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10:58AM

WAPO WonkBlog: "What will we smuggle in the future? Drones, coal, and honeybees."

Psst, got any HCFC-22?Everybody’s making predictions for 2013 right now, but why not aim farther? Recently, the consultancy group Wikistrat ran a large crowd-sourced simulation to try to figure out what sorts of items would be smuggled in 2050.

That’s right, smuggled. The idea is that you can tell a lot about a society by what’s available on its black markets. And over the next four decades the combination of new technologies, environmental pressures and shifting consumer preferences is likely to lead to a whole slew of products and behaviors being banned or restricted.

So here’s what Wikistrat expects will thrive on the black market by 2050. Note that the group mainly focused on identifying new types of contraband — no doubt old crowd favorites like drugs and guns will still be trafficked for decades to come:

Read the entire post at WAPO's WonkBlog.

The pic and caption are apt.  I got the idea for designing the sim from reading a newspaper account of how freon is now a smuggle-able item. Of course, we used it for decades in air conditioning units, but then, about 20 years ago, it was ordered phased out by an international treaty.  So voila!  Two decades later it's perfectly illegal - in some parts of the world, thus the smugglers' market.

Well, that got me thinking:  If we project ahead to 2050, which of today's legal items would become illegal? (And no, I disagree with the blog author noting that we "omitted" foreign arable land sales and leasing as "unconventional" smuggling, because that's an abuse of the term when the item in question cannot be moved across sovereign borders.  Although the concept makes me laugh to remember Woody Allen's "Love and Death" where his Russian father carries around a chunk of sod, pulling it out for friends and declaring, "Someday, I hope to build on it!")

Several dozen analysts cranked a few dozen ideas.  I then grouped them and wrote up the report.  It was a pretty good sim, and it generated (as I suspected it might) the right kind of material that a MSM outlet might like to publicize.

Access the full Wikistrat report (PDF) here and the executive summary too.

1:25PM

12/21/12 Battleland post footnote #1: My case for Sino-American partnership

*First footnote to Battleland blog post "A Critique of the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds:

  • See also Blueprint for Action:  A Future Worth Creating, see Chapter 3: "Growing the Core By Securing The East," in the subsections "Locking In China At Today's Prices" and "In The Future, America's Most Important Allies Will Be New Core States."

1:22PM

12/21/12 Battleland post footnote #2: My criticism of past NIC Global Trends reports from "Blueprint for Action"

*First footnote to Battleland blog post "A Critique of the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds:


** from Blueprint for Action: A Future World Creating, 2005, Chapter 1:  "What the World Needs Now," subsection "Barnett's A-to-Z Rule Set on Processing Politically Bankrupt States."

The National Intelligence Council is sort of the “Supreme Court” of the intelligence community, which is spread across fifteen individual agencies, including the well-known CIA. The Council, or NIC, as most people in the business call it, is made up of a collection of National Intelligence Officers (or NIOs), each of whom is the government’s top expert on some particular subject, such as “economics and global issues” or “East Asia.” Collectively, this organization issues significant reports known as National Intelligence Estimates, which guide senior decision makers throughout the national security establishment in matters of war and peace. But to the public (and especially the Web community), the NIC is probably best known for its “global futures” reports that regularly project the future of the planet ahead a good fifteen years or more. These reports are by far the best examples of futurology to be found within the national security community, in large part because the authors eschew the usual doom-and-gloom of the Pentagon’s futurism, which always portrays the world going to hell in a handbasket. Why? Because that’s just good for business.

Over the course of my career I have participated on several occasions in the NIC’s long process of consulting with “outside experts” as they build these “mapping the global future” reports, and National Intelligence Officers came to virtually every workshop I ever put on at the Naval War College. I came to respect the NIC’s institutional process of looking ahead, because of its willingness to listen to alternative viewpoints, meaning those that posited hopeful or at least benign developments lying ahead and not just the negatives. Soon after The Pentagon’s New Map came out, I was asked by the Intelligence Council to participate in one of these gatherings, a workshop focused on the future of war. I was given the question “Does the United States face a never-ending future of subnational and transnational violence?” I answered yes, and that this was a good thing compared with the Cold War’s far higher levels of interstate warfare and the threat of global nuclear clashes between superpowers.

But I didn’t stop there. I said that future was benign enough only if the United States took it upon itself to try and fashion new rules and new international organizations designed to focus on these particular problem sets. Absent this effort, our tacit acceptance of heightened worldwide levels of such civil strife and terrorism certainly would be bad, in large part because if we didn’t deal with these problems, inevitably some other great powers would feel compelled to do so on their own, possibly triggering intra-Core arms races or—worse—the return of great-power rivalries inside the Gap (i.e., wars by proxy).

Well, the resulting NIC report, Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project, lived up to the Council’s usual fine standards. It lacked the typical hyping of the threat and presented future scenarios in highly imaginative ways. Naturally, when it came out in early 2005, a lot of my Weblog readers pressed me for comments, knowing I had been involved in the process. The blogosphere, the universe of bloggers, was discussing the report at length when it came out, and the judgment of this crowd, full of both amateurs and professionals, was rather uniform: “a very sobering and disturbing view of the future.”

My take was a little different. All the NIC really said in its projection of the world in 2020 was the following: the United States wouldn’t dominate global affairs as it does today; China and India would be far more powerful players; Russia and the Central Asian republics might take several steps backwards politically; the Middle East could experience some serious democratic reform—or not; terrorism would still exist but would be expressed in different, probably more challenging forms, especially as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction continued; and the UN would probably be far more marginalized as new political realities emerged in the global security order as a result of all this change. That’s it. That’s the “very sobering and disturbing” future the blogosphere was gobbling up and digesting as a source for pessimism about the world in 2020.

In my view the report was basically a careful, realistic, straightforward projection of today’s trends over the next decade and a half—absent any sort of imaginative response from the global community as a whole. It was like a warning from a physician to his middle-aged male patient: “If you don’t change your lifestyle whatsoever, this is what you’re going to look like in fifteen years: older, flabbier, and generally less healthy.” Surprise, surprise.

By its very nature, the intelligence community feels that it must never engage in advocacy of any particular policy, meaning it defines its job as “just projecting the trends, ma’am,” as it avoids telling the US Government what it should or should not do in response to such projections. That’s their code: Analysts don’t have opinions, just analysis. So what happens when the NIC projects a global future is that the authors feel compelled to describe what every other country in the world will do in response to this unfolding series of events while essentially keeping the United States itself static, meaning the whole world’s experiences change while the United States does not—at least not in any proactive way. Sure, we’re allowed to “age” like everyone else in the scenarios, but the maturation process of other states is dynamic, whereas ours is not.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that in its zeal to avoid policy advocacy, the NIC comes up with future global scenarios that essentially ignore the ability of the play’s leading protagonist to develop further as a character across the unfolding plotline. This is not only ahistoric—meaning it doesn’t jibe well with America’s long-standing role as a generator and purveyor of new rules for the global system—it also sends all the wrong signals to unsophisticated readers about what’s truly possible. By its very character, the NIC can describe only the future “floor,” not the “ceiling.” It can only give us a sense of the natural decay of international order, not its potential for positive regeneration. In short, reports such as these can only describe how bad it would get if America basically did nothing, not how good it could get if we chose to do something about it.

The problem is that most people read these reports and take them as the gospel truth (“After all, these guys know all the secret stuff, right?”), but instead of motivating them toward action, these scenarios drive readers toward fatalism and passivity. Most futurology has this effect: after you put the book down and contemplate its depressing description of what lies ahead, you either want to get the frightening image immediately out of your head or—as so often is the case now—go online and Chicken Little it to death. Frankly, that’s why my blog readers tend to be so loyal: I am a shining beacon of counterintuitive analysis, which in this environment means I am a cockeyed optimist.

Why is that? Aren’t we all working off the same trends? Sure we are. We just choose to view those trends differently. Whereas most national security analysts define their professional environment as “futures to be avoided,” I focus on a future worth creating. They see trends that are inescapable, and so their goals tend to involve finding ways that America can shield itself from dangerous outcomes. I see trends that determine reasonably identifiable incentives among major players, incentives that can be structured in ways that turn potential flash points into opportunities for new rules, new relationships, and safer outcomes. In sum, your average security analyst doesn’t want to engage the future but escape its inevitable grasp (“America will be less powerful!”). What I want to do is embrace that future and shape it from within. So my advice is always, When you see fear, start running toward it.

I can’t write a global future with the lead protagonist stuck forever in some Hamlet-like pose of “To shape the security environment or not to shape, that is the question.” My America has always shaped the future, typically arriving there years before anyone else. As history goes, we’re not the kid in the backseat asking incessantly, “Are we there yet?” Hell, we’re the teenager at the wheel going way over the speed limit, assuming we’ll live forever because we’ll be forever young. And you know what? That spirit is what I like best about this country, and deep down, it’s what the rest of the world likes best about America. We are an insanely optimistic people, and because we are, our brand of leadership tends to scare more than soothe. Because every time the world thinks it’s got the current rule set down in its head, those “damn Americans” try to come up with a new one, always describing it as some “revolution” or something. It’s the “sexual revolution,” or “women’s liberation,” or the “information revolution,” or the “cyberrevolution.” Whatever the rule set, it’s always cast as some damnably unstable impact on global order—and, of course, that’s what it usually is.

 

12:25PM

Wikistrat report on "democratic peace theory" simulation

This report, compiled by Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Wikistrat's Chief Analyst, presents the top insights from Wikistrat's latest simulation. The simulation featured over 90 experts from around the world.

Immanuel Kant’s theory of a democratic peace imagines a world without war and—as a precondition—without dictators. In contrast to the Hobbesian requirement of a dominant, system-taming Leviathan, Kant’s vision relied on the self-restraint of societies that rule themselves. In humanity’s historical journey from Thomas Hobbes’ realism to Kant’s idealism, historians have noted that mature democracies fight with one another far less frequently than authoritarian governments fight with other states but that immature democracies tend to be the most warlike of all.

Stipulating that historical record, the massively multiplayer online consultancy Wikistrat recently conducted a week long crowd-sourced brainstorming exercise to plot out a plausible range of caveats to the conventional wisdom that is the democratic peace theory. In this summary, we propose six categories of conflict dynamics that can elicit democracy-on-democracy war—to include pluralistic systems both mature and immature/transitional . . .

Go here for this de facto executive summary.

12:04AM

Good week at Time's Battleland

As of 1600 EDT Saturday:

I will admit that focusing more on Battleland is actually reviving my desire to blog in general.

8:58AM

Volume 3 of "Emily Updates" now available for purchase

Find the Kindle edition here.

Find the iBook edition here.

Find the Nook edition here.

8:52AM

Esquire's endorsement for "The Emily Updates"

November Issue, p. 34, just under the masthead where I'm listed as Contributing Editor:

THIS MONTH IN CONTRIBUTOR BOOKS

Over the next couple of months, one of Esquire's smartest contributing editors, Thomas P.M. Barnett, is releasing a serialized eBook, The Emily Updates: One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived. It's an eloquent and moving journal of the struggles Barnett's family faced when his first child was diagnosed with aggressively metastasized cancer. The five volumes (each about 50,000 words, released every three weeks) are $2.99 each and can be purchased through Amazon.com, the iTunes bookstore, and Barnes & Noble.

6:00AM

The Emily Updates, Volume 2, hits the eBook stores

Find the Amazon edition here.

Find the Barnes and Noble edition here.

Find the Apple iBookstore version here.

7:04PM

Getting better on Amazon Kindle

And we really haven't had much publicity yet (working on that).

Steady as she goes . . ..

12:01AM

Blast from my past: "Look Out, World" (2008)

 

Look Out, World

by

Thomas P.M. Barnett

Good magazine, Nov-Dec 2008.

Why Vote? Reason 177

You should vote because John McCain and Barack Obama have very different takes on the global mess they'll be inheriting—and what they'd like to do with it.

Despite all the talkabout our troubled economy, this year’s presidential race will still come down to competing visions of the post-9/11 world, and what America needs to do about it. George W. Bush leaves office stunningly unpopular, due overwhelmingly to his schizophrenic foreign policy (six years Hyde, two Jekyll). Given the strong political impetus for change, this election has always been the Democrats’ to lose.

True to form, the Dems have done their best to make it a close vote by nominating an African-American senator with limited national security credentials. But Barack Obama gave them no choice. By redefining the way campaigns are mounted in this networked age, his candidacy has produced the sort of worldwide electricity that most certainly will get him selected as Time’s “person of the year”—if he wins.

In contrast, John McCain’s candidacy has the consistency of comfort food, the underlying personal message seemingly, “I’ve waited long enough.” He is the default candidate—as in, “If you aren’t willing to risk it all on Obama, think about me.” Unlike Obama or Hillary Clinton, voting for McCain as president offers no history-making opportunity, which makes the choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate all the more politically clever.  But even with that move—bold or desperate or both—McCain remains an essentially back-to-the-future choice: a pre-boomer for a public fed up with that generation’s do-nothing politics.

Both nominees offer a strongly “realist” perspective on international affairs, with the differences stemming primarily from their generational backgrounds. McCain’s stark realism stems from the Cold War. Ronald Reagan’s personal mystique was largely a fiction of our imagination, but McCain’s legend—the good and the bad—is based on true stories of personal heroism. He lived them all. If you want someone who can recognize human evil and fight it tooth and nail, McCain’s your man.

Obama’s subtle realism emerged from a far different time: the truly tumultuous 1970s, where we first locate much of today’s globalization—energy and food shocks, Middle East conflicts, environmental awareness, global market swings, and transnational terrorism. Befitting those fractured times, Obama’s journey plays out like an ABC “Movie of the Week”: the biracial child who willed himself from a Jakarta grade school to the pinnacle of Harvard Law, landing next on the South Side of Chicago as a community activist who instinctively countered the prevailing counterculture. If you want someone who can recognize global complexity and manage it with confidence and care, Obama’s your man.

Both McCain and Obama represent quintessentially American stories, with their amazing personal trajectories obscuring the underlying political philosophies each brings to a possible administration. Pundits (and Karl Rove) would have you believe that fear alone will settle this election. But the question every voter must answer is not, “Do you fear?” but rather, “What do you fear more?”

Barack Obama will make America smarter about the outside world, and John McCain will make the world smarter about America. And on that score, there are plenty of ways to divvy up the global landscape. Here are ten criteria you can use to compare the candidates and help you break down the basic choices.

Priorities: Where’s the focus? Early last summer, Fortune asked the candidates to lay out the “gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy.” According to the article, Obama didn’t blink: Our energy policy. McCain paused for several long seconds before answering, “Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we’re in against Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence.”

Those answers speak volumes about how each senator approaches international affairs. Obama focuses on upstream, big-picture causality (e.g. fix energy and improve everything that follows from it), while McCain gravitates toward more downstream, immediate tangibles (stop the bad guys from doing bad things). So if you want a terrorism-centric foreign policy, McCain is your guy. If you want something broader, Obama makes more sense. With McCain, you’re less likely to experience a security breakdown, but more likely to see a wider array of ongoing problems exacerbated. With Obama, you’re more likely to see more general improvement on a host of issues, but you stand a greater chance of waking up one morning to some nasty surprise. The basic question is, which spooks you more concerning America’s resilience? The perceived steady decline, or the occasional external shock?

ADVANTAGE: The American voter, because there’s a distinct choice.

Who should America seek out as strategic allies? If you think it's the French and the Germans, you need to update your global database.



Allies: How to pick ’n’ save? 
Here McCain makes a bold call, but an awful one. His proposed League of Democracies—an international alliance of democratic countries—is as close as anyone has come to mindlessly regurgitating Cold War memes. McCain additionally calls for ousting Russia from the G-8 (to be replaced by India), while leaving rising China out in the cold. Here’s why it won’t work: When you tell off both Russia and China, you kill India’s incentives to bind itself to the West. Why would New Delhi pick that fight with two huge neighbors also on the rise? If the Indians wouldn’t make that call during the Cold War, what’s the additional incentive now? Ditto for Brazil, South Africa, and a host of other rising pillars of the southern hemisphere. They’ll simply view McCain’s proposed forum as yet another arena in which the old West gets to boss them around and demand they toe its preferred line.

Here’s a big clue as to whom America should seek out as strategic allies: rising defense budgets, big standing armies, and a willingness to use them in other peoples’ (failed) states. If you think that’s the French and the Germans, you need to update your global database, because in this century, the countries with the most rapidly expanding global economic networks are the ones most incentivized to play—in the manner of the United States—globalization’s bodyguards.

The far more careful and circumspect Obama wins this round hands down. He’ll clearly bring a non-Eurocentric view to global alliances, speaking as he constantly does about the need to integrate a rising Russia, China, and India into our plans. McCain makes similar noises, but all of that is drowned out by his League of Democracies. As his response to the Russia-Georgia conflict amply demonstrated, given the right prompt, he’ll reflexively knee-jerk us into another Cold War standoff at a point when America needs to be stocking up on allies—as immature as they may be—rather than adding more enemies.

ADVANTAGE: Obama, for the sole reason that he’s smart enough not to let Georgia—on its own—declare war between NATO and Russia.

The vision thing: What to expect? You can tell a lot about each candidate’s modus operandi on foreign affairs by the campaigns they’ve built. Obama’s team of 300-or-so advisors is methodically organized, reflecting a corporate ethos that minimizes ego clashes and maximizes on-message delivery. From the experienced Clinton gang, Obama’s managed to attract the very cream of the crop, so expect a well-run State and Defense. Obama’s decision to pick Joe Biden as his running mate only strengthens that.

You should anticipate a far more conservative first term from Obama on national security than Bush’s previous eight years. Obama will seek to carefully unwind America’s tie-down in Iraq and Afghanistan so as to expand his administration’s freedom of action elsewhere, but this will take a long time. Some bad things will definitely happen in the meantime. The potential upside is substantial on restoring America’s good standing around the world.

McCain, on national security, is truly “what you see is what you get.” Despite the hovering from the neocons, McCain will be his own man and run his own foreign policy. Palin as vice president adds nothing to the senator’s well-credentialed resume. Letting McCain be McCain will be a bumpy ride for all involved: the rest of the U.S. government, the American people, our allies, and—most importantly—our enemies; but always entertaining, and full of sharp turns. If he had won it all in 2000, he would have arrived early enough in the rise of Russia, India, China, and Brazil to perhaps have had a serious opportunity to get them in line, especially on the heels of 9/11. But now, trying to ride herd these rising great powers could easily backfire if pursued angrily (remembering the man’s temper), so the downside on McCain could be profound.

ADVANTAGE: Obama, because a more conservative—dare I say, humble—American foreign policy is what the world needs now.

Heal the force:  How to repair the U.S. military after Iraq?Here’s where McCain’s unimpeachable credentials in national security and his history as a rice-bowl-breaking maverick could well serve America’s strategic needs. There will be a huge bureaucratic and political impetus to “heal the force” after Iraq, meaning rest the troops (good idea) and resume buying all the same outdated military platforms and weapons systems (a truly bad idea that will leave us as unprepared for the next Iraq as we were for the last one).

McCain is far more likely—believe it or not—to push the necessary changes through a Democratic-controlled Congress, which, in an inevitable “anything but Bush” post-election fit of pique, could easily trash all the good work so far accomplished by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, General David Petraeus, and many others. Obama, especially since he’ll bring back all the same security players from the Clinton years (who were too deferential to the military), is more likely to pass on that fight in favor of other early possible legislative victories.

The fly in the ointment? McCain’s bevy of neocon advisors, armed with that League of Democracies notion, might just as easily try to have their cake (Cold War Leviathan force) and eat it too (continue to engage in plenty of post-9/11-style small wars). That would, indeed, look like a third Bush administration.

ADVANTAGE: Definitely the maverick McCain, but only so long as Father Time doesn’t toss the presidency—in the form of Sarah Palin—back to the neocons.

Globalization: America’s new bogeyman, or its logical cause célèbre? Despite the trade-protectionist leanings Obama put on display for the primaries, where his proposal to renegotiate NAFTA was particularly egregious, he has assembled a nice collection of Clintonian economic advisers. Plus, Obama’s more holistic approach to national security is less likely to get America trapped in useless overseas adventures and more likely to make him sensitive to the needs of emerging and developing economies. Obama will never match Clinton’s zeal, but he’s unlikely to screw up globalization’s continued advance.

McCain’s senate record indicates a fierce free-trade stance. And since a Democratic-controlled Congress could easily engage in all manner of trade protectionism, especially vis-à-vis China and recently re-demonized Russia, having a Republican in the White House makes a lot of sense if you don’t like that sort of thing. The problem would be—again—McCain’s penchant to pick unnecessary fights with globalization’s rising economic pillars, too few of which will qualify for his democracies-only club.

Then there’s the larger reality that globalization faces a populist headwind that is likely to pick up dramatically in coming years. A stubborn McCain, as correct as his economic instincts may be, could easily find his politics out of synch with global trends, resulting in stalemated trade negotiations overseas and deadlocked legislation back home.

ADVANTAGE: Obama, because he’ll guarantee half-a-loaf outcomes on most issues and could spark the necessary shift to progressivism that globalization desperately needs.

Letting McCain be McCain will be a bumpy ride for all involved: the rest of the U.S. government, the American people, our allies, and—most importantly—our enemies.


Climate change: The end of the world as we know it? Climate change is becoming a dominant global narrative, one that indirectly challenges globalization’s advance by casting doubt on whether developing nations can emerge as the West once did. The brutal truth is they can’t, but not simply due to climate change. There are a host of more immediate reasons (air pollution, supply constraints) that speak to humanity’s need to move beyond oil and any number of self-limiting industrial-age technologies. Because America remains the world’s single biggest national market (meaning we control a lot of demand), we must either lead or eventually get out of China and India’s way.

Both Obama and McCain seem to understand the larger competitive challenge framed by global warming, which isn’t surprising because both are problem-solvers at heart. Given today’s political landscape, both are selling the chimera of national energy independence (a dubious economic goal), linking it to job creation in the high-tech “green” sector. Usually, it’s safer to go with the Republican candidate when it comes to promoting entrepreneurs and innovation, so a slight edge to McCain on that score. But since any response to climate change will entail some serious cooperation with emerging economies on their infrastructure development, and with vulnerable developing economies on the aid-related subjects of food security and disease control, Obama’s “dignity” agenda tops McCain’s focus on demanding democracy.

ADVANTAGE: Push. Let’s stipulate that both candidates will move the ball forward significantly.

Iraq: When do we wrap up? The Iraq “war,” or whatever you want to call it, is clearly a moving target, meaning where Iraq was at the beginning of these campaigns—when positions were initially articulated—and where it is today, are two vastly different things. The criticism now focuses primarily on the high cost involved.

McCain gets credit for advocating the surge and the associated counterinsurgency strategy, two much-needed changes on which the Bush administration wasted many months—and lives—before adopting. Basic lesson? When McCain makes a decision, he follows it through to the end, eagerly seeking out new solutions to persistent problems.

But for those who objected to the war, Obama also gets credit for opposing the invasion from the start. As for opposing the surge, Obama now appears less flexible than McCain in admitting his party’s past mistakes and moving on to better solutions.

In political terms, the problem McCain faces is that improvements in Iraq favor all the positions Obama has long advocated. So again, we see the essential difference emerge. McCain’s approach has the value of concentrated effort, but suffers the dynamic of “one damn thing after another,” meaning: Just after you fix one thing, you’re on to the next. Obama is less likely to suffer big losses in any single situation, but he’s also less likely to score any big wins.

As for wrapping up America’s combat involvement in Iraq, the differences between the two candidates have narrowed dramatically: Obama calls for a withdrawal of combat troops by 2010, while McCain targets 2012. The major difference concerns the pace of withdrawal: Obama says the Iraqi government should decide; McCain says our generals should decide. In reality, it’ll be our generals right up to the point when the Iraqis decide for themselves. This “war” stopped being America’s to “win” or “end” a long time ago—to wit, Iraq’s government wants us gone by 2011.

ADVANTAGE: Obviously McCain, because of his courageous call on the surge.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: How do we ramp up?
 Obama has made some hawkish statements about taking the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban directly into Pakistan. Much like McCain’s tough talk regarding Iran’s involvement in Iraq, such statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Pakistan, like Iran, is a far bigger and more potent entity than its troubled neighbor, and possesses considerable leverage on its own. With Pervez Musharraf gone from power, expect even more autonomy from an Islamabad intent on showing it’s no U.S. puppet.

When George W. Bush redirected the war on terror in 2003 from Afghanistan to Iraq, that was a radical move. Today’s radical move would involve rapidly re-directing U.S. military efforts back toward Afghanistan, thus accelerating Iraq’s movement toward policing its territory and handling its neighbors largely on its own. In asserting that Iraq will remain the central issue for the next president, McCain actually stakes out the more conservative position here, whereas Obama now advocates a more aggressive line.

Odds are good that Afghanistan will once again become the central front in the war on terror early in the next president’s term, and that some modest troop surge will accompany a revamped counterinsurgency strategy that takes on many of the same characteristics of what worked in Iraq.

Attempts by the competing campaigns to portray either Iraq or Afghanistan as the “good war” are largely rhetorical at this point. Events on the ground appear to be driving this re-direct in operational focus, and both candidates advocate the same basic ramp-up in U.S. capabilities and resources.

ADVANTAGE: McCain, because you have to go with experience on this potential quagmire.

Obama will seek to carefully unwind America's tie-down in Iraq and Afghanistan so as to expand his administration's freedom of action elsewhere, but this will take a long time.


Iran: How far do we go? Here McCain advocates a hard line strikingly evocative of George Bush’s rationale for invading Iraq: prevent a regime that sponsors transnational terrorism from achieving weapons of mass destruction. Obama, in contrast, advocates a more direct diplomatic approach aimed at revamping U.S.-Iranian relations as a whole. How you judge the validity of their approaches depends on your perception of the threat.

If you trust the long and varied history of strategic nuclear deterrence, then you’re probably of the opinion that the Shia bomb (Iran) won’t be any more usable than the Jewish (Israel), Sunni (Pakistan), Hindu (Indian), Confucian (Chinese), or Christian (the rest) bombs, especially since Israel very likely possesses at least 200 deliverable nuclear warheads. And if you’re familiar with the history of nuclear proliferation, you’ll know that declared nuclear powers tend to be extremely careful with the technology, whereas undeclared powers (e.g., Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, South Africa) have been known to share. So the real question is, Do you think Tehran is crazy enough to give either Hezbollah or Hamas a nuke? And if there’s even a scintilla of chance there, should America pre-emptively strike, or instead aggressively seek some détente with Iran?  In other words, is it time for Dr. Strangelove to step up, or should “Nixon” finally go to Tehran?

Iran, of course, complicates the matter by in effect saying, “You know we’ve already got the ‘guns’ [i.e. missiles] and are cranking out ‘gunpowder’ [i.e. uranium], but since we’re not manufacturing any ‘bullets’ [i.e. warheads], you can’t actually prove anything—or ever be quite sure how close we’ve come to putting it all together.” Couple that stance with Ahmadinejad’s frequent verbal threats concerning Israel’s right to exist and there are plenty of grounds for both McCain’s calculated threats and Obama’s calculated engagement.

But if a conventional bombing campaign could assuredly take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, chances are the Bush administration would have pulled that trigger by now; and if not the Bush administration, then certainly Israel. If neither could see its way to launching a strike by the end of the Bush administration’s second term, then it’s highly unlikely that such a campaign—absent full-out invasion and occupation—will ever make sense. In short, we’d have to go nuclear to stop Tehran from getting nuclear.

If that strategic logic and historical record ring true to you, then you definitely want Obama in the White House, because McCain could well launch us into a war with Iran. If you consider that pathway inevitable, then McCain’s the better choice, along with a strategic missile defense that—despite all the failures up to now—finally works as promised.

ADVANTAGE: Push. Totally depends on your worldview, unless you’re committed to granting Israel a zero deductible on America’s nuclear umbrella insurance policy.

The war on terror: Remember that? It must seem odd that, seven years into this war on terror, al Qaeda itself seems like such a strategic afterthought. Part of this is due to the Bush administration’s real success in disrupting al Qaeda’s global networks.

But it’s also due to al Qaeda choosing to become less operationally focused and evolving into more of a worldwide anti-American/Western branding mechanism—sort of a Jihadis-R-Us. Sad to say, this is probably as close to “victory” as we’ll come for the foreseeable future because, cynically speaking, transnational terrorists are a useful bogeyman for a networked age.

As somebody who’s worked in national security affairs for close to two decades, I’ll tell you that as far as anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism are concerned, it won’t matter much who gets elected president. The U.S. government possessed such a security community prior to 9/11, and that community got a whole lot bigger after 9/11. Today, that community operates like any sizeable and widely distributed bureaucracy: just well enough not to fail spectacularly, but nowhere near well enough to succeed spectacularly.

So in regards to the candidates, frankly, it’s a coin toss. Obama would present a more conciliatory face, which can invite more aggression or subdue it. McCain would present a less compromising face, which can accomplish the same. Both will promise and likely achieve somewhat more secure borders, and any new management might inject the Department of Homeland Security with more purpose and better execution, but expect the world to continue appearing more dangerous over time (God bless our sensational media) while actually becoming more secure. And if it makes you feel any better, just go on believing that Washington really runs America and that America really runs the world.

ADVANTAGE: Draw. This leaves the final count tied at 3 apiece, with 4 toss-ups. Expect another tantalizingly close vote.

11:20AM

Koreas post at Esquire's The Politics Blog picked up by . . .

Sullivan's Daily Dish and The Week's round-up, where the post was named "best opinion" along with Instapundit and National Journal.  Also Time.com (Swampland's Mark Thompson).

Right to my point about inviting the Chinese to the next naval ex we do with South Korea:  it's announced we're doing one ASAP and sending a carrier.  Meanwhile, everybody moans we have no good options.

So where is the danger in reaching out boldly to China to participate?

12:01AM

Blast from my past: "Managing China's Ascent" (2007)


Managing China's Ascent

by

 

Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

6 August 2007

 

Realists insist the U.S. and China are slated for military conflict in the decades ahead. America cannot peacefully accommodate China's rise because it subverts our role as the world's lone superpower.

Let me offer a different vision.

Over the past two decades, global capitalism has expanded dramatically from its previously narrow western base (America, Japan, the EU) to include five sixths of the planet with a "bottom billion" still trapped in crushing poverty. But that expansion triggered a vociferous ideological backlash centered in those less-connected regions, particularly the Middle East, currently penetrated by "infidel" markets, networks, and ideas.

Countering that fundamentalist backlash requires lengthy, labor-intensive efforts by outside powers to build both nations and markets, because this long war is less about winning hearts and minds than creating jobs and opportunities for idle hands otherwise seduced by radical ideologies. Traditional western allies are only modestly helpful in this struggle. Post-colonial Europe, having been there, done that, now dreads all those Muslims wanting in. No, if we want serious allies, we should look to nations currently engaged in economic integration both at home and abroad.

Natural ally. China is just such a country. Loaded with excess bodies willing to scour the world for economic opportunity, China is America's natural ally in extending globalization's reach and absorbing those off-grid regions where rogue regimes, failed states, and transnational terrorism thrive.

A smart America co-opts China's rise just as Britain shaped ours a century ago. Instead of containing China, we should steer its rise to suit our strategic purposes. And what China must do is what America did back then: build its military and rebrand it as a force for global stability.

A good place to start is Africa. The Pentagon has recently established a dedicated Africa Command to thwart radical Islam's penetration of the continent. That military unit should work hand-in-glove with China, which has already flooded Africa with 80,000 nationals engaged in pre-emptive nation building. In this alliance, America focuses on governance and security while China focuses on infrastructure and markets to accelerate Africa's integration into the global economy.

Why would China help?

With its rapidly aging population, China must scale the global production chain faster than any country has done before. That means China, along with Asia in general, must replicate its own success story by developing markets elsewhere and eventually exporting its less-advanced industries.

This is what Europe did to North America in the 1800s, and—in turn—what America achieved in East Asia in the last half-century. Now it's Asia's turn to engineer globalization's spread, and Africa, with its natural resources and cheap labor, is the next logical target.

It's time to shelve antiquated balance-of-power strategies and end China's free riding on our global security system. Our nations' strategic goals coincide: globalization's preservation and continued expansion in the face of radical extremist challenges.

All we lack—on both sides—is the next generation of visionary leaders to make this strategic alliance happen. Until then, both capitals remain trapped in myopic arguments about Taiwan, tainted products, and trade deficits.

Thomas P. M. Barnett, senior managing director of Enterra Solutions LLC and a former Pentagon adviser, is author of The Pentagon's New Map (2004) and Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating (2005).

12:03AM

Got the "firsts" on my next piece in Esquire magazine

Just remembering some of my covers over the years. 

My favorites are obviously those where my name got on the cover (Scarlett and Halle).

The "firsts" just mean the first draft of a full-up version, totally laid out with all graphics and the break laid out to any jump pages (those not connected to the first pages or stuck near the back of the "book"). 

The piece will come out in the January 2011 issue, meaning out in early December on news stands, when, coincidentally given the subject, I'll be in China.

It's actually still got my original main title and original sub-sub title, which I think is a first for me.

Started, as almost all of my pieces with Mark Warren, executive editor of the print magazine, with an extended riff of mine during a marathon, catching-up phone call (Mark and I typically talk like family for an hour or so before getting down to business) in mid-August.  He was intrigued by my rant on the rising American hyperbole regarding China, I could tell.  Days later he sends me an email asking me to write it up.

So I crank it out over a couple of weekend days, starting with a favorite movie image that, the minute I saw it, I knew I'd someday use it in a piece.  It gave me the excuse of exploring the subject in five chunks.  That opening stayed largely as is, just a lot tighter.

Now I just have to fight, later in the piece, for a very subtle nod to "Blade Runner" - a phrase I misquoted, I now realize after watching it again with my son recently.  

Also working on a slight graphic alteration of the title that would involve some wordplay.  

Crossing my fingers on that one.

4:53PM

I've unwittingly stumbled into writing another book - online - about the world and its future paths

The big clue?  My whole eating and sleeping and day-jobs working habits fell into that same pattern I subconsciously adopt whenever I write a book.  Finally I just turned to Vonne and said, "I feel like I'm writing an entirely new book online for Wikistrat."  

To which she replied, "Duh! I picked up on that a couple of weeks ago."

Just finished the Social-Demographic "global trends" page in the Wikistrat Global Model that I'm building with Joel Zamel and his team.  It clocked in at about 5200 words in all (summary, quick one-liners on top-dozen world powers, then six major trends, then six regions and their trends, then six major forecasts, and a wrap-up of opportunities, risks and dependencies).  This is the third of six global trend pages that I'm populating.  Done Political and Security, teeing up Sustainability, Technology and Economics. When all said and done, these six base pages will come to about 35,000 words, or the equivalent of my biggest book chapters (the Core-Gap chapter in PNM or the American Trajectory chapter in GP).

Many more base pages (the ones you visit most frequently to start your journey through the model) to go after that in preparation of launching the first iteration - or "lite" - model in early January.

I have to tell you, it really is like crunching down all my thinking from the trilogy of books but then writing it all in a new synthesis.  

Actually, that's misleading because I'm stunned at how much new material I'm writing (like basically all of it and none of it at the same time).  It's like I've slipped into this back-office alternative-universe of my work where I'm drilling downways and sideways and backways and upways [he typed, in his best imitation of Gene Wilder doing Willy Wonka] and it's feels like I'm creating something at once more concentrated and a lot more expansive - original but familiar.

It's hard to explain but it signals my creative juices are flowing.  

It's not a book, but it's not just a lot of words either.  It's these dense-matter concepts linked nodally to one another, the idea being that if you get enough linkages, it starts to take on its own thinking function.

My favorite-but-hard-to-deliver brief was my first in "The Brief" series that I use to this day (literally about 1000 slides later, a number I can verify because I sent that many on to Joel and Wikistrat for various embedding throughout the model--something I'm hugely excited to share in this fashion):  a scenario-based exploration of alternative global futures that drilled down by regions and domain trends (same ones we're using at Wikistrat) and Waltzian levels (system, states, societies/leaders/individuals).  In many ways, I'm recreating and updating that monster of a package but doing this time in a wiki structure, for which it is eminently more suited than that one-damn-thing-after-another (Tufte's criticism) manner of presentation that I employed in the original brief (long abandoned by me as a presentation approach--in part in response to attending Tufte's class).

So it's like I'm rewriting everything I've ever known/written/briefed/analyzed and - as writing goes - it is exhausting  . . . just like a book but worse in the sense that it is the intellectually-hyperlinked, super-packed text style of that "State of the World" piece or the sidebar list from "The Pentagon's New Map" original article. Sort of like an encyclopedia entry but more dense--like my baker-supreme spouse's cheese cake, but filled with analysis instead of cheese (you can only eat so much at one sitting).  

[Hmm.  Must have been the Green Bay sojourn with Vonne Mei to Lambeau last Sunday.  My inner cheesehead is melting from all this writing.  Which gives me this other weird image:  what would Hannibal Lecter do to a cheesehead?  Would it be like that scene with actor Ray Liotta in that creepy sequel but more like a fondue?]

And I think that's fitting-- and fun for the reader.  It'll be a place to visit again and again and sort of interact on your own with a virtual version of--initially--my strategic "brain" and later those of other analysts we bring on. [I'll be like some original code that slowly fades under the weight of new iterations--not unlike a parent with too many kids!]

It's an amazing intellectual challenge and before we turn it loose to the public, I will definitely take a snapshot and hide it away in some file cabinet, because it'll be the closest thing - for now - of a virtual version of me in all my intellectual glory (just plain gory to some, but glory to me).  It almost feels like I'm transferring my mind to the web, so I get that same immortality tingling that I experience when I'm penning a book--this sense of intellectual completion.

But unlike a book, this thing will live and breathe online, interacting with, and changing in response to, readers and premium-readers-turned-contributors and content-generating clients. The scenarios will come in all forms, on all sorts of subjects, generating in all sorts of dynamics both mass and elite. Eventually, my initial populating of the model will recede, like some early lizard brain as this monster evolves upward, but it'll always be there--its strategic DNA.

Most importantly, it's delivering exactly what the Civil Affairs officer at Monterey was asking for:  an online universe of my strategic thought that anybody can access and explore and absorb and - best of all - manipulate and make their own (he kept repeating, "I just can't help but think it would be great if there was this place . . . online . . . where all your thinking was crystalized and we could send officers there to get it down in their heads.")

Anyway, I just completed a bit and the whole emotion reminded me of putting a first draft of a chapter to bed, so I felt writing that down here, just like I do when I write a book.

Plus I'm putting off writing my weekly WPR column, which I think will be on Yemen.

12:56PM

Big-War Thinking in a Small-War Era: The Rise of the AirSea Battle Concept @ China Security journal

Big-War Thinking in a Small-War Era:  The Rise of the AirSea Battle Concept 

Amidst increasing US-China tensions in East Asia, America has upped the ante with the introduction a new war doctrine. The AirSea Battle Concept is a call for cooperation between the Air Force and Navy to overcome the capabilities of potential enemies. But the end result may be an escalation of hostilities that will lock the United States into an unwarranted Cold War-style arms competition with China.

Read the entire article at China Security.

12:11AM

Blast from my past: "The Inevitable Alliance" (2008)

Debating China's Future

with 

Li Cheng, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Harry Harding, Cui Liru, John J. Mearsheimer, Joseph S. Nye Jr., Rob Gifford, Mao Yushi, Bates Gill, Tang Shiping, Zhao Tingyang, Robert J. Barnett, David Shambaugh, June Teufel Dreyer, Pan Zhenqiang, Dan Blumenthal, Shi Yinhong, Robert S. Ross, Kenneth Lieberthal, Zha Daojiong, John Hamre and Xiang Lanxin

CHINA SECURITY, VOL. 4, NO. 2, SPRING 2008

 

Thomas P.M. Barnett

The Inevitable Alliance

China’s main strategic vulnerability right now is that it possesses economic and network connectivity with the outside world that is unmatched by its political-military capacity to defend. This forces Beijing to “free ride” on Washington’s provision of global security services, a situation that makes China’s leaders uncomfortable today – as it should. American blood for Chinese oil is an untenable strategic transaction.

The United States faced a similar situation in its “rise” in the late 1800s and set about “rebranding” its military force over a several-decade period that culminated with a successful entry into World War I. Since World War II, the United States has maintained a primarily expeditionary force that is able to access international crises, and since the end of the Cold War has done so with unprecedented frequency. This too is an untenable strategic burden.

America needs to encourage China’s effective re-branding as an accepted worldwide provider of stability operations. The problem today is two-fold: 1) major portions of America’s military require China to remain in the enemy image to justify existing and new weapons and platforms; and 2) the Chinese military is hopelessly fixated on “access denial” strategies surrounding Taiwan, meaning it buys the wrong military for the strategic tasks that inevitably lie ahead.

So long as both nations insist on such mirror-imaging, their respective militaries will continue to buy one military while operating (or, in China’s case, needing to operate) another force that remains under-developed. Such strategic myopia serves neither great power’s long-term interests, which are clearly complimentary throughout the developing world.

The good news is that both China and the United States are within a decade’s time of seeing new generations emerge among their respective political and military leaderships. These future leaders view the potential for Sino-American strategic alliance far differently than do the current leadership generation. If Washington and Beijing can navigate the next dozen or so years without damaging current ties, I fully expect to see a Sino-American strategic alliance emerge.

I do not present this as a theoretical possibility, but as my professional judgment based on years of extensive contacts through both nations’ national security establishments.

Grand strategy often involves getting leaders to understand certain future inevitabilities. The global primacy of the Sino-American strategic alliance in the 21st century is one such future inevitability.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is the senior managing director of Enterra Solutions, and author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004).
7:34PM

The canon--almost completed

Wanted to organize all my publications by decade (see Canon above in top navigation bar), and pretty much got it done and up to date for now at 376 publications.  I know I'm missing a few, but it was nice to get it all down on one place, especially integrating the stuff that was never public release.

Now just need to work on the video archives, the audio archives, and press pieces.

12:01AM

Blast from my past: "Ten Reasons Why China Matters to You" (2008)

 

 

Ten Reasons Why China Matters to You

 

by Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

GOOD magazine, May/June 2008, pp. 58-65

 

 

Don’t be scared of China—the country is perfectly positioned to be our most powerful ally (lack of democracy notwithstanding, of course). But if there is anything to worry about, it’s not China’s massive military; it’s the economy, stupid.

Why China Matters To You:


10.

Because Nixon went to China and your world was born.

 

When President Richard Nixon reopened diplomatic ties with Mao Zedong's communist China in 1972, he enabled the most profound global economic dynamic of the last half century: China's historic reemergence as a worldwide market force. Nothing shapes your world today more than China's rise, and nothing will shape our planet's future more--for good or ill--than China's ongoing trajectory.


After centuries of relative isolation, China’s rapid reintegration into the global economy transformed globalization from its narrow Cold War-era base (the West) to its current “majority” status, whereby two-thirds of humanity now enjoys deep and growing connectivity with international markets and the remaining third works toward it. China’s decision to rejoin the world was globalization’s tipping point, meaning—absent global war—there’s no turning back now, only adaptation.


If Nixon opened the door, then Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping led the Chinese people through it. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng chose wisely: By tackling economic freedom before political liberalization, Deng kept China stable during its tenuous first years of market reform. Although Deng is correctly labeled an autocrat (he ordered the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989), he is also correctly identified as a modernizer who unleashed a generation’s immense creativity.

Many from that generation will tell you that, before Tiananmen, they felt freedom was “90 percent political and 10 percent economic,” but after Deng’s crackdown, they concluded—somewhat harshly—that real freedom was “90 percent economic and 10 percent political.” In other words, they decided that markets were the first, best instruments for generating positive change in China.

A grand bargain was struck: Deng won military support for further market reforms so long as a lid was kept on political change, and the army was afforded enough of a budget to modernize. The Party would remain supreme, but state involvement in the economy would shrink and private business would be encouraged along with investment from, and trade with, the outside world.

China has experienced incredible economic growth ever since, increasing its gross domestic product annually by almost 10 percent—as fast as you dare expand. But China is also nowhere near becoming a democracy, and its achievement scares nations around the world—and excites others—because it suggests that you can rapidly embrace globalization, achieve great income growth, and remain a single-party state by following the so-called China model.


9.

Because China may be an ancient civilization, but it's a young society that's growing up very quickly--and unevenly.

 

China's modernization strategy included slowing population growth through the “one-child policy.” Yet China remains huge: 1.3 billion souls crammed into a country no larger than our own. So if you think we’ve added quite a few Hispanics in the last couple of decades, imagine inviting everyone in the Western Hemisphere and half of Africa to come live inside the United States, because that would give us China’s crowded mix of rich and poor.

Given China’s traditions, the one-child policy favors males over females; the latter are too often aborted or offered up for international adoption. (Disclosure: My fourth child originally hailed from Jiangxi province.) The build-up of males has led some Western demographers to worry that over time, China will inevitably become militarily aggressive—how else to distract all those frustrated young men? But this fear is overblown, as is evidenced by trends in the rest of Asia, where, for example, similarly frustrated South Korean males simply go abroad and, you know, marry a broad in places like Vietnam or Thailand. Bottom line? Desire wins out.


The more profound legacy of the one-child policy is that China will grow very old, very fast. Right now the country enjoys a demographic sweet spot: plenty of workers supporting relatively few children or elders. But once you restrict the baby supply, the population as a whole moves up collectively in age, meaning that China will rapidly progress toward the “Florida mark” (20 percent of the population above age 65) in just two decades. The United States will hit Florida around the same time. If America, in all its wealth, is struggling with that profound shift, how much harder do you think it will be for China, weighed down by hundreds of millions of impoverished peasants?

Here’s one thing to remember when anyone tries to sell you on China running the world someday soon: that China will get very old before it gets truly rich, something the world has never witnessed before. What history tells us is this: Aging populations are not aggressive populations.


8.

Because China's transformation echoes much of America's past: not only the good, but plenty of the bad, and the ugly too.

 

Impossible, you say. Ruled by communists, China’s civilization bears no resemblance to our own.

But China’s true “communist” period was just three decades out of a 5,000-year history, the rest of which featured a social bent toward markets in general (the Chinese are inveterate gamblers, for example) and past periods of serious global trade connectivity (recall the Silk Road of yore). Add in the strong focus on family ties and a deep spiritual history that has long featured free competition among various faiths and we’re not exactly talking about some brother from another planet.

So forget trying to figure out today’s China through its own history, an endless cycle of disintegrating peace and integrating war. Think about it this way: Right now, China is somewhere in the historical vicinity of “rising America” circa 1880—absent democracy, of course. Once you realize that, then depending on where you go around China, you can locate yourself somewhere in the last 125 years of America’s own ascendancy.

Some examples: Foreign policy-wise, you’re looking at a mild-mannered Teddy Roosevelt: China’s military stick is getting bigger, but it still prefers to speak softly, mostly threatening small island nations (read: Taiwan) off its coast.

The nation is likewise undergoing a construction and investment boom that’s right out of 1920s America, and frankly, that should give pause to anyone concerned with global economic stability. China’s banking and financial industries are about as regulated as ours were prior to the Great Crash of 1929. But there’s no sign of a slowdown. Shanghai already has 4,000 skyscrapers—twice as many as New York—and plans another thousand.

Check out China’s space program, which just put its first man in orbit. Beijing now speaks openly of repeating our 1960s quest for the moon. Groovy! Let me just raise my glass of Tang in salute and wonder why Americans aren’t on Mars yet. Speaking of which, there’s also a sexual revolution brewing, with China’s urban youth taking one great leap forward from Father Knows Best to Sex and the City. This revolution won’t be televised, but it’s being compulsively blogged.

Corruption-wise, Beijing remains stuck somewhere prior to the Progressive Era of late-19th-century America, and that’s no good. China’s political system needs to be able to process all this social and economic pressure with more flexibility. Citizens are simply growing angrier and more demanding with each passing year. China’s legal system also needs to clean up its act, because the more China’s economy opens up, the more the global business community is going to demand greater transparency and better avenues for legal redress. Corruption already consumes upwards of 5 percent of China’s gross domestic product. In a “flat world” of economic hypercompetitiveness, such inefficiency eventually costs too much.


7.

Because China's rapid and deep integration into manufacturing means that Chinese products permeate your life--at some risk.

 

Globalization tends to integrate trade by disintegrating global supply chains. By breaking up these chains, globalization spreads various segments of production and assembly across those economies that offer the cheapest labor for each particular stage. China has deftly inserted itself into a long list of these chains, becoming the final assembler of note in toys, cell phones, CD players, computers, and auto parts, to name but a few. By doing so, China has consolidated much of Asia’s previous trade surpluses with America into its own burgeoning bilateral trade with the United States. So when you hear about America’s huge trade deficit with China, bear in mind that it’s the same huge trade deficit we’ve long had with Asia as a whole.

 

Also be aware that this figure hides a lot of complexity. Foreign corporations control the majority (approximately two-thirds) of this production for export. American companies in particular dominate China’s U.S.-export sector, meaning it’s basically our companies renting Chinese labor and keeping much of the profit. The Chinese export that sells for hundreds of dollars in America nets only tens of dollars for the Chinese economy. That’s how Wal-Mart, the single biggest source for Chinese exports in the world, keeps its prices so low. So if you think Western companies are exploiting cheap Chinese labor, then understand that you’re a prime beneficiary.


Naturally, China’s deep penetration of the U.S. market has raised product-safety issues. Any economy that is growing as fast as China’s cuts plenty of corners. But realize that China learns by scandals just as America did over the past century. Frankly, the best crises are the ones you actually hear about, because that means the international press got ahold of them, and those already affected or at risk will get the information they need to protect themselves. Once tracked back to China, Beijing is put on public notice that whatever laxness exists simply cannot be tolerated anymore, with threats of quarantine, bans on exports, cessation of investment flows, and so on.

A generation ago, such threats would elicit yawns from China’s ruling elite, but now, with the Communist Party’s legitimacy riding on economic expansion, they’re taken with the utmost seriousness. In short, China’s government is starting to act more like a business which recognizes that its reputation is often its most important asset, because fierce competition means that today’s mistake allows somebody else to steal your customers by the start of business tomorrow.


6.

Because China's demand for resources is altering global markets in ways both profound and perverse.

 

China’s explosive economic growth forces it to suck in resources from all over the world. As James Kynge, a longtime China-watcher, notes in his recent book China Shakes the World, “China’s endowments are deeply lopsided.” Blessed with too many people, China is short on just about everything else: arable land, water, energy, and raw materials of all sorts. Thus, the only way China manages to serve as globalization’s “manufacturing floor” is to become a leading global importer of virtually any commodity you can name, from cement and copper to oil and gas.


While there’s hardly anything wrong about that, China’s insatiable demand for resources likewise drives Beijing to actively court pariah states and “rogue regimes” while the West tries to isolate the same regimes with economic sanctions. Take China’s relationship with Iran: While American diplomats work night and day to level even harsher sanctions to slow down Tehran’s reach for the bomb, China quietly edges out Japan as Iran’s major energy investor, sweetening the deal by reselling it some of that fabulous high-tech military hardware the Chinese military imports from Israel—hardware which then turns up in southern Lebanon in the hands of Hezbollah.

On the face of it, that constitutes obstructionism on China’s part, as if it’s trying to prevent the global community from cracking down on bad behavior. But the inescapable truth is that China’s scramble to find resources means it has to cut deals with anybody, no matter their disreputable record. So while Sudan’s government engages in what many Western states consider to be “ethnic cleansing” or genocide in its Darfur region, China is more than happy to invest heavily in Sudan’s oil industry while supplying the Sudanese government with weapons. Do that long enough and you’ll have Hollywood stars galore decrying your hoped-for coming-out party as the “genocide Olympics.”

But the longer-term danger is this: China is getting awfully dependent on a lot of unstable countries without having the global military footprint of a great power—you know, like somebody building a very large house made of straw, nowhere near a fire station. When bad things happen—like, say, that one afternoon nine Chinese oil-rig workers were killed by rebels in eastern Ethiopia—China can’t respond like a military power you should fear, because it needs that oil. Once that reality sinks in with local bad actors, expect them to start squeezing Beijing for their own slice of protection money. You know that Thomas Friedman bit about America funding both sides of the “war on terror”? Well, this is how that sort of thing starts.

Today, China might get by simply by buying off every dictator it can. But that won’t work in a future world defined by hyperconnectivity, where everyone can witness the human implications of China’s deal-making. Nor will it work in a future world defined by hyperinterdependency, a world China is creating—whether it realizes it or not.


5.

Because the panda "huggers" versus "sluggers" debate is a lot of hot air--until Washington scares Beijing into raising your mortgage interest rate five points overnight.


I’m considered a “panda hugger,” someone who rationalizes China’s current lack of democracy and argues that, despite all its selfish behavior, China should be considered by America more as a potential ally than a downstream threat. Being an economic determinist (I taught Marxism at Harvard in another life), I believe economics shapes politics more than the other way around. Thus, I tend to be patient when I see an autocratic regime marketizing its economy, especially when the economy opens up to globalization’s networks.

So when I draw up a list of regimes I’d like to see forcibly changed by the global community, China’s nowhere near the “to do” range. That doesn’t mean I want Washington to forgo pushing Beijing’s leaders in the direction of increasing political freedom and transparency, it just means that I have more faith in the transformative power of markets than others do, so I don’t argue for picking fights with China on that score when I think there are so many other, more urgent situations around the planet today that we could collectively address.

“Panda sluggers” refers to those politicians, writers, and activists who make just the opposite argument: China has had plenty of time to change politically in a manner commensurate with its embrace of markets and globalization. If Beijing’s ruling elite has managed to keep such a firm grip on political power, then maybe it’s really cracked the code on “authoritarian capitalism,” meaning we’re looking at an inherently antagonistic model of development. If so, America had better wake up to that reality and start combating China’s “soft power” influence-peddling around the world.

This view dovetails with trade protectionists who say that Washington must confront Beijing over its unfair trade practices and defense hawks who say similar things over China’s rising military spending. My counterargument? When America was a rising power around the beginning of the last century, we were highly protectionist. Now that we’re advanced, we’d like everybody else to follow our example. Fair? All things being equal, yes. But all things aren’t equal when you’re trying to catch up, the way China is today. I say, if you talk them into becoming capitalists, then you have to live with the consequences and be patient.

What concerns me most about this ongoing debate is the potential for the perfect triggering crisis to come along and decisively shift public opinion in favor of the “slugger” position, launching America down some path of economic retaliation against and/or military confrontation with China. Obvious security situations spring to mind, such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear program, or some significant U.S. military intervention in Pakistan—a longtime strategic ally of China.

But a more likely trigger is an extended economic downturn in the United States, or a financial panic in China following the bursting of some stock market bubble. If seriously threatened, might China decide to divest itself of U.S. currency—China currently holds $1.4 trillion in U.S. dollar reserves—sending the value of the dollar into a tailspin? No one knows for sure, but intelligent observers realize that, as former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers has put it, there basically exists a financial “balance of terror” between our two economies, meaning that when either of us pulls the economic trigger, we may well both end up with fatal wounds.


4.

Because as China builds out its infrastructure, it can set a good or a bad example to developing economies struggling to deal with fragile environments.

 

American businesses face a key decision: dive into China’s dynamic markets or risk missing out on their coming wave of innovation. Nowhere is this more true than in infrastructure development, which is expanding like gangbusters in China right now and will continue to do so for the next couple of decades. Good example: China is building freeways like crazy. In about 20 years, it’ll have roughly 50,000 miles of them—the equivalent of our interstate system.


In that time, the world will spend $10 trillion for infrastructure development in energy ($6 trillion) and water ($4 trillion). Most will happen inside China and India at a pace not witnessed on this planet since America spread its network westward following our Civil War. Naturally, environmentalists are worried. If China replicates our resource-intensive style of growth throughout its economy, there will be no end to its pollution and carbon emissions. If you’ve spent any time in China, you know what I’m talking about: acrid-tasting air that the U.N. estimates is responsible for the premature death of 400,000 Chinese a year. Now add in the four times as many cars and trucks that will be on Chinese roads in 20 years’ time, along with far more urbanization and industrialization, and tell me if that sounds sustainable.

But guess what? The Chinese themselves aren’t exactly clueless on the subject. After all, they live there. So I’m betting—and I admit this is a bet—that the Chinese, along with the Indians and emerging markets elsewhere, will be smarter than that. Not because they want to be, but because they’re forced to be. These rising economies will have to zig where we zagged, and how they zig will be important, not just for the “advanced” West, but for all those emerging markets to come in places like Africa.


3.

Because China is globalization's general contractor: always happy to take the job and your money, but hard to get on the phone once you discover problems.

 

Globalization now impinges on the most traditional, off-the-grid societies in the world. Not surprisingly, there’s going to be plenty of cultural blowback triggered by that process, and some of it is going to come our way in the form of transnational terrorism—just as it did on 9/11.


For America to win a long war against radical extremism, we need to make globalization truly global by integrating the one-third of humanity whose noses remain pressed to the glass, wondering when they’ll be let in to the party. That’s labor-intensive, and American workers price out far too high. Yes, we must be significantly involved, but it’s not going to be Americans—much less Europeans—who do the heavy lifting. No, it’s going to be those longtime frontier laborers of the global economy—the Chinese and other Asians. The highly networked Chinese have shown up like clockwork at every frontier globalization has ever created. Currently, more than a million Chinese nationals have turned up in Africa alone, engaging in what I call preemptive nation-building. It’s great that China has triggered a commodities boom over much of Africa. God knows those economies can use all the help they can get. But the longer it looks like China is just there for the raw materials, the more Africans are going to catch on to the fact that—for now—the Chinese aren’t doing any more for the continent’s long-term development than the European colonial powers did decades ago.

But China needs our help, too. As the Chinese become increasingly dependent on resources drawn from unstable regions—by 2020, roughly 70 percent of China’s oil imports will be from the Middle East—the country must continue leveraging U.S. military power. Otherwise, it’ll be left unduly subsidizing weak or corrupt regimes, with China’s economic connectivity put at risk by local warlords, chronic insurgencies, and radical extremists bent on driving out globalization’s networks. If America can’t afford to maintain global security on its own, and China can’t afford to replace our effort on its own, then a strategic alliance makes eminent sense.


2.

Because China will not be our biggest future enemy but our most important ally.

 

A significant portion of our national-security establishment wants desperately to cast China as an inevitable long-term threat. Why? Part of it is simply habit, as most who argue this line spent the bulk of their professional lives in the Cold War and just can’t imagine a world that doesn’t feature a superpower rivalry. For those who need to fill that hole, China is the best show in town, because its military buildup allows these hawks to argue that America must buy and maintain a huge, high-tech military force for potential large-scale war with the Chinese.


My counter is this: China’s military buildup is not historically odd. America did the same as it became a global economic power in the late decades of the 19th century. Remember Teddy Roosevelt and the Great White Fleet? It’s the same logic we see with China today.

But won't events put China and the United States at odds—say, over the strategic issues of fostering stability in the Persian Gulf? Hardly. Right now the United States imports only about one-tenth of the Persian Gulf’s oil exports, with the vast bulk heading east to Asia. Frankly, there’s no sense in the strategic equation “American blood (spilled) for Chinese oil (imports secured).” As China’s oil imports skyrocket in coming years, unlike ours, do you think that’s a politically sustainable situation?

My larger, more long-term fear is that by keeping China our preferred threat, we deny ourselves access to its significant military manpower and growing budget. With Europe and Japan both aging dramatically and China’s strategic interests ballooning in unstable regions, this makes no sense. Better to lock in China as soon as possible as the land-power anchor of an East-Asian version of NATO. The sooner we achieve that, along with Korea’s reunification, the sooner we can draw down our military in the region and better employ it in hotter spots around the world, eventually with Chinese (and Indian) troops helping out.

What would a strategic alliance with China look like? It won’t come as some “grand bargain” achieved in a single summit, but rather a long-term buildup of trust through coalition operations. Asia is an obvious focal point for such cooperation, but a complex one. Far better in the short run would be to create a strategic dialogue between the Pentagon’s nascent Africa Command and the Chinese military regarding joint peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Africa. By focusing on that relatively clean slate, America and China could come together to explore what our military alliance could ultimately entail.


1.

Because we're less than five years from a new generation of Chinese leaders with whom a far stronger relationship may well be built.

 

China is on the verge of a generational leadership change that will profoundly shape its emergence as a global power over the next decade. America should take advantage of this new group’s eagerness to play an actively constructive role in international affairs.

To make clear how this would work, here’s a quick primer on the generations of Chinese leaders since 1949: Mao personified the first generation, Deng the second. Deng was followed by a third generation fronted by Jiang Zemin, China’s president and party boss across the 1990s. What’s important to note about the third generation is that this cohort was largely educated in the Soviet Union during the 1950s. The technocratic flavor of that formative experience emboldened these leaders to extend Deng’s economic reforms far deeper into Chinese society, even as the leaders steadfastly refused political liberalization.

That brings us to the current, or fourth, generation of leaders, represented by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, a risk-avoiding pair who have been quietly at the helm of “peacefully rising” China since 2002. Internally, their focus has been on harmonizing the huge imbalance between the booming coastal provinces and the left-behind rural poor of the interior.

Since 9/11, China has been almost invisible in international security affairs, essentially free riding on America’s vigorous prosecution of both radical Islam’s global insurgency and the so-called Axis of Evil, despite being a potentially key player. After all, China has long stood as North Korea’s patron and now emerges as a dynamic investor for energy and raw-materials providers throughout the Middle East and Africa.

But understand this: China’s fourth-generation leaders did not travel abroad in the 1960s for their college education, trapped as they were by the Cultural Revolution. So it’s hardly a surprise that these homebodies have proven reticent to step out internationally. But that’s changing as China’s fifth-generation leaders-in-waiting step into senior positions of power. Starting in the late 1970s, many of them were educated right here in the United States—the birthplace of today’s market-driven globalization. All but penciled in for future top slots last fall at the Communist Party’s supreme gathering, this group has already begun its years-long transition to rule, slated to begin officially in 2012. Increasingly, China’s next leadership generation speaks openly of the nation’s achievement of great power status.

How America engages China’s emerging elite in coming years could well determine—for good or ill—the lasting contours of the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century. The scariest aspect to this relationship right now is that America’s economic interdependency with China vastly outweighs the two nations’ political and, more important, military connectivity. Bind America and China together, and globalization cannot be derailed. But set them persistently at odds, and that’s a recipe for unacceptable danger.

12:01AM

Blast from my past: "The New Magnum Force" (2005)

The New Magnum Force:  What Dirty Harry can teach the new Geneva conventions

 

by Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

Wired, February 2005, pp. 29-30.

 

Ass kickers. Rule breakers. Lone riders. The United States may be founded on individual rights and the rule of law, but Americans love Dirty Harry and his literary and cinematic brethren. These hard-nosed heroes dispatch evildoers without remorse, going outside the law when necessary. The Man With No Name doesn't explain, he simply acts. In his first term, President George W. Bush embraced this archetype. "I want justice," he said a few days after 9/11, refering to Osama bin Laden. "There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, Wanted: Dead or Alive."

Flash forward to the present. The US claims the right to topple rogue regimes and assassinate terrorist leaders at will. If Predator drones could talk, you just know they'd ask, "So, do you feel lucky punk?" just before firing off one of those Hellfire missiles that turn the target vehicle into a smoking hulk of retribution.

So many suspects, so little time. No wonder we bend the rules here and there, declaring terrorists unworthy of protection under the Geneva conventions. It might work for a while - until the photos from Abu Ghraib are posted on the Web, and you have to explain to your kids why that sort of stuff is OK when the bad guys are really, really bad. And if you're the president? Well, maybe the doubts creep in when your own White House counsel warns you about possible war crimes charges over Guantanamo.

The Geneva conventions, as it turns out, served a few purposes: They created an international order, separated the civilized nations from the outlaws, and protected Americans. The 1949 convention was designed to prevent a rerun of the atrocities of the last great global war - a struggle between sovereign states. Today, we're waging a new type of war (for us, at least) against a new type of enemy (the Man With No State). Unless we want to spend the rest of this conflict trying to rationalize police brutality and torture, the US needs to acknowledge (1) that it's not above the law; and (2) that it needs a new set of rules for capturing, processing, detaining, and prosecuting such nonstate actors as transnational terrorists. In short, we need Dirty Harry to come clean. Frontier justice must be replaced by a real justice system. And there's nothing wrong with figuring this out as we go along.

Who writes this new set of rules? The good guys. That is, the states whose interdependence defines their shared vulnerability to transnational terrorism. There is a functioning core of the global economy: the nations in North America, Europe, Russia, the rising and established pillars of Asia, and the major economies of South America. These are the connected states, and one of the things that connects them most tightly right now is a shared commitment to combating global terrorism. The new rules need to define how the core countries cooperate to suppress terrorist activity within the core using police methods. And they'll lay out how and under what conditions it's OK for those same states' militaries to go into the unconnected regions of the world - what I call the nonintegrating gap - to snatch or kill suspected terrorists. This is not a job for the UN. In a global legislative body where Libya gets to chair the Human Rights Commission (who's next, Sudan?), some punks really have gotten lucky.

What am I talking about here? A WTO-like entity for global counterterrorism. A body that would set the operating standards for both intracore police networking (like building that fabled terrorist database in the sky) and the rules of engagement (to include prisoner handling, detention, and interrogation) for whenever the member states' militaries venture into the gap looking for bad guys.

Like the World Trade Organization, the World Counterterrorism Organization - call it the WCO - would be invitation-only. So unlike Interpol, you (yes, you, Pakistan!) couldn't just flash a badge on your way into the meeting. Starting this way doesn't make it bad or unacceptably elitist, just realistic. Remember, the WTO was once the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which grew out of Bretton Woods, which resulted from a few developed nations colluding behind closed doors. Let's allow this baby to grow up some before we toss out the dirty bathwater. It won't be pretty. More mistakes will be made, but along the way terrorists will get dead.

Maybe it smacks of paternalism to let big ol' core militaries simply walk into gap states and do what they must. But we're talking about only the most disconnected societies, where feeble or nonexistent governments should be viewed as something akin to minors. In short, a nonintegrated nation can grow up and out of the gap. It will have to pass a fitness exam and, yeah, it'll need one of our stinkin' badges! Until then, the core nations owe the citizens of these states some adult supervision.

The first order of business for the WCO should be to establish legal guidelines and physical infrastructure for the handling and disposition of those who aren't considered legal combatants under the standard rules of war. So it'll need its own Alcatraz - and no, it can't be in a US naval base in Cuba. I'm thinking of a place with lots of secure locations, like a supermax Switzerland. As for the trials? Prisoners should be funneled toward the International Criminal Court, because you've got to make the UN happy at some point in the process.

All this may sound risky, but either we can wait on some UN universal declaration full of noble nouns and awe-inspiring adjectives - or we can let the cops who walk the beat inside the gap get started writing the book that, eventually, some upstanding Perry Mason can throw at the bin Ladens and al-Zarqawis when they stand in the docket at the Hague. Until then, let Dirty Harry do his thing.

Thomas P. M. Barnett (t_p_m_barnett@hotmail.com) is the author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century.

12:01AM

Blast from my past: "Romania Domino Stays Upright" & "Why Ceaucescu Fell" (1989)

Romania Domino Stays Upright

 

by Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

COPYRIGHT: The Christian Science Monitor, 1989 (11 December edition, p. 18)

 

A political earthquake is rumbling through Eastern Europe.

Stalinist leaders are toppled like dominoes, each succumbing to domestic unrest while Moscow looks on.

So far only Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania's 71 year-old dictator, has escaped this fate. Why are there no mass protests in Bucharest calling for his downfall? The answer is simple: Mr. Ceausescu has been preparing for this kind of political disaster for over 20 years.

The Romanian dictator realized long ago that a political chain of command existed in the Soviet bloc, and that he would have to establish autonomy from Moscow. This meant defending himself from two dangers: first that the Soviets would try to intervene militarily, and second that the Soviets would disavow socialism and undercut him politically.

The USSR's military channels of influence are restricted. No Red Army troops have been stationed in the Balkan country since 1958. Ceausescu built up his national defenses to such an extent that Romania can offer strong resistance to an invasion from any quarter.

Ceausescu also curtailed Soviet influence by distancing himself from Moscow's schemes to integrate Romania's economy into the Eastern bloc. While the USSR is Romania's biggest trading partner, Moscow's ability to force Ceausescu's regime into economic reforms is very limited.

The Kremlin also doesn't have any friends within the Romanian Communist Party. Ceausescu rooted out any Moscow sympathizers by making Romanian nationalism the litmus test of party loyalty.

Finally, Ceausescu severed the ideological umbilical cord connecting Bucharest and Moscow. Ceausescu realized that every Stalinist regime requires its own Stalinist anchor.

It was too risky to rely on Stalin's legacy alone. The whole edifice could collapse if, at some time, a Soviet leader repudiated Stalinism as Khrushchev had tried to do in 1956.

For now, Ceausescu is prepared to ride out the political shock waves resulting from Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika. This is feasible because Ceausescu's despotism is home-grown. His rigid central planning keeps the economy in a straitjacket, while he stocks the leading political posts with relatives and cronies. His extensive police empire keeps the people cowed, and his personality cult rivals Stalin's.

Symbolically, Ceausescu has skillfully exploited Romania's deep nationalism and its historical weakness for paternalistic dictators.

While Mr. Gorbachev's leverage with Bucharest remains limited, the West's ability to encourage change is nonexistent. Ceausescu labored for years to win most-favored-nation trading status from the US in 1975. Yet just last year he was willing to forsake it when the State Department dared to link its renewal to improvement in Romania's abysmal human rights record.

Perhaps the best hope for change in Romania is Ceausescu's advanced age and poor health. While Ceausescu has lined up his wife and son as his political heirs, neither will sit comfortably, or for long, in a throne designed specifically for one man.

In the short run, Ceausescu's grip on power appears firm. Not only was he unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress, but the tyrant vehemently denied the possibility of reforms. Sending a signal to reformist Hungary, Ceausescu even sealed the border with his Warsaw Pact neighbor.

For all his despotism, Nicolae Ceausescu is a shrewd and farsighted politician. Events in Eastern Europe may have caught the West unprepared, but Romania's present stability indicates that Ceausescu has been ready for this upheaval for quite some time.

Why Ceausescu Fell:  His Silent War Against the Romanian People Backfired

 

by Thomas P.M. Barnett

 

COPYRIGHT: The Christian Science Monitor, 1989 (28 December edition, p. 19)

 

The end finally came for Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu.

Literally scared out of office by an angry population that no longer feared his bullets, the fleeing tyrant and his wife were eventually captured, arrested, and executed after a secret trial. Genocide was the first of several charges leveled against the deposed leaders by the military tribunal.

Less than two weeks ago Ceausescu's dictatorship seemed immune to Eastern Europe's political upheaval. Now, new questions arise in light of the widespread violence that accompanied the end of this Stalinist regime.

Why was Ceausescu willing to wage open warfare against his people? And why would Romanians risk death rather than see his rule continue? The answers must be found in the silent war Ceausescu waged against his subjects for the last seven years.

This silent war dates back to 1982, when Ceausescu implemented severe austerity policies designed to retire the nation's foreign debt by 1990. Why so quickly? The Romanian dictator had witnessed Warsaw's near default on its large foreign debt. Poland's subsequent economic collapse convinced Ceausescu that his regime had to avoid this scenario at all costs.

Three elements drove him to this drastic conclusion:

First, a debt crisis would force the self-proclaimed "Genius of the Carpathians" to admit his economic mismanagement.

Second, such a crisis would cause Ceausescu's regime to lose credibility with the already hard-pressed workers. The ever-vigilant dictator could not allow a Romanian version of Solidarity to develop.

Finally, Ceausescu abhorred the idea of Western financial institutions gaining leverage over Romania's economy. The despot had spent years reducing Moscow's influence, and was not about to have it replaced by Western meddling.

Like his brash anti-Sovietism of the late 1960s, Ceausescu again cloaked his policies in the guise of defending Romania's sovereignty. But the cruel and uneven nature of his austerity program meant that ordinary Romanians were paying for the leader's paranoia with their lives.

Bucharest rapidly reduced its foreign debt over the 1980s, but the extreme rationing of food, basic amenities, and energy created virtual wartime conditions. Exiled dissident Mihai Botez estimates that at least 15,000 Romanians died annually from starvation, cold, and shortages.

Romania was rich enough to provide all these basic requirements, but Ceausescu chose not to do so. Instead, the debt was finally retired earlier this year.

Not everyone suffered these shortages equally. Ceausescu's ruling clan continued to live like modern-day Roman emperors, awash in luxury and decadence. The autocrat also kept his dreaded security police well paid so they would be willing to crush dissent wherever it arose.

After overseeing the economic strangulation of the Romanian people for seven years, it was not surprising that Ceausescu ordered the Timisoara massacre. What were another 4,000 dead to a tyrant who had already sacrificed 20 times that amount?

Similarly, when the security troops fought on like desperate gangsters after the regime's collapse, they were well aware of the people's deep anger over their long history of oppression.

It was anger so great, that when faced with their eighth straight winter of this silent war, Romanians were ready to choose death over Ceausescu. The turning point of the popular uprising occurred when military leaders realized that the people could be pushed no further.

With Ceausescu's downfall, Romania faces severe tests in the weeks ahead. The No. 1 task of the newly formed opposition, the National Salvation Front, is to contain the potential for continued violence.

The anger resulting from Ceausescu's silent war must be properly channeled in order to avoid a long and ugly backlash. An orderly and fully disclosed trial for Ceausescu would have gone a long way in releasing some of this pressure.

It is a good sign that the National Salvation Front is led by political figures—such as the interim president, Ion Iliescu—who, because of their past dissent, fell out of Ceausescu's favor many years ago. Their social stature will be instrumental in promoting new government policies which address Romania's present problems rather than dwell on its past.

Ceausescu subjected his people to any sacrifice necessary to maintain his absolute power. The end result was a nation isolated abroad and economically crippled at home. While the isolation has ended, the economic damage remains.

Both East and West have declared their readiness to aid in Romania's economic recovery. But both sides must also continue to be patient with Romania. It is a country coming out of a long and brutal conflict. While open warfare didn't break out until last week, Ceausescu's silent war had been claiming victims for years.