Tags
Recent Comments
Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Where I write
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
Search the Site
Subscribe to Blog
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
9:29AM

Obama's serious movement toward a genuine foreign policy legacy

NYT front-pager yesterday on "Obama's Bid for Trade Pact with Europe Stirs Hope."

Impossible!  I know.

If trade deals are hard in good times, then they must be harder in tough times, right?  I mean, aren't we told by stern-faced national security experts about how the Great Recession is fostering trade wars and currency wars, so this move - amidst all such rising trade protectionism - is IMPOSSIBLE, correct?

Except trade deals like this get down EXACTLY during slow times.  Remember when we got NAFTA, because this one will end up being just as big or bigger.  NAFTA was Clinton's signature foreign policy achievement.  I know, I got the grand tour of his library from the director when I gave a speech there years back, and NAFTA was front and center.

If successful (and this will be), then this will be Obama's big achievement - the one history will remember.  Compared to this, the wars and the targetted assassinations will be miniscule, because they just deal with the friction caused by globalization's historic expansion, whereas this will fuel another wave.

9:28AM

Chart of the day: US farm income to be highest in 4 decades

WSJ story.

Despite last year's drought, net farm income in US (128B projected) will be highest since 1973 (adjusted basis).

Why?

Higher prices for livestock and poulty and "a continued boom in the farm belt initially fueled by rising global demand for grains" + that idiotic conversion into corn ethanol.

The big danger?  Great Plains enters the season way too dry - still.

So we see here the interplay between two dominant global dynamics in this century: rising global middle class and rising global temperature.

12:27PM

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

 

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

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

Gist:

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

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

Slick connection, yes?

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

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

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

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

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

Some serious bottom-of-the-pyramid stuff.

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

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

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

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

9:20AM

Nice NYT piece on dangers of inequality inside China

Appears in NYT Opinionator blog after print edition.  Writer is former Singaporean reporter/photojournalist.

Part of a series on inequality.

A snippet:

With the “rats” and “ants,” the trash collectors, cobblers and couriers, it took time to build rapport and trust. But it was even harder to get wealthy Chinese — perhaps like rich people everywhere — to open up. Most live in gated, guarded communities on the outskirts of the city, and socialize behind closed doors. A few months ago, I was granted rare permission to photograph inside an exclusive club in Beijing for high rollers, and only at a party where some members were in costume.

The migrant workers and the poor mostly accept that life is unfair, at least for now.

“There is no difference between me and the people who live in the posh condominium above,” Zhuang Qiuli, 27, a “rat tribe” pedicurist who lived in a basement apartment, told me in Beijing. “We wear the same clothes and have the same hairstyles. The only difference is we cannot see the sun. In a few years, when I have money, I will also live upstairs.”

I was just struck by the sun reference.  Other big driver in China is, of course, the pollution, which is why, on many days, nobody gets to see the sun.

As always, the similarities to the populism of the Second Industrial Revolution in the US are striking.

 

11:15AM

WPR Briefing: Trans-Atlantic Ties Still Key to Renewing U.S. Global Leadership

For roughly a decade now, I’ve been advocating that America needs to be unsentimental in choosing its military allies for the 21st century. Europe and Japan are aging and seem increasingly less willing to protect their interests abroad, while India and China are becoming budding superpowers with global interests that, to a stunning degree, overlap with America’s. Most pointedly, we live in an age of “frontier integration” triggered by globalization’s rapid advance, a process in which China and India, and not the “old” West, are the two rising pillars. So it makes sense for America to focus future alliance-building efforts in their direction.

Read the entire article at World Politics Review.


10:50AM

Aren't all those Islamists now in power supposed to keep globalization out?

Interesting NYT story on the cotinuing explosion of social media across the Middle East:

The use of social media exploded during the Arab Spring as people turned to cyberspace to express themselves. On the back of that, social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have moved into the region commercially, setting up offices to sell advertising products to companies like Mobily, which has over 200,000 Twitter followers, to capitalize on the growing audience.

In Saudi, social media gets everyone talking to everyone, which is something we just don’t have in the streets here,” said Muna AbuSulayman, a Saudi development consultant and formerly a popular television talk show host, who has over 100,000 followers on Twitter.

It’s a unique opportunity that lets people have conversations in a boundary-less way that wasn’t possible before,” Ms. AbuSulayman said. “In addition to promoting social and political discussion, it carries a powerful economic incentive for businesses, too.”

Well, you know what the experts say:

 

  • The Arab Spring failed - turned to a terrible winter.
  • Globalization is on the retreat- everywhere.  
  • Connectivity is oversold; it doesn't really change all that much.
  • Authoritarianism is resurgent.
  • We lost the Middle East, thank you very much.

 

What's odd to me?  People have no sense of patience anymore and reach for the fatalism in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, everything is moving at such a fantastically high speed in terms of positive change.

11:06AM

Time's Battleland: TERRORISM - Minority Report has finally arrived

Read it and weep:  "Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizen in Al Qaeda."

As a U.S. citizen, the government can now kill you in advance of your actually committing a crime - simply by knowing that you are likely to act in a dangerous manner.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.

10:55AM

Interesting panel on Chinese navy (video)

Got this from Tom Wade, who attended the US Naval Institute's WEST 2013 in San Diego.  Been a while since I last spoke at one of those, but they are very good conferences on all things naval.

The guy to watch is the Naval War College prof Toshi Yoshihara.  Most interesting point:  Remember just how easy it could be to thwart the PLAN by placing one's own area-denial anti-access assets all along (or on) the so-called first island chain, which is owned by everybody EXCEPT China.  Per my usual point:  the balancing dynamic here is not all that hard and can be achieved through highly incentivized "others" like Japan (which grows more incentivized by the day).  America's need to turn this into the man a mano fight of the century is a bit much - for all the non-military reasons upon which I love to harp.

12:41AM

A salute to the Super Bowl

10:41AM

Scorching (but dead-on) Battleland piece on US strategic pivot

Winslow Wheeler, clearly a bit of a defense-waste firebrand, takes on AirSea Battle and the whole pivot logic.

I couldn't agree more.

The best bits:

It’s old, and likely thoroughly forgotten now, but last summer the Washington Post ran an excellent article on the U.S. military‘s “pivot” toward Asia, its origins, and its budget implications. It presented some meaningful background on where the pivot came from, and how it so quickly became dogma in Washington as the decade-long ground wars receded in the national rear-view mirror ...

I urge you to read the piece: the pivot is not just a redirection of attention toward Asia; it is a proclamation of a new form of warfare, Air-Sea Battle, to solve the problem of defeating China’s presumed military ambitions in the Pacific with an assemblage of existing and new long-range, precision-strike weapons.

It is the brainchild of Andrew Marshall, the long-sitting director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment ...

The Air Force and the Navy are particularly enthusiastic about Air-Sea Battle; after a decade of budget emphasis on the Army and Marine Corps in the mostly-land conflicts in the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, ASB is so much all about the Navy and Air Force that, according to Jaffe’s article, they have “come up with more than 200 initiatives they say they need to realize Air-Sea Battle” and it “provides a framework for preserving [and expanding] some of the Pentagon’s most sophisticated weapons programs.”

The heavy bill for the hardware Air-Sea Battle contemplates was noted, last August, by numerous skeptics. In Jaffe’s article, Barry Posen—the director at MIT’s Security Studies Program—pointed out Marshall’s history of rationales for what is now called Air-Sea Battle saying “it should be called the Office of Threat Inflation.” As well, Jaffe quotes the Marine Corps—likely to lose big chunks of budget share under ASB—saying in a contracted study it would be “preposterously expensive.”

It is America’s new strategic fixation—even if some would argue that it doesn’t even qualify as a strategy, and is simply a shift of bureaucratic spending priorities for hardware garbed in pseudo-strategic talk ...

The focus on historically under-performing hardware, especially the long range—“global”—variety, displaces the higher-level thinking now needed. We must contemplate how to leverage China’s geographical disadvantage of being literally surrounded by actively-antagonistic and potentially-hostile neighbors: Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam ...

Worst of all, ASB presumes a new Cold War with China to sustain the Pentagon’s own budget, thereby swapping strategic thought with material considerations.

Panetta proclaims that the “doomsday” of the sequester of the defense budget—in all, nearly a 10% cut in spending over the coming decade—would require him and the Administration to come up with a whole new strategy.

Indeed; what a tragedy that would be ...

Watch Hagel closely on these issues ... it will be interesting to see if he leaves even the tiniest amount of daylight between himself and these strategically bankrupt ideas.

Read the entire piece here.  

8:38AM

The coming age of hyper-transparency

In a huge simulation that we just ran at Wikistrat (and in several previous ones), this issue of hyper-transparency keeps popping up as a magnificently powerful shaping dynamic in future politics - as in, you can corrupt but you cannot hide (for long).

NYT reporting here that the paper's networks have been subjected to massive hacking efforts directed from China and that these repeated assaults were timed in response to the paper running that nasty expose on how Chinese political elites (and particularly the family of Premier Wen Jiabao) made - literally - billions on an insider deal involving what is now the world's largest insurance company.

Naturally, the Chinese government thinks it's sending a signal big-time - as in, don't mess with our political crooks.  Like any mafia, the Chinese Communist Party believes intimidation will always save its skin.  And when the masses of Chinese were too busy starving or struggling through their lives (see, Mao), there was no question that it worked.  

But things changed with Deng Xiaoping, who knew that what he set in motion would both make China a powerful economic giant and eventually cost the party its dictatorship.  This is why Deng is a personal hero of mine - a great and wise man who changed world history for the better.

No, his legacy is not yet complete, and Deng, who was one of those who approved the Tiananmen Square massacre, knew full well that timing was everything.  So, no illusions on his part about how long this would take.

But that hyper-transparency is arriving already across China.  What the Party wants hidden is getting far harder to hide.  Bravo Times!

So yeah, the CCP remains fearful of its citizenry and now it needs to fear the NYT as well, because it is all one vast conspiracy called globalization and connectivity and transparency and markets and democracy and super-empowered individuals.  It is a conspiracy hatched over 200 years ago by a far-sighted bunch of genuine revolutionaries.

And it's coming for you, Mr. Apparatchik - and your little (running) dog too!

As always, when in doubt, resort to nationalism - the last refuge of scoundrels the world over.  So the Party justifies this as America's doing/meddling/etc.

But rest assured, when they come for the Wens and his relatives and everybody else who stole from the Chinese people, they'll all be wearing Chinese faces.

The real "virus" has already infected too many Chinese to be stopped now.  These people are among the most rabid capitalists in the world, and you've got to respect everything that goes into that.  

But capitalism unbound is one nasty creature, which is why democracy is the only antidote.

And that's why the Chinese Communist Party is totally screwed, no matter how big a fight it puts up.

The clock is ticking, my friends.

10:24AM

The robot-v-worker debate on job losses/gains

Subject is, do robots kill more jobs than they create?

We've approached this question many times in various Wikistrat sims, and they are many thoughts on the subject.

In a macro sense, the nightmare scenario is silly:  no society is going to job-destroy its way to rule by robots.  The amateur economist in me believes life just migrates into new areas, so there are plenty of jobs creating robots and economic activity moves on to new challenges/spheres/what have you.

But in the near-term sense, people's perceptions of the disruptive churn (sure to happen) matter a whole lot.

So this NYT report by the always smart John Markoff on a recent robotic industry conference that sought to allay some of these fears (robots everywhere!).

Some counter-arguments:

 

  • US automating and using more robots but it's still the biggest manufacturing country in terms of dollar value (I thought Germany was, but we're up there, so point taken), so we have to remember that that "manufacturing produces more jobs in associated areas than anything else."
  • Neither Europe nor Japan seems to share our fears on this subject.
  • Without automation, you can't compete globally. So if you want to steel back those jobs from China, this is how you do it.
  • "Countries that have high productivity can afford to have a good social system and a good health system."  Germany and Sweden are considered great examples of this.

 

Hmm.  Not exactly decisive, but you get the idea.  Nobody wants to own the world's most manpower-intensive manufacturing sector - except maybe Bangladesh.  So there's no way to go except onward and upward, as my Dad used to say.  Manufacturing, if highly productive, still wins and creates wider wins in your economy.  

But yeah, you still have to beat the next guy - and his robot.

10:49AM

Another US mini-base for Africa (big surprise)

Harkening back to my favorite piece of on-the-ground journalism for Equire (The Americans Have Landed), recall that I spoke then about a network of mini-bases that was coming.  It was naturally derided by officials as hype back then, but it continues to unfold with each passing year.

Of course, my imagined network was more capacity-building in orientation, per the work of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and yet, in telling that story I had to mentioned why CJTF-HOA was created in the first place - namely, as a picket line to catch bad actors exiting the PG for Africa.  I also started the piece with a description of how an FOB (forward operating base) in Kenya was used to launch a SOF strike package against a wanted AQ character in southern Somalia (just across the border).

So no illusions about the driver back then, just some hope that the mini-bases would contain more than just the essential strike package assets.

But AFRICOM has evolved since then, and the harder focus is clear:  killing bad actors comes first, second and third.  In that, this story is a microcosm of Obama's symmetricizing impact on the Long War: they want us dead and he wants them dead.  As a strategy of limited regret (and costs), it cannot be beat - sad to say.  It just still puts us in the business of a silent and limited-liability partnership with the Chinese - as in, we clear and they hold.

My argument in this regard remains unchanged:  there is a cynicism in only clearing and not caring all that much about what holds (or just falls apart again). There is also a missed opportunity in not working more explicitly with the "holder" of note, especially when you're setting the stage for possible great-power war with the same in another region (actually the center of gravity right now in globalization).  If that combination is not "required" by history (the Obama argument), then the resources are there for a more responsible effort in the Long War - especially if the Chinese are slowly enlisted in protecting their own national interests.

So that's the essential choice:

 

  • Make the responsible effort on the Long War and make that collaboration with China and other risers the way forward, or
  • Short-change the Long War on the excuse that "rebalancing" is required so we can stand up to those dastardly Chinese in their neighborhood, thus boxing them in and preventing the extra-regional operational expansion that would allow them logical partnerships with us in those regions.

 

Who wins in the first option?  Those regions needing settling down, because they are adequately dealt with.  Who wins in the second option?  The big-war crowd hungry to protect itself after being diminished by a decade of small wars.  China's big-war crowd also benefits.

So one route to manage the world as it is, and the other to pursue pointless and dangerous superpower rivalry.

I hate wasted opportunities.  They end up costing more than the initially perceived savings.

I also bridle at the poor strategic planning it represents.

But this is where we are right now as a country: unable to manage internal reforms due to a deeply and too evenly divided electorate, and given - as always - to imagining that, if we take the fight to the perceived external cause of our malaise (it's China's fault for rising, right?), this will constitute an easier and quicker fix.

There is a sad nationalism in that perspective, and a strategic immaturity that we need to ditch.

9:18AM

China: The race up the production/development/political ladder is on!

Wow, that took a long time!  

Recall my recent post on China's college graduates (8m strong per year) and their expectations.

Right on cue, the NYT runs another front-pager that follows the logic up nicely:  "With diplomas, Chinese reject jobs in factory."

This is the development conundrum in a nutshell for the single-party state:  you give the people what they want (factory jobs that generate income so people moving off the land can make it in the city and send their kids to college) and then they just want more - in the form of those college kids.  And the more they want and you provide and they accomplish and achieve, the more they're running their own complex lives and get tired of hearing how only the one party and the one way are acceptable.

Best example of this was South Korea in the 1990s - four decades of essentially single-party rule and then things got a bit tumultuous.  But now look at South Korea - a second-tier great power on the move and becoming a soft-power exporter (Psy's hilarious and catchy "Gangnam Style" is just the hardest door-knocker of the burgeoning flow; personally I love the horror movies best) in addition to being a powerhouse product exporter. In many ways, China wants to replicate South Korea's path.  It's just the Party that assumes it can (or should) be done in a single-party format.

But yes, all the same tipping points eventually get reached. The size differential isn't key; it's a matter of generational turnover, and this article is a big pointer in this regard:  college grads who turn down their noses on factory jobs.

There's no turning back at this point:  China's future evolutions are already a fait accompli.  The only thing left for the West is to NOT screw it up, which typically occurs whenever we freak out over perceived "gaps" or "being passed by" or other such declinist nonsense.

The "victory," if you need such things, has already been won.  And we have Deng Xiaoping to thank for that.

China must live in the real world of its own making.  It cannot exist in the imaginary balance-of-power environments posited by the realists - on either side of the Pacific.    That real world of its own making forces very hard compromises.

And they are just beginning across China.

10:22AM

Lifting the ban on women in combat

I remember the 1994 debate well. I was in DC at time working for the Center for Naval Analyses, and it was heated.  Many stated this would NEVER happen.

But even then, you just knew it would.  Ditto for gays in the military.

It's a tough life, and when people choose it, you have to respect that along all lines.  You cannot deny people the right to move up in rank, and combat duty is a big deal in that regard.

Plus, even then you could see the "linear battlefield" going the way of the dinosaur, so if anybody's there - in theater - combat is possible and inevitable on a long-enough time scale. 

So this was just policy catching up with reality - just like how doctrine gets changed (That used to be our doctrine, but then too many troops got killed that way, so now, it's no longer our doctrine and this is.)

So good stuff.  You want democracy?  You live with equality.

8:15AM

China's future with a only-child society

NYT story on Science article describing Australian research on the only-child phenomenon inside China.  This wasn't interview based, but actual work with kids, testing their trust behavior (a simple drill involving money).

The result:

The researchers concluded that the "one-child-policy" players were less trusting, less trustworthy, less competitive and more risk-averse than the older participants.

And on the basis of a personality test, they were also "less conscientious, more neurotic and more pessimistic ...

What is interesting:  China is already all those things in terms of top leadership stuck in a single-party mode. What this says is, there is quite possibly no hope on the horizon in terms of top-down reform/democratization dynamics.  Yes, the leadership will talk such lines (reforms) and hint at such possibilities (democracy), but they won't move down this path without pushing from below - and hoping generational changes will trigger top-down dynamics is probably far too optimistic.

A bit more depressingly, it also says there may only be a generational window of people, roughly corresponding to the 6th generation of leadership (on slate to rule 2022-2032), who are able to trigger the bottom-up dynamics necessary for change (i.e., serious demand for it from below that pushes the way-too-cautious elite to finally do something real and not just experiment and talk and promise).  To me, that says the 2020s may be it - as in, get the system moving in the right direction or China loses its nerve - both above and below - to make the difficult steps happen for the post-Mao system's full maturation (reforms, marketization, globalizing, middle-class and then democracy).

A worrisome observation, but not an insurmountable one.  The Chinese system is already rife with intense populist anger and it's growing by leaps and bounds.  We can hope Xi Jinping and Co. catch a clue, because if they don't, China - in terms of generational leadership - might have only one more swing at the plate to get it done before turning - yet again - back in on itself.

 

8:52AM

The global security system's latest "gap"

New location, old story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lead from behind" is a brilliantly descriptive phrase.

10:03AM

China's rising pool of college grads - and expectations

NYT story on the 8m college grads that China cranks each year at the cost of about $250B a year.

The comparison that comes to mind is the US post-WWII and the remaking of society and politics that ensued (think of all that change across the 1960s and 1970s).

Yet another reason why I stick with my prediction that China is democratized by 2030.  This article speaks more of economic strengths than challenges, but the real danger (which appears only when you get to the jump page) are the social expectations and - if they are met - the resulting political confidence that will be hard to manage on a mass basis.

When people make the effort and sacrifice for that degree, the same-old, same-old factory job won't do.  This forces China into a race up the production ladder alright, and that fits the nation's desire to base more future growth on domestic consumption.  But that desire forces a progressive agenda to fix their healthcare and pension problems, which are not all that different from the US in their ability to mess up economic growth.  In China's case, the two issues combine to depress consumption by forcing individuals to save mightily against fate's whims. So if the government wants all that domestic consumption-led growth to make all those white-collar jobs happen so all those college grads can be happy (and not too disruptive politically), then major government efforts along the "great society" trajectory will be forced by all these dynamics.

Even if China pulls all that off, and then suffers the natural slow-down in growth that occurs when you start better covering the needs of the left fortunate (Freudian slip, as I meant less unfortunate) in society (a costly proposition), then you move into the next tier of problems:  all those college grads now making it and living complex lives will bristle at being spoken down to regarding political debates and government transparency.  We saw this big time in South Korea roughly a generation ago.  China is now 10-15 years (at best) from confronting that fabulous problem.

All of this is to say that, if you imagine that China somehow becomes truly powerful down the road but will still look like today's single-party state, you'd be wrong by every experience of history that we know.  Once you embrace the markets and all the other great aspects of modern society, the politics must change in reponse - eventually.  Yes, the Chinese are adept at postponing that reality.  

But it will not be postponed forever.

A truly strategic thinker worries about handling a democratizing China down the road more than some single-party state.  A single-party state is inherently cautious; it cannot suffer a genuine overseas debacle because there is no throw-the-bums-out dynamic to stabilize the system.  But a democratizing China looks more like the rising US of the late 19th century.  I personally don't foresee that being an unmanageable problem, given all the domestic issues that China will still be finessing throughout that transition, but it will definitely be a new and different China "challenge."

9:33AM

Fmr US Ambassador to Mali: Why we must save country

Nice op-ed in NYT on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

7:00AM

A Wikistrat job posting: business development person

  

WIKISTRAT BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY

Be Part of a Revolution in Consulting.

 

COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Wikistrat Inc. is the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy. It leverages a global network of over 500 subject-matter experts via a patented crowd-sourcing methodology to provide insights unavailable anywhere else. This online network offers a uniquely powerful and unprecedented strategic consulting service: the internet's only central intelligence exchange for strategic analysis and forecasting, delivered - for the first time - in a real-time, interactive platform.

 

THE OPPORTUNITY: Chief Business Development Officer

Wikistrat is looking to identify an outstanding sales executive / business development professional with extensive experience in taking consulting services to global organizations. Candidate should have a minimum of 10 years of experience, a track record of building long term customer relationships, and widespread government and private sector connections.

 

REQUIRED QUALITIES & EXPERIENCE 

  1. Integrity.
  2. Track record of taking wargaming services to the defense sector, intelligence community, and multi-national corporations.
  3. Educational background in political science and/or MBA.
  4. Career experience in strategic analysis and planning of global security issues.
  5. Superb communication skills for enthusiastic and proactive salesmanship.
  6. Extensive connections to the defense sector and intelligence community. 

 

ROLE:

  • Closing sales with major government and corporate clients.
  • Expanding sales pipeline and developing new leads and joint offerings.
  • Managing Wikistrat’s growing network of channel partners. 

 

Send Applications (Cover letter + CV) to: info@wikistrat.com or to thomaspmbarnett@wikistrat.com

WWW.WIKISTRAT.COM

Download of posting