Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Search the Site
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace

Entries in US Military (152)


Brilliant piece on needing to move past traditionally defined carriers

Written by USN Capt. Henry (Jerry) Hendrix, a professional friend, along with a retired Marine LCOL in this month's US Naval Institute Proceedings. See reference below for link.

Hendrix currently works for Andy Marshall at Office of Net Assessment, which is a great match.

Much to quote:

We can’t know for sure in what ways future adversaries will challenge our Fleet, but we can assess with some certainty how technology is affecting their principal capabilities. Judging from the evidence at hand, future Fleet actions will place a premium on early sensing, precision targeting, and long-range ballistic- and cruise-missile munitions. Increasingly sophisticated over-the-horizon and space-based sensors, in particular, will focus on signature control and signature deception. Thus, we must ask ourselves how best to win this battle of signatures and long-range strike.

This is a sideways reference to the rising capabilities of the Chinese navy and their efforts to keep us - and our carriers - as far from their shores as possible.

Given very clear technology trends toward precision long-range strike and increasingly sophisticated anti-access and area-denial capabilities, high-signature, limited-range combatants like the current aircraft carrier will not meet the requirements of tomorrow’s Fleet. In short, the march of technology is bringing the supercarrier era to an end, just as the new long-range strike capabilities of carrier aviation brought on the demise of the battleship era in the 1940s.

The Chinese are targeting our carriers.  We can either see the future in defending them as is, or get new carriers.  You don't just ditch what you got because it's vulnerable.  But if it's becoming vulnerable and the agents of that vulnerability suggest a new era is dawning, then you pay attention.

Factors both internal and external are hastening the carrier’s curtain call. Competitors abroad have focused their attention on the United States’ ability to go anywhere on the global maritime commons and strike targets ashore with pinpoint accuracy. That focus has resulted in the development of a series of sensors and weapons that combine range and strike profiles to deny carrier strike groups the access necessary to launch squadrons of aircraft against shore installations . . .


Accompanying this range deficiency has been the dramatic increase in the cost of the carrier and her air wing. The price tag for the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) was $950 million, or 4.5 percent of the Navy’s $21 billion budget in 1976. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), lead ship of a new class of supercarriers, is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $12.5 billion  . . . The Gerald R. Ford is just the first of her class. She should also be the last.

I couldn't agree more.  This is Norm Augustine's nightmare come true - the military that becomes so expensive you can only afford one of everything.

The Chinese are emphasizing sea control over power projection. Given this Chinese “vote” and the challenges we continue to face in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, we must rebalance our Fleet to meet new sea-control missions while maintaining reasonable power-projection capabilities for the range of global threats we will encounter. These new challenges mean that the Fleet architecture must evolve rapidly to meet the new mission requirements of our time. We need to recognize this now and avoid a 21st-century Pearl Harbor.

The old paradigm is untenable.  Time to move on.

In such a new strategic environment, unmanned systems diminish the utility of the supercarrier, because her sea-control and power-projection missions can be performed more efficiently and effectively by other means. When the carrier superseded the battleship, the latter still retained great utility for naval surface fire support. Similarly, today’s carrier will be replaced by a network of unmanned platforms, while still retaining utility as an as-needed strike platform. Ultimately, the decision to kill the battleships was not because they lacked utility, but because they were too expensive to man and operate. Future budgetary constraints could lead to a similar outcome for the carrier, recognizing that even if we purchased no new supercarriers, we would still have operational carriers in the Fleet for more than 50 years.

So we're not exactly abandoning our current capability.

In the meantime, the America-class big-deck amphibious ship has the potential to be a new generation of light aircraft carrier. At 45,000 tons’ displacement, she will slide into the water larger than her World War II predecessors, and larger even than the modern French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Designed without an amphibious well-deck, she will put to sea with a Marine Air Combat Element and key elements of a Marine Expeditionary Unit.

However, to view this purely as an amphibious-assault ship would be to miss her potential as a strike platform. Stripped of her rotorcraft, the America class could comfortably hold two squadrons of F-35B short take-off vertical-landing (STOVL) stealth fighter/attack aircraft. Such an arrangement would allow the naval services to dramatically increase presence and strike potential throughout the maritime domain. In addition, if the requirements were instituted in the near term, the new unmanned carrier-launched airborne-surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft could be designed to operate from America-class decks with greater potential utility and distribution than what could be expected when operating from super carriers.

I've liked this argument for many years now.  End the big decks and go with the "small" deck amphibs as a cheaper and more flexible package.

The new combatants would actually be “carriers,” but rather than carrying aircraft, they would carry an array of unmanned systems. A balanced Fleet would have a mix of small, medium, and large unmanned carrier combatants to cover the range of Fleet functions. One near-term option would be to truncate production of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and replace both the LCS and the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) with a common hull displacing around 10,000 tons.

Thus you start experimenting - relatively cheaply - with mother ships while running out the lengthy lifespan string of the big decks.  To me, this is THE obvious way to go.

Strong finish:

Continuing to invest in platforms such as the supercarrier—which are expensive to build, cost-prohibitive to operate, and increasingly vulnerable in anti-access/area denied environments—is to repeat the mistakes of the battleship admirals who failed to recognize air power’s potential in the 1930s.


No less authority than Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard has stated that China’s DF-21D antiship ballistic missile has reached initial operational capability. We must recognize the new environments in which we will be operating, as well as the profound impact unmanned systems will have on future operations, and adjust our Fleet accordingly if we are to avoid a Pearl Harbor of our own making. We must reallocate science-and-technology, research-and-development, and acquisition resources toward this new Fleet paradigm . . .

Moving away from highly expensive and vulnerable supercarriers toward smaller, light carriers would bring the additional benefit of increasing our nation’s engagement potential. This type of force structure would allow the United States to increase its forward presence, upholding its interests with a light engagement force while maintaining, at least for the next 50 years, a heavy surge force of supercarriers. Geopolitics and technology are rapidly evolving the future security environment, and we must make decisions today to adapt the Fleet away from its current course to a new design for a new era.

This is how a superpower, suffering relative economic decline, keeps up its global power projection at a reasonable cost.

Excellent piece.  Worth reading in entirety for details, if interested.


The Politics Blog: "Life After the Bin Laden Kill: What Now?"


You can take down the wanted posters and run through the streets all you want, but the Osama bin Laden assassination leaves many essential questions unanswered. From Pakistan to China and the Pentagon to the 2012 polls, here's where we stand.

  • So who runs Al Qaeda next?
  • Will Al Qaeda retaliate?
  • Isn't Pakistan is the real battleground — not Afghanistan?
  • Is the Great Hunt finally over?
  • Did Obama just get tough on terror for 2012?

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


The inevitable escalation is Qaddafi's

Excellent instincts by Obama, as he senses the kill.  Rebels get their first substantial breakthrough in the West, so it's time to pile on--bootless-style.

Best part:  it eliminates all the nonsense we've heard about "never again."  The demand out there remains. What needed to change was our response. We are doing just enough to take advantage of the opportunity and keep the ultimate victory belonging to the Libyan tribes themselves. The SysAdmin never needed to be Powell's twins of: 1) overriding power; and 2) owning the aftermath all by ourselves.  That logic is dead and buried--and thank God Powell said no to SECDEF because he couldn't take Armitage along.  This is much more in line with the pre-Bush or Clintonian level of commitment:  yes, you are vilified when it fails or takes too long, but those costs are acceptable compared to the all-or-nothing mindset of the primacistic neocons, who, in their serious hubris, thought Washington was in charge rather than globalization.  If all we get from the Facebook Revs is clearing the deck in North Africa, that will be fantastic--and a serious legacy for Obama in the same manner as Eastern Europe was for George H.W. Bush.  It's all nicely opportunistic and going with the major flows of the age, and that is how it should be.

This sort of response sends a lot more signal than the heavy hardware or brigades.  It says America will continue to fight as it always has: by generating more stuff than you can possibly imagine.  The old model was big stuff.  The new model is small and disposable and unmanned stuff.  It comes with willpower attached.  It's staying power is its dwell time.

China thinks it has a grip on the future with a carrier killer, but it's protecting itself from the 20th century. The name of the game going forward is what it has been these past two decades:  globalization's advance, the remapping of fake states, the liberation of people long oppressed by their conditions and cruel leaders, and the new matrixing of supply chains and labor pools as this magnificent process continues to unfold.

We remain the world's most comfortably revisionist power, and that it what separates us--and has always separated us--from everybody else who pretends to similar global influence.  We just have needed to update the toolkit.

What escalation remains is Qaddafi's as he considers exit strategies.  He should take the money and the freedom, otherwise he will be made THE example.


Quoted in Time magazine article on US defense budget

Very sharp article by Mark Thompson.

The opening:

On a damp, gray morning in late February, Navy admirals, U.S. Congress members and top officials of the nation's biggest shipyard gathered in Norfolk, Va., to watch a computerized torch carve bevels into a slab of steel as thick as your fist.

The occasion: the ceremonial cutting of the first piece of a $15 billion aircraft carrier slated to weigh anchor in 2020. That ship — still unnamed — will follow the just-as-costly Gerald R. Ford, now 20% built and due to set sail in 2015.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, China is putting the final touches on a new class of DF-21 missiles expressly designed to sink the Ford and its sister ship as well as their 5,000-person crews. China's missiles, which will likely cost about $10 million each, could keep the Navy's carriers so far away from Taiwan that the short-range aircraft they bear would be useless in any conflict over the tiny island's fate.

Aircraft carriers, born in the years before World War II, are increasingly obsolete platforms of war. They feature expensive manned aircraft in an age when budgets are being squeezed and less expensive drones are taking over. While the U.S. and its allies flew hundreds of attack missions against targets in coastal Libya last month, cruise missiles delivered much of the punch, and U.S. carriers were notable only for their absence. Yet the Navy, backed by the Pentagon and Congress, continues to churn them out as if it were still 1942.

"It's just tradition, the industrial base and some other old and musty arguments" that keep the shipyards building them, says Thomas Barnett, a former Pentagon deep thinker and now chief strategist at Wikistrat, a geopolitical-analysis firm. "We should scale back our carrier design to something much cheaper and simpler. Think of mother ships launching waves of cheap drones — that would actually be more frightening and intimidating." Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned last year of "the growing antiship capabilities of adversaries" before asking what in Navy circles had long been the unaskable question. "Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?"

Across Washington, all sorts of people are starting to ask the unthinkable questions about long-sacred military budgets . . .

Our conversation was mostly about carriers.  I'm not the great hardware man, but I know enough that we're continuing to buy in the very-few-and-ridiculously-expensive mode rather than the many-and-the-cheap mode that's clearly emerging in cutting-edge technologies.  I know also that we're deeply impressed with China's efforts to catch-up on that same track, which, of course, is truly meaningful if you believe major conventional war with China is in the offing.  I do not, and so I find that spending on both sides to be largely a waste, less so for us because we seek to keep high the threshold to great-power war and that's a good thing. Problem is, we teach China the same path and now we're increasingly locked into this idiotic arms race that serves neither of our actual national security interests and actually denies us the cooperation that would enable both to accomplish more in the global security arena at less cost.

But why save money - and the world, when we can waste it in large amounts?  We're stuck in our QWERTY pathway because it's what we know and love, and it's what our Congress loves to buy.  And so China follows us stupidly down that rabbit hole, and we both dream of future missile wars over no-man's lands, while the reality of globalization's rapid expansion stares us in the face in Africa and the Middle East and we're largely irrelevant to the process because we continue to buy billion-dollar platforms to tackle $100 enemies.

This is my favorite part of the piece, worth getting into the blog for later use:

We are spending more on the military than we did during the Cold War, when U.S. and NATO troops stared across Germany's Fulda Gap at a real super-power foe with real tanks and thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at U.S. cities. In fact, the U.S. spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.

And yet we feel less secure. We've waged war nonstop for nearly a decade in Afghanistan — at a cost of nearly a half-trillion dollars — against a foe with no army, no navy and no air force. Back home, we are more hunkered down and buttoned up than ever as political figures (and eager defense contractors) have sounded a theme of constant vigilance against terrorists who have successfully struck only once. Partly as a consequence, we are an increasingly muscle-bound nation: we send $1 billion destroyers, with crews of 300 each, to handle five Somali pirates in a fiberglass skiff.

While the U.S.'s military spending has jumped from $1,500 per capita in 1998 to $2,700 in 2008, its NATO allies have been spending $500 per person over the same span. As long as the U.S. is overspending on its defense, it lets its allies skimp on theirs and instead pour the savings into infrastructure, education and health care. So even as U.S. taxpayers fret about their health care costs, their tax dollars are paying for a military that is subsidizing the health care of their European allies.

Not only is our government becoming an insurance company with an army (some DC wag's great line), but we're enabling others to do the same while they cut down their own army.

And yes, China is headed on the same path.  It dreams of a moment in the sun, but it will be cruelly brief and then the realities of accelerated aging and global security vulnerabilities sets in, and then all this arms build-up over Taiwan and the island chains will seem like so much nonsense.  But, most definitely, the PLA has a few good years of stupid, uncontrolled spending ahead of them, and it will act like any bureaucracy in that mode:  it will waste money catching up somewhat to America's Leviathan force, and when it gets close enough to matter, Beijing will realize it was all a colossal waste of time and money that bought them nothing, because they will never pull that trigger, and even giving the impression that they will triggers a counter-balancing across the region that America is only too happy to provide in terms of arms sales.

Pointless, pointless, pointless.

Meanwhile, globalization moves on, creating the real global security landscape out there.

I say, thank God our budget mess arrived earlier than theirs, because it will force the logical change earlier than theirs.  We will be renewed; they will drop off a demographic cliff - and globalization will move on.

Mentioned in the piece one more time:

But $1 trillion in cuts wouldn't really be as drastic as it sounds — or as the military's no-surrender defenders insist. Such a trim would still leave the Pentagon fatter than it was before 9/11. Besides, there are vast depots of weapons that are ready for the surplus pile. The number of aircraft carriers could be cut from 11 to eight, and perhaps all could be scuttled in favor of Barnett's drone carriers. The annual purchase of two $3 billion attack submarines to maintain a 48-sub fleet as far as the periscope can see also could be scaled back. The $383 billion F-35 program really isn't required when U.S. warplanes remain the world's best and can be retooled with new engines and electronics to keep them that way. Reagan-era missile defenses and the nuclear arsenal are largely Cold War relics with little relevance today. Altogether, Congress could save close to $500 billion by smartly scaling back procurement over the next decade.

It's a bold and intelligent argument from Thompson, and I really think this is one of the best pieces of his that I've ever read.  It comes very close to opinion journalism - but at its best.  These are fair questions, and he poses them well.

Plus, I just like the phrase, "Barnett's drone carriers."


Esquire's Politics Blog: Battle: The Real Obama Doctrine Emerges

In 2008, Barack Obama ran against the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive, unilateralist war. His presidency, he assured us, would be different. And once he took office, it certainly was. One "apology tour" and Nobel Peace Prize later, the Obama Doctrine, such as it was, consisted of telling everyone and anyone that America was winding up its wars, pulling down its military tents, and going home — where it was going to be "renewed," "rebuilt" and so on. His National Security Strategy said it all: "Building at home, shaping abroad." Spot the focus; spot the window dressing. "Shaping" is a military term of art referring to anything other than actual warfare.

It was awfully darn close to Barack Obama promising never to do another Iraq, another Afghanistan — another anything.

And now we're bombing Libya.

So what happened?

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


Libya declares cease-fire within hours of UN resolution on No-Fly-Zone

Shows you what a little flash of the Leviathan can do. [Later found not to be enough, but at least the conversation started for real.]

“We decided on an immediate cease-fire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” Libyan foreign Minister Musa Kusa told reporters in the capital. He said Libya “takes great interest in protecting all civilians and protecting human rights,” adding that the government would also protect foreigners and foreign assets in the country.

Libya “accepts that it is obliged to accept the U.N. resolution,” Kusa said in explaining the decision to declare a cease-fire.

Yeah, right.  Libya simply knows what the US Leviathan is capable of. This isn't about WWIII, so no Hitler comparisons please; this is about managing the system and taking advantage of opportunities when they stare you in the face.  It's also about responding to an Arab League, and frankly the entire UNSC, that realizes they want this nut gone--finally.  And when you have all that demand in the system and do nothing about it, you look weak--not Hitler 1938 weak, because this is not a hysteric conversation, thank you.  Just weak. Leadership is an asset to be maintained, not a responsibility to run away from.  It has value.  We like to use it when it's appropriate.  It must be kept up.  Allies in Asia do want us to seem credible vis-a-vis China, and the majority of Arabs do prefer pax Americana to G-Zero. 

Slate says Hillary was the decider who convinced a recalcitrant Obama by going around his too cautious advisers/bodyguards/whatever.  He picked them because they reflect his thinking.  Thank God he also picked her.

I voted for Hillary in 2008, and would gladly do so again.


Esquire's Politics Blog: Battle: Libya? How the Pentagon Cured America's War Itch

Before and after President Obama decided to be "very unambiguous" about why Muammar Qaddafi should step down, a lot of people were reading way too much into his defense secretary's comments above, made at West Point as part of a legacy tour that just happened to fall in the middle of a civil war. Was this some pre-emptive kind of door-slamming on the prospect of U.S. military intervention in Libya and whatever follow-on "Facebook revolutions" are to come? Not really. As MacArthur himself — a serious headcase if there ever was one — discovered with Truman, only the commander-in-chief makes those calls. The rest of us are just advisers, onlookers, and ne'er-do-wells.

And don't read too much into Hillary Clinton's own Libya whopper on Tuesday — "this doesn't come from some Western power or some Gulf country saying this is what you should do, this is how you should live" — because there's a lot more going on here than no-fly zones. As the world awaits our next move in the Middle East's power struggle, an intense battle is unfolding within the national-security establishment back home: The "future of the force," as insiders here in Washington and around the Pentagon like to call it, hangs in the balance. And Robert Gates, having already advertised that the United States of America had reached its limits and now poised for his final power play, knows how to counter better than anyone in the president's ear.

Can we interpret the Gates comments — made on his way out the door and protecting his tenuous small-war legacy every step of the way — as a repudiation of Bush and Cheney's long-war logic? Again, not really. (And please take note that almost all of the proposals out there for "surgical" this-and-that in Libya comes closer to Rumsfeld's vilified light-and-fast mentality than anything approaching a mass land force occupation.)

Does the Defense Department suddenly want to walk away from this "era of persistent conflict," as Gates likes to call it? No. (He's fully supports Obama's our-badassess-versus-their-badasses approach to counter-terrorism, swapping out Bush's bring-'em-on bravado for remorseless killing drones).

Is the U.S. military, as Gates said in the West Point speech, an "institution transformed by war" to the point of tamping down any possible major land war in Asia? Only insofar as we're keeping counterinsurgency alive and the troops safe. (Remember the last time we ditched that plan?)

But in staring down the Obama administration's wave of withdrawal from the world — the "post-American world" vibe that has we'll-be-number-one-again pundits like Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria headed straight for Qadaffi's bookshelf — Bob Gates swims against it. While managing two wars, he got fed up with trading future combat casualties in imaginary wars with China against today's very real ones, so you'll have to excuse him for sounding such somber notes. And God bless him for that, because it took a while to get here.

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


China's Aviation Industry Corp plans another team-up with US firm

Get used to this line-up

WSJ story on how AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation), which has already announced a joint effort with GE on commercial airliners, is now teaming with a small CA-based avionics firm (US Aerospace) to offer its signature big helicopter in US markets, to include defense markets and possibly even a bid on the Marine One contract to supply the White House.

Yes, there will be push back, but eventually these things will happen.

For years now, I've fantasized about China Southern buying Southwest Airlines, for no particular reason other than they have similar names and, when I flew China Southern and was warned in advance by so many people how much it sucked, I found that its service was just fine and actually on par with my favorite SWA.

But think about it:  We used to have this huge shipping fleet, and now most of it flies under other nation's flags.  Why?  Got so routine and so thin margin, that US companies got out of it, abandoning to cheaper providers.  I've heard plenty of pilots in the US airline industry say the same thing will eventually happen there, and the logical flagship companies will hail from nations with the biggest flier markets.

And you know who that will be eventually.

So yeah, if you want to compete globally, you have to compete in China, and if you want to compete in China, you'll need to be - partially - Chinese.  That is how it works in economics and trade and it won't change over China's rise.


Alt Fuels not necessarily the way forward for military, says RAND

Can't say I'm surprised by the report.  I've always felt the whole argument about what-it-takes-to-bring-a-gallon-of-gas-to-the-battlefield-somehow-being-obviated-by-alternative-fuels promised too much, in part because you still needed to bring whatever was necessary for the on-the-spot brewing of fuel, plus you now just have a different sort of depot to guard.  But yeah, you will cut down on the sheer volume to be moved over the long haul. On the electricity generation, I could get that.  Go solar and you're not humping the additional fuel-case closed. I just didn't see why the military should lead any efforts there.  Better to simply take what the private sector had and adapt.  I've also sort of understood the aircraft fuel argument, although there you're often talking sites not that hard to supply (e.g., a big base may be within flying range of the theater but not actually in it).  

Anyway, the whole argument just seemed like it was being driven a bit too much by the isolation-of-Afghanistan notion and all of a sudden here we're talking about the Pentagon's budget becoming this leading force for energy innovation in the economy (the old Internet argument, noted here).

There has been that tendency in the post-Cold War era:  you can't get your pet gov-sponsored R&D bit anywhere in the Feb budget, so you declare it a national security issue and stuff it in there. And you had to feel that some of that was going on.

In the NYT piece, the Navy does complain that their programs weren't adequately surveyed, and you have to pause there, because you think of past Navy efforts with small nuclear power plants.   Plus, that's a need that's global and rather unchanging, so if a cheaper, better alternative is to be had, then definitely the Navy should go for it.

I don't think the report will be enough for all these programs to be discontinued, but it probably will stop some additional piling on of new ones, which is probably good.

The military is such a microcosm of so many other problems in our economy/society, with spiraling health costs, a hard-to-sustain pension plan, energy costs too much and so on, and with the military's huge budget and reputation for innovation, there's the temptation to think answers can always be had from within. The problem is, of course, that the more non-combat stuff that gets stuffed into the budget, the less it's about the actual fighting and operations and the more it becomes this giant venture capital pool.

So it's good to see some skepticism from the think tanks.


WPR's The New Rules: U.S. Defense Cuts a Step in the Right Direction

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled his much-anticipated budget cuts last Thursday, signaling the beginning of the end of the decade-long splurge in military spending triggered by Sept. 11. Gates presented the package of cuts as being the biggest possible given the current international security landscape, warning that any deeper reductions could prove "potentially calamitous." Frankly, I find that statement hard to swallow.

REad the entire column at World Politics Review.


Much better, less hyped NYT piece on same reporting (Chinese stealth fighter captured . . . on film!)

Sorry, but China on the brain.  Spent half-hour taping today at WFYI (local PBS) for NPR's "All Things Considered" weekend show (based on my recent China-focused Esquire article).  I will be interspliced with the eminently sensible Jim Fallows and Gideon (Mr. Zerosum!) Rachman.

Just had to include this piece from the NYT because the same story in the WSJ (see below) just set me off a bit.

Best bits here:

First, from VADM Dorsett, who's the N2/6 (or combo intell and info dominance guy):

Still, a top Navy intelligence officer told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States should not overestimate Beijing’s military prowess and that China had not yet demonstrated an ability to use its different weapons systems together in proficient warfare. The officer, Vice Adm. David J. Dorsett, the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, said that although China had developed some weapons faster than the United States expected, he was not alarmed over all.

“Have you seen them deploy large groups of naval forces?” he said. “No. Have we seen large, joint, sophisticated exercises? No. Do they have any combat proficiency? No.”

Admiral Dorsett said that even though the Chinese were planning sea trials on a “used, very old” Russian aircraft carrier this year and were intent on building their own carriers as well, they would still have limited proficiency in landing planes on carriers and operating them as part of larger battle groups at sea.

That guy is sensible.

Then this bit from the Chinese side:

In an interview on Wednesday, a leading Chinese expert on the military, Zhu Feng, said he viewed some claims of rapid progress on advanced weapons as little more than puffery.

“What’s the real story?” he asked in a telephone interview. “I must be very skeptical. I see a lot of vast headlines with regards to weapons procurement. But behind the curtain, I see a lot of wasted money — a lot of ballooning, a lot of exaggeration.”

Mr. Zhu, who directs the international security program at Peking University, suggested that China’s military establishment — not unlike that in the United States — was inclined to inflate threats and exaggerate its progress in a continual bid to win more influence and money for its favored programs.

Ouch!  Very ouch!

Nicely reported and written piece.  Makes me feel sad for the WSJ (see below), and makes me wonder if Murdoch's influence is weakening its objectivity.

I especially agree with the NYT citation from the expert that this sort of military porn is China's preferred deterrence.  I think that's a brilliant conclusion:

It is the J-20, a radar-evading jet fighter that has the same two angled tailfins that are the trademark of the Pentagon’s own stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor. After years of top-secret development, the jet — China’s first stealth plane — was put through what appear to be preliminary, but also very public, tests this week on the runway of the Aviation Design Institute in Chengdu, a site so open that aircraft enthusiasts often gather there to snap photos.

Some analysts say the timing is no coincidence. “This is their new policy of deterrence,” Andrei Chang, the Hong Kong editor in chief of the Canadian journal Kanwa Defense Weekly, who reported the jet’s tests, said Wednesday. “They want to show the U. S., show Mr. Gates, their muscle.”

Think about it:  they put together a plane that looks just like ours.  Can it get any more obvious?

Now, whether it operates as well as ours . . . that's a VERY different question.

Again, great piece.


Chinese military threat skyrockets just as Gates previews his defense cuts! Eta nye slyuchaina!

Gates announces his force structure cuts today on the Hill, culminating the burst of "sudden revelations" covered in the MSM about Chinese naval developments.

The PLAN submits a plan to build a carrier over the decade, but the WSJ describes it's "imminent deployment" (imminent apparently being in the latter years of this decade).  

The Chinese "carrier killer" missile is deployed and operational, claims PACOM, except it admits that it won't have the capacity to hit any moving ship until after "several years" of testing, so it's "operational" and "deployed" but not "fully operational."  The WSJ dutifully reports that the DF-21D is likewise looking at its "imminent deployment" -- again, correct if "imminent" means . . . oh . . 5 or 6 years from now.

In yesterday's WSJ  we see on page one the first images of China's 5th gen stealth fighter making a "taxi test." I can only assume it will be "operational" and "deployed" any minute now, despite being in testing for the next several years.

All of these announcements are meant to blow us away with the Chinese build-up, and we're getting this feed now because of the Gates' announcement on cuts and the initial presentation of the budget to Congress.  This is very similar to the drumbeat of stories about cyberwarfare that led up to the standing up of USCYBERCOM. You could call it "defense porn" or just plain propaganda and you'd be right.

But when we step back from the hype, you have to ask yourself what exactly do we expect to accomplish here?

Do we expect to somehow scare the Chinese into NOT building up their military as their economy expands so rapidly?  Is there any history that says this build-up is weird or provocative given China's rise?  We have several hundred military facilities around the world and regional commands that cover the world.  Does China have anything like that?  Are they outspending us or spending somewhere in the range of 1/6th of our budget?  Are they intervening around the world with their forces or is the exact opposite true and they're actually free-riding on all of our efforts?

More narrowly: Can we expect to maintain a confident supremacy over the Chinese military WRT to a small island just off its coast? Is that a realistic and practical force-sizing principle? Or is it open-ended in the extreme?

China's military is going to keep building up.  We can continue to encourage its focus on a big-war force by matching it in its neighborhood, but then we rule out enlisting Chinese help to protect China's ever-expanding global resourcing network, meaning we're effectively providing China a global security umbrella and allowing it focus on building a big-war force that we are determined to counter and remain supreme over in the single most stressing scenario imaginable (instantly reversing an invasion of a small island nation off their coast).

Anybody think we're going to be able to pay for such go-it-alone-ism globally while standing down the Chinese build-up in East Asia given our current and growing insolvency?  Sense any "realism" in this path or just full-specturm fear-mongering?

We were told by Team Obama that America would no longer seek to play unilateral global hegemon ("Primacy" as Paul Wolfowitz dubbed it), but the truth is, our national security establishment is crammed full of experts who believe in exactly that, even as few would identify themselves as neocons.  America must, in their opinion, dominate all domains of warfare and all players in all domains of warfare, because ANYTHING less means we've lost our grip on the world--the WORLD I tell you!

This is classic America being unable to handle the success of its multidecade globalization process.  We built a world in which multiple rising great powers could be accommodated peacefully, and yet now, as they display the temerity of actually moving in the direction of having militaries commensurate with their status, we're stunned to contemplate no longer dominating the planet militarily as we have over the past two, truly anomalous decades.

And so our answer is to freak out and demonize China, who just happens to be our huge trade and financial partner in the global economy--the same country which must help us "rebalance" both OUR economy and the world economy.

Spot a disconnect there?

Watch, just watch this sort of hype be used by Congress to fight Gates' reduction plan tooth and nail.  Their true intentions will be about jobs in their home districts, but the effect will be the same.

America is not handling this moment in history very well, and Obama is proving to be anything BUT transformational.  The GOP is no help whatsoever. There is far more business-as-usual here than real change.

So get used to being very afraid about the world, because that is what everybody is selling right now in Washington.

Yes, the real and serious adjustments will eventually be forced upon us by circumstances. I was just hoping we could meet them head-on thanks to real leadership. But we have no real leaders today--just followers and "good soldiers" and party "stalwarts."


TIME on PACOM versus WAPO on PRC's DF-21D

Nice Mark Thompson post at (U.S.-Chinese War Games Ratchet Up), where he starts out by noting that now PACOM is claiming the DF-21D is already deployed - as in, the PLAN could take out a USN CV tomorrow.

So what's the deal?  WAPO citing experts saying it could be years away from effective deployment and Admiral Willard of PACOM saying the carrier killer is already deployed?

Bit of a discrepancy, huh?

My guess is that the DF-21D has been signed to the practice squad and that's emboldened Willard to declare that the Chinese are on the verge of winning the Super Bowl with the missile as presumed MVP.  These things all take time, so Willard is playing his chip as early as possible.  Justification? If he doesn't make this stink now, he believes the long-in-coming relief (e.g., pushing ahead with long-range carrier-based strike UAVs) won't arrive in time.

Is this lying? In business we call it "forward selling."  In football, they call it "throwing the receiver open."

PACOM would undoubtedly say otherwise, and I'm perfectly willing to be proven wrong, but the wording of what Willard says suggests I'm right.  I have no doubt that there are some of these missiles theoretically teed up in this mode.  I also have no doubt that it's still in testing and that to say it's operationally capable of taking out a carrier is untrue. I'm betting Willard was careful with his words so that what he says is technically true (deployed = missile in field and missile "turned on" and capable of being fired), but I think he purposefully forward sells the capability to a degree that most people would consider it pure hype.

Evidence to that effect comes at the end of the FT's front-pager announcing Willard's claim, in which the admiral himself, in the last para, is cited thusly:

Adm Willard said the new Chinese weapon was not fully operational and would probably undergo testing "for several more years." The key remaining step is a test of the entire system at sea.

And that'a the cleverness of the forward-sell:  Willard's claim gets the FT to publish a front-pager with the title "Chinese missile tilts power in the Pacific: Beijing's anti-carrier weapon is operational: Deployment challenges US naval strategy."  But the truth is, it's not "fully operational," so it's not really operational at all, and saying it's deployed can simply mean it's parked somewhere.  So Willard's claiming an operational capacity that's really not there.  Parts of a capability chain are in place, but the chain itself is not yet achieved.

Unless, of course, John Pomfret, a superb journalist, is talking to a bunch of navy experts on our side who are completely clueless about the real story on the missile, but I'm guessing he's - and they are - right on the money and that Willard is out on a truth limb.  I also find it interesting the Willard needs to suddenly come out and make this declaration days after the WAPO front-pager by Pomfret suggesting that the DF-21D is years away from being truly operationalized in its carrier killing capability (so not just a missile built and not just a missile sitting on a launcher somewhere, but the A-to-Z capability - with all the attendant tracking and sensoring nets - to find, target and hit a carrier with one of these missiles).

So, in the end, this is all a battle of headlines:  WAPO's "years away" headline does battle with Willard's "deployed and operational now*" headline (with * denoting "not fully operational").  There is no real disagreement between the pieces, it's just how the selling is being spun.  Pomfret's sell accurately notes that the capability to kill a carrier is years away, while Willard's sells the notion that just having a DF-21D capable of being fired and on the launcher signals the intent to blow up our carriers.  So no real argument on the facts, just one side (WAPO) publishing a piece deflating the arms race momentum and Willard popping up almost immediately to counter that impression with an arms race strengthening claim.

The difference here is that when the Chinese develop a capability, we say they intend to use, and when we develop a similarly threatening capability, we say we're developing it purely for defensive means.  And if both navies stuck in their backyards with these capabilities, there would be no discussion. But we have the tendency to bring ours right to China's front door, and thus the conversation begins.  We have our reasons for such a global reach. We just need to ask ourselves what we're trying to achieve here. If all we want is to propel an arms race, then objective achieved.  If we hope to cower the Chinese during their rise, then that won't work, especially over something as sensitive as Taiwan.  If we want a truly cooperative relationship with China, we'd find another route in the military realm--something less provocative than this one.  But we don't seek that route.  We say, in effect, we need to be able to make the Chinese cower right on their doorstep, and if they can't handle that as a prerequisite for our friendship, then too bad.

And then we wonder why our mil-mil ties are so strained.

I'm not arguing against the logic of the individual moves in the race: we scare them and they come up with capability to negate that asset, and so now we come up with AirSea Battle, whose logic I cited approvingly in a recent China Security piece. I'm arguing against the entire race itself, and I'm especially arguing against letting that race dynamic be driven by the latest forward-selling claims of military types on both sides, because, in this atmosphere, the most aggressive forward-selling wins the headline battle time and again. And the result is always the same: the countering side is driven to the next step.  At the beginning and the end of the day, everybody agrees the scenario remains unlikely, but some of us argue that we should nonetheless pursue this arms race vigorously--just in case.  And that's a self-fulfilling prophesy driven by the most militant voices on both sides.

Far-sighted types on both sides will tell you that the inevitable next stage for this race is space. And I guarantee you, that when both sides take the next step, they will have gloriously justified rationales.  Sensible-sounding, authoritative types will tell us these steps must be taken.  But the underlying logic will still suck when arrayed against the larger realities of globalization and our interdependent relationship. But we will be told these are prudent measures, all things being considered.  And the big lie will be: this is the only path possible.

Thompson quotes a recent post by me on the CSBA bombing maps and reprints one himself.  I ginned up that post because I want people to understand why the Chinese chortle when we say things like, "We have no intention of going to war with you." [For the record, the CSBA is a private-sector think tank very much in favor with the current Pentagon and this tank is widely credited with successfully selling the AirSea Battle Concept to the Defense Department, so when it publishes things, they come with the implied imprimatur of the USG]. China parks no carriers off our coast, nor does any wargames up close, nor has any air force bases within strike range.  We have all those on China, and we publish war plans in detail saying we'll bomb their entire country and destroy all their shipping and sink all their naval vessels - for starters! 

And no, I don't think its particularly "provocative" for the Chinese to develop weaponry (which they most certainly are, even if it's taking them time) to prevent our carriers from sitting off their coast with the capability of launching attacks across the breadth and depth of their mainland.  I don't find that counter odd at all.  I would find it odd if a rising power sat idly by while another nation (that wants a different political system for it) has the capability of unleashing such military strikes and routinely floats that capability along its shoreline--especially when that same country has a record of toppling regimes.

And yeah, that's pretty ballsy - or just plain stupid - when you're in the financial situation we're in. Our military remains - by and large - clueless about the larger economic interdependency we have with China.  I mean, they're aware of it, but THEY JUST DON'T GET IT. That lack of understanding, combined with the knuckleheads sprinkled across the upper reaches of the PLA and PLAN, is one dangerous combination, because this is how world orders are destroyed: ambitious people simply doing what they think is their job, and nobody with enough courage or intelligence to rein them in.

I want a strong military, and I'm on too many records to play saying that I want to use it regularly. This isn't about who's "realistic" about the world. This is about who understands the place of war in the modern era and who still wants to keep it an isolated plaything - no matter the cost or consequences.

Dangerous stuff.

I'm not picking on Willard.  I don't know the man.  He comes with the reputation of a hard-liner and he's demonstrating that.  Most guys go to PACOM and see the larger picture and push for better relations with China.  We've seen that time and again. Willard is pushing in another direction because he believes that is best, but I think such thinking takes us down a very uncertain and foolish path.  I see no strategic logic in it.  I see only community self-interest (USN, USAF) and tired historic analogies (the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere nonsense from CSBA).

Globalization is a bit too important to be left to the generals and admirals and retired colonel think-tankers.

Again, you can tell me we need to hedge on the Chinese.  That's easy.  Deciding we need to be able to fight them instantaneously right on their shoreline and destroy their entire military lest they do something we fear? That's a bit aggressive by anyone's standards. Getting up in their grill regularly on this score? Again, a bit aggressive. They don't do it to us and nobody else does it to them, so why are we so convinced we need to tee up a war with China to feel secure?  And why right now?

This is not a discussion we're having.  This is one our military is pushing along the path on its own, justifying itself on the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 (and please, don't tell me PACOM feels this bit of legislation to be a burden they must meet because it's a hunting license and certain elements on our side simply love it). The rest of America is clueless on the subject. We're told simply to be scared and accept the arms race that results.

And that's wrong. We have a choice here and we're limiting ourselves to 19th-century logic. No wonder nobody trusts our leadership anymore. We bark and we don't listen.  We live in the past. We're clueless about the present and mostly scared about the future.

We are killing our own global leadership with such hyperbole and fear-mongering, and we deserve to taken down a peg or two in global power fora if we don't improve (already happening). Our great genius in creating this globalization is that ultimately, it does not need us to continue. It only needs our unwillingness to destroy it.

And now, even that basic intelligence is being brought into question.


Our plans to bomb the length and breadth of China

From AirSea Battle:  A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept, by Jan Van Tol and others at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Under the section, "Blind PLA ISR Systems," this is the map of all the sites we'd presumably want to bomb as early in the campaign as possible:

Then in the section, "Executing a Missile Suppression Campaign," here's all the sites we'd want to hit early as well:

Then here's the sub bases we'd need to strike as part of our "Defeating the PLA submarine force":

It's interesting for our president to meet China's and sign a joint declaration where both sides say they don't consider the other to be an enemy and then to have a Pentagon-favorite military think tank publish maps of strike sites all over China that we'd want to hit in the opening days of our war with the Mainland over Taiwan.

When you're that open with your plans, it's hard to describe anything the Chinese do in return as particularly "provocative." And yet, we do offer Beijing the benefit of our transparency on the subject.

Me?  If somebody publishes maps of the U.S. delineating all the places they'd want to bomb on the first day of the war . . . I'd take that kinda personally.  No, I'm not naive enough to believe the Chinese don't have theirs. But it takes a certain chutzpah to publish yours so openly while decrying Chinese "provocations" and "throwing their weight around."  China hasn't waged war in a very long time.  The U.S. does so regularly.  Whose maps should we take more seriously?

I know, I know. We must think these bad thoughts in order to prevent their occurrence. I'm sure we have similar maps for every country in the world yes?  Just to be certain?


WPR's The New Rules: Obstacles to a U.S.-China Partnership Made in U.S.A.?


In a column two weeks ago, I described the outlines of a proposed grand-strategic bargain between China and the United States. Basically, the "term sheet" that I helped draw up proposed various bilateral compromises over the security issues -- Taiwan, North Korea, Iran and the South China Sea, among others -- that keep the relationship clouded by profound strategic mistrust. The resulting climate of confidence would encourage Beijing to invest some of the trillions of dollars it holds more directly into our economy, instead of simply using them to facilitate our skyrocketing public debt. Since the column appeared, I and my co-authors spent two weeks in Beijing meeting with top government-sponsored think tanks and retired Chinese senior diplomats to discuss and revise the proposal. I thought it would be useful to report on this dialogue.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Blast from my past: "Recasting the Long War as a Joint Sino-American Venture" (2007)


Recasting the Long War as a Joint Sino-American Venture

Thomas P.M. Barnett

Baker Center Journal of Applied Public Policy

Fall, 2007, pp. 34-44.


In this so-called long war against the global jihadist movement, the Bush administration’s greatest failure has been its lack of strategic imagination. It has added the right enemies to our to-do list, but failed to enlist the necessary new allies, giving our people the misperception that it’s America against the world.

This need not be the case. Our natural allies are now located on the frontiers of globalization, or among the three billion-plus new capitalists who joined global markets over the last generation, chiefly among them the Chinese.

The integrating core of globalization—namely the old West plus the emerging markets of the East and South—have effectively outsourced the global policing function to the United States by refusing to balance our immense warfighting and power projection capabilities with their own. Instead, Western Europe focuses on economically integrating the former Soviet bloc, while rising titans like China and India, for reasons of rising energy requirements, focus overwhelmingly on integrating—on relatively narrow terms—resource providers located in those regions least connected to the global economy, or what I call globalization’s non-integrating gap (e.g., the Caribbean rim, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the southeast Asian littoral states).

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon’s new map in this long war corresponds greatly to those gap regions, for there we find the preponderance of “moderate” dictators, rogue regimes, and failed states, all of whom either attract the attention of transnational terrorists or support their activities for their own nefarious reasons. Viewed in this light, our victory is logically defined as the successful building out of globalization’s core and the simultaneous shrinking—or successful economic integration—of those gap regions. As we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is no mean task and one that generates significant labor requirements.

So I say, locate the labor where the problem is.


A New Strategic Value Proposition

America has the wherewithal to wage any conventional wars necessary to defeat traditionally arrayed enemies (i.e., militaries). But in today’s “flat world” competitive landscape, war’s just the first-stage defensive acquisition. Real stability comes only after the second-stage postwar merger that extends globalization’s broadband connectivity to the previously disenfranchised masses and—yes, Virginia—exposes all that cheap labor to “exploitation” by outside capital that typically pays significantly higher wages than the local economy can muster.

Let me give you my definition of the value proposition here and see if it doesn’t make sense.

America’s got a first-half offering without peer: a Leviathan with an unparalleled capacity for war-making and the unspoken power of deciding when other states can make war themselves. What we lack is a credible second-half offering, or what I’ve dubbed a “system administrator” force capable of winning the peace through effective stabilization and reconstruction operations. Ultimately, this force needs to be more civilian than uniformed military, and fueled more by private sector investment than public sector aid. It also can’t be an American-only operation. The Bush administration’s big mistake in Iraq was telling allies, “If you’re not tough enough to show up for the war, don’t show up for the peace, and forget about any contracts!”

Based on our efforts to date in this long war, America currently fields a first-half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game. We lost less than 150 personnel in the Iraq “war” (major combat operations). We’ve lost more than 2,000 in the “peace” (postwar) that hasn’t quite followed.

So yeah, it matters.

Right now, our enemies in this long war field a better, more capable version of the sysadmin force than we do. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t been paying attention to new entrants to the market like Hamas and Hezbollah, two tribe-building enterprises that excel at the second half while not even trying to compete in the first half, as Israel recently discovered in Lebanon and the West Bank to its growing regret.

So if the gap’s new entrants to the postwar market should be sizing our sysadmin force (just like the Soviets once sized our Leviathan force during the Cold War), it seems clear who should be increasingly populating the core’s second-half team today: new entrants to globalization’s “systems integration” market such as China and India.

Think about that for a minute. Stability and reconstruction operations associated with postwar and post-disaster environments require lots of bodies, both in terms of uniformed boots on the ground and relatively cheap labor to lay down all that necessary infrastructure—both hard (physical) and soft (institutional). China and India both have million-man armies, as well as a long-demonstrated willingness to send their best and brightest (along with their most desperate) civilians the world over in search of economic opportunity (e.g., “non-resident Indians” are outnumbered only by the multitude of “overseas Chinese”).

More to the point, the best nation-building brand out there right now is the Chinese model. I know, I know, it doesn’t meet our threshold definitions of democracy and human rights (not to mention coming nowhere near our EPA standards), but it sure as hell beats America’s post-Cold War product line of Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s be honest: China’s leveraged buyouts, as mercantilist as they are, beat our hostile takeovers—hands down.

And that just tells you how bad America’s military intervention “brand” has become. Emerging from World War II, the world believed that an American invasion was a fundamentally good thing, or something that got you tons of aid and propelled you to the top of the pile (e.g., West Germany, Japan, South Korea). Back then there was no shortage of “mice” that wanted to “roar” for our attention, but somewhere along the way, probably thanks to the influence of nuclear weapons on our military strategy, we lost that second-half skill set, probably because it seemed pointless in a world perverted by the looming threat of mutually-assured destruction. So, starting with Vietnam, where we first displayed our sad combination of increasing ineptitude at, and discomfort with, the second-half game, our brand has suffered a precipitous decline.

So why not turn to the original market-maker in the field of “revolutionary war,” otherwise known as the People’s Republic of China? If we face a future of insurgents and what the our military calls “fourth-generation war” (in which our enemies seek to deflate our will rather than defeat our forces), why not ally ourselves with the best counter-insurgency model operating in those gap regions today, one that effectively—and rather preemptively—woos both dictators and failed states alike?

Put another way, you can invade the country and then start up your counter-insurgency/reconstruction ops (the American route), or maybe you might just co-opt the major players pre-conflict with investment offers they can’t refuse (the Chinese route). So maybe it’s not always the case that if you want it bad, you get it bad.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating America continues its whack-a-mole approach to regime-toppling interventions inside the gap, only to turn over the aftermarket opportunities to the Chinese . . . uh . . . actually, I’m coming uncomfortably close to saying just that. I just believe that if we combined our chocolate (military interventions with a moral compass) with China’s peanut butter (economic interventions with a practical mindset), we might actually come up with a whole superpower, or basically a joint offering that finally covers the market—as in, defeats our political enemies while connecting the economically disenfranchised.

I’m asking you to come to the inescapable conclusion that America under the Bush-Cheney management team has become an un-sellable global brand in a market (modern globalization) that we made. That’s just wrong.

It’s wrong because it gets our people needlessly killed and because our interventions end up leaving the targeted state more disconnected from globalization than we found it (or worse, increasing its negative connectivity in the form of criminal and terrorist ties), meaning we’re not making the world a better place and we’re discrediting ourselves in the process.

So I’m asking you to invest in something better, or what I think will truly answer the mail in this long war—a full-service superpower that can wage both war and peace effectively. Combine the United States, a seemingly unprincipled Leviathan willing to invade anywhere inside the gap, with China, a seemingly unprincipled sysadmin willing to invest anywhere inside the gap, and I believe you’re looking at a superpower built whole, a long war legitimately won, and a globalization made truly global.

Now let me take you through the prospectus.


Less Clausewitz, More Sun Tzu

We know full well that America can defeat any traditionally arrayed opponent in major combat operations, known as “phase 3” in Pentagon parlance. But both Afghanistan and Iraq show that we’re simply not up to snuff in “phase 4” operations, otherwise known as the postwar. As we’re not credible in the postwar, our enemies have simply ceased fighting us in the war, knowing that a persistent postwar insurgency can defeat an impatient superpower. If your enemy’s goal is simply to kill 3 or 4 of your personnel a day and he’s willing to throw virtually unlimited labor at that goal, you’re going to lose over the long haul unless you figure out how to deny him ready access to his labor pool. That means jobs are our exit strategy.

Run into this savvy fourth-generation-warfare (4GW) competitor enough times and the American public will inevitably tire of engaging in any major combat operations, sensing a pointlessly ineffective postwar outcome. When that happens, our enemies in this long war have achieved an effective lock out, fencing off the roughly two billion people in these gap regions for their version of fundamentalist isolation.

Get good at phase 4 operations, however, and not only are your war threats made credible, but likewise your up-front offers of—for lack of a better phrase—pre-canned bankruptcies for failing regimes. I mean, why not make a pre-emptive bid instead of launching a pre-emptive war? By doing so, we turn on its head Karl von Clausewitz’s famous definition of war as “ . . . continuation of politics by other means.”

Inside the Pentagon, strategists describe this goal as getting so adept at phase 4 operations that you can wage them up front, in the pre-crisis period known as “phase 0.” At this point, you’re in Sun Tzu’s preferred venue, and your battles are won long before shots are fired. You’re basically the peacekeeper and infrastructure builder who shows up before the crises boil over, effectively keeping the situation just cool enough to avoid a major military intervention. Think of it as limited-liability nation building.

Imagine the Iraq scenario this way: according to insider accounts, the Arab League convinced Saddam Hussein to agree to go into exile and avert a war months before the U.S.-led invasion occurred. In the end, Arab leaders abandoned the plan because of disputes among themselves over how it would have played out. No imagination required there: the region’s leaders were of many minds regarding the possibility of a real “cake walk” for the Americans. But consider this possibility: what if, at the right moment in that negotiation, a proposal is made for a consortium of Chinese, Indian and Russian elements (both governmental and private-sector) to run the postwar reconstruction? Imagine how the zero-sum sheen is rubbed off the potential American-dominated postwar occupation.

Then consider how the Chinese could have conducted the rebuilding of Iraq’s shattered infrastructure—on time and under budget. And then consider how President Bush’s “big bang” strategy (i.e., making post-Saddam Iraq a shining example of potential reform in the region) might have unfolded differently, primarily because popular expectations—both here and in Iraq—would have shifted from instant democracy to rapid reconnection to the global economy.

Seriously, do you think we’d have the same deprivations and lack of economic activity that fuel sectarian violence in Iraq today if we had picked the Chinese over the Coalition Provisional Authority? Or let me put it this way: could the Chinese have done any worse?

Do you find such a scenario implausible? Then you haven’t been paying attention to Africa recently. Anyone’s who done any business or peacekeeping in Africa in the past decade will tell you that the “China LLC” (with an emphasis on “limited”) is already up and running across most of the continent. For example, China recently became the 13th-largest provider of peacekeeping troops across gap regions, with a concentration in Africa (Congo, Liberia, Sudan) and a nascent portfolio in the Middle East (Lebanon) and the Caribbean (Haiti).

Chinese trade and aid throughout Africa has risen dramatically in recent years, to include a sandals-on-the-ground presence of 80,000 nationals. China’s goods are in every market, its vehicles ply every road (many of which are laid with Chinese funds and laborers), and its logistical and information networks are sprouting up everywhere valuable raw materials are found—especially oil.

Beijing recently hosted an unprecedented summit of 30 African leaders and guess what topped the agenda? It surely wasn’t the Bush administration’s soda straw view of globalization, otherwise known as the “war on terror.” Instead, the summit focused on debt relief, human resource development and training, investment and aid, and reduced trade barriers. Just survey America’s strategic debates concerning Africa today (“Do we intervene in Darfur with troops?” “Go back to Somalia to deal with the Islamists?” “Set up an Africa Command?”), and it seems clear: we’re stuck in a phase-3, Clausewitzian mindset while China’s winning early-stage, phase-0 contracts (and allies) in a way Sun Tzu would readily approve.

Whether we care to admit it or not, China effectively limits America’s strategic liability across Africa already. Sudan is a good example: many in the West want to criticize China’s large-scale investments in the nation’s infrastructure and oil industry. But quite frankly, absent the West’s interest in providing significant numbers of peacekeepers for Darfur, what China does in Sudan with its ongoing investments is limit our potential strategic liability.

In that forest, large branches may fall, but not the entire tree. So long as the latter does not occur, America hears nothing.

Cynical? Hell yes. But if we’re not going to beat ‘em, please don’t deny we’re implicitly joining them in this liability-limiting endeavor. As the world’s sole military superpower, America is the silent partner in every non-intervention the global community launches.


So No Rest For the Weary Leviathan

Let’s be honest about the capabilities at hand for solving Africa’s endemic conflicts (and they are so many). NATO (the Europeans) have basically “been there, done that” decades ago and exhibit little desire to return. Meanwhile, the African Union, the continent’s putative peacekeeping arm, is essentially the UN without the swagger (I know, hard to imagine). When the AU hit the ground in Darfur, for example, they quickly settled into a passive observation role, basically documenting the ongoing atrocities and little else (they shoot photos, don’t they?).

America needs to get real with itself. Africa is not ours and ours alone to ignore strategically, and it’s got to be so much more than just the experimental playground for Bono and the “two Bills” (Gates, Clinton). Tied down as we are militarily in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, because China’s effectively “prepping the battlefield” for us in Africa, and that’s where this fight heads next.

As the U.S. and its Western allies squeeze the balloon of the global jihadist movement currently centered in the Middle East, that balloon can expand in two directions: north into Central Asia and south into sub-Saharan Africa. This fight won’t go north simply because that region is surrounded by interested powers (e.g., Russia, Turkey, India, China) willing to do whatever killing is required to stop the spread of Al Qaeda’s influence—and yes, that includes Shiite Iran, no friend to the exclusively Sunni-derived radical Salafi movement currently fronted by Bin Laden.

So if it can’t go north, this fight’s heading south.

Frankly, it’s the combination of that inevitability plus China’s rising influence on the continent that drives the Pentagon to stand up an Africa Command (already in prototype in European Command’s Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa). But here we risk repeating the Bush Administration’s mistake of adding new enemies but no new allies. Instead of viewing China’s growing presence as a strategic complication, America needs to recognize it as a natural partnering opportunity.

Africa is enjoying an economic upswing, thanks in no small part to China’s rising resource draw. The continent’s business climate is improving dramatically, and about half of the world’s top-20 fastest growing economies can be found here. Hell, when American hedge funds start moving in, you know something’s brewing.

America has the sad tendency for viewing Africa primarily as an aid sinkhole, whereas maturing emerging markets like China view it as a logical target for future expansion. Yes, Beijing’s resource requirements drive everything for now, but think ahead to when China’s “inexhaustible” cheap labor supply dwindles due to higher production costs and a burgeoning middle class more focused on consumerism than savings. To whom does China outsource the low-end jobs while it scrambles up the production ladder? Clearly, Beijing will divert as many jobs as possible to China’s underdeveloped interior, and just enough to its neighbors to keep the regional peace, but eventually a good portion will flow to Africa, in large part to balance the very real imbalances created to date by China’s mercantilist trade profile.

There are plenty of China hawks in the Pentagon who are dead certain we’re headed for some military showdown with Beijing over Taiwan. But more of Wall Street is coming to the conclusion that our real competition with China is all about who makes the most markets in globalization’s gap regions. That makes Africa the logical ground zero in both the long war and this ever “flattening” global competitive landscape.

But you know what, this is exactly the kind of race America needs to be running.


Racing to the Bottom of the Pyramid

China today is not the market it was as recently as five years ago, when basically any foreign company and investment were welcomed with open arms, giving foreign multinationals control over roughly 60 percent of the country’s current exports. Today’s China sits atop a huge pile of domestic savings and approximately one trillion in U.S. reserve currency, giving it a confidence far distant from the fears barely suppressed during the Asian flu of the late 1990s. One way that confidence is expressed is increased developmental aid to trade partners, largely focused on accessing their raw materials.

As China becomes more outgoing in its foreign policy, however, its economic focus turns inward to a host of structural problems: its rickety financial sector, the imbalance between the booming coast and the dreadfully impoverished interior, and the rapidly aging population (no country in human history has ever aged as quickly as China will over the next three decades). Toss in the greatest migration in human history (internally, from rural to urban areas), and we’re talking about hundreds of millions of new consumers rapidly surfacing in China’s burgeoning middle class.

Thus, what was primarily an investment dynamic by which foreign companies rented China’s cheap labor for export creation now rapidly shifts into strategic alliances with rising domestic companies that Beijing not only positions to dominate the growing internal market but likewise plans on growing into successful global brands. This new inside-out growth strategy (i.e., domestic dominance leading to global dominance) is interpreted by many Western investors as a “nationalist backlash,” but as long-time China watcher Harry Hardin argued recently in the Wall Street Journal, this is a “marginal adjustment to, rather than a fundamental repudiation of, Beijing’s broader embrace of globalization.”

In short, China’s just wants to elevate its game.

The car industry is a good example. Western firms jumped into China years ago primarily to access the cheap labor on auto parts. But now, as China’s car market explodes (it’s already roughly the equivalent of the U.S. and European markets and soon to become the world’s largest domestic market), the strategy of such global giants as GM, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen shifts from accessing labor to accessing customers. As Bill Ford Jr. recently told the Wall Street Journal, “We’re barely scratching the surface in China.”

There’s been a lot of hyperbole recently about how quickly Chinese automobile manufacturers can wedge themselves into the U.S. market as the third coming of Toyota and the second coming of Hyundai. But the real export opportunities in joint ventures with rising Chinese firms (e.g., Geely, Chery, Great Wall, SAIC) will appear first in other emerging markets and developing economies. It is in these lower-end markets that companies tap into what University of Michigan economist C.K. Prahalad dubs “the power at the bottom of the pyramid.”

That dynamic is important to consider as we contemplate the long-term integration of such gap regions as the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and southeast Asia, especially as we retool our approach to postwar and post-disaster stability and reconstruction operations.

The problem is, when the rich, know-it-all Americans show up on the post-whatever scene, our tendency is to cost everything out at Six Sigma prices, when in reality, what’s typically appropriate is something on par with One or Two Sigma outcomes. We go for the grand and complex when the simpler and more robust usually works better in such austere environments. So it’s wireless, not landlines. It’s cell phones, not laptops.

Pricing out Africa’s integration at American prices makes no sense whatsoever. Africa is going to be a knock-off of India and China, which in turn can be considered knock-offs of Singapore and South Korea, which in turn can be considered knock-offs of Japan, Asia’s original knock-off of America. Think of it as a realistic “six degrees of integration.”

So gaining access to markets like China and India isn’t just an end in itself (i.e., cheap labor), even when investments subsequently penetrate the domestic market’s expanding opportunities. In the end, Western foreign direct investment into these new pillars of globalization’s core serves as a gateway to accessing the emerging-markets-after-next, or that next wave of infrastructure development found inside the very gap regions where this long war against radical extremism plays itself out.

Taken as a whole, the infrastructure building opportunities inside emerging markets—both existing and future—over the next three decades is considered by developmental experts as unprecedented in size. Asif Shaikh, CEO of International Resources Group, an international professional services firm specializing in developing markets, estimates that six trillion dollars of infrastructure will be built in the energy sector alone, with an additional four trillion dollars spent on water. Much of this work will occur in the twin pillars of China and India, so expect a roll-up of Western and local firms to create the multinational behemoths capable of handling this enormous flow of construction.

Then imagine what these resulting giants will be capable of accomplishing in postwar and post-disaster reconstruction environments in Africa and other gap regions.

The strategic importance of allying with Chinese and Indian firms is that they re-acquaint us with the twin realities of selling successfully to modest-wealth classes and building markets on globalization’s rough-and-ready frontiers, two skill sets many Western firms have essentially lost as our economies moved far away from such experiences. America’s last frontier, for example, closed over a century ago.

But it’s worth recollecting that market-making, frontier-integrating period known as the “settling of the American West,” because it reminds us of the intensely close relationship that once existed between our military and the private sector, something that was lost during the Cold War period, except in the rather closed club of the military-industrial complex. Now, as we look to postwar experiences in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, where new contractors galore have entered the nation-building market, it’s clear that the military-market nexus has once again become the centerpiece of our national security strategy—that is, if we’re serious about winning the long war.

Let me tell you, the Chinese are just as serious on this score as we are. To its credit, the Bush administration has spent a lot of time encouraging Beijing to become a “responsible stakeholder.” What the White House hasn’t done effectively is define—in a sufficiently expansive fashion—which stakes America truly shares with China.


An Offer They—and We—Can’t Refuse

Britain was smart enough at the start of the 20th century to hitch itself to the rising star in the West called America. That strategic mentoring role and resulting “special relationship” allowed the Brits to punch above their weight through three world wars (two hot and one cold). America faces a similar decision on China today: do we mentor Beijing into the halls of power or do we succumb to the realists’ predictions that war with the Middle Kingdom is inevitable in this “Pacific century”?

Britain went to war twice with fellow first-tier great power Germany in the first half of the 20th century and both were radically reduced to second-tier powers as a result, so I guess it all depends on how long America wants to remain a first-tier superpower. If the world isn’t big enough for a second one, then we’ve got a real problem. But is the world is ready for a superpower partnership . . . ?

The fact is, China’s already our silent partner in virtually every crisis spot around the globe. Want to fix Sudan? Better involve China. Want to tame Chavez? Better involve China. Want to economically isolate WMD-seeking Iran? Forget about it, because China and India (not to mention far-more-reliant-on-imports-Japan) have already made that call on both oil and gas. But help on taming Tehran? Under the right conditions, better involve China.

Then there’s Kim Jong Il.

It’s no secret that with the tie-down of American forces in Iraq we can’t do much of anything but bomb North Korea into the stone age, which—of course—would instantly trigger that which Beijing fears most: the mass flow of refugees north. So, in so many words (okay, just hearing Bush say the word “diplomacy” is enough), the Bush-Cheney team has let it be known that it would be fine by them if somebody rid them of this horrible man. You know, next time Kim’s train simply comes back empty.

Actually, the Chinese have studied the KGB-engineered fall of Nicolae Ceaucescu in Romania, going so far as to interview senior players there, so the concept of forcing Kim out from within is no joke. After all, Lil’ Kim runs a serious kleptocracy, and criminals can be flipped.

Then there’s what would be waiting on the far side of a united Korea: the makings of an East Asian NATO that rules out great power war on the continent. Simply put, it’s the biggest missing link in America’s current long war strategy, trapping—as it does—far too many of our military assets in a Cold War-era strategic posture.

But get an East Asian NATO set up and two things happen: 1) it frees up U.S. troops stationed there; and 2) we’re finally able to seriously tap the region’s trio of great powers (China, Japan, Korea) for military help in places where it’s more needed, like the Middle East and Africa. Finally, it’s important because, historically speaking, it’s not a good idea to have both Japan and China powerful at the same time without some sort of arrangement in place.

So what’s the state of our military-to-military relationship with China under the Bush administration?

In a word, guarded.

The Bush neocons came into power in 2001 obviously gunning for China. Remember the EP-3 spy plane incident off Hainan? Well, if Cheney and Rumsfeld hadn’t been interrupted by 9/11, that preview of the coming distractions would have been amazingly prescient.

Following 9/11, though, China fell off the Pentagon’s radar until . . . that is, when the most recent long-range planning cycle (2005 Quadrennial Defense Review) kicked into gear and many of the defense-industrial complex’s pet weapons systems and hugely expensive platforms were threatened by the ongoing operational costs (re: Iraq) of this long war. At that point, the China hawks went into overdrive and have stayed at that level since, cranking out warning after warning about China’s “huge” military build-up and how it threatens Taiwan and the rest of Asia.

How huge is that build-up? The highest estimates say that in twenty years China might be spending roughly half as much on its military as the U.S. spends on its military today! I don’t know about you, but I think our lead is safe for now. Plus, quite frankly, 85 percent of China’s arms purchases are from the Russians, so seriously, how bad can that be? Or did I miss something about who lost the Cold War?

Ah, but plenty of security experts will reveal—only on background, of course—that “if you only knew what I knew about Chinese attempts to [blank],” then you’d never even consider treating them as anything but globalization’s fifth column, just waiting to spring up and disable our entire economy with their cyber-jujitsu!

I say, it’s finally nice to have somebody surpass the Japanese and French in trying to steal our technology.

Seriously, every rising power in human history has sought to catch up to the leaders by engaging in persistent and pervasive economic espionage. America did it to the Europeans throughout most of the 19th century, begetting large portions of our industrial revolution in the process. Why should the Chinese be any different from the rest? The fact that they engage in such theft more over the Internet than the traditional route of sending their spies into our factories doesn’t make them unique. It makes them up-to-date.

Given all the situations where we’d like China’s help around the planet, the truly sad reality right now is that our military-to-military cooperation with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) remains embryonic at best. For example, just as Kim Jong Il was popping his first nuke last summer, the U.S. Navy held its first-ever ship training exercise with a single Chinese naval vessel off the coast of San Diego. Seventeen years after the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen and that’s all we’ve managed.

Meanwhile, we’d love it if Beijing could somehow make Kim go away on its own, instantly shifting that security risk to China. I mean, talk about wanting to go all the way on the first date!

Outside of Asia, strategic risks are shifting against China, especially in the realm of energy security. Americans like to think we’re dependent on foreign oil drawn from unstable regions, but truth be told, we’re not. Roughly 70 percent of our imported oil comes from the Western hemisphere and Europe/Russia, with only 30 percent drawn from Africa and the Middle East (15 percent each), so that gives us a 70/30 split between stable/unstable sources, and those percentages aren’t predicted to change much in the future.

China, on the other hand, faces a riskier import profile over time. Today, China draws just over 40 percent of its imports from the less stable regions of Africa and the Middle East, but according to our Department of Energy, by 2030 that share will rise inexorably to almost 70 percent, making Beijing’s stability profile the mirror image of our own.

So it was no surprise to hear China’s top official on long-range energy planning recently propose that our two nations should come together to jointly explore, produce and—most importantly—protect energy sources in politically unstable regions.

You want China—as the Bush administration has long declared—to become a “responsible stakeholder” in global affairs? Well, Beijing just gave you a clear signal about which stakes matter most to China. Are we paying attention or just jerking knees?

When I go to Beijing and brief government and military long-range planners on these concepts, it’s easy to get a lot of warm smiles in reply. Hell, I’m making it sound like America’s got no choice but to partner with China all over these unstable regions. But you want to know how I quickly wipe smiles off those smug faces?

I tell them this: “For now, people inside the gap tend to equate globalization with Americanization, so we’re the bad guys they take hostage and blow up in the name of Allah and drive out of their lands to achieve their dream of civilizational apartheid. But know this, globalization is increasingly taking on a distinctly Asian flavor, with China firmly in the front, giving it a new face. Faster than you realize, you’ll see Chinese being taken hostage, Chinese being blown up, Chinese held up to the camera and having their heads cut off. And it’ll all happen because the radicals and extremists and jihadists and terrorists will inevitably come to this conclusion: the best way to drive off globalization is to drive off those infidel Chinese!”

Works every time.

Why? It’s one of the Chinese leadership’s greatest fears. That’s fundamentally why they keep such an amazingly low profile inside the gap despite the steep rise in their investments, peacekeeper deployments, and energy dependence. For now, America is the only place where fear of globalization equates to fear of China. But soon, that fear will spread to most of the planet, linking our two nations in the temptation common to all great powers: self-loathing.


Stuck in the Middle With Hu—For Now

The good news is, China’s self-limiting lack of self-confidence is going away as Beijing’s bosses experience a much anticipated generational shift from the so-called fourth generation (e.g., President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao) to the far different fifth generation (the equivalent of our late Boomers, or roughly Barack Obama’s cohort born in early 1960s—like me).

China’s leadership generations go like this: Mao Zedong fronted the first generation of revolutionary giants (1949-1976), while the second (through the 1980s) was led by radical reformer Deng Xiaoping, who sent China down the path of markets and thus did more to shape our current world than any leader of the late 20th century. The third generation, helmed by Jiang Zemin, ruled China across the 1990s and right through 9/11. Jiang’s was the first generation of leaders trained abroad, overwhelmingly in the Soviet Union—birthplace of socialism. This was crucial, because the technocratic tinge of that formative experience made Jiang’s generation confident enough to extend Deng’s reform movement further, creating the “China Inc.” we know and fear today in global business.

The current leaders, known as the fourth generation, did not travel abroad for their education, trapped as they were in the nationwide insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. The result? A careful bunch of homebodies whose foreign policy consists of the soothing slogans (“peacefully rising China,” recently scaled back to “peacefully developing China” lest it seem too confrontational) and whose economic vision has turned increasingly inward to focus on the left-behind rural poor of the interior provinces.

So it’s not too surprising that America hasn’t gotten very far with Beijing recently in any seriously strategic dialogue: our neocons aren’t asking and their fourth-generation leaders aren’t listening. Toss in ever-paranoid Taiwan as the figurative third monkey holding his hands over his eyes (i.e., unable to see future integration with the mainland), and you’ve basically got the entire dysfunctional matched set.

But real change is just around the corner—and I’m not just talking about the 2008 American presidential election.

Next year the Chinese Communist Party will most likely pick from among the fifth generation pool the leaders who will assume the reins officially in 2012 but whose lengthy succession begins rolling out almost immediately. This generation may be known to many of you already, because whether you realize or not, you went to college with many of them in the late 70s and early 80s. So yeah, this crowd does get America. In fact, these guys get globalization better than our current leaders do, because China is so much closer—historically speaking—to the infrastructure build-out process associated with globalization’s Borg-like integration wave.

What’s so amazing about this next generation is how they look at the world: a Kantian naiveté bordering on Thomas Friedman (“Got McDonald’s? You’re in!”). But beyond that wide-eyed optimism there is a growing and rather steely awareness that, as Spiderman’s uncle famously intoned, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Having spent days in deep discussion with this crowd, I will tend you what impresses me most about them is their earnestness. They are perceptively shifting—echoing John F. Kennedy’s generational call—from thinking about what the world owes China to what China owes the world.

There’s not a moment to waste.

When I last sat down with PLA strategists, I told them their biggest challenge over the next decade or so is rebranding their military from “revolutionary warrior” to “globalization’s security guard” in support of China’s role as globalization’s general contractor in the great build-out to come. This repositioning of China’s global security profile must be approached carefully, setting up easy wins that mark the PLA as both competent in its execution and trustworthy in its presence—especially in partnership with U.S. military forces. A joint response to Asia’s 2004 Christmas tsunamis would have been a good opportunity. It worked for the Indian Navy, but China’s military was nowhere to be found.

Over time, the Pentagon and the PLA need to prove out this strategic alliance in a series of early-stage engagements—preferably in Africa—that demonstrate how market economies—both old and new—come together to shrink globalization’s gap. Yes, I realize that many in my country consider the cultural and political gaps between America and China to be insurmountable in any time frame worth mentioning, but in my opinion, that Cold War mindset plays into the strategic goals of the global jihadist movement, which wants nothing more than to pit a rising East against an aging West with radical Islam as the great balancer.

I say we deny Osama that dream—as soon as possible.

Rehabilitating failed states is a labor-intensive process, because postwar and post-disaster environments—our most likely traction points—simply demand it. When you have a body requirement, you go to body shops, locating the labor where the problem is.

In the Cold War, our strategic triad consisted of missiles located on land, at sea and in the air. In the long war, many Pentagon planners have taken to describing America’s new strategic triad as the Army, the Marines,and Special Operations Command.

No argument there.

But what I’m telling you is that, on an international scale, we’re looking at a strategic triad consisting of the United States, China, and India—the three million-man militaries out there today (once North Korea is liquidated). This is the sysadmin’s strategic triad that, when backed up by half the world’s economic power come 2026 (according to The Economist), makes the dream of shrinking globalization’s gap entirely feasible.

But, as always, the way ahead is determined by will as much as by wealth, and here is where America’s current leadership vacuum is so damaging. We’re staring at two years of a badly wounded, lame duck presidency suffering the whims of a protectionist, know-nothing, Democrat-led Congress. So waiting on the politicians is not an option. President Hu Jintao’s recent tour of America demonstrated this in spades: the deep warmth on the west coast segueing to the damp cool in the Bush White House.

That’s why business leaders must play a leading role right now in transcending the lack of strategic imagination currently afflicting Washington, first and foremost by framing the subject of China in the already looming 2008 presidential race.

I know my argument will strike many as naïve, but I don’t believe it’s naïve to trust greed over political ideology, either in America or in China. I trust people to be exactly who they are, and I expect the Chinese to remain Chinese.

I also expect greed to drive much of our debates on China here in the States. On one side, we’ll find protectionists and defense hawks offering all arguments imaginable as to China’s “inevitable” threats and treachery. They will seek to make money off your fear—or, in the case of Lou Dobbs, just pump up his ratings. On the other side, we’ll find corporations and investors offering every opposing argument imaginable as to China’s unlimited” potential and market. They will seek to make money off your hope—and your fondness for Wal-Mart’s low prices.

But rest assured, both sides seek to make money off China’s rise. It’s just a question of who cleans up the most. My immediate goal is to see our Army and Marines get the funding they need to survive the challenges of this long war, and so long as China is held up as the holy grail of the “big war” crowd within the Pentagon, that shift in priorities—from smarter weapons to smarter soldiers—will not come about.

My long-term goal is to harness China’s rise for something beyond the final assembly of our low-cost goods. I believe that something is to become the final assembler of low-cost countries, a market niche that sole military superpower America needs desperately filled right now.

America cannot deal with its strategic future until its leaders finally let go of its Cold War past. History will judge us all very harshly for wasting the strategic opportunity staring us in the face.


Esquire's Politics Blog: 5 Ways the U.S. Can Fend Off the Next Korean War

Well North Korea seems determined to stay on the front pages this month, having very proudly unveiled to a visiting American scientist a couple of weeks ago the existence of yet another uranium-enrichment facility (yes, it's apparently state-of-the-art and, yes, we already knew about it) and then launching an artillery barrage on Tuesday in self-declared retaliation for an apparently routine South Korea military exercise along the border. While it's tempting to write this off as just the latest shenanigans from Pyongyang designed to keep us on our toes, understand that virtually every all-out war scenario on the peninsula begins with a North Korean artillery barrage, so South Korea's decision to retaliate is no small matter.

Before this thing get out of hand too quickly, here's how the Obama administration can keep our already oversubscribed military away from another Axis of Evil war.

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



WPR's The New Rules: The End of the U.S. Security Backstop

The global financial crisis was a true system perturbation, revealing the gap between widely perceived risk and actual underlying risk in the world's increasingly integrated financial system. As with any such vertical shock, the resulting horizontal waves continue to be felt long after the initial blow. When gaps in capabilities and rule-sets were subsequently discovered, the world's major economies effected changes, like shifting economic oversight from the G-7 to the expanded G-20 and updating the Basel banking accord. In a world without true global government, these surges of great-power cooperation constitute a critical reassurance function, letting us know that an international commitment, however vague and informal, exists to backstop each nation's individual backstops already in place.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


AFRICOM swapped in for JFCOM?

In Great Powers, I wrote about making AFRICOM's headquarters in Virginia because I thought it would make sense, given the "3D" goals (the merging of defense, diplomacy and development) being pioneered there, that it shouldn't be overseas but close enough for the home bases of those agencies/departments to be able to reach out to each other more easily.

Well, Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia (or Norfolk in this instance) is now pushing hard to get AFRICOM to settle its new headquarters down there to fill in for the departing Joint Forces Command. 

I had imagined more Northern VA, but I think it's a good idea. Virginia is a big military state and it's on the right U.S. coast as far as Africa is concerned.  As I noted in the book, every US combatant command is now located in the U.S. except for European Command.  AFRICOM has been bunking there because, before its creation, EUCOM owned almost all of Africa, with the Horn going to CENTCOM.  I don't ever see EUCOM coming home because of the NATO bond and the sheer size of Stuttgart Air Force Base Ramstein and other legacy facilities, but I have to support Webb on this one.  Norfolk deserves some relief, it's a good spot for AFRICOM, and AFRICOM really shouldn't (and won't) be located anywhere in Africa.  It's a SOUTHCOM-like, very SysAdmin'y command and should stay that way.

Having said all that, see some excellent countering points (e.g., time zone, air connectivity) below in a comment from a person who works at AFRICOM.  Having flown now to Africa a bunch of time through Germany, I yield somewhat to this guy's practical logic.

But that NVA congressional delegation is powerful when it comes to national security .  .  ..


The Politics Blog: America in Yemen: The Perfect War We've Been Waiting for?

Before the ink could dry, it seemed like the secret war had already begun. Just a couple of toner cartridges haplessly headed for American synagogues, and suddenly the headlines are shouting it: TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT YEMEN and OUR INVOLVEMENT IS GOING TO HAVE TO BE LONG-TERM. I suppose that's what it's come to in this country these days — that, as soon as an obscure Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen claims responsibility for some UPS packages in Chicago, Americans assume we have another all-encompassing, mega-expensive affair on our not-so-bloody hands. Because when it comes to nation-building, the United States doesn't do anything small and beautiful anymore.

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