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10:35AM

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Beeg! Really, really Beeg!


Dateline: Southwest flight from Orlando to Providence, 28 May 2004


Last night was just what the doctor ordered: a big crowd ready for a big performance, and an inveterate showman desperate to remember what it was like to hold an entire ballroom in the palm of his hand. I have never worked a crowd for so many big laughs in my career, and it did me a world of good. On the eve of my 42nd birthday, it reminded me of what really animates my work: the sheer joy of teaching and sharing my ideas with others.


Writing a book was fun, and signing close to a hundred for people waiting long in line after the talk was certainly a gasser, but nothing compares to the live performance. Being on TV is cool, but it is as cold as ice compared to the warm buzz you feel when just a shrug or a couple of words can send several hundred people in spontaneous laughter or applause. It is my addiction and I have missed it desperately. When I go more than about two weeks without such an experience, I actually get depressed.


You may think itís simply the limelight, but thatís not really what does it for me, because deep down Iím more of a loner (far happier to be by myself with loved ones than with strangers or even my very small circle of friends) than an extrovert. When I spend time with people close up, I get tired and need to withdraw. But put me on the stage, where itís that pure transmission of ideas intermixing with response, and it is quite electrifying for meócharging my batteries in no time flat.


TV doesnít do that for me, nor do books or articles, as much as I value those forms of idea transmission. What really turns me on is being live with an audience that will give you feedback every single second of your performance. The sense of risk versus payoff in that environment is simply intoxicatingóthe best narcotic I have ever encountered.


When I was signing books afterwards, one lady asked me why so few Ph.D.ís were as funny and entertaining as I am, and I told her the truthóIím nothing more than a frustrated actor with a good, organizing mind. So Iíve taken that concept-packaging capacity and put it to a showmanís use: Iím Laurie Anderson with intellectual rigor, or Donald Rumsfeld forced to work the vaudeville stage.


I donít pretend that what I do makes me better than anyone else, or really any smarter. I just know that itís what I was meant to do, and I do it better than just about anyone else on the planet. Thatís a very nice feeling for your 42nd birthdayóthe first one following your old manís passing. Itís a sense of knowing who you are and why God made you this way.


Itís a confidence that allows me to define a global future worth creating and selling it for all itís worth.


Thank you, Dad, for helping me become that man. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength to find purpose in my life.


I canít wait to get home and hug my kids, kiss my wife, and mow that lawn . . ..


Hereís todayís catch:


REFERENCES with my commentary:


ìAgreement by U.S. and Rebels to End Fighting in Najaf: After 7-Week Battle, Sadrís Force Quits Streets but Stays Intact,î by Dexter Filkins, New York Times, 28 May, p. A1.


ìKerry Outlines Foreign Policy, Attacking Bush,î by Robin Toner and David E. Sanger, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.


ìIn Jordanís Scrapyards, Signs of a Looted Iraq: While U.S. Rebuilds, Experts Cite Plunder of Costly Material,î by James Glanz, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.


ìU.S. and Bahrain Reach A Free Trade Agreement: Despite small figures, Washington see symbolic importance,î by Elizabeth Becker, NYT, 28 May, p. W1.


ìTo Head Off Recall, Chavez Tries More Dirty Tricks,î by Mary Anastasia OíGrady, Wall Street Journal, 28 May, p. A9.


ìAn Identity Crisis for Norman Rockwell America,î by Michiko Kakutani, NYT, 28 May, p. B27.


ìItís Out of College and Onto Jobless Rolls in China,î by Jim Yardley, NYT, 28 May, p. A3.

10:28AM

Sadr standown in Iraq: not bad agreement, but wrong one

ìAgreement by U.S. and Rebels to End Fighting in Najaf: After 7-Week Battle, Sadrís Force Quits Streets but Stays Intact,î by Dexter Filkins, New York Times, 28 May, p. A1.


ìKerry Outlines Foreign Policy, Attacking Bush,î by Robin Toner and David E. Sanger, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.


ìIn Jordanís Scrapyards, Signs of a Looted Iraq: While U.S. Rebuilds, Experts Cite Plunder of Costly Material,î by James Glanz, NYT, 28 May, p. A1.


ìU.S. and Bahrain Reach A Free Trade Agreement: Despite small figures, Washington see symbolic importance,î by Elizabeth Becker, NYT, 28 May, p. W1.


I understand the deal with the devil in Najaf, and I know that temporizing situations can work in our strategic favor. But such deals only work if we spend the meantime creating the connectivity that generates strategic despair on their side, not ours.


Strategic despair is when your side surveys the environment and says to itself: ìNo matter how hard we try, this thing is going southóthereís just too many of them and too few of us.î I worry about strategic despair a lot right now with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and even more so back here at home, where media coverage highlights only failure and never success. Why? The mediaís definition of war is almost as narrow as the Pentagonís: show us the smoking holes and dead bodies! The ìeverything elseî is completely ignored, which is why onsite blogs like IRAQ THE MODEL are so importantóthey define serious ground truth.


What are the deals worth concluding right now? Our enemies in Iraq, which I dub the forces of disconnectedness because that is what they seek for both Iraq and the region as a whole, believe in the inherent weakness of Westerners, something experts have taken to calling Occidentalism (a book out on that subject now is quite good). Occidentalism basically says that too much individuality is very bad, weakening both the individual and the societyómaking us weak and decadent. It tends to ignore the reality that the most vibrant and creative societies in this world all stress individualism.


I know, I know, youíll tell me about Japan. But Japanís collectivist society was only good at taking other peopleís ideas and manufacturing them intelligentlyóuntil a generation of individualists began arising in the last couple of decades. These are the Japanese whoíve given us the tremendous art and culture and fashion and design. These individualists are the ones defining Japanís future as the global capital of cool.


America has been battling the Occidentalist outlook for a very long time. Imperial Japan thought a bloody nose, delivered at Pearl Harbor, would simply scare us off. The Viet Cong fought onóagainst tremendous odds and horrendous lossesóbecause they believed America was easily scared off. In neither case was this true: we crushed the Japanese in a very bloody war, and only pulled out of Vietnam when we realized that our larger strategic rationale was empty.


But shedding blood or spilling that of others has never been a problem for America, land of glorified violence and mass media full of revenge fantasies (think of our most cherished stars and what has defined themólike Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson). Americans are not squeamish whatsoever. In fact, we wallow in images of death and destruction.


What really defines Occidentalism, in my mind, is the assumption by male-dominated societies that American men are essentially pussy-whipped by our women. By having a reasonably balanced society in terms of womenís rights (always room for improvement Ö), we present an image to the outside world that not only do we treat our women badly, they treat us men even worse in terms of disrespect.


The whole 2nd-term Clinton sex scandal epitomized this sort of thing: not only did we have a leader who clearly treated women in a degrading fashion, our political system was ready to can him on that basis. Look at it from the perspective of the rest of the world: weak leader, degenerate behavior, asinine political system. We lost respect on every level on that one.


Personally, my anger with Clinton was that the man simply couldnít jerk off whatever demon was trapped in his trousersóat least until he got out of office. Was that too much to ask given the stakes? After that he could fool around til Hillary shot him for all I cared. But you donít put everything at risk for just that, because reputation matters. In the end, our character is all we take with us to the grave.


Kerry is starting to sound the right notes in this campaign: not taking on the central goal of a Global War on Terrorism (defeating our enemies), but arguing the method. So heís stressing the importance of alliances and keeping old friends while adding new ones.


Would I like to see him push it farther? You bet. He needs to recast what this coalition is all about by eliminating the charge I just cited above: that itís just the flaccid West against the tough-as-nail-willing-to-die-on-a-dime Middle East. Do we accomplish this simply by getting meaner? Becoming more like the Israelis?


Absolutely not. We accomplish it by easternizing the coalition, by shading its occidental skin tone. We accomplish it by courting the New Core powers, making the deals that bring them to Iraq and thus create strategic despair among our enemies.


Iraqi insurgents staring across the line at Indian, Russian and Chinese soldiers will have a hard time with that Occidentalist bullshit that passes for warfighting morale. All of those countries know how to kill without remorseóespecially Muslims who challenge their sense of order. And there wonít be a public back home that wilts at the first sign of body bags.


Iraqi insurgents who peer across the streets at a truly global coalitionónot just West but Core-wideówill inevitably start muttering to themselves: ìWeíre screwed. This is pointless. There are too many of them to kill. We canít win. Letís take this fight somewhere else.î


The best part of this strategy is that the deals we need to make are the ones most Americans will cheer: letís reverse ourselves on Kyoto like the Russians did and get the Europeans back. Letís push for Russia joining both the WTO and NATO. Letís forget about missile defense shields in Asia and start talking to China and Japan about howótogetheróweíll force Kim Jong-very-Ill out of power and turn Korea into the next Asian FDI-suctioning powerhouse. Letís make India the ìmajor, non-NATO allyî of choice in South Asia.


Do any of these deals sound that hard to make? Do you see more loss of U.S. ìprestigeî in these horse trades or in the deal we just cut with al-Sadr in Najaf?


Iraq has been stripped bare by looters. The only way weíre going to reconnect Iraq to the world is if we get the Core as a whole to do some major-league investments there. Do you think there are Russian oil companies looking for new sources to develop? Do you think the Chinese are interested in stable sources of energy? Do you think India wants to play a bigger security role in region?


In the end, I see loads of obviously self-serving motives on each side, which is how I know these deals can be cut.


Thatís not to say the Bush Administration is doing some very good things. Pushing the free trade agenda in the Middle East is a great one. But as I said on Blitzerís CNN show: Americans have to ask themselves who can cut the better deals that must lie ahead if weíre going to really prevail in Iraq. We cannot kill out way out of this one, nor simply withdraw. Look at your history of successful counter-insurgencies: either we offer the Iraqis a happier ending than the one al-Sadr, bin Laden and others offer, or weíll simply pervert ourselves in the process of killing as many of them as we can. We cannot defeat these people with violence, for itís all they know and theyíve got nowhere better to go if thatís the nature of the fight we offer. We need to overwhelm them with boots on the ground, a clear sense that this occupation is both West and East in origins, and hope that connectivity can be made both real and permanent.

10:15AM

The ìBig Manî in Venezuela

ìTo Head Off Recall, Chavez Tries More Dirty Tricks,î by Mary Anastasia OíGrady, Wall Street Journal, 28 May, p. A9.


The latest news from Venezuela is typical of all ìbig manî sagas: the romantic, dashing lead of the first reel becomes the monstrous ogre by the third. Whatever Chavez offered in terms of a future worth creating for the people has long since vanished. By achieving great power, he has becomeóto no oneís surpiseópower mad. He will continue to thwart the legitimate recall effort accomplished by the masses there, and his resorting to militia-based enforcement strategies to buttress his rule will only grow more violent and widespread.


A world with an A-to-Z rule set on processing politically-bankrupt regimes would have Chavezís name near the top of the to-do list. Thatís why getting Iraq right is not just getting the Middle East right, itís about getting the entire Gap right by sending clear signals that all the Big Men better watch their backs.

10:07AM

Many states, under God

ìAn Identity Crisis for Norman Rockwell America,î by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, 28 May, p. B27.


The NYT review of Samuel Huntingtonís ìWho Are We.î A good critical review of a very bad book.


I cite it for this truly stupid concept from Robert Kaplan that ìAmerica, more than any other nation, may have been born to die.î The logic? Our multinational nature eventually kills us as a nation, something Sam truly fears.


This is nonsense in the worst way, in large part because it ignores the reality that we are not just a nation, weíre the worldís oldest and most successful multinational economic and political unionó50 member-states strong.


Why do I say strong? As much as we shape this world, it shapes us almost equally in return. We are the closest thing to a perfect balance in the world today: simultaneously remaking the world in our image even as that process fundamentally alters our very make-up. Thatís why weíre neither an empire nor a threat to world peace: our very multinational make-up is both our greatest strength and our greatest self-modulating weaknessówe are both extremely united and easily divided.


Doom-and-gloomers like Huntington and Kaplan will fill your heads with fear every chance they get. There is a reason why America is the most powerful collection of states on the planetówe are the model for the future of the world. Globalization is our perfectly flawed projection of everything we possess and lack, and the bin Ladens of the Middle East are dead on in fearing its inevitable remaking of traditional societies there, for itís their clock that slowly ticking its last beats, not ours.

9:41AM

Chinaís real enemy

ìItís Out of College and Onto Jobless Rolls in China,î by Jim Yardley, New York Times, 28 May, p. A3.


Hereís the real threat to Communist rule in China: if they donít keep growing that economy at least 7 percent a year (something we could never do here), then the countryís already large pool of unemployed grows even larger. Thatís the baselineó7 percent just to hold the line on massive unemployment.


That reality is why you currently have a communistóyes I said communistógovernment in China that says its job is not to make sure everyone in China has a job, but merely to create the market conditions within which jobs are plentiful.


When I hear security experts in the States go on and on about the ability of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain their rule despite all the change the country is going through, I have to laugh to myself. There is no such thing as a ìcommunistî ruling elite in China anymore, but merely the same single-party export-driven-growth-strategy regime that weíve seen elsewhere throughout Asia in recent decades.


Why did the CCP simply ditch the ideology? They had no choice if they wanted to remain in power.

2:15PM

How long to keep running with this thing?

Dateline: Southwest flight from Providence to Orlando, 27 May 2004, segueing into that Marriott hotel just off Walt Disney World (you know, the weird one with the giant fish statues on either end)


Itís an exciting time for me: coverage in national media, appearing on national TV, an article in a national magazine and a book selling smartly all over the country. That sort of heat gets you emails like you wouldnít believe, and offers from every possible angle. All these transactionsóboth real and prospectiveócan wear you out.


How to choose and how many to take on? How long to keep flogging the book? Is this blog a forever thing or a book-related thing? Does the vision beget some larger organizational effort to push it? Do I incorporate or remain a lone ranger? And arenít we heading to China sometime soon for child #4?


Good. I need about 4,000 hours of flight time to read everything everyone has sent me to comment upon in the last month.


Then thereís the lawn, which still needs mowing every damn week. Thereís the day job. Thereís all the requests for speeches from other government entities. Thereís my spouse, our kids, the cat, and our new puppy on back order from Wisconsin (Chesapeake Bay Retriever female). Thereís coaching one son in baseball, and trying to resurrect my piano lessons. Thereís the fact that we havenít made it to Six Flags New England yet and schoolís almost out! I have to start thinking about my three Packer games in the fall. Whatís the next project at the War College? Is their an option book? Maybe seeking publication for the Emily Updates? More articles to write for Esquire? Back to writing for military pubs?


And so on and so on . . ..


Itís to the point right now where I go days before returning calls, something I never did before, and Iím turning down invitations to speak because I just have to ask myself if it makes sense traveling all over the country non-stop (he says, typing in a Marriott in Orlando). You know, Iím not really that sure about the audience Iíll be speaking to in a couple of hours, or even where Iím supposed to show up or by when.


Geez, I hope the driver took me to the right hotel!


I am starting to wander around lost in my own schedule. Instead of looking forward to exciting trips and interesting opportunities evenly but judiciously spaced across a calendar, Iím now dreaming of spending a whole week in my office just organizing my files, updating my bio, and cleaning up my PC desktop.


Itís been a year of non-stop push to get the book proposed, sold, written, edited, packaged, marketed and located on the web (this site). Now, as everything is beginning to take off by leaps and bounds, I find myself exhausted by the pace of the past twelve months, and wondering absent-mindedly whether or not I need more disconnectedness in my life (or just more sleep).


But I put aside such doubts for now. In a few hours, it will be just me standing alone in front of a ballroom audience of several hundred people whoíve heard that Iím just about the most exciting briefer on the planet. Books available for sale will be piled up outside the cavernous hall. The senior official on-site will wrap up her introduction and then Iíll simply have to start talkingówhether Iím up for it or not.


Time to see if this room has a personal coffee machine . . ..


Hereís todayís catch:


REFERENCES with my commentary:


ìPutin Calls for Convertible Currency,î by Erin E. Arvedlund, New York Times, 27 May, p. W1.


ìBooming China Devouring Raw Materials: Producers and Suppliers Struggle to Feed a Voracious Appetite,î by Peter S. Goodman, Washington Post, 21 May, p. A1.


ìU.S. Companies Put Little Capital into Iraq: Many Firms Interested, but Are Held Back by Security Concerns, Lack of Political Stability,î WP, 15 May, p. A17.


ìInspired by Anger a World Away: Iraq War Images Spur Islamic Attacks in Remote Thailand," WP, 15 May, p. A1.

2:10PM

New Core Powers Russia and China Are Connecting

ìPutin Calls for Convertible Currency,î by Erin E. Arvedlund, New York Times, 27 May, p. W1.


ìBooming China Devouring Raw Materials: Producers and Suppliers Struggle to Feed a Voracious Appetite,î by Peter S. Goodman, Washington Post, 21 May, p. A1.


Russiaís president Vladimir Putin floats the notion that many in the Core are waiting anxiously to hear first and foremost from China: the push to make the currency truly tradable with the rest of the worldís convertible currencies. This is a huge form of connectivity, because by linking your currency to the world outside, you let that world start determining the real power of your money beyond your bordersópushing up or driving down the value according to its fluctuating desire to buy, hold, or sell you money. At once you give up a lot of control over your economy while gaining a lot of help in keeping your currency logically priced according global market conditions.


Going convertible is a key step to joining the Core big-time. Once the rest of the Core can hold your money, companies become more comfortable in dealing with your economy, because now they have additional mechanisms by which to manage the risk of entering in and doing business within your economy.


Why is this important to security? The old Pentagon fear about a Russia getting rich and developed and then returning to authoritarianism and outward aggression gets a lot harder to imagine with this sort of economic connectivity. A convertible currency has to be a real one, not the pretend ruble with which the old Soviet Union funded so much of its military machine. By being real enough to leave the country and re-enter it at various prices (exchange rates), the entire world economy gets involved in any government deficit spending, because sovereign debt impacts private debt by raising or lowering interest rates (the cost of money). Governments get into the business of having to sell their debt when they overspend, and that sort of borrowing impacts the value of the currency, making it more or less attractive to buy or hold. In effect, the world gets a say in how reasonable it is for your government to overspend (meaning, how costly), and that means your ability to fund defense is linked to the overall health of your country. In short, a convertible currency makes it a lot harder to isolate the impact of heavy defense spending, so the actual burden on the economy is discovered (the choice between guns and butter).


When other countries buy U.S. debt, they indirectly help us pay for our large defense budget. Other countries are willing to hold dollars because theyíre easily convertible and hold their value well (the essential global trust in the American economy). It amazes me that the U.S. economy still has coinsóright down to the penny. When I lived in the Soviet Union, they had coins that were quite stable in value, primarily because they were unconvertible into anything else. When I spent a week back in Russia in the mid-1990s, all of those coins were gone, as inflation had essentially driven them from distribution (they had become essentially worthless). The painted black-lacquer box I bought my fiancÈ back in 1985 cost about $80, or roughly half the price I paid 10 years later for another one twice as big and twice as detailed. The difference in rubles, though, was enormous: that box back in 1985 cost about 100 rubles, whereas the one in 1995 cost almost half a million thanks to the runaway inflation of the early 1990s.


The fact that a U.S. quarter is still worth something (roughly the same ballpark range as when I was a kid and not something on the order of one-one-thousandth of that value) shows that Americaís economic stability is a huge source of its ability to generate the massive military power we enjoy today. We are essentially trusted in the world. We are considered a good bet. By funding our deficits they fund our military andófranklyóI think they expect us to do well by the world when we use it.


Thatís something very important to remember as we wage this Global War on Terrorism.


As for China, their connectivity grows by leaps and bounds. When I did a workshop on the environment in Asia in 2025 with Cantor Fitzgerald back in the summer of 2001, I ginned up a briefing on the results. One slide (shown here) depicted what Wall Street thought China would demand from the world within a few short yearsódamn near everything and in huge volumes. This prediction has come true in spadesónot to mention ion ore, steel, lumber, you name it.


Now they global economy has a name for it: the China Syndrome. This syndrome explains, as the Post story reports, ìwhy as many as one-fifth of the bulk freighters in the world are effectively unavailable on any given day and why the cost of moving bulk freight has more than doubled in just over a year.î


Hereís a great bit:

ìOnce a major coal exporter, China is now consuming almost all of its production, putting pressure on that global supply.


ëWe were blindsided by the sudden surge in demand,í said Peter Coates, chief executive of Xstrata Coal, a primary shareholder in Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd., which own and operates the loading terminals at Newcastle, 100 miles north of Sydney.


ëHow many people in the world were able to forecast the massive commodities boom in China? Suddenly, around the world, stockpiles of everything from copper to coal disappeared.íî

Talk about carrying coal to Newcastle!


None of this was unpredictable whatsoever. All you needed to see was China open up, reform its state-heavy economy, realize that all that labor needed jobs, start importing FDI like crazy across the 1990s, and then all you needed to do was read the Department of Energyís long-range predictions on energy use and their 20-year projections jumped dramatically upward with each annual issue. That simple bit of analysis said China was heading on a far different track than the one we were used to plotting for its plodding Communist leadership.


Plenty in the Pentagon see only economic might leading to military power. But I see a huge economy becoming addicted to global connectivity in the worst wayómeaning the world is becoming almost as addicted to China!

2:03PM

Islamic Hot Spots Spread the Risk of Disconnectivity

ìU.S. Companies Put Little Capital into Iraq: Many Firms Interested, but Are Held Back by Security Concerns, Lack of Political Stability,î Washington Post, 15 May, p. A17.


ìInspired by Anger a World Away: Iraq War Images Spur Islamic Attacks in Remote Thailand," WP, 15 May, p. A1.


The first article cites bad but predictable news: taking down Saddam unleashed a lot of anger which, thanks to our poor postwar planning, has degenerated into a lot of anger. That violence is keeping out much of the needed economic connectivity that will really transform Iraqi society. By assuming we were triggering a leap to democracy, we shot ourselves in the foot. The security comes first, because they generate the rules that attract the money. The money shapes society by generating stakeholders in a stable future, and those stakeholdersóover timeóare what get you pluralism.


Still, some bright spots: telecommunications and banking networks are still moving into Iraq. These are the essential forms of connectivity required for business: communications and money. But the service and goods providers are staying out. They need more than just the mechanisms of markets, they need actual markets. And markets need security to function, not just phones and ATMs.


Hereís the best excerpt:

ìW. Tompie Hall, chief executive of Global Market Link Inc., a Colleyville, Tex.-based consulting firm helping businesses break into the Iraqi market, said the business laws of the largely socialist state must be overhauled to make it hospitable for capitalism.


ëIraq had a very weak commercial code under Saddam Husseinóno binding arbitration, no compensation for overtime, inability for foreign companies to have majority ownership,í Hall said. That makes private businesses nervous.


Officials from the occupation imagined that they would create a new Iraq where the private sector would drive the economy. Iraqís stock market, where traders once scribbled numbers on blackboards, would become a modern, computerized multiplier of investments. Husseinís formerly state-owned companies, many of them extremely lucrative, would be open to privatization. And a new banking system would provide capital.


But the insurgency and disputes between the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council have delayed many initiatives. The stock market has yet to open. Plans to privatize the state-run companies had to be delayed. The banking system has yet to gain momentum with businesses or consumers. And a major trade fair for private businesses scheduled for April was postponed indefinitely.


Most foreign investment has been relatively small, in setting up distribution networks, hiring Iraqi partners, and leasing offices and other infrastructure.

So the money waits on the new rules, but without the security, the new rules simply do not appear.


In the second story, a group of soccer players whoíd just won a local tournament in a remote part of Thailand, left their village telling family they were going on a Muslim missionary trip. Instead they stormed a local police station in a bizarre and rather pointless suicide attack (they were barely armed). This remote province is majority Muslim, and bears a lot of anger toward the central government. Allegedly, these young men, all ìrubber tappersî who made little money in their work, decided to take some sort of glocalized revenge on the West as a result of seeing images of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.


Chalk one up for al Qaedaís skill at viral marketing, and count Thailand just a little more disconnected from the Core as a result.

5:10AM

CSPAN decides to go live on 2 June

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 27 May 2004


New plan for CSPAN taping on 2 June is that the network will carry my brief at National Defense University live from 8:30 to roughly 11:15/30, with a 15-minute break at 10:00.


Not sure if this will be the only time they carry it or not. If it is, then it will be following quite closely on the heels of the CSPAN Book Notes airing on 30 May.

8:02PM

Is your vision being adopted by the Pentagon?

Dateline: Southwest flight from BWI to Providence, 26 May 2004


Day two of the ìChanging Nature of Warfareî conference at The CNA Corporationís HQ ìsomewhere in northern Virginiaî (okay, Alexandria).


I spend the first hour or so off-line with Alec Russell, DC bureau chief of the London Daily Telegraph and his photographer. We got through the usual storyline of the vision, and end on the inevitable question of, ìIs this vision being adopted today by the Pentagon?î


Journalists are like that: they want to find outóright then and thereówhoís won and whoís lost and on what exact day did that happen (and who was in the room)? I give my usual reply about concentrating on the officers just before they become admirals and generals (i.e., flag officers), changing the career paths of flag officers, and how just the mindset matters for now and that organizational codification is years away.


Russell seemed to get it, and said heíd write the article sometime in the next two weeks or so.


Then we went outside for some suitably ìvisionaryî portrait shots by the photographer, during which time I was attacked repeatedly by those amazing cicadas that are EVERYWHERE in DC right now (and I mean, that distant roaring sound you here is ìthemî).


I say, to hell with ìThe Day After,î THEYíRE HERE NOW!


The second day of the conference is as good as the first: good minds, good analysis, and lotsa disagreements. My favorite bit: comparing the counter-insurgency models of the Brits in Northern Ireland (suffer the slings and arrows, work the underlying conditions) and the Israelis in the West Bank (punitive strikes, screw the underlying conditions). One expert, Steve Metz of the Army War College put it best: weíre trying to do both in Iraq and itís conflicting our minds and approaches, putting us at risk of serious mean-ends mismatches. Again, heís describing the fundamental bifurcation of skills and organization that this eraís environment of war and peace is forcing upon the Pentagon.


Good tidbit from my old Pentagon boss Art Cebrowski: he says he was invited recently to brief Bill Gates and a host of his business friends from around the world. He gives them the Core-Gap thesis and describes the military-market nexus (the Decalogue). The response? As always, the business world gets that stuff intuitively. Thatís why I say this new vision I push is not mine but the worldís: itís a reality I capture, not a dream I concoct. Itís happening and will happen within the Defense Department not because people like myself advocate it, but because the environment simply demands it from us.


And if you think that makes me an economic determinist, youíre right. Doesnít mean I ignore irrational actors. In fact, it just means they are naturally cast as the enemy in this grand historical process. To not ìgetî this reality is simply to be irrational on some level, unless you think itís some grand accident of history that the global economy has developed and spread around the planet in the manner that it has over the last century and a half.


Yes, Iím talking to you Karl and Vlad.


And then thereís the heads up I get from back at my workplace: people in high places complaining about what I said near the end of the Wolf Blitzer interview yesterday. The statement in dispute: my asking the question openly about whether the current administration is better positioned to make the deals necessary to gain serious buy-in from major allies or would America be better served by a new team after November, armed with a clean slate.


Hmmmm.


Like the end of the Esquire article, I donít tell people how to vote, just the right questions to ask. I am dedicatedóprofessionallyóto generating ìreproducible strategic concepts,î meaning those that can survive changes in administration, or exactly what Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said (in Jaffeís WSJ story) was needed in the U.S. government right now in history. Shooting for anything less in grand strategy in this global war on terrorism is a cynical waste of our servicemen and servicewomen currently putting their lives on the line inside the Gap.


Hereís todayís catch:


REFERENCES with my commentary:


ìU.S. Warns Of Al Qaeda Threat This Summer: Agents in Country Said To Be Planning Attack,î by Susan Schmidt and Dana Priest, Washington Post, 26 May, p. A1.


ìN.Y. Times Cites Defects in Its Reports on Iraq,î by Howard Kurtz, WP, 26 May, p. C1.


ìThe Times and Iraq,î From the Editors, New York Times, 26 May, p. A10.


ìFive Points of Reality That Bush Overlooked,î WP, Jim Hoagland, 26 May, p. A27.


ìIraq May Survive, but the Dream Is Dead,î by Fouad Ajami, NYT, 26 May, p. A25.


ìThe Bush-Kerry Nondebate,î by William Safire, NYT, 26 May, p. A25.


ìEvangelicals Give U.S. Foreign Policy An Activist Tinge: A Campaign to Export Values Makes Legislative Headway Even as It Arouses Critics,î by Peter Waldman, Wall Street Journal, 26 May, p. A1.


ìWho Would Try Civilians From U.S.? No One in Iraq: Civilian contractors and Abu Ghraib abuses,î by Adam Liptak, NYT, 26 May, p. A11.


ìMTV to Start First Network Aimed at Gays,î NYT, by Bill Carter and Stuart Elliott, NYT, 26 May, p. C1.


ìIn Latin America, a Cellular Need: Mobile Phones Become a Part of Life, Even for the Poor,î by Brian Ellsworth, NYT, p. W1.


ìGreat Walls of Unknowns,î by Robert J. Samuelson, WP, 26 May, p. A27.

7:59PM

The latest global threat from MTV

ìMTV to Start First Network Aimed at Gays,î by Bill Carter and Stuart Elliott, New York Times, 26 May, p. C1.


MTV is a monster content force within globalizationís spread around the planet. I remember well watching MTV India during my time there in 2001: at once a very foreign inflow of ideas and concepts as well as a very artful localized adaptation of a music-selling model (something about which India could teach Hollywood quite a bitóif youíve even seen a Bollywood musical). In short, MTV is not to be misunderestimated as a global force for changeóboth good and bad but always profound.


When MTV steps out ahead of the pack (but not much, considering Bravo and Showtime) to announce a new network aimed at gays, it pushes the envelope not just within our borders, but ultimatelyóthrough its inevitable extensionóthroughout the Core.


And yes, like McDonaldís or other key content ìglobalî networks, the spread of MTV (and all its regional variants) around the world is a decent proxy measure of globalizationís advanceónamely, the extent of the Core.


Why does this matter? Again, globalizationís frontier is where Core content meets Gap traditions, and far more than our politics, the power elites inside the Gap fear our sexual moresóthe far worst of which is (in their opinion) our burgeoning acceptance of homosexuality.


Trends like this are why I say globalization is coming to the Gapóand especially the tradition-bound Middle Eastówhether we support it or not. The Global War on Terror is an enabling factor onlyónot the main show. That is what I mean by waging war within the context of everything and not solely within our narrow definitions of conflict.

7:57PM

Global connectivity is cheaper than you think

ìIn Latin America, a Cellular Need: Mobile Phones Become a Part of Life, Even for the Poor,î by Brian Ellsworth, New York Times, p. W1.


Great article on how cell phones are transforming even the poorest regions of the Gap. One mother in the article says she and her husband spend as much per month on cell phone charges as they do on two weeks of groceries. Should we be amazed? No. Connectivity is a profound desire all over this world; there are no civilizational divides on this point.


Again, connectivity is unstoppable, just like globalization. But unless rules are put in place and rule-enforcing institutions and actors step up, the violent change unleashed by the resulting content flows will only grow wherever rules are weak.

7:40PM

The business of selling fear

ìU.S. Warns Of Al Qaeda Threat This Summer: Agents in Country Said To Be Planning Attack,î by Susan Schmidt and Dana Priest, Washington Post, 26 May, p. A1.


ìN.Y. Times Cites Defects in Its Reports on Iraq,î by Howard Kurtz, WP, 26 May, p. C1.


ìThe Times and Iraq,î From the Editors, New York Times, 26 May, p. A10.


This latest cryptic warning from Washington is as annoying as the rest: Bush Administration cites very vague stuff, says it wonít raise the color-coded security alert level, and major cities (e.g., NY, LA) say they have no evidence and will take no additional measures. Plans were already being made to increase security this summer both here and abroad due to the G-8 meeting this weekend in Georgia, the two political conventions, the Greek Olympics, and the national election season itself. So if all that was going to happen anyway and nothing new is being added to this effort as a result of this warning, then why the warning?


Here you canít resist wondering if this isnít a political ploy by the White House. Itís almost impossible to refute the evidence since we canít know what it is (and no, only idiots demand all such information be made public), so given all the plans already in place, whoís gonna stand up and say anything different based on better information? Canít be done. So, in effect, the Bush campaign inoculates both itself and the administration against future charges of not being ready/aware/vigilant if and when something were to happen this year prior to the election. All of this is prudent and logical, given the 3/11 attacks in Madrid, but itís also wonderfully self-serving. Worse, it does nothing for the public other than: a) heighten fear and/or b) heighten indifference.


Donít get me wrong, Iím not cynically targeting this administration for doing this. If I were advising them, itís exactly what I would advocate as wellówhether they were Democrat or Republican. Thatís just anticipating the pointless blame game that must inevitably follow any successful terrorist attack against the homeland (as if all will forever be prevented!).


This is why I have such a problem with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the first place. To me, it was a feel good measure that didnít really advance the larger cause of greater cooperation and coordination among federal agencies, the similar efforts among federal, state, and local governments, and the burgeoning needs of greater private-public partnerships. I know Americans like centralization and ìczarsî to run shows, but itís not clear to me that creating the USGís third-largest bureaucracy was the answer, rather than just the source of ever more questions.


But fear sells in our society, and selling that fear generates readers and votes and federal funding streams. We as Americans buy it wholesale, swallowing it unblinkingly, and when those fears later appear unjustified (e.g., the whole up and down on Iraq having WMD), then we yo-yo back in the other direction. Either way we lurch, it kills our ability to think strategically because it focuses our attention so exclusively on short-term tasks (get the gun, get the WMD, get the bad guy) and blinds us to the larger goals necessary to achieve is we really want to win the Global War on Terrorism (e.g., connecting the Middle East to the outside world faster than the bin Ladens there can disconnect it).


The blowback long overdue on Judith Miller of the NYT is just the latest version of this yo-yo. What is troubling to me is not that her reporting was full of speculation and fear-mongering designed more to make her famous personally than to constitute good journalism, itís that the American public so craves this sort of worst-case speculation as a matter of habit.

7:35PM

Niall Fergusonís attention-deficit disorder re: Iraq

ìFive Points of Reality That Bush Overlooked,î Washington Post, Jim Hoagland, 26 May, p. A27.


ìIraq May Survive, but the Dream Is Dead,î by Fouad Ajami, New York Times, 26 May, p. A25.


ìThe Bush-Kerry Nondebate,î by William Safire, New York Times, 26 May, p. A25.


ìEvangelicals Give U.S. Foreign Policy An Activist Tinge: A Campaign to Export Values Makes Legislative Headway Even as It Arouses Critics,î by Peter Waldman, Wall Street Journal, 26 May, p. A1.


I must admit, when my book has a higher rank than Fergusonís on Amazon, I feel a lot better than when heís ahead (and heís ahead of me most of the timeócurse his celebrity and impressive accent!). Thatís because I think his analysis isóby and largeóvery misguided and diverting from the real issues we need to deal with right now: not our rule (imperial), but the enunciation of global rule sets.


But I do like his critique of Americaís attention-deficit disorder. Hoaglandís article is a great one, highlighting a series of strategic realities that Bushís currently defined plan for Iraq seems to ignore (e.g., his point about NATO not committing to Iraq during a U.S. presidential election is a short-term version of my argument about the Pentagon needing to seed the back-half Sys Admin force if weíre ever going to have any hope of attracting major buy-in from other major powersóin short, global cooperation is waiting on us to act, not ìthemî to get their heads together).


Fouad Ajamiís article is just the opposite. This guy is a serious historian whoís already peddling a snap judgment that the experience in Iraq signals the complete inability of the West to connect up the Middle East to the outside world. In effect, not only is the Islamic Middle East a failed civilization, but itís already beyond saving. All I can say is thank God the historians arenít in charge of anything. Ajamiís already thrown in the towel on a grand historical process that anyone with a decent strategic viewpoint knew from the start was going to take years and decades, not weeks and months.


As for the Kerry-Bush nondebate on Iraq, the fact that they both come to the same long-term conclusion on Iraq (i.e., canít leave, gotta stay for long term, need a lot of help from friends and a peaceful solution to Israel and Palestine) only says that the logic here is unassailable: weíre not leaving the Middle East until it joins the world. The question that needs to be asked right now is this: which of the two candidates is more able and willing to make the deals necessary for dramatically increasing the strategic buy-in of major powers such as Europe, India, China, and Russia? Thatís the real non-debateóand my defense for anyone whoís troubled by what I say on TV.


What Americans need to understand is that globalization is going to continue encroaching on the traditional cultures of the Middle East, whether weíre trying to ìtransformî them or not. In short, the transformation of the region and the clash of civilizations are on and nothing is going to stop this struggle. Globalization is a helluva lot more powerful and inevitable than anything the U.S. government can hope to achieve. As far as global change is concerned, itís the private sector, stupid! What the government and the military do is merely open doors previously closed. In that way, ìmission accomplishedî isnít as ironic a notion as it may seem a year later after Bushís infamous declaration aboard the carrieróas far as the Leviathan force is concerned.


But what we are missing is the avowed, well-equipped, properly-buttressed-by-coalition-forces Sys Admin force. Rumsfeld excels as Secretary of Warfighting, but where is the Secretary of Peace-building?


The WSJ story simply highlights the reality that the world is coming together as the result of a very wide array of actors with particular desires (here, to spread the faith). This showóglobalizationóisnít being run out of anybodyís office back here in DC. It is a phenomenon as complex and ever-changing as the global economy itself.


Thatís such an amazingly obvious statement, that I canít believe I felt the need to write it!

7:29PM

Todayís data point on the need for a Sys Admin force

ìWho Would Try Civilians From U.S.? No One in Iraq: Civilian contractors and Abu Ghraib abuses,î by Adam Liptak, New York Times, 26 May, p. A11.


Yet another example of rule sets out of whack: rules obviously broken, but because of the way we think about and categorize war and peace and those who work across that slippery divide, weíve got guilty parties no one knows how to prosecute. That rule-set gap isóin my mindóyet another data point speaking to the need for new thinking about the differences between war and peaceónot to mention that slippery, uncertain territory that lies in between.

7:27PM

China as globalizationís main economic wild card

ìGreat Walls of Unknowns,î by Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, 26 May, p. A27.


The first paragraph says it all:

ìThe question about Chinaís economy is no longer what it will do to China but what it will do to the rest of the world. It may invigorate the global economyóor destabilize it. We donít know. Until recently, Chinaís movement away from a Stalinist and backward society was mainly a story about what kind of country it might become and what political role it would play in the world. Now Chinaís size and relentless economic growth (averaging 9 percent a year since 1978) have combined to create a global goliath. Itís having huge and barely anticipated economic spillover effects elsewhere.î
I beg to differ. Chinaís rising impact on the world and its rule sets are a stunner to the media, most politicians, and the Pentagon (who spends all its time counting the People Liberation Armyís platforms and little else), but it was easily foreseen by the Wall Street players I spent several years interacting with in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That was the NewRuleSets.Project I ran with bond-trader Cantor Fitzgerald. Wall Street has been predicting this impact for years. Why? They are the experts at anticipating the ìeverything elseî that we military strategists tend to ignore as we plot our brilliant future wars against brilliant future foes.


China is the prime suspect as far as the Pentagon is concerned, so we spend a lot of time projecting the tremendous growth in PLA capabilities over the next two decades, essentially ignoring the reality that the only way Beijing can afford to spend that money on the defense budget is because the Old Core is pouring $40 to 50 billion dollars of foreign direct investment funds into its economy every year. Is Beijingís communist leadership under the illusion that the Old Core is going to pay for an outwardly aggressive PLA?


If you believe in that sort of thing, maybe you think the rest of the Core is going to keep buying U.S. Treasury bonds indefinitely in order to pay the Defense Departmentís growing top line no matter how much we piss off the rest of the world with how we use it.


As I say in the book: Today there is only war within the context of everything else and the idiots who sometimes pretend it can be waged without reference to the world at large. I say, follow the long-term money (FDI, sovereign debt, government deficits, defense budgets), because they reflect the dominant and ever-changing rule sets that define globalization.

5:59AM

The Changing Nature of Warfare

Dateline: CNA Corporation headquarters, Alexandria VA, 25 May 2004


A tough night of travel puts me in a tired state for Tuesdayís activities. I was supposed to fly out of Providence at 6:15, but thanks to some regional storms, it wasnít wheels up until 9:15. Thus it was a very late end to the day quickly segueing into a very early start.


Why was I concerned? I had to give a brief at a conference at CNA (sporting the title of this blog) that was held for the benefit of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which is sort of a supreme court of the intelligence community (these are the wise men and women who put together the all-important National Intelligence Estimates that drive the governmentís overall sense of strategic risk and focus its general approach to intelligence collection and processing.


I hadnít given a brief in a very long time for me (almost a month due to the book tour), plus it was a largely new collection of PowerPoint slides. Thatís exciting for me, because new slides make for uncertainty. But lack of sleep dulls the blade in terms of delivery.


So I coffeeíd up as much as possible in anticipation of the conferenceís first panel, in which I appeared with Kurt Campbell of CSIS and Monty Marshall of the University of Maryland (co-author of the brilliant ìPeace and Conflictî series of worldwide conflict analysis). The brief went reasonably well, considering the audience was full of insular-minded military analysts who refuse to see muchóif anyóconnection between what they see as pure war and the everything else that is simply too complex to imagine, much less model.


This was a conference examining war almost strictly within the context of war, with the real world relegated to an afterthought. More disturbing, the wholesale pessimism of this crowd stunned me. For a collection of strategic thinkers, the downcast interpretation of events in Iraq over the past six months simply stunned me. If strategic thinkers canít see the forest for the trees, then how can we expect the public to do better?


As soon as the panel ended I caught CNNís car to their studio in DC. Anticipating a F2F with Wolf Blitzer, I was immediately disappointed to learn that I missed him again. Last time he was in DC and I was in San Diego; this time I was in DC and somehow he manages to be in NYC. But feeling confident about remotes thanks to recent experiences, I simply decided beforehand that I was going to perform well no matter what questions were thrown at me. Plus I was warmed up by the presentation and Q&A at the conference that morning.


Blitzer gave me a good series of questions, andóunlike last timeóhe let me go longer before interrupting. I think the key was that I spoke early in the hour, whereas last time I was right at the end. The pre-interview with the producer alerted me that I needed to be able to address President Bushís speech last night, so I was ready when that question came about halfway through the 8-minute interview. All in all, a relaxed, solid performance that tells me Iím over the hump on remotes.


That was good, because CNN International wanted to tap me as well for a remote immediately following the Blitzer interviewósame floor, different studio, different anchor (London?), but roughly the same interview. The tone was, not surprisingly, more confrontational. Both Blitzer and the CNN International anchor started on the header tease from the Esquire article (basically, ìthe boys are never coming home and this is a good thing for global peaceî), but the latter anchor predictably focused on Americaís ìarroganceî in seeking to impose its will on the Middle East. I wasnít afraid of repeating myself, but I managed not to for the most part.


In the car back to CNA, I called both home and to the college to see how people thought I performed on CNN. The answer was, nobody saw it because the last any of them heard, I was to go on with Blitzer at 12:40 vice 12:15, so no VCRs were running on time. Maybe somebody in my family got it, otherwise itís lost to me personally because CNN doesnít provide you a complimentary tape of your segment. Last time I was on Blitzer, though, the interview was transcribed and placed on their website, so Iíll be looking for that at least.


When I get back to the conference (just in time for lunch), Iím approached by a participant for an off-line brief that heís willing to fund in terms of travel if Iím interested in meeting the audience. It was an invitation I had long been waiting for, so Iím hoping we work it out. Til then, enough said.


Why tease that much and no more? Sometimes, when I know that the proposed brief will never happen, I take advantage of the invitation itself because I know thatíll be all there is to exploit. Here, I think it actually will occur, so delayed gratification is in order.


Funny thing is, if this brief happens, probably several others will get cancelled as a result, but I say, you take the bird in the hand over the two in the bush. Thatís my rule #1 on briefs: I donít ask to go anywhere; I only go where Iím invited.


Today, at least, I seemed to stir the pot at this conference to the delight of my client (CNA, or more specifically, my old mentor Hank Gaffney) and the ultimate audience (the NIC, or more specifically my old friend the National Intelligence Officer for Conventional Military Issues, retired Army general John Landry). What I hear is that all the papers (including mine) will eventually be posted on the NICís website. This is great, and is highly indicative of how openly the NIC operates. Thatís why I consider them the cream of the crop in the intelligence community. So when the paper gets posted, I cross-post it here.


The highlight of my day? A senior analyst from the NIC expressing how much he likes reading my blog, especially my post on ìhow Esquire made me the man I am today.î I was really surprised by that, but I guess that explains all the visitors from Langley at the site over the past weeks.


The lowlight? Ralph Petersí consistently bizarre predictions that this century will be the bloodiest ever, that the U.S. will engage in bloody wars beyond our current imagination over the course of our lives, and that Europe will once again become a bloody battleground of high-end warfare (i.e., itís peace since WWII is a ìfadî). Moreover, Islam is a ìfailed civilizationî that weíll end up fighting for most of the centuryóa long-term conflict based overwhelmingly on attrition (killing as many as we can as fast as we can). That this guy is taken seriously within my community troubles me deeply. He doesnít just give Dr. Strangelove a run for his money; he leaves him in the dust.


Hereís todayís catch:


REFERENCES with my commentary:


ìSoldiersí Doubts Build as Duties Shift: For Many, Prolonged Stay and New Threat Have Eroded Early Optimism,î by Daniel Williams, Washington Post, 25 May, p. A11.


ìChinese Newspapers Put Spotlight on Polluters: Factory Shutdowns Follow Reports,î by Edward Cody, WP, 25 May, p. A10.

5:56AM

Warfighters Worn Out as Nation-builders

ìSoldiersí Doubts Build as Duties Shift: For Many, Prolonged Stay and New Threat Have Eroded Early Optimism,î by Daniel Williams, Washington Post, 25 May, p. A11.


Company A of the U.S. Armyís 1st Armored Division ìhas seen all sides of the post-invasion phase of the Iraqi conflictî (e.g., community policing, fighting insurgents, battling crime, defusing bombs, construction projects). They came to topple Saddam and expected to be back in Germany by now.

ìThis shift in responsibility is hitting hard at soldiers who moved into this area south of Baghdad last Wednesday for a short mission to fight [Shiite cleric Moqtada] Sadrís militia. In the view of many troops in Company A of the divisionís Task Force 1-36, the old battle, though filled with hardship, was imbued with the optimism of liberation. The new one is tinted by pessimism. Soldiers feel themselves mired in an effort to navigate the indecipherable intricacies of Iraqi politics.


ëI just think itís a lost cause,í said Spec. Will Bromley, a gunner who sits inside the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and mans a 25mm cannon whose rounds can blast walls to pieces. ëThis has become harder than we thought. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein, thatís one thing. Getting Iraqis to do what we want is another. Itís like we want to give them McDonaldís and they might not want McDonaldís. They have to want it or we canít give it to them.í


Sgt. Jerry Sapiens, a specialist in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, suggested there was no end in sight. ëWeíre in the baby-sitting phase and my question is, how long can we baby-sit for the Iraqis? We want the Iraqis to change, to be like us, and to do this we will have to be here forever.íî

No exit means no exit strategy. The Leviathan force gets to come home, the Sys Admin force does not. Promising one outcome and then tacking on another is a morale killer.

5:53AM

Chinaís 4th estate increasingly targets environmental damage

ìChinese Newspapers Put Spotlight on Polluters: Factory Shutdowns Follow Reports,î by Edward Cody, Washington Post, 25 May, p. A10.


Environmentalists love to extrapolate long-term nightmares from todayís short-term data almost as much as Pentagon long-range planners. China is clearly polluting its environment at an unsustainable rate, butóby definitionóthat rate will not be sustained as it develops its economy. Why? Costs too much in efficiency, plus history shows that as a society reaches a certain GDP/per capita level, citizens begin to value the environment differently (as in more, trading off cleaner air and water against additional increments of income growth). Key to this process is the rise of a free(r) press and a legal system that encourages civil suits for damages. The latter is already appearing in China (class-action lawsuits); this article cites a growing role for the press.


Is this a truly free press? Not by far. Is it freer on certain issues (like the environment and economic corruption) while weaker on others (labor rights and political corruption)? Yes. And is it, in an overall sense, freer than it was a decade ago? Yes.


Focusing on the direction of change instead of strictly on the degree helps us see the half-full glass on China in many spheres.

8:48AM

Reviewing the Reviews (National Anxiety Center)

Dateline: Above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 24 May 2004


That name alone (National Anxiety Center) sends chills up my spine, but as the reviewer (Alan Caruba) explains,

"The Center was created by me in 1990 as a clearinghouse for information about "scare campaigns", but I have expanded its scope of interest with the advent of the Islamic Jihad because so many Americans simply do not have a clue what it is that's trying to kill them in the process of receding into the "Gap" to preserve a 7th century way of life. I have, for example, written that we are watching the early death throes of Islam because it cannot adapt as did Judaism and Christianity. What your book did for me was pull all the various pieces of the puzzle together."
So this guy's really in the business of reducing anxiety, which you gotta like.


Here's the review he'll post at http://www.anxietycenter.com/ and other sites that post his work.

The World and the Middle East

By Alan Caruba


Sometimes I have to remind myself that I did not wake up and go to sleep every day hearing, seeing, and reading about the Middle East. For much of my life it was little more than a setting for the movie ìLawrence of Arabiaî and, earlier, movies about Sinbad. I vaguely understood it to be a very backward place consisting mostly of sand.


There isnít much good to be said of the Middle East. After World War I Great Britain and France divided it between each other. World War II made it necessary for the US to ally with Saudi Arabia to insure a steady supply of oil. Mostly though, it has been lurking around our consciousness since the founding of Israel in 1948. That initiated what would turn out to be more than fifty years of unrelenting Islamic hostility to a nation about the size of New Jersey.


Israelís only real ally would be America. It is the only real democracy in the Middle East. It has been through an endless series of wars and other events that have required some of our attention, but not much while the Cold War continued. When the Soviet Union came to an end, every nation was thrust into a new world and one very much in need of a new set of rules with which to relate to one another.


A book by Thomas P. M. Barnett, ìThe Pentagonís New Mapî ($24.95, G.P. Putnamís Sons) looks at ìWar and Peace in the Twenty-First Century.î Barnett, a futurist and analyst for the Pentagon, spells out a new set of ìrulesî which the world is now fashioning.


At the heart of those rules is ìglobalizationî, the way one part of the world is ìconnectedî by economic and other treaties, the magic of modern communications, and how another part, the Middle East, is seeking to remain ìunconnectedî from the West, presumably to protect Islam and the sources of power that permit despots to continue ruling over the lives of billions of its people.


The Middle East is in the grip of a first class lunatic called Osama bin Laden who, on 9-11, got the worldís attention. His goal is to disconnect the Middle East from the rest of the world and, if that means killing a lot of infidels and a lot of Muslims, so be it. Israel, always the background music to everything else in the Middle East, has a problem called Yasser Arafat. Until he dies, there isnít a hope of peace with the so-called Palestinians.


ìThe grand historical arc of our relationship with Islam is clearly peaking with the Bush Administrationís decision to topple Saddam Husseinís regime and rehabilitate Baathist Iraq, much as we did with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan following WW II,î writes Barnett. ìOver the long run, the real danger we face in this era is more than just the attempts by terrorists to drive the US out of the Middle East; rather, it is their increasingly desperate attempts to drive the Middle East out of the world.î


Barnettís book is devoted to the concept of how some nations, mostly the West as well as some in the East, have become ìconnectedî through the ways modern communications and transportation has facilitated greater trade and prosperity, while those in the Middle East deliberately have not. ìTo be disconnected in this world,î he writes, ìis to be kept isolated, deprived, repressed, and uneducated, ìadding, ìFor young men, it means being kept ignorant and bored and malleable.î


What seems perfectly normal to us is the opposite of what those in Middle Eastern nations have never known. ìWe are the only country in the world,î writes Barnett, ìpurposefully built around the ideas that animate globalizationís advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, (and) freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified.î


ìIf, in waging war against the forces of disconnectiveness, the United States ends up dividing the West, or the heart of the Core (group of nations who subscribe to globalization), then our cure ends up being worse than the disease.î This is the problem we are encountering with Europe. With the exception of those nations still supporting our war in Iraq, others have shown a reluctance to support our effort, i.e., Spain, France, Germany, and the Russian Republic. There are other nations that fear or hate us enough who also would not mind seeing us fail.


Barnett correctly identifies the biggest problem facing us. ìAs America is learning in this global war on terrorism, it is one thing to topple the Taliban or Saddam Hussein with our highly-lethal, highly-maneuverable force, but quite another to actually transform those battered societies into something biggeróto reconnect them to the larger, globalizing world outside.î


A longtime, highly respected Pentagon analyst, Barnett has been arguing inside that vast institution that we need to transform it to deal with a new era. ìIn the post-Cold War era the US tends to send its military to where the wild things are, to the places and situations where the normal rules about not resorting to violence and warfare simply do not seem to hold.î This explains why we have lost more military personnel since the capture of Baghdad than in the campaign to take the city and the nation. We donít fight wars like our enemy.


We donít send airplanes loaded with innocent passengers into buildings filled with more innocent people. Having liberated the Iraqis, we donít understand why they wonít or canít embrace it. The simple answer is that they have no real experience with freedom and will have to learn how to be a democracy. If, in fact, they want to be one. It is, however, vitally necessary to our future and the future of the world that they become a viable democracy.


Right now, one of the problems Americans face is the failure of the Bush Administration to effectively explain why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. ìIn short,î says Barnett, ìthe Bush Administration needs to level with the American public as to where this whole thingóthis global war on terrorism and the preemption strategyóis really going. And if these policy makers themselves are unclear as to these strategiesí ultimate course heading, then they better let the rest of the citizenry in on the inside debates that apparently continue to rage between Colin Powellís State Department and Donald Rumsfeldís Defense Department.î


To me, that is the most chilling aspect of the war on terrorism to which the President has committed the United States. He is not only not much of an orator. He has been talking about freedom and its spread around the world, but offering little more by way of explaining why this is so important. Barnett says, ìWe will need many presidentsóDemocrat and Republicanóover the coming decades who will keep our political system, our public, and the rest of the Core focused on the prize we seekómaking globalization truly global, and shrinking the Gapî (between the Core Western nations and the Gap represented by all those now controlled by Islamic and other oppressive societies.)


In the last great, worldwide war, we fought nation-states that threatened to enslave the world. We defeated and transformed them. In this new asymmetrical war, we are faced by Islamists who fear that globalization will undermine their religion and their way of life. They are prepared to destroy the United States as the worldís beacon of freedom. The question is, are we prepared to take the time, the resources, and the power necessary to defeat them?


Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, ìWarning Signsî, posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com.


© Alan Caruba 2004

COMMENTARY: While not necessarily going along with everything in the piece, I think Caruba highlights a key point of the book: the need to understand bin Laden within the context of history. In the end, this conflict really isn't about us versus them, but about globalization's progressive penetration of traditional Islamic cultures and that process' triggering of a civil war within Islam between those who accept that growing connectivity and those who will fight it to the death. I do think that interpretation reduces Americans' sense of anxiety over this "Global War on Terrorism," because it helps us to realize both the inevitability of this clash (it's not something we alone triggered) and the long-term nature of its unfolding (it will not end simply by pulling U.S. troops out of the region).