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Saturday
Apr042009

India's importance in globalization on the rise

India becomes - by objective standards - one of America's two most important strategic allies in the 21st century, the other being China. With its global economic footprint rapidly expanding, New Delhi's long-rising defense budget signals its growing need to defend those interests. Considering this young nation's vast rural poor, India is highly incentivized to accelerate globalization's advance.

Thus, whether Indians realize it or not, the world's largest democracy moves swiftly toward the role heretofore dominated by the demographically still-vibrant but decidedly overleveraged United States: shaping and securitizing global futures. As such, India's tendency to locate its global identity in the realm of past victimhood is dangerously self-limiting.

America, the original globalization-in-miniature, faces a loss of identity and power in any future globalization that does not reflect its middle-class values. As such, Washington persistently views violent, extremist anti-globalization forces as an existential threat to the global body politic.

This is a reasonable fear. As this global middle class emerges, it must foster self-rule from the middle, lest radical answers from the left or authoritarianism from the right predominate. As the tumultuously democratic half of globalization's dynamic duo, India's example could not be more powerful or more crucially important. But it is one thing to promote a national brand and another thing to defend it.

This world assumes globalization equals Westernization equals Americanization, thus rising Asia clings myopically to the notion that militarily defending the global economy is somehow America's job alone. America's lengthy bout of aggressive unilateralism under Bush-Cheney greatly strengthened this strategic illusion.

Here's the inescapable truth: It will be Asia - not America or Europe - that provides the bulk of pioneering individuals who will both extend and settle globalization's many economic frontiers in coming years. Globalization's advance will feature an Asian face, triggering far more Asian responsibility.

India is nowhere close to being ready. Like an America circa 1880, Indian officials realize the nation's economic and network connectivity with the world vastly outpaces the government's diplomatic and military capacity to protect it, rendering it unduly reliant on U.S. efforts.

What did America do back then? It developed a vision of its great power role and built up the hard-power and soft-power capacity to implement it.

More importantly, America developed and sustained a willingness to use such capacity around the world, at first experimenting primarily in the Caribbean and Pacific and choosing relatively weak opponents - e.g., the faltering Spanish empire. By the time of its successful intervention in World War I, America had entirely rebranded its military as a global force for stability.

India doesn't have the luxury of a four-decade rebranding campaign. Worse, New Delhi displays a strategic myopia regarding its military's structural development, preferring to see its forces still built overwhelming around the highly specific Pakistan scenario - as if that is its only responsibility.

Instinctively, India's navy reaches out to participate in international crises, like its impressive response to the 2004 Asian tsunamis disaster or its recent timely appearance off the coast of Somalia to combat pirates alongside NATO vessels.

While these initial steps are most welcome, India's national security community must dramatically accelerate its own discussion of the nation's emerging role as a guarantor of globalization's stability. To that end, a New Delhi that cannot imagine for itself a security role in Afghanistan, instead preferring to monitor the nearer Line of Control, misses a serious opportunity to redefine its brand globally.

Is their strategic risk in such a path? If there were none, it would hardly be worth taking. But, after the Mumbai attacks, it strikes me as inconceivable that India would remain a strategic bystander to Washington's growing efforts to regionalize an appropriate solution to the deeply unsettled Afghanistan-Pakistan border situation.

In short, India can no longer outsource its strategic interests to the United States because America can no longer cover all such bets.

Sunday
Mar292009

Advice for the future of the Navy

This past week I testified before the Seapower subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee regarding the Department of Navy's long-range strategic planning. This is what I told them.

Having spent the last decade arguing that America's grand strategy should center on fostering globalization's advance, I welcomed the Department's 2007 Maritime Strategic Concept that stated, "As our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with those of others, U.S. maritime forces will be deployed to protect and sustain the peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance."

Rather than simply chasing after today's ever-changing lineup of security threats, the department logically locates its long-term operational center of gravity amid globalization's tumultuous advance, for it is primarily in these frontier-like regions that we locate virtually all of the mass violence, terrorism and instability in the system.

I see a future in which the small-wars force (more Army and Marines) experiences continued significant growth in its global workload, while the big-war force (more Navy and Air Force) experiences the opposite. As such, the Department of Navy's blue-water (capital ship) fleet will shrink significantly over the next couple decades while its green/brown water (smaller craft) fleet will expand dramatically, along with associated personnel requirements.

As our current naval Leviathan force enjoys a significant - as in, several times over - combat advantage over any other force out there today, our decisions regarding new capital ship development should center largely on the issue of preserving industrial base, namely jobs. My advice is that America should go as slow as possible in the production of such supremely expensive platforms, meaning we accept that our low number of buys per design class will be quite costly.

To the extent that fleet numbers are kept up, such procurement should largely benefit the small-wars force's need for many cheap and small boats, preferably of the sort that can be utilized by our forces for some period of time and then given away to developing country navies to boost their maritime governance capacity.

Along these lines, I firmly support the Navy's Global Maritime Partnerships initiative, especially when our naval forces expand cooperation with rising great powers like China and India, two countries whose militaries remain far too myopically structured around border conflict scenarios.

America must dramatically widen its definition of strategic allies going forward, as the combination of an overleveraged United States and demographically moribund Europe and Japan no longer constitute a quorum of great powers sufficient to address today's global security agenda.

Given America's ongoing ground operations, our Navy faces severe budgetary pressures on future shipbuilding - like carriers. Those pressures will only grow with the current global economic crisis, which fortunately generates similar pressures on navies around the world. Considering these trends as a whole, I would rather abuse the Navy - numbers-wise - before doing the same to either the Marine Corps or the Coast Guard.

Why?

Our defense community currently accepts far too much risk and casualties and instability on the low end of the conflict spectrum while continuing to spend far too much money on building up combat capabilities for fantastic war-fighting scenarios. In effect, we stuff our big-war force while starving our small-wars force, accepting far too many avoidable real-time casualties in the latter while hedging excessively against theoretical future casualties in the former.

I consider this risk-management approach to be strategically unsound and morally reprehensible.

As Congress proceeds to judge the naval services' long-range plans, my suggested standard is simple: Give America's naval forces fewer big ships with fewer personnel on them and many more smaller ships with far more personnel on them. As the Department of the Navy moves aggressively toward engaging the global security environment as it truly is, versus myopically obsessing over China's potential as some long-term "near-peer competitor," Congress should not stand in its way.

Sunday
Mar222009

The threat of great power war recedes

While difficult to keep in mind amidst today's economic nationalism, a global middle class of unprecedented size rises in the emerging markets of the East and South. This accomplishment logically ensures the continuation of great-power peace, as America's grand strategy of spreading its liberal trade order reaches its global apogee.

Countering this view is a growing cohort of academics and analysts who insist that such rising consumer demand will inevitably trigger "resource wars" among the world's great powers, with climate change as an unforgiving accelerant.

A little secret here: A good portion of America's defense establishment desperately needs the long-term specter of resource wars to continue justifying the big-war-centric structure of our armed forces. It needs to sell this vision of future conflict because, without it, the small-wars community will triumph in a looming budgetary battle that will define the Obama administration's legacy in national security affairs.

Here's where it gets tricky for President Barack Obama: The three conflict scenarios that currently justify our military's big-war focus are China-Taiwan; North Korea and Iran. All three scenarios will effectively disappear over the next half-decade.

With the Kuomintang's return to power in Taipei last year, tranquility broke out between island and mainland, triggering a concerted effort at brokering a peace treaty that matches Taiwan's already profound economic integration with China. If only Nixon could go to China, then only Chiang Kai-shek's party could do the same for Taiwan.

Setting aside political integration, Taipei's leaders follow Hong Kong's example: Separate systems integrating with one another in an expanding economic commonwealth. We're witnessing the first steps toward an Asian economic union with China as its natural anchor. No, it will not be a linear journey, as the current economic crisis demonstrates, but where else can small Asian states turn?

As for Kim Jong Il's North Korea, that fake state won't long survive the Dear Leader's death, made all the more imminent by a recent stroke that Pyongyang strenuously denied. Whatever the timetable, the key point here is that none of the concerned great powers expects North Korea's collapse will trigger war among them. Their long-standing multilateral talks have demystified that dire scenario.

Instead, America fears "loose nukes" while Beijing takes great pains to ensure that any endgame doesn't reflect badly on continued "communist" rule back home - hardly the makings of World War III.

Finally, Iran gets close enough to nuclear capacity that the only way America - or Israel, for that matter - can stop Tehran from getting nuclear is by going nuclear preemptively, something neither will do, even as Israel will likely soon bomb conventionally to delay acquisition. That strategic reality, coupled with Iran's energy ties with China, India and Russia, means Tehran is already in the great-power club, an achievement that eventually triggers strategic dialog with nuclear Israel.

Add it all up, and America's big-war constituency clearly risks losing the majority of budgetary battles that lie ahead, especially as Afghanistan/Pakistan drags on.

Why do I so casually dismiss "resource wars" as a strategic planning principle?

Remember when Cold Warriors predicted we'd fight the Soviets across the "arc of crisis" for precious resources? Well, back then, both sides lived within miniature versions of today's global economy. In that bifurcated world economy, zero-sum resource wars were entirely plausible.

That bifurcated world no longer exists, as evidenced by the recent financial contagion. In globalization, demand determines power more than supply.

Don't believe me? Imagine a world where there's no Chinese demand for U.S. debt or no U.S. demand for Chinese exports.

Dreaming up future "resource wars" to obviate our military's necessary adjustment to this era's security tasks will not render them moot. Indeed, like Somalia's recent pirate epidemic, they invariably attract the collaborative efforts of other great powers, like China and India, which have no choice but to defend their growing economic networks.

Sunday
Mar152009

China’s naval shenanigans: the young and reckless

Those aggressive and immature Chinese are at it again: sending their spy ships to harass our spy ship as it conducts submarine-related surveillance in international waters off their coast.

Our new director of national intelligence warns that this is the “most serious” military pushback we’ve encountered since 2001, when the Chinese forced down one of our spy planes right off their coast.

Sense a pattern?

I’m not a China expert, but it strikes me that Beijing manufactures a new spy crisis every time we field a new president — like clockwork.

Yes, American military surveillance is conducted to promote international peace and not merely to achieve operational advantages in future potential conflicts.

But I would also point out to all you woolly-headed peaceniks that — since 2001 — America has engaged in two wars on the Eurasian continent and has used its forces to conduct strikes in numerous additional countries around the world, so if anybody needs a lot of up-front surveillance, it’s us.

Meanwhile, the Chinese haven’t engaged in any significant military operations since a 1979 border dust-up with Vietnam.

With that sort of pathetic record, the Chinese should be the last to complain about our military’s enduring requirements for surveillance off anybody’s coast. Taiwan-Chinese relations may be warmer now than at any time since 1949, but that’s hardly a reason to let our guard down now.

As for the Chinese picking last week — mind you, just days after agreeing to reopen military-to-military cooperation with us — to step up their harassment of our long-time surveillance efforts off their coast, why … that’s just weird. America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, had just visited Beijing, whereas China’s foreign minister was just arriving in Washington for further talks.

If I didn’t know better, I’d assume the Chinese navy is operating with complete indifference to their strategic pursuits of its political masters — again, highly suspicious.

As for the bigger picture, don’t let yourself be fooled by the fact that there have been no submarine battles anywhere in the world since World War II.

And just because I can count on my left hand the number of torpedoes since fired in anger — with three fingers to spare — doesn’t mean that China’s growing submarine fleet isn’t a clear and present danger to our ability to threaten China’s ability to threaten Taiwan’s ability to stand up to China’s military threat.

Please, some sense of priority and proportion here: The world is currently suffering its worst economic crisis in decades, one that cannot be solved until consumer confidence is once again re-established in America.

So duh! Wrong time to pick a fight with us right now!

China, the largest foreign holder of American dollar reserves, has to continue buying up our Treasury bills at a world-record rate if we’re going to finance trillion-plus dollar deficits this year and the next.

China is also providing the second biggest stimulus package in the world right now, dwarfing those of Europe and Japan. If either of those efforts were to falter, America’s economy might just tank, taking the rest of globalization with it.

Again, does this sound like the right time for China to be confronting our military spy-craft off their coast?

If anything, China should be concentrating on doing more to bail out America, not just financially but in terms of our strategic military tie-down in southwest Asia.

If you haven’t noticed, our foreign policy of the last two years has consisted of Washington asking Beijing for help in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea — the list goes on and on.

A China that truly understood its responsibilities as a mature world power wouldn’t let itself get wrapped around the axle of “who’s spying on whom off China’s coast?”

It would understand that it has bigger fish to fry — and behave accordingly.

Sunday
Mar082009

Here's how globalization meets Pakistan

In my latest book, "Great Powers," I advance the controversial notion that America's success in spreading our model of globalization around the planet will force us into many compromises with local extremists seeking cultural sanctuary from its revolutionary norms of individual emancipation. My argument is that - as a rule - most such compromises will be generational, for what is "radical" to elders soon becomes "normal" to youth.

But then I'm confronted by the recent political agreement between Pakistan's faltering government and the ascending Taliban in Swat Valley, whereby the latter is granted judicial emancipation from Pakistan's laws to enforce Islamic sharia.

Is not such accommodation a form of national suicide?

Do you realize there are 562 tribes recognized by our federal government as possessing some degree of judicial independence from our country's laws - in effect constituting sovereign nations within our lands?

So no, Pakistan isn't the only modern nation-state with "federally administered tribal areas" in which spiritually infused social traditions constitute an alternative legal code.

The key attribute of our system is one of voluntary association. Native Americans cannot be trapped inside these enclave systems against their will, even as these sovereign tribes decide who can be members. So while there is a right to separate civilizations on the basis of ethnicity/religion, there is no enforceable apartheid - exclusivity that does not deny larger inclusivity.

Inside America's tribal nations, Native-on-Native crime may fall to tribal courts, but state or federal judiciaries address combinations involving non-Natives. And there are limits on tribal purview, with more leeway granted on civil than criminal cases.

So what does the resumption of sharia in Swat Valley tell us about Pakistan?

Pakistan has clearly failed at civil governance there, so local extremists reach for sharia as a stern alternative to existing government corruption.

But as Fareed Zakaria eloquently argues in a Newsweek cover story, the Pakistan government's compromise obscures an essential truth: the need "to divide the camps of the Islamists between those who are violent and those who are merely extreme." The purpose of giving into Taliban extremists on sharia is to induce them to surrender - from among their ranks - those who seek to export violence transnationally.

Given the extremity of the Taliban's social agenda, to include the banning of education for females, this is a most difficult compromise. And yet, so long as those exposed to sharia are free to leave its stultifying grasp, we shall witness such compromise time and again as globalization rapidly extends its networks into regions long exempt from its deep embrace - so many fundamentalists, so little time to adapt.

The key, as in the case of sovereign tribal nations within America, will be distinguishing between the rights of cultural separatists and the logical requirements for collective security among increasingly interconnected nations: civil sanctuary to preserve cultural identity cannot be extended to criminal actors, no matter what justifying cause they claim.

But have no doubt: As globalization's gender-neutral networks inevitably empower women in traditional societies disproportionally to men, there will be fierce blowback, cast in religious garb, that demands cultural separatism from a world that seems - to them at least - to demand social change approaching complete debauchery.

Looking farther ahead, I expect to see exclusionary "bedroom communities" of all sorts springing up across globalization's vast landscape, or places where the "faithful" - however defined - can practice their preferred codes of self-denial. Indeed, as globalization technologizes our lives more and more, expect the perceived virtues of off-grid living to spawn all manner of secular faiths and accompanying migrations.

Upshot?

Globalization results in neither cultural homogenization nor complete Balkanization of existing nation-states, even as many fake colonial creations such as Pakistan are inevitably remapped substantially. In this unprecedented historical process, expect the global community to cut many Swat-like deals with local extremists.

And expect many of them to actually last.