Sunday, September 30, 2007
In two recent posts, "You're right. Both Tel Aviv and Riyadh play us like violins" and "The other Tom's Sunday column," Tom Barnett appears to lay the groundwork for supporting, or at least being indifferent to, a war on Iran. I don't mean to say that Tom has a secret agenda, or even that he embraces the logical result of his thinking. Nonetheless, the conclusion that naturally flows from his writing is a command to opponents of offensive operations against Iran: take it easy.
Working backwards, Barnett seconds New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's call for a 9/12 President. The 9/11 emergency, so goes the argument, is over. This is because emergencies are ruled by terrorists, but policy is ruled by states. We are in this for the long haul. This means getting back to normal, and letting the American system that works so well in generating wealth and happiness function. National security will take care of itself, as it always has, because we are the biggest and best country on the block.
But earlier, Tom notes that the Israeli and Saudi governments are manipulating our policy towards Iran. While the Jewish and Wahabi States are not fans of each other, both fear the rise of Iran more than they fear each other. So both advocate, using whatever means they can, for an American strike on Iran.
What a 9/12 President would do is obvious: attack Iran.
Barnett has opposed war with Iran before on the grounds that it would wreck the "big bang effect" caused by the Iraq War. I assume, that when Tom appears to endorse ludicrous ideas (like Friedman's line of "I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans"), Barnett is actually America's governmental infrastructure (especially when it comes to national security) is sufficiently readjusted to the point where just playing for time makes sense. (America famously used the playing-for-time strategy in the Cold War.)
But if we are now playing for time, that means allowing the instability in the middle east to unfold as it will. It means that we no longer need a president who focuses on those problems, but one who allows our response to do the work for him. The rise of Iran surely is a consequence of the take-down of Iraq, as is the push-back from Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Of course, it was dysfunction in the Sunni Arab world that led to 9/11. But Iran's been deeply involved in the Sunni Arab system since 1980, at the latest. The Iranian government is just as much part of that violently dysfunctional systems as Iraq's Saudi Arabia's, or Syria's. A "9/12" President would treat the middle east as just another part of the world, and if our two closest allies in any region are threatened by a rogue enemy, would he act as an ally does or think deeply about what that means for transformative, systemic, change?
The former, of course.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Barnett, T.P.M. 2007. I like it! Numbre three on the list! Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. May 24, 2007. Available online: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2007/05/i_like_it_number_three_on_the.html.
I like this idea a lot (whenever Tom Barnett and Tom Friedman are on the same page, good things happen):
I think any foreign student who gets a Ph.D. in our country -- in any subject -- should be offered citizenship.
Definitely add this one to the list, after civilians who work for the SysAdmin and those who join our armed forces.
I like it!
Besides the short term effects, the biggest effect of granting citizenship to Ph.D.s is long term: the improvement of the American Race.
Intelligence is highly heritable -- something like 50% of variation in general intelligence is explained by genetics. While clearly countries in the Gap do not have social systems to give their citizens an equal chance, it's also clearly that those who do make it to the United States and succeed in a doctoral program are both hard working and smart.
So having an immigration regime which focuses on attracting intellligent individuals has the lasting effect of increasing the intelligence of Americans generally. It allows the United States to continue her policy -- taking the best, brightest, and hardest-working -- from the rest of the world.
I like it!
Monday, November 27, 2006
Dobbs’s rabidness provokes his critics. Not long ago, the Times columnist Thomas Friedman told a law-school audience, “And then you have a blithering idiot like Lou Dobbs, in my view, who’s using the platform of CNN in a news frame. . . . This is not news. And so we have a political class not making sense of the world for people and that’s why the public . . . is so agitated.” The Economist said that one might expect “CNN’s flagship business-news programme . . . to strive for economic literacy,” but, instead, Dobbs greets “every announcement of lost jobs as akin to a terrorist assault”; The Nation accused him of “hysteria and jingoism”; the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Dobbs “failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism” in his reports on anti-immigration groups like the Minutemen; one Hispanic group urged Time Warner to take Dobbs off the air.
In his new book, Dobbs says of Friedman, “His name calling would bother me more if he were anything more than a tool of international corporatism and a card-carrying member of his own Flat Earth Society.
Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
"Dumb as We Wanna Be," by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 20 September 2006, A27.
I've written before on the need for a geogreen gas tax. Raising the effective cost of petroleum to something like five-dollars-per-galloon. A geogreen gas tax supports freedom and frees us from propping up Middle East tyrants.
Stupidly, very stupidly, America taxes foreign sugar-ethanol. This hurts our New Core allies, props up Saudi terror-financiers, and takes in exactly the wrong direction.
Tom Friedman writes:
Thanks to pressure from Midwest farmers and agribusinesses, who want to protect the U.S. corn ethanol industry from competition from Brazilian sugar ethanol, we have imposed a stiff tariff to keep it out. We do this even though Brazilian sugar ethanol provides eight times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it, while American corn ethanol provides only 1.3 times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it. We do this even though sugar ethanol reduces greenhouse gases more than corn ethanol. And we do this even though sugar cane ethanol can easily be grown in poor tropical countries in Africa or the Caribbean, and could actually help alleviate their poverty.
Yes, you read all this right. We tax imported sugar ethanol, which could finance our poor friends, but we don't tax imported crude oil, which definitely finances our rich enemies. We'd rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote anti-poverty.
Hopefully Bush will flip-flop on this soon. Otherwise, his second term will be as wasteful as the Republican House is harmful.
Friday, September 08, 2006
The Central Truth: The Bush Administration Tried to Appease Anti-Democracy Terrorists in Iraq (and Friedman Still Wants To)
"The Central Truth," by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 8 September 2006, http://select.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/opinion/08friedman.html (full text at Boca Guy, donkey o.d., Free Democracy, and Peking Duck).
Tom Friedman, who I generally like except for a reflexive social liberalism, has an almost perfect editorial
The short history of the Iraq war is that the Sunnis in Iraq, and in the nearby Arab states, refused to accept one man, one vote, because it meant bringing the Shiite majority to power in Iraq for the first time. The Sunni mainstream, not the minority, believes Shiites are lesser Muslims and must never be allowed to rule Sunnis. Early in the Iraq war a prominent Sunni Arab leader said to me privately, 'Thomas, these Shiites, they are not real Muslims.'
For two years, the Shiite center in Iraq put up with the barbaric Sunni violence directed against its mosques and markets - violence the U.S. couldn't stop because it didn't have enough troops, and because the Sunni center inside and outside Iraq tacitly supported it.
Friedman makes to claims that are almost right
The Iraqi Sunni Arabs oppose democracy. This is a central realization that the Bush Administration has denied. The Sunni Arabs demand a centralized Iraq, because they hope for a return of their 15% minority government over the whole State. The Sunni Arabs reject democracy by supporting anti-democratic forces such as al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baath Party. However, he is wrong that this means Sunni Arabs in neighboring states oppose democracy, too. The Muslim Brothers, for instance, supported the Iraqi elections because they want to build momentum for elections in Egypt and Syria.
The Multinational Force in Iraq has not protected the Shia majority. Or rather, MFI has attempted to appease the Sunni Arabs by subverting democracy. The Bush Administration has calculated that, by stabbing Iraqi democrats in the back, we can stop Iraqi Sunni Arab terrorists from attacking civilians, policemen, infrastructure, and soldiers. Friedman is wrong that we "couldn't" stop this -- we often came close, such as putting the Fallujis in protective custody. We could achieve military victory. However, Bush does not have the spine to win.
Unfortunately, Friedman's anti-dementia medicine wrote off while he was writing the last paragraph
Just staying the course will not contain it. But before we throw up our hands on Iraq, why not make one more big push to produce a more stable accord between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds over how to share power and oil revenues and demobilize militias. We still don't have such an understanding at the center of Iraqi politics. It may not be possible, but without it, neither is a self-sustaining, unified Iraqi democracy.
Translation: Why not try to appease one more time, but this time, in a BIG way.
Neville Chamberlain, the Great Appeaser, originally chose Lord Halifax as the next Prime Minister of Britain. Halifax's plan would have been to continue the policy of appeasement against Germany, accepting German domination of Europe in the wake of her invasion of Poland. Fortunately for history Halifax knew he was spineless and demurred, allowing Winston Churchill to lead the United Kingdom. Halifax knew his own policy would be disastrous.
Let's hope Bush comes to the same realization, and leaves Iraq now. Let's hope Friedman comes to the realization or, at least, lays off the crazy pills.
Update: Barnett sound like he agrees.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
"The Book Is Flatulent: A Brief Review of Thomas L. Friedman's "The World Is Flat" Op-Ed," by Thomas Barnett, The Newsletter from Thomas P.M. Barnett, 20 June 2005, http://www.newrulesets.com/journals/barnett_20jun2005.pdf.
"Friedman’s excellent capture on why Iraq still matters--and still must be won," by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 26 May 2006, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003299.html.
After Tom Barnett's scortched earth review of Tom Friedman's The World is Flat, I was defensive. I had enjoyed the book, and expected Barnett (whose work is obviously influenced by Friedman's) to pen a positive review. Reading World was a wonderful vacation, and Tom Friedman and Tom Barnett are the two authors I advice my international relations students to read.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Note: This is part of a series of reviews for Blueprint for Action. The introduction and table of contents are also available.
Tom Barnett has been embracing losing.
Now it is time for him to embrace defeat.
The original Embracing Defeat, written by Dr. John Dower, is the story of Japan under the American Occupation. It argued that Japan recognized the destruction of the war as a result of an independent foreign policy, and so concluded that the way forward had to involve a dependent foreign policy. The rise of Japan since has proven the wisdom of this policy.
Japan, by embracing defeat, was applying a common military doctrine: don't reinforce failure. Just as a wise general doesn't lose more lives taking a hard pillbox, when there is an easier way to victory, a wise nation's policy should flow like water, away from the tough high points and to the easy lowlands.
In Blueprint for Action, Dr. Thomas PM Barnett embraces strategic defeat, urging America to save her strengths by avoiding what is difficult. He specifically rejects Robert Kaplan's vision of a "pagan ethos," because it is too hard.
Just as Barnett says America won't win in Iraq -- globalization will win in Iraq, Barnett the solution for the Gap isn't American occupation, but rather international cooperation.
In this he is correct. However, Barnett's defeatism, which has unfoled with his philosophy, has yet to rearrange some of his original concepts.
Tom Barnett's grand strategic vision is shrinking the Gap, expanding the Zone of Peace into the whole of the Zone of War.
Dr. Barnett gives two strategies for shrinking the gap. The first is the "Reverse Domino Theory," which is familiar to anyone who has read Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and its extended final chapter, The World is Flat. In the Reverse Domino Theory, the rising connectedness of one country spills over into others, such as Chinese investment in nations that supply raw materials to the Middle Kingdom.
The second strategy, "The A-Z Rule Set for Processing Politically Bankrupt States," fleshes out one paragraph in Barnett's previous book, The Pentagon's New Map
Perhaps the most important institutional challenge we fave in shrinking the Gap is the lack of international mechanisms to encourage and manage much-needed regime change there. The Gap suffers numerous bad leaders who have greatly overstayed their welcome, and the Core needs a series of international institutions to guide this process, such as Sebastian Mallaby's "International Reconstruction Fund" be created along the lines of the International Monetary Fund. This organization would focus on pooling expertise and resources, such as peacekeeping forces, to facilitate the professing of failed states once bad leadership has been removed, How to identify such leaders for removal? Here is the example of the joint UN-Sierra Leone war crime special court shows the way. Once the court indicated Liberia president Charles Taylor for his activities in Sierra Leone, his fall was predetermined. This is exactly the sort of approach we should use for the Castros, Mugabes, and Qaddafis of the Gap. Let their own regional neighbors hurl the first charges, and then let the Core step in and force their downfall
As outlined in Blueprint for Action, the Rule Set starts and ends with the United Nations (from Security Council to International Criminal Court), has a lot of room for Inter-Governmental Organizations in the middle (from the G20 "Star Chamber" to the International Reconstruction Fund), with the American invasion and hand-over smack in the middle.
Because of American weakness, Barnett cedes critical portions of shrinking the gap to non-Americans, subsuming much of American foreign policy under a "global test."
Barnett's philosophy naturally tries to maximize gains with a minimum of expenditure. Yet he stops here, not taking his philosophy to its logical conclusion.
How should Dr. Barnett embrace defeat even more? Stay tuned, and find out!
This has been Embracing Defeat, part of a series of reviews for Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett's Blueprint for Action. The posts in Embracing Defeat are:
I. Barnett's Two Strategies
II. Blood and Will
III. The Born Gimp
IV. Embracing Victory
Sunday, June 26, 2005
"How Companies Cope," by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 356.
From Friedman's thought-provoking work on globalization
"In the old days," said Vive Paul, the Wipro president, "when you started a company, 'Boy, in twenty years, I hope we will be a multinational company.' Today, you say to yourself that on day two I will be a multinational. Today, there are thirty-person companies starting out with twenty employees in Silicon Valley, and ten in India... And if you are a multiproduct company, you are probably going to have some manufacturing relationships in Malaysia and China, some design in Taiwan, some customer support in India and the Phippines, and possibly some engineering in Russia and the U.S." These are the so-called micromultinationals, and they are the wave of the future.
Is this change in business companies also relevant for terrorist networks? If a company can be a micromultinational in two days, can a terrorist organization?
First, let's diagram a simple 21-man micromultinational
Three Layers, Four Countries
Note that we don't know if the top level is "CEO" or "Emir," if the middle layer is "Manager" or "Sheik," or if the lowest level is "Knowledge Worker" or "Mujahid." We only know it is a relatively flat command-and-control network with operations in the United States, European Union, South Asia, and Middle East / North Africa.
We solve the mystery if we ask what enables the peaceful corporation to make itself a micromultinational in two days:
- Common language
- Communications technology
- Trust in contracts
Trust in contracts is vital to quickly build a micromultinational. In business, if your new European component doesn't do what you want, you can sue them and get your money back. You also know your workers are unlikely to kill you.
Trust is lacking when trying to quickly build terrorist micromultinationals. Not only may the jihadis you just gave money to run out and spend it in Bangkok, they may be Enemy agents trying to kill you.
This means corporations are more nimble than terrorists, no matter how much terrorists want to be entrepreneurs.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"This Is Not A Test," by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 300-302.
"To join Core is to import its rules, finds Turkey," by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/001052.html.
After talking about importing rule sets -- a process Tom Friedman calls "globalution"...
"When you have the procurement dollars that HP and McDonald's have," said Dunn, "people really want to do business with you, so you have leverage and are in a position to set standards and [therefore] you have a responsibility to set standards." The role of global corporations in setting standards in emerging markets id doubly important, because oftentimes local governments actually want to improve their environmental standards. They know it is important in the long run, but the pressure to create jobs and live within budget constraints is overwhelming and therefore the pressure to look the other way is overwhelming. Countries like China, noted Dunn, often actually want an outside force, like a global business coalition, to exert pressure to drive new values and standards at home that they are too weak to impose on themselves and their own bureaucrats. In The Lexus and the Olive Tree I called this form of value creation globalution," or revolution from beyond.
Friedman irrationally succumbs to an unrelated triumphalism on "moral values"
"Compassionate capitalism. Think it sounds like an oxymoron? Think again," said Gunther. "Even as America is supposedly turning conservative on social issues, big business is moving in the other direction."
Friedman wants a backlash against globalization ? He wants to see his Globalization 4.0, or III, or whatever the heck, crash and burn? Go to poor companies and mess with their families. It worked great in Qing China (*cough* 30 million dead in the Taiping rebellion *cough*), the Shah's Iran (*cough* Islamic Republic *cough*), Czarist Russia (LENIN!) and every other place it was tried.
Tom Barnett has it spot-on
You want the Gap to remain the Gap? Then make unreasonable demands that countries there find some way to develop economically without damaging the environment. Or pretend they can somehow skip the factory-based abuse of workers that the Old Core went through. Or pretend that a perfectly operating democracy on par with Vermont is required before they can join our "club."
You can't demand the code before offering the connectivity—it's really that simple.
That's why the EU better damn well deliver membership soon to Turkey, which is jumping through hoops as fast those rule-obsessed Europeans can throw them.
Does Friedman want poor countries kept poor? Judging by his advise that rich country corporations should not work in societies that require side payments, apparently so.
"The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War," by Charles Krulak, Marines Magazine, January 1999, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/strategic_corporal.htm.
"This Is Not A Test," by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 282-283.
In ancient times, the Scythian sheik system created super-empowered managers. One man out of five was a sheik, a lowest-level manager with very broad authority. Being a sheik meant expert knowledge of warfare, equestrianism, and herding. It meant being charged with rapidly adapting to changing circumstances for the good of the larger network.
In modern warfare, this is the doctrine of the strategic corporal:
Leadership, of course, remains the hard currency of the Corps, and its development and sustainment is the third and final step in the creation of the Strategic Corporal. For two hundred and twenty-three years, on battlefields strewn across the globe, Marines have set the highest standard of combat leadership. We are inspired by their example and confident that today's Marines and those of tomorrow will rise to the same great heights. The clear lesson of our past is that success in combat, and in the barracks for that matter, rests with our most junior leaders. Over the years, however, a perception has grown that the authority of our NCO's has been eroded. Some believe that we have slowly stripped from them the latitude, the discretion, and the authority necessary to do their job. That perception must be stamped out. The remaining vestiges of the "zero defects mentality" must be exchanged for an environment in which all Marines are afforded the "freedom to fail" and with it, the opportunity to succeed. Micro-management must become a thing of the past and supervision -- that double-edged sword -- must be complemented by proactive mentoring. Most importantly, we must aggressively empower our NCO's, hold them strictly accountable for their actions, and allow the leadership potential within each of them to flourish. This philosophy, reflected in a recent Navy Times interview as "Power Down," is central to our efforts to sustain the transformation that begins with the first meeting with a Marine recruiter. Every opportunity must be seized to contribute to the growth of character and leadership within every Marine. We must remember that simple fact, and also remember that leaders are judged, ultimately, by the quality of the leadership reflected in their subordinates. We must also remember that the Strategic Corporal will be, above all else ... a leader of Marines.
How do we apply the sheik system, the strategic corporal doctrine, to business and education? First, remember in economics that capital substitutes for labor. In other words, the more machines and computers and software programs you have, the less workers you need. So in many ways every office worker is a strategic corporal, with his own type-setter, copyist, courier, and other assistants in his computer. Every office worker is a sheik.
When IBM brought in Lou Gerstner to save the company....
one of the first things he did was replace the notion of lifetime employment with the nation of lifetime employability. A friend of mine, Alex Attal, a French-born software engineer who was working for IBM at the time, described the shift this way: "Instead of IBM giving you a guarantee that you will eb employed, you had to guarantee that you could stay employable. The company would give you the framework, but you had to build it yourself. It's all about adapting [all about being a good sheik -- tdaxp]. I was head of sales for IBM France at the time. It was the mid-nineties. I told my people that in the old days [the concept of] lifetime employment was only a company's responsibility, not a personal responsibility. The company will give you access to knowledge, but you have to take advantage of it... You have to build the skills because it will be you against a lot of other people.
And the geogreen energy-independence project is a perfect way to encourage every American to be a sheik:
To be sure, it is not easy to get people passionate about the flat world. It takes some imagination. President Kennedy understood that the competition with the Soviet Union was not a space race but a science race, which was really an education race [in other words, the "space race" was cover for the real war of educating Americans -- tdaxp]. Yet the way he chose to get Americans excited about sacrificing and buckling down to do what it took to win the Cold War -- which required a large-scale push in science and engineering -- was by laying out the vision of putting a man on the moon, not a missile into Moscow. If President Bush is looking for a similar legacy project, there is one just crying out -- a national science initiative that would be our generation's moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in ten years. If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, in one fele swoop eh would dry up revenue for terrorism, force Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia onto the path of reform -- which they will never do with $50-a-barrel oil -- strengthen the dollar, and improve his own standing in Europe by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a real magnate to inspire young people to contribute to both the war on terrorism and America's future by again becoming scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. "This is not just a win-win," said Michael Mandelbaum. "This is a win-win-win-win-win-win."
As Tom Friedman says, we must train more Americans to be strategic corporals -- to be adaptable experts ("strategic scientists") to maximize our competitive advantages.
Through this plan, we can seize the highground in the flat world. We should do it.