal contradictions, plus the natural security balancing in East Asia like Japan moving to spend more on defense and logically go nuclear eventually).  

America thinks it's in charge of all this, so when we decide the "decade of wars is over" (Obama), then by God, they're over - right?  No American troops, no headlines (that matter) and no wars (that count).  Instead, we now "stand up" to those dastardly Chinese because it fits our fiscal fights and the Pentagon's need to find a distant and relatively benign "floor" to its budget ("Let's plan for an imaginary super-cool high-tech war with the Chinese so we can buy stuff like crazy - or as crazy as Congress will let us be for now.").  Thus we "heal the force" by getting rid of bodies (personnel) and restocking our toys.  China is the perfect cold-war-like foe for that. Chances of real war?  Virtually zero.  But, man, what a force sizer! (Actually not so good, but you make do with what you have in tough times, right?).

And meanwhile, the Long War keeps unfolding.  No argument on Obama's symmetricizing the fight (our SOF v. their terrorists), but since we're no longer in the business of "healing post-conflict societies/nations/etc" because in the past we insisted on doing it all ourselves (and all our own way) and that's too costly now (plus, we could never cooperate with those dastardly Chinese), those places just get shot up by our SOF and drone and get left with the smoking holes.  If these places are lucky, there's something for the Chinese to come in and extract.  If not, they are simply left behind by an uncaring world that will show up to kill bad guys and nothing else.

This is Colin Powell's dream world; no wonder he admires Obama so:  "I'm just here to kill bad guys and when there are no more bad guys to kill, I move on."  That's the Powell Doctrine in a nutshell (insert "overwhelming force" HERE).

But Obama is the great peacemaker.  We know this because he has a medal to prove it.  He stops America's over-stretched ambitions on nation-building and replaces it with worldwide targeted assassinations, and we are pleased with his wisdom.  But his total lack of caring for what happens next in those places where the smoking holes are all we leave behind?

History will judge that as both strategically unwise and incredibly cruel.

"Lead from behind" is a brilliantly descriptive phrase.

9:33AM

Fmr US Ambassador to Mali: Why we must save country

Nice op-ed in NYT on Tuesday.

A familiar charge:  "Islamist terrorists want a lawless stronghold in West Africa."

US, we are told, has spent $500m over past decade to keep violent Islamic extremists at bay in West Africa, but it's still too busy elsewhere to mount any serious Mali effort.  Thus the onus is on interested local powers like Algeria and interested outside powers like France.  Otherwise we get more Benghazi-style attacks.  This is a natural external cost of the Arab Spring - new garbage to be taken out.

Usual lead-from-behind pitch: US supports with logistics and intell and we need OCT (other countries' troops).

This is the reality of the Obama administration's decision to "pivot" to East Asia and disavow a troop-based approach to frontier settling in Africa.  It's tough love to say the least.

It's just so odd that we're always so intent on simultaneously containing China AND carrying its water (so to speak) elsewhere in the world, except now we're endeavoring mightily to make it somebody else's blood for Chinese resources.  It's just weird that we essentially refuse to cooperate when our strategic interests overlap JUST because of the tensions in East Asia.  Back in the day (read, Nixon & Kissinger), we had more of a linkages perspective.  But with Obama, continuing the Bush thing, it's our way or the highway; you either cooperate across the board or we oppose you across the board.

We need another Nixon to rationalize our relationship with China, because it is beyond Obama's strategic capacity.

1:23PM

WSJ: "Terror Fight Shifts to Africa" (I told you so . . . in 2005)

Front-page story on the 7th of December, with subtitle "U.S. Considers Seeking Permission for Military Operations Against Extremists."

This is what I wrote in the early part of 2005, published in October of that year in Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating:

CENTCOM’s AOR encompasses the Persian Gulf area extending from Israel all the way to Pakistan, the Central Asian republics formerly associated with the Soviet Union, and the horn of Africa (from Egypt down to Somalia). This is clearly the center of the universe as far as the global war on terrorism is concerned, and yet viewing that war solely in the context of that region alone is a big mistake, one that could easily foul up America’s larger grand strategic goals of defeating terrorism worldwide and making globalization truly global. Here’s why: CENTCOM’s area of responsibility features three key seams, or boundaries, between that collection of regions and the world outside. Each seam speaks to both opportunities and dangers that lie ahead, as well as to how crucial it is that Central Command’s version of the war on terrorism stays in sync with the rest of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

The first seam lies to the south, or sub-Saharan Africa. This is the tactical seam, meaning that in day-to-day terms, there’s an awful lot of connectivity between that region and CENTCOM’s AOR. That connectivity comes in the form of transnational terrorist networks that extend from the Middle East increasingly into sub-Saharan Africa, making that region sort of the strategic retreat of al Qaeda and its subsidiaries. As Central Command progressively squeezes those networks within its area of responsibility, the Middle East’s terrorists increasingly establish interior lines of communication between themselves and other cells in Africa, as Africa becomes the place where supplies, funds (especially in terms of gold), and people are stashed for future use. Africa risks becoming Cambodia to the Middle East’s Vietnam, a place where the enemy finds respite when it gets too hot inside the main theater of combat. Central Asia presents the same basic possibility, but that’s something that CENTCOM can access more readily because it lies within its area of responsibility, while sub-Saharan Africa does not. Instead, distant European Command owns that territory in our Unified Command Plan, a system constructed in another era for another enemy. Those vertical, north-south slices of geographic commands were lines to be held in an East-West struggle, but today our enemies tend to roam horizontally across the global map, turning the original logic of that command plan on its head.

Central Command’s challenge, then, is to figure out how to connect these two regions in such a way as to avoid having Africa become the off-grid hideout for al Qaeda and others committed to destabilizing the Middle East. By definition, such a goal is beyond CENTCOM’s pay grade, or rank, because it’s a high-level political decision to engage sub-Saharan Africa on this issue—in effect, widening the war. And yet solving this boundary condition is essential to winning the struggle in the Middle East. What the Core-Gap model provides Central Command is a way of describing the problem by noting that transnational terrorism’s resistance to globalization’s creeping embrace of the Middle East won’t simply end with our successful transformation of the region. No, that struggle will inevitably retreat deeper inside the Gap, or to sub-Saharan Africa.

Why is this observation important? It’s important because it alerts the military to the reality that success in this war won’t be defined by less terrorism but by a shifting of its operational center of gravity southward, from the Middle East to Africa. That’s the key measure of effectiveness. Achieving this geographic shift will mark our success in the Middle East, but it will also buy us the follow-on effort in Africa. You want America to care more about security in Africa? Then push for a stronger counterterrorism strategy in the Middle East, because that’s the shortest route between those two points.

Ultimately, you’re faced with the larger, inescapable requirement of having to connect Africa to the Core to run this problem to ground, otherwise today’s problem for CENTCOM simply becomes tomorrow’s distant problem for EUCOM. When you make that leap of logic, the next decision gets a whole lot easier: America needs to stand up an African Command. Now, I know that sounds like a huge expansion of our strategic “requirements,” but when you consider the boundary conditions in this way, the discussion shifts from if to when.

The WSJ says the Obama Administration is thinking about asking Congress for expanded hunting authority to likely include Mali, Nigeria, Libia and others.  The focus is naturally al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) expanded geographic reach.

AFRICOM was authorized a little over a year after my book came out. I'm not drawing a line of causality- just pointing out I got it right.

What I got wrong about Africa back then was the speed: I saw this fight shifting over a much longer time and I saw globalization's successful embrace of Africa taking much longer.  In short, my combined optimism/pessimism was simply too slow.

12:27PM

Nice post (full of data) about India in Africa

Find it here.

Posted by old friend (or is it demon?) Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge.

Best bit:

Parallels are often drawn between India and China’s African “safaris.” Indeed, their trade with Africa has grown at similar rates; India’s at a compounded annual growth rate of 24.8% and China’s at 26.3%. More importantly, access to natural resources and especially oil is the main driver of both Asian giants’ engagement of the continent.

There are important differences though.  For one, India’s footprint in Africa is small compared with that of China. Take their role in Africa’s trade for instance. In 2011, India accounted for 5.2% of Africa’s global trade compared with China’s 16.9%. Besides, unlike China’s investment in Africa, which is led by state-owned companies, Indian investment is mainly driven by the private sector. In another contrast with Chinese companies, India hires local laborers while many Chinese companies bring Chinese laborers to their projects in Africa.

Indian officials admit that China’s aid-for-oil strategy, which involves extension of soft loans for massive infrastructure projects in return for African oil, used to impress them as it helped Beijing secure deals in its favor, according to the MEA official. This prompted India to follow the Chinese strategy in some countries where it was seeking oil deals.  However, India was unable to match the aid the Chinese offered. It underscored the need for an approach that built on India’s strengths, which ultimately resulted in India focusing on capacity building in Africa.

Worth reading.  

Obtained from Craig Nordin.  He got it from Sudha Ramachandran at The Diplomat.

8:45AM

Africa: investments and insurgents

Pair of WSJ stories:  first one on Carlyle Group joining the list of private equity firms rushing in with yet another Sub-Saharan Fund; and second on EU debating whether to fund a cohort of West African states looking to combat the radical Islamic militias that have taken over northern Mali with the intention of setting up their own separate state.

The combination is - to me - telling of that dynamic of rapid frontier integration that I'm always going on about.

Africa is, of course, not really a frontier in a settling sense, but it is one in a globalization-investment-trade sense.  And when you're a frontier in that sense, it's not surprising to see both dynamics in play, as the "rush" of connectivity creates its own blowback (the central theme of my books).

From the first piece:

The investments, and Carlyle's nascent Sub-Saharan Fund, targeted at $500 million, show how private-equity firms are trying to position themselves to tap into the continent's new consumers as well as companies that are expanding on the back of demand for food and energy from the rest of the world.  Competition among global rivals is heating up in Africa, as investment returns diminish in more developed parts of the world.

From the second piece:

West Africa countries are trying to set up the force to help Mali to regain control of its northern half, which is under the sway of the al Qaeda affiliate, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.  The nations say northern Malie is becoming a haven for violent groups that live off kidnapping and trafficking as well as a training ground for terrorists who could destabilize the whole region.

I mean, seriously, I bet I could find you similar stories in U.S. East Coast newspapers from 1870-something that describe new funds and new military efforts being launched for the American West.

The speed of both dynamics is, in terms relative to even our recent past, rather stunning.  The worst thing I wrote in The Pentagon's New Map concerned my pessimism over Africa's future.  I just had the whole thing taking far longer than it is.

And that's a real lesson for me.

12:02AM

Where is the world is Wikistrat?

A graphic listing most - but not all - of the sims conducted by Wikistrat this year.  The point is to display the breadth and the volume.  Be impressed, because you should be.

Wikistrat's sims aren't a year in the planning.  Client names the subject and we're off and running in days.  Why? All Wikistrat needs is a framework and then we turn the analysts loose on the scenarios.  The company don't spend countless man-hours narrowing down the range of possibilities so that 95% of the uncertainty and surprise is drained from the exercise by the time we actually start it.  Wikistrat can customize the structure to your concerns and then it brings the masses in to run with that structure and take it places you - the client - hadn't considered.

That approach allows for a huge mapping of possibilities.  You want to find the needle in the haystack?  Well, Wikistrat can run through that hay awfully damn quick.

Spend a minute and see if you can guess the four sims that were my ideas . . .

{music}

First one was China as Africa's de facto World Bank.  I'm pretty sure that was based on a WSJ headline noting that tipping point.  It ended up positing a lot of interesting intersection points between the US and China on the continent. Sim ended up generating both a report and a briefing by me.

Second one was the North American Energy Export Boom.  There was a time when Wikistrat asked me what I'd most like to explore in terms of near-term uncertainty in the system, and the whole fracking thing just jumped out at me:  Which way does it go?  Does it work out big-time for the US and - ultimately - the world?  Or does it get aborted like nuclear power for enviro reasons?  That was a very strong sim in terms of output, and all that material (final report and my brief) still tracks incredibly well with headlines.  All we did is simply systematize all those possibilities, organizing them into four major trajectories (usual X-Y approach). But the upshot was, anybody who goes through that stuff now has the capacity to process all the headlines to come.

Third one was the China slowdown sim.  That one's been in my mind since I wrote the piece for Esquire back in the fall of 2010 (it came out in the Jan '11 issue).  The idea came to me in the summer of 2010 and it took a while to sell it to the magazine, but it looks fairly prescient today, doesn't it?  Anyway, a very solid sim that ran down all manner of possibilities, and I really loved the quartet of scenarios we came up with (which drew comparisons to historical risers).  Great report and probably the strongest brief I've yet done for WS.

Fourth one was "when China's carrier entered the Gulf."  Wikistrat asked me to generate a host of possible sims way back when, and that was one of them. Just a simple logical progression argument, with the trick being imagining all the possibilities when that inevitability unfolds.  Hence the sim, which turned out great, along with a solid report.  And this one was only a "mini-sim" by WS standards:  just a brainstorming drill on scenarios with a quick follow-up on policy options.  Mostly junior analysts, but the output was as good as anything I've seen from the National Intelligence Council - seriously.

Two on the list I didn't really have anything to do with: NATO and Pakistan.  First one was driven by a client's curiousity.  Second one is just a natural "what if?"  Both turned out quite nicely.

The Democratic Peace Theory Challenged sim is another one I did not design, and I will admit that, at first blush, I didn't much care for the subject.  I was brought in to work the design and shaped it somewhat, but I truly had low expectations.  In truth, those were exceeded by a long shot.  The material needed more shaping than usual, because the sim had a theoretical bent, but what I ended up with at the end in the final report was . . . to my surprise . . . quite strong - I mean, present at a poli sci/IR conference strong (or walk into any command and brief strong).  It easily could have veered into all sorts of panic mongering, but instead it organized a universe of possibilities very neatly.  I was really proud of the overall effort, and it reminded me not to get too judgmental going into sims.

The Syria sim I didn't design, nor did I oversee its operation.  That Wikistrat left to junior versions of myself.  I was brought in at the end to shape the first draft of the report, and, while I moved things around plenty, the material held up very nicely to my critical eye, which is encouraging.  If Wikistrat is going to handle all the volume coming down the pike (contractual relationships are piling up at a daunting rate), then the Chief Analyst position needs to be like that of any traditional RAND-like player:  that person needs to be able to shape things a bit at the start and then at the end, but mid-range staff need to be able to herd all those cats and the resulting material. So that one felt like a nice maturation of the process, because, like with any successful start-up, the real challenge isn't marketing but execution.

This graphic, for some sad reason, skips the headlining sim of the year to date:  When Israel Strikes Iran.  That one I had a lot of fun with, giving it my years-in-the-testing phased approach (initial conditions, trigger, unfolding, peak, glide path, exit, new normal).  That approach goes back to my Y2K work and later after-action on the Station Nightclub fire disaster in Rhode Island (done for the local United Way to provide lessons learned on how well the organization responded). That was the most structurally ambitious Wikistrat sim to date and it - unsurprisingly - produced the best material by far. I'd put that final report and brief up against anything the best elements of the US national security establishment could produce . . . naturally at about 20 times the cost and five times the duration of effort.

The graphic also doesn't include the most recent sims.  I just finished a final report on The Globally Crystalizing Climate Change Event (one of mine), and, despite the great time projection, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the material holds up in the report.  I thought the analysts did a great job there.

Based on that fine crowd performance, Wikistrat pushes the community even harder in the just-wrapping-up sim entitled When World Population Peaks.  This one was truly challenging, but my point in designing the sim was almost to purposefully "test out" analysts in the manner of a language-skills oral exam, meaning I wanted something almost too hard for most analysts so as to press both them and the supervising analysts on how they handled it.  Think of it like a NASA sim where Control is trying to crash the lunar module.  That was a bit stressful, I think, for a lot of the community who participated, but - to me - it was like a nasty cross-country workout (I am assistant coaching my kid's team again for the 8th year in a row and I'm on my third kid) early in the season:  bit of a bitch mentally and physically, but it'll pay off down the road.

Yes, Wikistrat does take all its sims - even the training ones - very seriously.  If you're not growing then you're dying - simple as that.  Start-ups have to have that survival-of-the-fittest mentality and we're talking about a small firm that's come out of nowhere (okay, Israel) in just three years.

So, a nice overview of the year, and it's an impressive body of work.  Would you believe me if I told you that all of it was accomplished within a timeframe and with a far smaller budget that one of those bloated wargames that Booz Allen runs for the Pentagon?

Well, if you did, then you'd know why Wikistrat is going to succeed in this cutthroat business.

9:14AM

A sign of Africa's genuine emergence within, and connectivity to, globalization

Marriott, says the WSJ ("Hoteliers race to fill a gap in Africa"), may have over 600 properties in more than 70 nations, but up to now none inside sub-Saharan Africa. That now changes with planned hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.

Yes, Rwanda of "Hotel Rwanda" infamy.

Eight more planned after that.

But Marriott just trying to keep pace with Hilton, Carlson, etc, in capturing some of the crowded business traffic. Plus, with South African, Chinese and Indian hotel chains already in Africa's biggest cities, the Western firms realize it's safe to go into the water.

The infrastructure to support expanding business travel.  Nicest sort of emergent connectivity to be found.

12:04AM

The struggle continues to unfold across Africa

Interesting op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, from a writer who writes frequently for the paper.

The recent spate of attacks on Muslim historic and religious sites in the ancient city of Timbuktu calls to mind the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan over a decade ago. The Taliban, of course, were obliterating the icons of a rival religion, as they saw it. The Salafist militias that have lately overrun Timbuktu and Mali are obliterating a rival tradition within their own faith . . .

Such incidents have now become a global phenomenon. In effect, primitive iconoclastic strains of tribal Islam have burst out of their historical isolation on the margins of civilization and coalesced globally to attack the more cosmopolitan, syncretistic and culturally advanced centers of their faith.

To Western minds, Mali denotes the most marginal of places in the African desert. But it is home to African Islam . . . 

This is the new power topography of the Muslim geosphere. Oil money has funded extremist madrassas, or religious schools, to propagate a stripped-down, one-size-fits all ideology precisely suited for pollination across impoverished regions such as Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Pakistani-Afghan border and the like. With money and threats, this international extremist franchise has targeted peaceful Muslim lands where the faith had blended with local customs or become more cosmopolitan through contact with other cultures. Places, in other words, where Islam had lost its aggression and exclusivity.

Today, radicalized imams from the outside infiltrate such places and rebuke the natives for their superstitions and weakness, their relaxed and idolatrous ways. Few can resist the irruption of money and guns legitimized by a virulent Quranic rhetoric, however pious they may be.

Some of the oldest communities in Islam, loosely categorized as Sufi for their mystical bent and ecstatic rituals often involving dance and music, have come under attack . . . 

In the radical worldview, violence furnishes the litmus test: All authentic Muslims are jihadists, or holy warriors. The addition of anti-imperialism to the religious ideological mix happened under the Afghan resistance to the Russian occupation. Anti-imperialism has become so central to radical Islam's message and appeal that these days any fellow Muslim daring to demur gets branded a foreign agent.

Yet the real imperialists, the outsiders bent on conquest and control, are the radicals themselves . . . 

Been a projection of mine going back through all three books:  the Mideast middle-ages, going from a median age of about 22 to one in the early-mid 30s by the 2030s.  We are watching that journey now unfold with the Arab Spring.  So the question has long been:  where does the Salafist impulse go?

Two "bottom billion" pools:  interior Africa and Central Asia.  Basically fake states in both instances, created by outsiders.  That artificiality makes the political situation brittle enough for enough money and guns to matter.  

I've never been a betting man regarding Central Asia:  too many great powers too eager to snuff out that situation.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was basically created for this purpose.

Africa doesn't offer rich soil in terms of the local Muslim, who tend to be, as the op-ed points out, moderate in just about all ways.  But I never predicted Africa was suffer this problem because of the nature of Islam there.  the problem is the weakness of the states to deflect the impulse.

That's why America created Africom - in a nutshell.  I know people want to paint the oil, but that's a weak attractor and it flows pretty much no matter what (hasn't exactly stopped out of the PG, has it these past 3 decades?).

No, I don't think radical Islam wins in Africa.  I just think it'll be the last great fight - and it won't go quickly.

11:03AM

Hopeful sign of a sustained Africa take-off?

WSJ story on how Africans are starting to invest in Africa in a big way.  We're talking FDI, or foreign direct invesment that crosses borders and, in contrast to stock markets, represents "sticky money" in that it involves investment "directly" into assets.

Historically, when a region takes off, it's local money followed by extra-regional money in terms of sequencing. Same holds with panics: local money freaks first, triggering same with extra-regional.

Afric is different, because so much of its wealth, once captured by its elites, has gone abroad (I've seen estimates as high as 40%).  Word has been that a good portion of that money is now coming back to take advantage of things.

But this story is about big commercial entities across Africa getting more into cross-border investments, which is incredibly positive. I have run into a certain amount of this in my own dealings on the continent, with tiny Mauritius playing the Singapore role.

What the charts show:  Although the financial panic of late 2008 didn't make a dent, because Africa's financial connectivity (hence exposure) is limited, the slow down does eventually impact extra-Africa FDI: big Western markets slow and that slows Asian exports and that slows FDI into Africa generally because the continent is first and foremost a raw materials supplier.

But the good news of the piece: Africans themselves have picked up a decent portion of the slack, which is quite encouraging.

Total self-sustainable liftoff?  Hardly.  Africa's great hope of the past few years is that rising Asia (and other developing risers) might provide a sustained demand for materials that the West, in its more isolated boom-and-bust cycles of the Cold War, ever could.

Some concern there as we all now watch China slow down - inevitably - as it moves from extensive (at least along the coast) to intensive growth.  The hidden hope there?  China goes intensive along the coast and keeps taking advantage of extensive growth in the interior.

10:56AM

Western serial entrepreneurs, meet African parallel entrepreneurs

Nifty Economist story on what economist George Ayitteh likes to dub the "cheetah generation" of Africa's business community (they're young, they're agile, and - unlike the preceeding "hippo generation" they don't blame Africa's woes on former colonialists but instead aim to fix things themselves by pursuing better business practices).  

Article contrasts serial entrpreneurs (who start company after company in sequence over their lives) with parallel entrepreneurs (who start mini-conglomerates of companies and seek to grow them all synergistically over time). The Economist argues that this is really the way things are unfolding in successful African economies.

Speaking from experience, I couldn't agree more.  Virtually every deal I'm currently structuring or pursuing in Africa involves these parallel entrepreneurs.  They all seem about 35 and they're all running this cluster of companies that involve them in all manner of adjacent opportunities and economies (most of these clusters extend over several African states).  They're amazing ambitious "young" people (I'm 50 . . . ahum!) and they approach every opportunity with a lot of vigor and near-perfect business manners, making them a dream to work with.

Outside investors, says the article, worrying that jacks-of-all-trades means good at none, but, according to one business analyst:

It makes African business leaders agile and adaptable - both good skills that are absent in many developed economies.

The key, I find, is to pair these types with financial players close enough to Africa (geographically and mentally) to realize their business worth.

Entrepreneurs are the life blood of an economy, because they create jobs and nothing is more important to sustainable growth.

10:46AM

Excellent NYT op-ed on China in Africa

 

By Damisa Moyo, whom I like a lot.

[Side comment: Why is it that all male African political commentators seem to be fat ugly toads and their female counterparts all look like runway models?  Not complaining - just asking.  As the adoptive father of two of the most beautiful - and clever - female creatures on this planet (both Ethiopian), I'm imagining very bright futures in dad's chosen field.]  

Sounds like she's shilling her new book, “Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World.”  I will be sorely tempted to buy next time I'm in an airport.

I dissect at length:

IN June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech in Zambia warning of a “new colonialism” threatening the African continent. “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she said, in a thinly veiled swipe at China.

Tart start!

In 2009, China became Africa’s single largest trading partner, surpassing the United States. And China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011.

This is why Wikistrat ran its recent sim on "China as Africa's de facto World Bank."

Since China began seriously investing in Africa in 2005, it has been routinely cast as a stealthy imperialist with a voracious appetite for commodities and no qualms about exploiting Africans to get them. It is no wonder that the American government is lashing out at its new competitor — while China has made huge investments in Africa, the United States has stood on the sidelines and watched its influence on the continent fade.

Fair enough.

Despite all the scaremongering, China’s motives for investing in Africa are actually quite pure. To satisfy China’s population and prevent a crisis of legitimacy for their rule, leaders in Beijing need to keep economic growth rates high and continue to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And to do so, China needs arable land, oil and minerals. Pursuing imperial or colonial ambitions with masses of impoverished people at home would be wholly irrational and out of sync with China’s current strategic thinking.

"Quite pure" is a sales job, given what she stated next.  In truth, China will press for advantages in Africa for precisely the reason Moyo cites here: they will do whatever it takes to keep the development train on track back home - and the Party in power.

Moreover, the evidence does not support a claim that Africans themselves feel exploited. To the contrary, China’s role is broadly welcomed across the continent. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial . . .

As we've heard many times on this site from Maduka, that does compute.

Now, on to a stickier charge . . .

And the charge that Chinese companies prefer to ship Chinese employees (and even prisoners) to work in Africa rather than hire local African workers flies in the face of employment data. In countries like my own, Zambia, the ratio of African to Chinese workers has exceeded 13:1 recently, and there is no evidence of Chinese prisoners working there.

Next comes suitably boilerplate statements about China needing to respect human and labor rights in Africa. Moyo asserts her case and then ends with . . .

But to finger-point and paint China’s approach in Africa as uniformly hostile to workers is largely unsubstantiated.

And then starts laying into African governments themselves - also fair enough.

My take: the more China gets into Africa, the more it enmeshes its interests with the locals, who, in turn, become more demanding of better deals - just like Chinese labor back home.  

Will it be a nice process?  Hardly ever is, judging by history.

But an unsurmountable process?  Not if China is as highly incentivized regarding back-home stability as Moyo argues here (and I agree).

After ripping African leaders a new one, Moyo ends powerfully with this:

With approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population under age 24, foreign investment and job creation are the only forces that can reduce poverty and stave off the sort of political upheaval that has swept the Arab world. And China’s rush for resources has spawned much-needed trade and investment and created a large market for African exports — a huge benefit for a continent seeking rapid economic growth.

No argument from me on that.  China is creating connectivity and opportunity - more so than the West right now.  The West is still a far bigger player in Africa, but China is the most dynamic agent right now.

In the end, this is a very good thing, and it certainly beats the alternative of weak South-South connectivity.

As I've stated before: Asia in general and China in particular has been the center of global savings for a while now.  That means we all need Chinese investment to work globally and for Chinese companies to improve in their behaviors as a result of all this connectivity-begetting-better-rules.  Needs to happen in Africa.  Needs to happen everywhere.

So all we need to do in the West is realize that this is a good "problem" or "challenge" - the best we've faced in Africa  . . . ever, actually. 

And then we need to ditch the hyperbolic finger-pointing, which serves no purpose.

10:29AM

Map of the day: AFRICOM's network of little "forts" grows

Remember, back in 2007, when I wrote the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa piece for Esquire ("The Americans have landed").  I spoke o f two dozen little forts around Africa by 2012.  Well, WAPO reports a good dozen or so mini-facilities used to fly surveillance missions - along with plenty of contractors.  Add those to the package of forward operating bases operated by AFRICOM and we are getting up there, my friends.

No, none of these equals a Fort Bragg.  As I said in my media appearances surrounding the piece, we're talking ATMs, not full-up bank branches.

But the network is growing - pretty much on the sked I laid out back then.

Why? 

Africom's animating spirit began with CJTF-HOA, which was basically a picket line established to catch bad actors migrating from SWA to Africa.  First it was naval, then it went on land, then it became a COCOM.

And COCOMs naturally grow.  They take about 20 years to mature (check out CENTCOM's history).

Good strategic projecting means there are no surprises - just things you've been waiting on and imagining for years.

 

12:00PM

Map of the day: Ivory Coast's north-south/Muslim-Christian divide

From the Economist.

Described as the UN buffer line, but you know it's the divide between two religions.

It's basically been that way since the middle of the last decade.

10:42AM

Time's Battleland: PIRACY How America Settles Down Somalia (And, By Extension the Piracy Problem)

Nice Washington Post story about how the U.S. is training Ugandan soldiers (along with some from Burundi, Sierra Leone and Djibouti) in Uganda on how to do battle with Islamic extremists in Somalia – namely the al-Shabaab group affiliated with Al-Qaida. 

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.

10:00AM

Chart of day: Rapidly falling under-5 mortality across Africa

From Global Development blog via Craig Nordin:

Under-5 mortality (per 1,000 live births) in selected
sub-Saharan African countries surveyed since 2005

Go to the blog post for analysis. My point:  interesting how opening up to globalization coincides with this.  Not arguing initial causality, which is multivariate.  Point is:  opening up to globalization certainly doesn't "impoverish" along these crucial lines.

This joyous development begets a demographic dividend, which sets a clock a'ticking.  How Africa handles this historic opportunity is crucial of course, but clearly this is the best problem yet for the continent.

And what is progress other than moving off worse problems to better ones?

This story is nothing new.  We saw doubling of human life expectancy across 20th century (started in low 30s in 1900 and reached 65 by 2000) and that was almost all about reducing under-5 mortality - and that was overwhelmingly due to vaccines, with clean(er) water a crucial second.

10:59AM

Wikistrat post @ CNN-GPS: Millennials shaping foreign policy with Kony 2012?

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.


The Kony2012 Youtube sensation has triggered a secondary op-ed explosion, as “real experts” sound off - mostly negatively - about having their sacred analytic turf encroached upon by celebrity endorsers and ADHD-addled “slackivists” who’ve merely clicked a couple of buttons (Like! Donate!) before moving on to the next viral sensation.

There’s nothing more disturbing to the national security intelligentsia than having American foreign policy crowd-sourced, especially when those allegedly apathetic Millennials are preemptively arguing for aU.S.military intervention.

Doesn’t America’s biggest-ever generational cohort realize that the country is tired of performing global police work?

This week’s Wikistrat crowd-sourced drill looks at the Kony2012 video phenomenon, offering several reasons why it signals something new and important in U.S. foreign policy debates – and not.

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.

10:22AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Positive Narrative for U.S. Foreign Policy

Where is the positive vision for U.S. foreign policy in this election? President Barack Obama and on-again, off-again “presumptive” GOP nominee Mitt Romney now duel over who is more anti-declinist when it comes to America’s power trajectory, with both slyly attaching their candidacies to the notion that “the worst” is now behind us. On that score, Obama implicitly tags predecessor George W. Bush, while Romney promises a swift end to all things Obama. 

Halftime in America? Indeed.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

1:00PM

Ben Shobert on Wikistrat's look at China-->Africa FDI dynamic

Find the post at Cross the Rubicon.

The bit I found interesting:

Dr. Barnett several years ago made a prediction that I imagine some rolled their eyes at, if for no other reason than it seemed outlandish at the time.  He suggested that as China’s presence in Africa grew, they would be greeted as a new colonial power, admittedly different in form and context, but none-the-less viewed as an outside power interested only in extracting resources from lowly Africa.  This would ultimately, as he saw it, create situations where African extremists would target Chinese operations in Africa, kidnap workers, etc.  It is worth noting this is precisely what has been happening, with a handful of other people asking the question, as Stan Abrams did earlier this week, what the world would think if China were to drop its equivalent of a Navy SEAL Team into Africa to get its people out.

If you want to participate in this business and do it well, your work will constantly be on the edge of outlandishness, otherwise you'll be trailing the pack and just picking up the conventional wisdom (like the increasingly regurgitated debate on state-capitalism-ruling-all versus America-in-decline-or-not?) as it's beaten to death.  

Spending my time, as I have for nearly a decade now, exploring the future reality of Chinese and US co-management of the world, puts me on the edge of most people's plausibility. After all, we got that "Chimerica" definition from Ferguson just as the global financial crisis killed the long-running model he was describing, so OF COURSE we now shift into a long-term rivalry between types of capitalism (strategic pivot et. al) and the "resumption of history" and so on.

But, of course, none of the larger structural dynamics in the world system have changed. We're just seeing the elite's perceptions begin to catch up, and when they do, they naturally package the undeniable reality into old boxes - like containment and superpower rivalry and AirSea Battle Concept (a painfully unimaginative retread from the 1980s with the Sovs).

However, for those of us who stick to their stories (scenarios), tomorrow's superpower interdependence will have less to do with the promise of shared death (MAD) than the promise of shared wealth - and the commensurate challenges of a world ruled from the middle for the first time in history.  That world, dominated by the C-I-A troika of China, India and America, is the subject of my next book, which I'll simultaneously crowd-source within the Wikistrat community over the next several months.