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

Entries in Pakistan (49)


India matches China's $3B investment in copper by investing $14B in iron ore

WSJ story from 30 Nov.

India consortium of firms makes winning $14B investment bid on Afghanistan's largest iron-ore deposit, called by experts the crown "jewel" of the country's estimated $1T in minerals.

Supposed to take five years to get mine up and running.  Canadian firm got the fifth block, as the Indian crew won the other four.

This award comes just a couple months after New Delhi and Kabul signed a strategic cooperation agreement.

Article makes the usual noises about Pakistan getting unnerved, but I think this is great - and totally natural. China and India making big investments and ultimately owning the security responsibility surrounding those investments.

To date, China's done nothing with the Aynak copper site, it is reported, due to security concerns.  Chinese companies now projecting a 2014 start date.  

Bet that gets moved up once NATO troops move out sooner.


Esquire's Politics Blog: 5 Ways to Make the Pakistan Mess Less Stupid Than Vietnam

In the wake of Admiral Mike Mullen offering such electrifying testimony last week, various commentators — and respectable ones, like Christopher Hitchens and Dexter Filkins — are circling the "long war" question of the moment: What to do about Pakistan? And it's clear to anybody with a brain at this point that Pakistan has abused our trust and military assistance as much as — or worse than — we have long abused that fake state in our pursuit of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. So now, as the West's fiscal crisis kicks into high gear, progressively denuding us of NATO allies while Congress finally gets serious about reining in the Pentagon's vast budget, we've come to a clear tipping point in the whole Af-Pak intervention as its tenth year of operations draws to a close.

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.


Time's Battleland: Globalization at the barrel of a gun

Careful where you aim that weapon, buddy!

That phrase, with its powerful imagery, was often tossed at me following the publication of my 2004 book, The Pentagon's New Map. In it, I argued that globalization's expansion was, and would continue to be, the primary cause of unrest and conflict in the world, as connectivity - in all its forms - extended itself into the non-integrated regions and triggered rising expectations (as in, "If the Indians and Chinese are getting richer, then why do we continue to submit to this incompetent government that keeps us unduly disconnected from all that opportunity?").

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: Future grand strategists speak: Why US withdrawal from Afghanistan would stabilize Pakistan

In my continuing role as Head Judge  for the online strategy community Wikistrat's month-long International Grand Strategy Competition featuring roughly 30 teams from top-flight universities and think tanks around the world, I get to peruse all manner of provocative thought from some of tomorrow's best and brightest thinkers.  And yeah, full disclosure, I get paid to judge as the firm's chief analyst.

Well, this last week, our participating teams drew up elaborate national trajectories and regional trajectories for their 13 countries (Brazil, China, EU, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and US), and the two entries that really jumped out at me in their immediate dueling were the two Pakistani teams populated with grad students from Claremont Graduate University (CA) and Yale (CT).  Let me tell you why.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: "US bases in Afghanistan for decades?"

Waiting on the Obama speech explaining this one.

Guardian piece Monday predicts that current US-Afghan talks will cement a very long-term deal on presence [hat tip to World Politics Review Media Roundup].

American and Afghan officials are locked in increasingly acrimonious secret talks about a long-term security agreement which is likely to see US troops, spies and air power based in the troubled country for decades. [italics mine]

This is described officially as a "strategic partnership," but nobody in their right mind would describe it as such. It's a dependency - pure and simple. The longer we stay, the more we'll infantilize the system. Ten years in and virtually everything we've set about to create is still described as "fragile" - meaning it collapses and disappears the minute we pull out.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: "Kissinger on the sad strategic reality of US engagement in Afghanistan"

Henry Kissinger had a sobering op-ed in the Washington Post Tuesday that laid out the reality of the US position in Afghanistan.

First, the fundamental conundrum of "nation building" in a fake state:

But nation-building ran up against the irony that the Afghan nation comes into being primarily in opposition to occupying forces. When foreign forces are withdrawn, Afghan politics revert to a contest over territory and population by various essentially tribal groups.

He then goes on to say he supported the surge engineered by President Obama, an effort that had the unfortunate effect of giving lie to the notion that insufficient resources was the primary reason why nation-building has failed. That effort, he states, has "reached its limit."

So the essential question becomes, according to Kissinger, How to create an regional security structure to oversee that "contest" cited above?

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


WPR's The New Rules: "For U.S., the Long War Shifts Back to the Persian Gulf"

As the United States debates just how much more effort it wants to put into the Afghanistan-Pakistan sinkhole, evidence mounts of the need to pursue a strategic pivot back toward the Middle East, where the Arab Spring is increasingly threatened by a Persian winter of revolutionary discontent. For some time now, Iran has been showing signs of mounting internal divisions between competing hardline factions led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But it has also become more desperate about asserting its alleged leadership of the region's ongoing wave of uprisings, including a far more active sponsorship of al-Qaida's Persian Gulf franchise. All this suggests that, if America is truly serious about continuing the fight against the post-Osama bin Laden al-Qaida, then Washington needs to admit that the center of gravity in that "persistent struggle" has shifted out of northwest Pakistan and into the Persian Gulf.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Transcript from Morning Edition appearance (1 June 2011)

Originally here.

In full for my records:


Osama bin Laden's death has put more pressure on the U.S.'s strategic partnership with Pakistan and its ongoing commitment to the war in Afghanistan. Our next guest believes those relationships aren't worth all the effort.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is chief analyst of Wikistrat, an online community for global strategists. He recently wrote in World Politics Review that the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan - and I'm quoting the article here - encourages enmities far more important than that of al-Qaida and denies us partnerships far more important than that of Pakistan. And he joined us to talk about that.

Good morning.

Mr. THOMAS BARNETT (Wikistrat): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: When you speak about missing out on partnerships, what precise partnerships is the U.S. missing out on there?

Mr. BARNETT: Well, the United States' pursuit of success in Afghanistan has been by my definition amazingly unilateralist. And we really haven't gone the path of encouraging regional neighbors to step in and become the great nation builders in this effort. We want to somehow make Afghanistan work, somehow integrate it with the global economy, while not letting the Iranians in on the process at all, while not letting the Indians in on the process at all, and while really trying to hedge against rising Russian or Chinese influence in the region. And that's just highly unrealistic. In geostrategic terms, it doesn't really get any dumber than that.

MONTAGNE: Well, though, you argue in your writing that Afghanistan's neighbors are highly, as you put it, highly incentivized to see Afghanistan stabilized. But in recent history, to accomplish that stability Afghanistan's neighbors have invaded - in the case of the Soviets - or backed a repressive government -as Pakistan did with the Taliban. I mean, that does not seem a very desirable outcome.

Mr. BARNETT: You have a huge market in India and a huge market in China. They want access northward and westward through Afghanistan to energy sources. Then you have major players on the other side of that equation - Russia, Turkey, Iran, so on, that want access to that major markets. And in the middle you have this dead zone called Afghanistan.

So it's a natural situation for network building. It hasn't been up to now, primarily because it's next door neighbor, Pakistan, using a rather antiquated mode of thinking looks at Afghanistan as its strategic depth in a conventional or even nuclear conflict with India to its south. For Pakistan to consider itself safe, it has to keep Afghanistan basically under its thumb.

And it's odd that America comes in, tries to do nation building, has all these incentivized local players that are interested in coming in and making things happen, and we pick out of that constellation of players the one player that's interested in keeping Afghanistan disconnected from the world, which is Pakistan.

MONTAGNE: China looms large in your thinking here. What does China stand to gain in the region both from Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Mr. BARNETT: Well, China has already made the largest foreign direct investment in Afghanistan's history - about $3 billion to $4 billion it's pursuing in terms of a copper mine there. So if you look at Afghanistan's mineral riches, there's the Chinese motivation to lock in access to resources.

With Pakistan, there's not so much the resource equation but the access to water equation, their logic being if they can make railroads happen down to the Port of Gwadar, which is a small kind of underutilized situation not that far from Karachi, the Chinese will have access to the waterways that connect them to their resources, their energy resources coming increasingly out of the Persian Gulf.

MONTAGNE: Where should, in your opinion, the U.S. focus its attention?

Mr. BARNETT: Well, if you project 10, 15, 20 years into the future and ask where are our resources going to be best employed in the near term to have the maximum impact, I think the argument is the Arab Spring presents more of a strategic opportunity - much more than the resources being employed today and potentially down the road in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which logically falls into the Chinese orbit and is more logically pawned off to the Chinese as a burden that they should naturally assume.

MONTAGNE: Thomas Barnett writes a weekly column for World Politics Review, an online service for foreign policy professionals.

Thanks very much.

Mr. BARNETT: Thank you.


Audio from Morning Edition appearance (1 June 2011)

From the NPR Morning Edition site:

June 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden's death has put more pressure on the United States' strategic partnership with Pakistan, and its ongoing commitment to the war in Afghanistan. Thomas Barnett, chief analyst of Wikistrat, an online community for global strategists, explains to Renee Montagne why the relationships with Pakistan and Afghanistan aren't worth the effort.

Listen to the almost five-minute segment here.


On NPR's Morning Edition with Renee Montagne 1 June

Taped remotely this morning at WFYI here in Indy.

She said it would run near front of program, so EST at about 5:10-15, then 7:10-15, then again at 9:10-15.

Even hours on the West Coast.  All very confusing, but you know what I mean.

Subject is Af-Pak and America's choices.

Spoke for close to half-hour, but they will edit down to best bits, which should make my pollen-addled brain sound smarter.


WPR's The New Rules: "Why the U.S. Should 'Give' Af-Pak to China"

Nuclear Pakistan, we are often told, is the Islamic-state equivalent of a Wall Street firm: In geostrategic terms, it is too big to fail. That explains why, even as the Obama administration begins preparing for modest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this July, it dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week to smooth over bilateral relations with Pakistan's paranoid regime, which were strained even before the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Clinton's trip and the Obama administration's instinctive embrace of Islamabad is a fool's errand, doomed by history, geography and globalization itself.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

COMMENT:  This piece fleshes out the most provocative scenario from the "4 options" column I penned two weeks earlier.  That column lands me a taping tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered, and I wanted to state the most logical case more fully prior to going on.

One of the key things I think a genuine grand strategist is supposed to do is to remind decision makers of the logical consequences of their strategic choices.  We have made choices on Afghanistan, most importantly our unwillingness to regionalize the solution, because we're committed to "winning" in a very particular way.  We've also made some choices on China, as the Chinese have made some about us.  India and Pakistan intersect among those choices, and I believe we make a very bad choice by picking Pakistan amidst all those intersections.

Also, while I remain certain that China and the US are slated for high levels of strategic cooperation in the future for all manner of structural reasons, I think there are all manner of routes to that cooperative space, including some that involve serious learning for us both along the way.

But my definitions of good grand strategy require plenty of flexibility and adaptability along with the core principles.  I don't believe in fixing every state - just the ones that really matter.  I continue to think that Iraq was worth it - despite our fundamentally unilateralist pursuit of the outcome.  I think Afghanistan is worth it - if you accept the logic of a regional solution set.  But I have yet to be convinced that Pakistan, given its set of unique circumstances is worth it - or even salvageable.  

I see opportunity at this moment for President Obama, but only one option being provided.


Tom on Backbone radio (Colorado talk) - 2 segments

Did two segments with Ross Kaminsky last Sunday night.

First one on Pakistan, second one on Israel.

Find them both here.


WPR's The New Rules: Four Options for Redefining the Long War

There is a profound sense of completion to be found in America's elimination of Osama bin Laden, and the circumstances surrounding his death certainly fit this frontier nation's historical habit of mounting major military operations to capture or kill super-empowered bad actors. Operation Geronimo, like most notable U.S. overseas interventions of the past quarter-century, boiled down to eliminating the one man we absolutely felt we needed to get to declare victory. Now we have the opportunity to redefine this "long war" to America's most immediate advantage. I spot four basic options, each with their own attractions and distractions.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Time's Battleland: "Pakistan: indispensable to US security?"

I am amazed at how quickly the Obama administration is going out of its way to assure everyone that we're sticking with Pakistan for the long haul no matter what. No discussion and little explanation, it's just assumed that Pakistan becomes the new indispensable partner that anchors US national security, even as every day reveals some new aspect where we clearly don't trust the government, military or secret police whatsoever.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: "Counter-terrorism beats nation-building? Are we going to bury COIN all over again?"

My old classmate Fareed Zakaria recently made the argument that counterterrorism beats nation-building when it comes to winning the war on terror. Taking Osama Bin Laden's killing as a point of American pride, he says that sort of military/intelligence operation is what we're good at, and so we should stick with it versus pursue the larger counterinsurgency (COIN) effort that General David Petraeus has now led in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a broad point to be making off the Bin Laden operation, especially as Petraeus heads to CIA. While I may agree with Fareed WRT Af-Pak, let me express a larger concern.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


WPR's The New Rules: Long-Term U.S. Presence in Afghanistan a Mistake

The Obama administration has begun talks with Afghanistan designed to quell the Karzai government's fears about being abandoned by the West come 2014. Those talks are said to involve negotiations for long-term basing of U.S. troops involved in training Afghan security forces and supporting future counterterrorism operations. This can be seen as a realistic course of action, given our continuing lack of success in nation-building there, as well as our inability -- although perhaps unwillingness is a better term -- to erect some regional security architecture that might replace our presence. But there are good reasons to question this course.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer and David Gordon cite top geo-pol risks for 2011

David Gordon is an old friend, who, as the National Intelligence Officer for economics and globalization in the National Intelligence Council, came to most of my wargames at the Naval War College and World Trade Center in NYC.  He later became Vice Chair of the NIC and then head of policy and planning at State in the final Bush years (when diplomacy made quite the comeback).  One of the smartest guys I know and just a great guy all around.  After Bush ended, he left government and went to direct research at Ian Bremmer's Eurasia Group, which specializes in political risk consulting.

Ian, you know from his books ("J Curve," "Fat Tail," "End of the Free Market"), all of which have made it into my own books or columns.  Ian and I did a back-and-forth on his "The Call" blog at Foreign Policy regarding the last one.  Ian is deservedly recognized as THE political risk guru out there (he often writes with Nouriel Roubini) and he's done an amazing job of building up Eurasia Group from nothing in just over a dozen years.  Having worked with Steve DeAngelis is building up Enterra Solutions over the past 6 years, I truly appreciate what that takes.  

I've been working for Dave and Ian since January as a consultant on a project for the government that's been a lot of fun and there are others in the hopper, so this is turning out to be a nice working relationship in addition to my other affiliations.  I've missed working for the USG these past few years, so it's been great to get back to that sort of analysis.

The top ten risks cited will also sound familiar enough to readers of this blog.  Here's the opening, plus the list as links to the report:

The risks that exercise us most usually center on a country, an issue, an event. We worry over political chaos before or after an election, a coup in a fragile regime, or military conflict with a rogue nation. But for the first time since we've been writing, the political risk environment is much broader this year. It's the change in the world order itself that gives us most cause for concern.

Two years after the financial crisis, there's a strong argument to be made for optimism. The American economy is poised for (at least modest) growth and emerging markets are still churning ahead. By that logic, it's high time for governments, captains of industry, banks, and citizens to get back to business. Time to leave behind record gold prices and put the trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines back to work.

But that conclusion implies a level of confidence, if not quite comfort, with where the world is headed. Whatever your expected shape of economic recovery—a U-curve, V-curve, L-curve, or something else—we're entering an entirely new world order. That means new ways for states to relate with one another both politically and economically. It means new areas of conflict. 2011 looks to be the year that our understanding of how the world works becomes out of date.

This is scary not because it's incomprehensible but because the scale of change is so great that it becomes difficult to manage. Few of us have experienced a transition of this scope. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago, it was fashionable, briefly, to herald a new world order. The pronouncements were premature. Soviet collapse remade the global security balance, but its economic impact was considerably more modest. The advanced industrialized economies had ruled the global economic system; the end of the cold war meant a move from the G7 to the "G7 plus one." Globalization sped up a bit, the West had new countries to invest in (at least for a while), and some of the old ones (Germany) got stronger. "Plus one" didn't imply a new world order.

That's not true today. After the financial crisis, the G7 was replaced by the G20. This change brought no challenge to America's global military supremacy. But the rules of the economic road are a different story and the new geopolitical order is shaped not by a military balance but by an economic one. This new world order marks the end of a decades-long agreement on how the global economy should function. This is world-changing indeed, because the dominant economic trend of the last half century, globalization, now faces a direct challenge from geopolitics.

The rise of this new order will have a profound impact on nearly all of the world's big-picture, long-term trends. A lack of coordinated governance on key economic issues will become entrenched and give rise to lasting international conflict. States and corporations will become more closely aligned in both developed and developing states. Most significantly, we'll see a shift in the highest levels of global conflict to the region where globalization and geopolitics collide with greatest force: for the past twenty years, the sharpest geopolitical tensions were to be found in the Middle East; we'll now see a decisive and long-term shift of those tensions to Asia.

All the risks we're looking at in 2011—conflict from the North Korean succession process, the unwillingness of China to budge under international pressure, the lack of political and economic coordination in Europe, currency controls intensifying global economic misalignment, the geopolitics of cybersecurity—are intensified by this transition to a new world order. The red herrings on our list avoid risk in spite of it.

Surprisingly, and despite all the anxiety these changes have created, there's no name for this new era. We propose the G-Zero. This is the lens through which we'll understand global events in the coming years. It's our top risk for 2011.


1 The G-Zero
2 Europe
3 Cybersecurity and geopolitics
4 China
5 North Korea
6 Capital controls
7 US gridlock
8 Pakistan
9 Mexico
10 Emerging markets
*Red herrings

Being Mr. Counterintuitive, I like the "red herrings" the best. They are Iran, Turkey, Sudan and Nigeria. I like the optimism on each.


Esquire's Politics Blog: Obama's Afghanistan Review, Decoded

So the White House just released its much-anticipated review of our ongoing military efforts in Afghanistan (and Pakistan, mind you). And while President Obama, Bob Gates, and Hillary Clinton took pains to explain in a press conference on Thursday that "this continues to be a very difficult endeavor," it can also be very difficult to parse propaganda from, you know, the actual end of a modern war. But since this is a reasonably well-written document that the president's talking about here — and since it more or less outlines the past, present, and future of our troops' presence in region in a still-untidy five pages — it seems worthwhile to deconstruct the review line-by-line... and (white) lie-by-lie. Here goes.

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.


Indian Express on the Sino-American grand-strategy term sheet

Piece by K. Subrahmanyan, a name you might recognize from his frequent publications.

From his Wikipedia entry:

K. Subrahmanyam (Tamil:கிருஷ்ணசுவாமி சுப்பிரமணியம், born 1929) is a prominent international strategic affairs analyst, journalist and former Indian civil servant. Considered a proponent of Realpolitik, Subrahmanyam has long been an influential voice in Indian security affairs. He is most often referred to as the doyen of India's strategic affairs community, and, more contentiously, as the premier ideological champion of India's nuclear deterrent.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Subrahmanyam takes the "G2" approach, assuming the zero-sum outcome for India and the rest of the world.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but one must expect this sort of response.

The Sino-American relationship is central to globalization's success or failure--hard to deny that.  That relationship is not in good shape right now, for a lot of reasons.  Trying to address that cluster of macro-imbalances is a worthy goal, but such effort does not--on the face of it--automatically insinuate the creation of G2, and when that charge is so reflexively slung, you have to say that it tells us more about the provider of the feedback (as in, this is how this proposal makes me feel!) than the effort itself.

It is certainly in some people's best interests to keep the U.S. and China at odds, but I honestly don't believe that to be the case for India, when the facts and trends are viewed objectively.

From his piece ("The return of G-2"), I limit the exerpts more to his commentary than his recitation of the proposal, which--of course--is a work in progress and is already significantly altered as we receive significant feedback here in Beijing.  Suffice it to say, nobody here in Beijing is interested in "G2," even as they are highly interested in a more productive relationship with the U.S. 

Even as President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked of a 21st century world order based on their shared values as leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party published a plan for an alternative world order, based on a mutuality of interests between China and the US. It asserted, though, that the article, in the November 22 edition of People’s Daily Online, represented only the views of the authors — who include John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, authors of China and America’s Leadership in Peaceful Coexistence, and Thomas P.M. Barnett, the author of The Pentagon’s New Map, and leading Chinese policy experts.

The article describes the benefits of the grand strategy they propose: “[it] will promote US economic recovery, increase US exports to China, create 12 million US jobs, balance China-US trade as well as reduce US government deficits and debt. Furthermore, it will stabilise the US dollar, global currency and bond markets. It will also enable reform of international institutions, cooperative climate change remediation, international trade, global security breakthroughs . . . 

There is no doubt that while this is not a formal proposal from Chinese official circles; this is kite-flying, to test public reaction in the US. It is possible that the idea is to suggest that the US and China can accommodate each other to mutual benefit — and China shares the US view that a war between two such powers in the 21st century would not make sense. It also holds out certain assurances that China will accommodate the US’s concerns on Southeast Asia as well as on North Korean and Iranian proliferation, provided the US reciprocates on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and human rights. The US must also forget down its desire for regime change in North Korea and Iran. And, in return for the US lifting its high-technology trade ban, China will invest $1 trillion in the US, presumably in new technologies, as well as help in balancing trade and enabling the US to manage debt reduction.

But the glaring gap in the proposals is that there is no mention of Pakistani proliferation and Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism. While all the other issues listed by China are important to the US, casualties are being incurred by the US on the Pakistan front, and the US homeland is under threat from Pakistani terrorist organisations that are fielded by the Pakistan army behind the nuclear-missile deterrence shield that China provides to Islamabad. This may have one of two implications: either Pakistan, unlike North Korea and Iran, is not under Chinese influence; or Pakistan, in Chinese strategic interests, is a non-negotiable factor.

There is also no mention of US interests in India — even after the development of the Indo-US strategic partnership. Does this mean that China hopes to wean the US away from its strategic partnership with India, as part of the price for the deal? Or do they hope to frighten India into a non-aligned submission to China’s hegemony over the mainland of Asia (less Asean)?

China’s, and the authors’, value systems are evident from their advocacy that such a Sino-US deal should be outside the purview of the US Congress purview: they say it should be “agreed upon by the presidents of both nations through an ‘executive agreement’ not subject to US Senate ratification.” Surely, now that these ideas have been publicised, the present US president — with two years to go before seeking re-election — will find it difficult to move in this direction, as there will be accusations of his selling out to China.

It is also clear that there are sections in China who are of the view that, just as the US helped China’s rise to second position in the world so that its resources and cheap labour could benefit US multinationals and US consumers — both by way of cheap consumer goods and credit expansion in the US — now the US will help China by releasing high technology, and thereby help themselves, benefiting through job creation and debt reduction. And once China has access to US high-tech, its demographic advantage over the US will ensure it will become the superior knowledge power this century.

A significant number of people in this country imagine that there is an adversarial equation and a conflict of interest between China and the US, and thus, it will benefit India to be non-aligned. This article — published, significantly, on the eve of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to India and Pakistan — holds out the possibility that China thinks it is possible to use the US to attain hegemonic power. Let us wake up to reality!

What to say?

First, the non-inclusion of the Pakistan-India dyad hardly amounts to signaling any desire to leverage this relationship to their collective or singular advantage or disadvantage.  It simply reflects the reality that when people on both sides of the Sino-American dialogue speak to its ups and downs, those issues aren't considered central. Important? Sure.  But not central.  No one is saying that Pakistan and/or India constitute the core of what's wrong or going wrong with the Sino-American relationship right now.  Reflective of it, perhaps, but not among its primary causes.

Noting the suggestion that the proposal be done as an executive agreement (longstanding practice of U.S. presidents for such matters) hardly suggests something extra-constitutional or politically devious.  Just the opposite!  It says we see no purpose in suggesting something on the level of a treaty requiring Senate ratification.  None of this is intended as "law of the land"-caliber stuff:  we simply come to certain understandings that allow an economic rebalancing to proceed.  That is classic, within-the-president's-foreign-policy-purview stuff.  Suggesting otherwise is sheer ignorance of how our political system works and has worked for decades. The economic rebalancing itself would need some political direction from above, but it would be overwhelmingly a private-sector-driven affair.  If you're a U.S. business and don't want any investment from Chinese companies, then don't ask for any and none could ever be forced upon you. From the Chinese side, they simply will not enter into alliances or treaties implying any such commitment, so no sense in supposing such grandiose mechanisms are useful here.  

It's as simple as that.  

Yes, you will get some of this, "the Chinese will own America" fear-factor, but if majority ownership is out of the question (and we don't suggest that--just the opposite), then the question becomes, Should Chinese money flowing into America be used to facilitate even more public debt and welfare payments or should it be put to use putting Americans to work?

I honestly believe that it's much easier to argue that China does a great job of destroying America's competitiveness by enabling our addiction to federal debt right now than it does by being stubborn on the renminbi's value. History (especially past history with Japan) tells us that revaluing the RMB will not solve our trade deficit with China.  We also screw ourselves by restricting high-tech exports to China due to military concerns, because they simply turn around and buy the same from the EU (like most such sanction efforts, we only hurt ourselves in this globalized economy, achieving nothing on the security side).  But somehow we've let ourselves be convinced that China's potential military threat outweighs all such considerations--as if Mutual Assured Destruction somehow gets invalidated in the process!  To me, that's just nuts, or--put more prosaically--bad leadership in Washington.

Again, the proposal is driven by a simple logic:  There is a profound imbalance of easily-accessible investment capital in the world system right now.  China's got a ton and America (and Europe) are somewhat starved by comparison and wracking up unsustainable public-sector debt that is already causing default crises in the EU, soon to be followed by some variant at lower levels of US government (cities, states).  You can judge that dynamic from a lot of angles, but just to say, "Ahah!  Now China has the West in its grips!" is rather silly. China presses its temporary advantage too much in the short term and all those trillions can end up being worth nothing.  Business is about parties and counterparties--as in, you need two to tango.  

Judged objectively, China has let in a lot of foreign direct investment over the past two decades, to the point where majority portions of its exports in certain sectors are actually controlled by foreign firms!  Imagine the U.S. putting up with that?

On the other hand, it's clear that the U.S. has shouldered the bulk of the global policing role over the past two decades.

So in both instances, we need something more balanced, more reasonable, and more sustainable.

This proposal simply begs the question:  if such rebalancing is necessary, what would the nature of such transactions look like if they weren't simply conducted according to America's preferred outcomes but actually reflected a compromise between the U.S. way and world vision and the Chinese way and world vision?

I know, I know. This is kowtowing to those communist Chinese! But more seriously, didn't we just try a long stretch of my-way-or-the-highway BS with Bush-Cheney?  And how well did that work?

How anybody can feel threatened by such dialogue is beyond me, given the seriousness of the current imbalances in the world system and how their solution is in everybody's best interest. Again, let's get our inner FDR on and have some faith in who we are and stop being such wimps on dealmaking.  Our inability to motivate ourselves beyond sopho-moronic internal arguments is our greatest weakness right now.  Oooh wee! The GOP just nailed Obama on tax cuts!  So now we get to extend unemployment benefits while refusing to pay for it.  What a fab signal to send the world!

Honestly, the immaturity factor in Washington right now is almost unbearable to witness.  It's just so embarrassing to endure when you travel abroad--especially in China.  How can we be taken seriously when we act this way?  We are just kidding ourselves if we think no one takes note.

India cannot want a U.S. and P.R.C. turning on each other and destroying globalization in coming years, because India cannot possibly prosper in that environment.  You can say, such a bad thing would never happen, but to me, this is a head-in-the-sand sort of optimism.

The Global Financial Crisis does not disappear simply because of the somewhat successful (less in West, more in East) public-sector stimulus push in the initial phase.  Much of the crisis's underlying causes are simply transmuted into the current/looming sovereign debt crises that worry so many leaders and--quite frankly--a decent chunk of the American middle class as captured in the Tea Party anger (which you can ridicule at your own risk, because history says that, when the U.S. middle class ain't happy, ain't nobody gets to be happy in our political system).

You can also say, China is right to lecture America now on its bad economic behavior.  But such lecturing gets both sides--and the world--nowhere.  For China to expect all the adjustment to happen now solely on America's side is unreasonable, just as unreasonable as the U.S. expecting somehow that all the adjustments should be on China's side.

But the dialogue, as it current stands, consists of both sides talking past each other and hoping that--somehow--this all balances out on its own over time.  I think such a mindset it truly naive.  Both sides have plenty of incentives and reasons not to budge, leaving both with increasingly unpleasant tools/weapons for seeking redress.  I think that pathway is a bad one, and so I got together with the Center for America-China Partnership to change the conversation.

Such an attempt can be criticized from numerous angles, and the Indian Express piece offers one such angle. But we've got to get over the fear of exploring real solutions with real compromises and real adjustments on both sides--simply because it will make others around the world nervous.  That would be the opposite of global leadership, which both countries owe the world right now.

Personally, I will always be warned not to get involved in this sort of manner, because it will cost me my credibility as a strategic thinker.  My response to that logic is, What is the use of being a credible strategic thinker if all you do is sit on the sidelines at such moments?  I hope to leave behind six kids who'll need a strong America and stable world to live and work and prosper within.  I see no reason to amass a reputation (such as it is!) that can suffer no risks.  Geez, anybody who knows me knows how much I like being an unreasonable troublemaker!

I have no fear of altering my positions and vision to fit reality as it unfolds.  I marry myself to as few core interest propositions as possible, because the more you accumulate, the more dead your thinking becomes.  I want America at all times to succeed to the best of its ability in prospering and continuing to shape this world for the better.  I think we do that better than anybody, but I also think our approaches have to change when success/failure stare us in the face (usually at the same time, as we now face the great success of our globalization process AND the addiction to cheap money created by the dollar's standing as reserve currency).  I cannot, for example, logically argue for regime-change in NorKo right now like I did in 2004-05.  The system wouldn't handle it well right now, the Sino-American relationship couldn't handle it right now, and there's just bigger fish to fry.  

You see such vaunted and highly-respected figures like Krugman, Tom Friedman, Niall Ferguson and Zakaria expressing extreme alarm on all these same issues, so this is exactly the sort of nexus where strategic thinking that posits win-win scenarios has to be employed.  Just this week on Zakaria's GPS, Ferguson raised the issue of the EU possibly needing a huge flow of Chinese capital down the road.  So this proposal is in the right zip code even as we hammer out its weaknesses with a steady stream of sit-downs with Chinese experts this week in Beijing.

As for personal risks, you've got to get over that stuff (and yourself, quite frankly).  I don't get 50 lives to test out various pathways for useful application of my ideas.  I get this one, and this one has this big issue staring it right in the face right now, and so I participate with likeminded people in China--none of them perfect and all with their biases, but likewise all with their hearts in the right place. I'm still unduly Catholic:  I prefer to sin first and seek forgiveness later.  

I believe in having your own foreign policy and have said so many times on this blog.  This is the point of being in the field in the first place. If I were good at following the command chain, I wouldn't have gotten fired from the Naval War College and I'd probably being living some quiet existence as a CIA analyst (the organization correctly turned me down in 1990 for having the "wrong personality type"!).  

Frankly, this sort of bold scenario work is exactly why I linked up with Wikistrat.  I want nothing better than to undermine conventional thinking at this point in history, because I believe it to be America's worst enemy in these tumultuous, system-shaping times (the second biggest danger being the lack of competent strategic-thinking counterparties around the world because we've so long been the only country blessed with the strategic means to encourage such strategic thought--a situation changing rapidly before our eyes).  

Personally, I think this is the best time to be in this business--the best time since WWII.


Esquire's Politics Blog: How the WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Obama's False Utopia

So the Obama administration says America's relations with our allies around the world can survive the latest WikiLeaks dump of U.S. diplomatic cables, and I'm inclined to agree. Truth is, the whole thing reads like a booze-addled Thanksgiving argument spun out of control, and nothing more. So the Middle East's corrupt autocrats hate each other and constantly goad the White House into taking out their garbage — big deal! God only knows the same good ol' boys will be the first to condemn us once things get tough and we choose to act. (To say nothing of Julian Assange's impending lawsuit.) In the meantime, sell the bad guys a few anti-missile defense systems and tell 'em to shut the hell up, because President Obama has one helluva lot more on his plate right now than just Iran, or North Korea, or Pakistan, or... you get the point.

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.