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

Entries in EU (32)


The Hegemon's Dilemma

Great bit from recent Economist story on how Germany is the only European state showing any genuine leadership (versus thinking only of itself):

In a Europe overshadowed by Brexit, Germany is thus feeling the dilemma of hegemony that America has known for seven decades: the temptation to use its power in its own interests conflicts with the duty to use that power to preserve global order. In Europe that means containing the EU’s “centrifugal forces”, as Mrs Merkel said repeatedly in the week after the referendum. 


(RESILIENT BLOG) EU Leapfrogs US On Data Privacy Rules – And Punishments, Creating A Regulatory Disruption

Earth within a water drop. Ecosystem conceptTHE EUROPEAN UNION FANCIES ITSELF AS A "RULES SUPERPOWER," meaning it creates new rules within its ranks and, by the power of its economic heft, they are effectively "exported" to other regions in a sort of regulatory osmosis (you do business with Europe, you adapt to those rules, those rules spread throughout your enterprise).

Fair enough, and certainly something the U.S. has been doing on trade for decades ...




Now Japan and EU start talks on free trade deal

FT story.

Comes right on the heels of recent talks with US to consider starting similar negotiations.

This is the West not waiting on the WTO, which is good.

It's also the West recognizing collective strengths, which is also good.

That's the funny thing about trade pacts - they tend to come when times are bad. 

Because, when times are good, everyone's too picky and demanding.  But when times are bad, and everyone assumes trade protectionism will rule, wiser heads prevail.

This is old-school globalization (1945-1980), and it's good to see that it's still capable of moving the ball forward.


Obama's serious movement toward a genuine foreign policy legacy

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

Impossible!  I know.

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

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

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


Does Obama let the transatlantic bond fade too casually?


I have been preaching for well over a decade now that America needs to realize that it's most productive allies going forward, when it comes to security affairs, are going to be different from those upon whom it relied in the past.

It's a simple logic that fits global trends:  Europe was incentivized big-time before, it's far less so now.  America feels a different responsibility on a global scale.  China and India rise, their global interests expand, and they display more and more interest and capacity to defend those interests.

So not a hard leap:  you work with those most similarly incentivized in the era that you're in right now.  You don't hold to nostalgia.  You want allies with big (and growing) militaries), growing interests, and a clear willingness to go place and kill people to protect those interests.  Crudely put, but there it is.

We are currently in an age of transition from a familiarity and comfort-zone with Europe to one in which we are inevitably drawn into cooperation with India and China to manage this world from a security perspective.

And yet, there is a part of me that says, what matters most going forward is who gets to the shared future in the best shape.  And that means, who processes (as I've said in the brief for a while now) the widespread populist anger and pursues a sufficiently progressive agenda to clean things up and get their countries in shape for the economic competitions still to come.  By that last part, I mean, we see a global middle class rise now, and we face an era of extreme technological change as a result.  Why?  The compelling global need to disconnect standard of living from consumption - plain and simple.

For now, I like the path America is going to have to go down regarding painful reforms and improvements better than I like those of India or China (also a staple of my brief).  We've engaged in such progressive eras before and we're well suited to that task.  We simply lack the political leadership now.

And here's the rub that creates the doubt.  

If we run off too seriously in our strategic "pivot," I fear we engage in the usual escapism ("Look Ma!  I'm fixing the future!") instead of looking within and making the necessary changes happen.

Europe faces many of the same advanced challenges.  We unconsciously model ourselves on them, and they on us, far more than either cares to admit.  Read the Economist if you don't believe me.

So my concern is this:  are we missing the great opportunity for co-evolutionary dynamics if America turns too swiftly and deterministically on this pivot?

Obama is an arrogant man and an even more arrogant president.  Not as bad as Bush, but still.  

I fear this strategic "pivot" is one of the most poorly considered shifts the US has ever made.  I usually cite the foolishness of picking fights with one's banker, and there are many more, but this time I think we're losing our center of gravity some inside globalization.

I also fear we're missing a chance to reform ourselves as needed.  We'll find no answers in China and India on this score.  And - again - the sense of geo-political escapism is palpable regarding the Arab Spring, Africa's churn, our need to integrate more with LATAM.

Don't get me wrong: I don't see scarier worlds out there that need more US military operations.  I see a world of small threats, small wars and small - networked - efforts.

And then I see a president with this grand notion of boxing China in - no matter what fine words he's using - and I see a narrow vision arrogantly pursued.


Greece: how bad does it get?

Malaria still existed throughout much of the US in the 1930s/40s.  Since then it has gotten much warmer throughout the US.  But malaria is basically gone now.  Why?  Rising incomes.

So the point on global warming is, it'll create real problems wherever states and societies don't have the money to deal with the challenges - such as insect migration.

Now take a look at this chart from the WSJ and realize what happens when incomes fall - and how quickly.

Recently, Wikistrat ran a sim where we discussed the possibility of states making sovereign land sales.  Several analysts said that, while that happened in previous centuries (note how most of America was acquired), nobody would consider that now.

My comeback was, if the financial situation gets bad enough, countries will sell just like people get rid of an underwater house.

Greece is looking pretty bad, and I think it's a harbinger of massive debt issues to come for a demographically aging West.

The discussion we had was about the Arctic and the possibility of some Arctic Council members selling out to non-members so as to tap the finance needed for exploitation of opportunities.  After all, the US bought its seat at the table - aka, Alaska.


No-fault separatism thanks to globalization

Old argument of mine:  globalization comes in and all manner of divorces ensue.  Typically it's a fake state in the Gap that's coming apart at the artificial seams, but the larger point is, the more overarching multinationalism you have, the lower the cost of divorce/remapping.  You're going to be together anyway (you still have the "kids" of the union), but why stay together if you don't have to?

Europe demonstrates this:  the more integrated it becomes, the more states appear.

Great FT one-pager on "long-simmering separatist movements . . . gaining strength."  You might think it's the Eurozone troubles that is responsible, but that's the proximate opportunity - not the ultimate enabler.  Real federalism is coming, so why not get out of your unhappy marriage in the bargain?

Here's the counterintuitive part: it's often the most competent and richest that want out.  The better want to leave behind the worse.

So this isn't about suffering.  This is about ambition.


Globalization and the remaking of parts of this world

Nice piece by Friedman talking about the supranational challenges foisted upon Europe by globalization and the subnational challenges foisted upon the Middle East by the same.

He makes a big deal about both happening at the same time, but in my mind, the connecting logic is not all that hard to see.

Globalization requires strong states.  It does not eliminate them as many suppose, nor particularly weaken them. Data upon data shows that the national economies most able to successfully engage globalization do so thanks to strong states (strong in power, less so in reach as they tend to be democracies).

So when globalization comes to weak/fragile/fake states, like we have in the Middle East, it tends to fracture them, revealing the subnational fissures below.  In this way, the "divorces" we're witnessing now are very much like what we saw in the Balkans in the 1990s, where we saw a fake supranational state dismembered by the heterogeniety of the players within (some were ready to take on globalization and win, others less so).

So what are we looking at in the Middle East?  A long period of nation-building done by somebody, but mostly by the locals with help of foreign investors because outside governments with their aid are so bad at encouraging such things.  Beyond that, these relatively small states must come together in supranational organizations that reward their collective strength.  Imagine the US as 50 competing states versus a supranational union, because we are lucky to be so organized (actually, luck had nothing to do with it, because, once we made our miniature version of globalization happen in North America, we successfully set about replicating it globally over the past seven decades).

So yeah, a long row to hoe in the Middle East.

Europe is far more fortunate, and it's incorrect to make it seem like it's suffering similar dynamics.  Europe is full of real states and they have all the instruments necessary for true supranational union. They just need to evolve those instruments and their rules toward that end. So, if the Middle East faces a massive evolution/transformation that stretches over decades, Europe faces nothing of the sort.  It's just a matter of political will among the richer units (Germany especially).  The legimimate solution to Europe's problems can be set in motion in a matter of weeks.  It's simply a question of whether or not Europe wants that future or still fantasizes about a world in which smaller states can do better at globalization than supranational unions.

Look around your world on the question of resources.  Check out energy and food and ask yourself: do you see far more interdependency on the horizon or far less?  If you see the latter, you say, "We'll get by on our own!"  If you see the former, you say, "We'd be safer in a larger multinational setting."

The Middle East has little hope for such solutions, except among the rich PG states, where Riyadh pushes such confederation instinctively.  Europe is in a good enough place.  It just lacks the political will to do what needs to be done. 

This is not the tragedy of the commons.  This is tragedy defined by political generations of leaders not being ready for what history has thrust upon them.  You look at Merkel.  You know her story.  You know what she's been through and what she fears.

Merkel may still be up for the challenge.  Women tend to spot these opportunities better than men.  She may also be playing the clever game of letting events deteriorate to where she gets what she wants and believes Europe needs.  I suspect that is the case.

I also suspect we are witnessing an enormous gamble.  

But, in the end, I expect Europe to pull it off.  It won't be pretty.  It'll just be enough.

Europe, after adding so many stars so fast, truly risks losing some now. America went through that under far worse circumstances.  But have no doubt, Merkel needs to become a bit Hamilton and a bit Lincoln.


Wikistrat post @ CNN-GPS: Three visions for America

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

The U.S. economy is most definitely in recovery mode, but it’s the sort of recovery one experiences after a scary heart attack.  There is little confidence in being able to go uptempo. Fears persist about slipping into a permanent sort of disability.

Worse, many are resigned to the fact that big structural problems such as health care, tax reform, the federal deficit and education remain unaddressed by a political system that remains fiercely divided.

So America finds itself in a funny position: Clearly getting better and doing better than most of the West but almost completely lacking in self-confidence.  If this is “morning in America,” then most citizens have hit their snooze button.

This week’s Wikistrat’s drill explores this ambivalence in the face of mounting good economic news, asking our global community of experts to present their arguments for the U.S. economy’s possible mid-term (3-5 year) paths ahead.  We’ll start with the optimism and then let the darker thoughts pile up - much like most Americans today.

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.


WPR's The New Rules: A Positive Narrative for U.S. Foreign Policy

Where is the positive vision for U.S. foreign policy in this election? President Barack Obama and on-again, off-again “presumptive” GOP nominee Mitt Romney now duel over who is more anti-declinist when it comes to America’s power trajectory, with both slyly attaching their candidacies to the notion that “the worst” is now behind us. On that score, Obama implicitly tags predecessor George W. Bush, while Romney promises a swift end to all things Obama. 

Halftime in America? Indeed.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Chart of the day: Flat-liners versus climbers on L.T. energy demand

From an otherwise regurgitating Economist special report on state capitalism, a wonderfully clear chart on primary energy demand, aggregated as billion tons of oil equivalent.

Not amazing: semi-flat growth for Russia, given its demographic slide.

Impressive for US and EU: the efficiency angle keeping growth flat, despite modest economic growth and significant demographic growth for US.

Curious is Brazil's capacity to keep its curve semi-flat.

So that leaves only the two great risers as demand climbers: China's stunning trajectory and India's late-blooming-but-likely-to-skyrocket-from-that-point-on curve (India surpasses China in labor around 2030 and then grows 50% larger, suggesting it will replicate China's trajectory on some level, understanding that its energy profile could be dramatically different in those future decades).

To me, this is a great example of why the military containment strategy (keep the PLA boxed-in in East Asia is dangerous - and counterproductive.  China needs to go so incredibly global due to its energy demand that it's only natural that it build up power projection and become more contentious on the issue of energy security. America can address all that or go super-unimaginative and make it all about an arms race in East Asia, believing that we'll temper China's behavior by doing the same things we did with the Sovs in the Cold War.

But making China feel nervous at home makes it harder for it to address its growing overseas dependencies in the very same regions where the U.S. is becoming less interested in providing stability and more focused on just killing bad guys. Conceivably, our willingness to go anywhere we want, when we want, to kill anybody we want, would make the Chinese feel better about their interests in these regions. But this thin-green-line approach, augmented with the transparent encirclement strategy in East Asia, essentially works to keep China nervous on both scores by insinuating that growing Chinese military capacity is automatically bad - both at home and extra-regionally, unless, of course, the Chinese become "transparent" in the direction of the very same superpower that threatens them in their home region with its world-class military (the same one that's just declared China to be its primary force-sizing threat from here on out).

Bit much, huh?



China as Africa's De Facto World Bank - the Wikistrat video

This is a recorded briefing that I generated from the recent Wikistrat internal training simulation entitled, "China as Africa's de facto World Bank." It summarizes the points I gleaned from the wide-ranging simulation (dozens of wiki pages filled with all manner of brainstormed ideas, strategies, options by several dozen analysts) and summed up in an 8-page report.

This was the first major video production in the set-up I have constructed - after excruciating testing and accumulation of equipment - in our new rental home, which, in various parts, doubles as my work environment. Fortunately for me, virtually everyone else in my family is in school, with youngest Abebu starting within months. So during the day I have the house completely under control, meaning I can meticulously set up the gear, test at length, and pursue recordings and subsequent processing/production in peace.

Ah, the life of the bootstrapped start-up!

Naturally, comments and suggestions are welcomed on content, presentation choices (there are many ways to skin that cat, given the tremendous volume of ideas generated by any one simulation), and video capture.

One correction already accomplished: on this taping I set up a flatscreen for video feedback (I can see screen's content and myself in foreground) just to the right of the camera.  That gives me a slight off-camera eye orientation, which I thought was fine for simulating an audience interaction. But in retrospect, we decided that a straight-into-the-camera style would be better.  That is accomplished in an improved set-up that involves a smaller feedback screen being place just below the came - as in, within a couple of inches. That way I can look directly into the feedback and be, for all practical purposes, looking directly into the camera. The feedback screen is crucial because all of these briefs will be screen-content heavy and first-and-one-time briefs on my part, meaning I can't possibly memorize every click like I do on my regular brief. In that way, it is a LOT like doing the TV weather: lots of data/info to get through and you need to position yourself in front of the screen while not blocking it.  I do fairly well on this first try, but can obviously get smoother - trick being the feedback presents itself in a mirror image.

Another fix in the works: I lost my clip for my clip-on mike and therefore had to wear below the camera line because my substitute clip ain't so elegant.  That meant I picked up the clicking sound from my remote controller a bit too much - for my taste. New one is in the mail, so next time I'll wear the mike far higher and hopefully not pick up that sound.

Overall, pretty happy with the effort. At first, I repeat the text too much, but I warm up over time and get more extemporaneous and relaxed as I got more comfortable with moving myself around. This is far different from me being tracked by a cameraman on a big stage, because I go completely unconscious on my style and let the camera-guy deal with all that.  Here, with a fixed camera, I have to adjust my style somewhat. So a bit stiff at first, improving throughout, and clearly something I will grow more easy with it as I repeat the process.


WPR's The New Rules: A Foreign Policy Wish List for 2012 

Last year was a tough one in terms of global economics, humanitarian disasters and political leadership among the world's great powers. But it was also the year of the glorious Arab Spring and hints of similar developments in Myanmar, Russia and Ethiopia. So while the year's "fundamentals," as the economists like to say, weren't so good, it left us with plenty to be grateful for as globalization continues to awaken the desire of individuals for freedom the world over. Keeping all that in mind, here is my foreign policy wish list for 2012.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Quoted in Reuters piece on Eurozone break-up scenario


LONDON | Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:54am EST

(Reuters) - Any euro zone failure would send shock waves around the globe, shifting the balance of geopolitical power and perhaps prompting a fundamental reassessment of what the world's future might look like.

. . .

Suddenly, pundits, policymakers and other observers find themselves questioning one of their most fundamental assumptions -- that an increasingly united Europe would be a key player in a newly multipolar world.

"You already have one of the great pillars of globalization, the United States, entering a period of difficulty and looking inward," said Thomas Barnett, US-based chief strategist of political risk consultancy Wikistrat -- which is being asked by several private clients to urgently model scenarios. "Now one of the other pillars, Europe, looks about to implode."

That, he said, could leave the continent's powers -- who only a handful of years ago made up much of the G7 group of largest economies -- increasingly sidelined as China, India, Brazil and others rose.

. . .

Wikistrat chief strategist Barnett says much depends on what emerges if the Euro falls. If, as many suspect, a rump euro zone around Germany remains whilst Mediterranean states go their own way, the whole geopolitical focus of the continent could shift.

The northern element, he suggests, could focus its attention more to the east, giving priority to what could either become a corporatist or confrontational relationship with Moscow. The southern states, in contrast, might integrate much more closely with North Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean -- a region perhaps dominated by a newly assertive Turkey.

The euro itself should still be salvageable, he says, but it may just be that the political will is simply not there.

"It's essentially a common-law marriage that never quite made it to the church and now seems to be moving toward a split," said Barnett. "It shouldn't be necessary, you would have hoped that it could be avoided, but we are living through an age of political immaturity."

. . .

Find the entire article here.


Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 6 (Flow of Security)

In this section I cover the symmetricization of the Long War, nuclear proliferation (and the lack thereof), how America shaped this world with its grand strategy, and who the key superpowers will be in the post-2030 landscape.


Time's Battleland: Right where we've always wanted us

Philip Stephens of the Financial Times recently pens a rather pessimistic piece on what Libya said about "Britain's pretensions of influence." Noting that the "campaign has stretched the armed forces to their limit," he calls it a "last hurrah." Now, the underlying tone of the piece is his criticism of PM David Cameron's desire to pursue a foreign policy more independent of both the US and EU, thus reaching out to the emerging powers, but his overall use of the Libyan intervention got me thinking: isn't this what we've always wanted in terms of a balanced world?

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.



Chart of the day: EU public sector debt as % of GDP

First, here's the slide I use in the brief for the U.S.:

So you get the sense of the US coming out of WWII basically 100% in debt and then spending three decades to whittle it down to just over 30%.  Then Reagan-Bush jack it up to almost 70%, then Clinton brings it back down to almost half, then W. send its back up to 70% and Obama sends it even higher.  On the current course, we're back up in the 100% range within years.

Scary stuff.

Here's a similar chart, but laid out as a map of the European Union:

So what do you take from this:  when you get in the range that we're heading for, you run the risk of sovereign default--unless, of course, you're the world's leading reserve currency (used to be 70%, now closer to 60% and dropping).  

You look at France at 84% and you realize why Sarkozy is taking on the public unions (Economist cover last week).  But you also look at Germany and you have to wonder about it's tough love vis-a-vis a Spain, yes?

Point being, almost nobody in the West is doing well on this score.  Lotsa glass houses to go around.


Whither Russia: the latest tilt to the West

Couple of stories from WSJ and Spiegel on Russia's latest mini-bout of Westernizing fever.

It used to be that these tilts, one way or the other, went on for decades--centuries!  But since Cold War's end, it seems, like everything else in this networked world, to come and go so much faster.

Yeltsin's time was an age of aping the West, then Putin led the return back to Russian-ness.  Now Medvedev and others sound the age-old alarm about "falling behind the West/world" and needing to modernize once again.  It's the same old Westernizers versus Slavophiles debate:  Russia is a failure in its isolation and backwardness and must adopt the ways of the West versus Russia is not a failure but unique and wonderful and the champion of Slavs everywhere and we must stand up to the West and protect our brothers . . . by sucking them into our empire and putting a big wall around them!

If the last bit sounds like some modern-day Islamic radical fundamentalist impulse, it's because it is very similar.  It's just an earlier version of rejecting the capitalist west.

From "Blueprint":

Last year I took my kids up to Boston, and during that trip we visited the Museum of Science. It’s a kid-oriented place, and my job was mostly to make sure my youngest son, Jerome, didn’t run off into some crowd. Near the end of the day, after the lightning show and the planetarium, we stopped by an exhibition on archaeology, where the kids got to mess around with various assembled skeletons. So while they were stacking bones in one corner, I found myself scanning the room for something to look at. I was drawn to a world map hung on a nearby wall. On it was displayed the migration of humans from our earliest origins in sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 100,000 years ago.

Now, the first thought that hit me is one that I’ve heard many times in the past: the spread of humanity around the planet was the first form of globalization. But as I stared at the timeline legend, another thought occurred to me: the spread of the current model of economic globalization is really the reverse track of that original spread of humanity. Humanity first spread from Africa to the Middle East; then to Eurasia; then to Europe, Japan, and Australia; and finally into the New World of the Western Hemisphere about 10,000 years ago. So if you were going to date civilizations, the age ranking would roughly correspond to the spread of humanity, with Africa and the Middle East being the oldest and the Western Hemisphere being the youngest.

But today’s version of globalization really began in the Western Hemisphere (the United States), then spread outward to include the West (Japan, Australia, Europe), finally conquering the Eurasian socialist bloc in the last generation, and now finding itself fundamentally stuck (no pun intended) on the oldest and least globalized parts of the world—namely, the Muslim world and Africa. In effect, modern globalization can be described as roughly a 150-year trek from the “youngest” parts of the world to the “oldest,” which is why it’s gotten harder and not easier with time, because it’s had more and more tradition and custom and history to overcome at each stage of its spread.

Admittedly, this thought didn’t come to me in a flash right then and there, because, as always, I was pretty tired from chasing my kids around that huge museum all day. What happened right there was that a different thought that had been crystallizing in my head for several days finally made sense when I saw the map. For that one, I have to take you to my nightly exercise on the treadmill, where I like to watch documentaries on my laptop.

Turns out a few days earlier I was watching Ken Burns’s masterful The Civil War, and listening to the descriptions of the conflict and what was at stake for both sides, I couldn’t help but think that the American Civil War was really the first Core-Gap war of the modern era. The North was the land of great cities, railroads, and factories, bristling with connectivity to the outside world in all forms, but especially in terms of immigrants streaming in from Europe. In contrast, the South was the bucolic, agrarian, and far more homogeneous landscape, largely disconnected from the outside world except for the narrow but voluminous trade in cotton, and distinguishable fundamentally for its heavy reliance on slave labor, which further isolated it from the rest of the world.

I know what you’re thinking: substitute oil for cotton and Asian guest workers for slaves and you’ve got some interesting parallels with a United States–led Core coalition of states seeking to transform the Middle East in another bloody war of conquest and occupation. The Union didn’t exactly invade the Confederacy to “secure” the cotton, now, did it? And the reality today is that we don’t need to invade the Persian Gulf to “secure” its oil, either. Hell, given the region’s great dependency on oil revenue, the regimes there have far fewer choices about selling their oil than the rest of the world has about buying it.

Well, it was following America’s Civil War that you really saw the second industrial revolution begin to flower in the United States, helping to speed up the westward expansion of the Union. Once the country became effectively networked with railroads, most of the movement of raw materials in our land fed the giant industrial beast rising in the northeastern quadrant of the continent. It was roughly in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, then, that the United States finally began to resemble the multinational economic and political union that it is today, with its amazingly free and efficient movement of goods, services, people, and information across dozens of states all bound together under a federal government made significantly more powerful through civil war.

Meanwhile, of course, while America was rising “peacefully” in the Western Hemisphere, Europe spent the nineteenth century expanding its vast network of colonial possessions around the world in a great race among imperial powers, giving rise to the first great modern phase of globalization (Globalization I), running roughly from 1870 through 1914. This globalization, though, was largely based on the uncompetitive movement of raw materials from the periphery (colonies) to the home world (Europe), and it was enforced primarily by the occupation of foreign lands by European nationals augmented by extensive military networks (primarily defined by navies). When that system of global economy self-destructed in two great world wars (1914–18 and 1939–45), Europe was divided between the two victorious external powers: the United States and the Soviet Union.

At that point, Western Europe was connected, along with Japan and Australia, to America’s new version of globalization (Globalization II, from 1945–80), one not based on colonialism but on free markets, free trade, transparency, democracy, and collective security. On the other side of the Yalta line, Eastern Europe was disconnected from the rest of the world and fell under the isolating control of the Soviet Union for almost half a century. When China subsequently fell to the Communists and South Asia broke free from Europe’s colonial grip, basically the rest of the Eurasian landmass was lost to the socialist mind-set, remaining largely disconnected from the West’s embryonic global economy for roughly a couple of generations.

After that period of blocked expansion, the Western-defined globalization process renewed its march eastward with the collapse of the Communist bloc in 1989, with China actually predating that conversion by several years, thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s “four modernizations” push in the early 1980s, which marked the beginning of the third great age of modern globalization (Globalization III, from 1980 to 2001). At the end of the Cold War, only the former colonial regions of the Gap, which had overwhelmingly fallen victim to homegrown authoritarian regimes after the collapse of the European empires following the Second World War, remained fundamentally outside the global economy, with the two most disconnected regions being the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Not surprisingly, the Middle East now defines the battlefront in the grand historical struggle between the Core’s forces of connectedness and the Gap’s most bloodthirsty foes of that integration process (Globalization IV, from 2001), and once it likewise falls to globalization’s embrace, only deepest Africa will remain—that first cradle of humanity.

Realizing that modern globalization’s advance essentially traces backward the earlier spread of humanity is important on another level: Modern globalization’s advance has met with consistently violent resistance throughout most of its history from rejectionists armed with exclusionary ideologies. These rejectionists, starting with the slaveholding South and extending right on through to our current enemies, have always pleaded that mankind must be saved from the machine-driven logic and exploitation of the industrial world. Typically, these rejectionists not only have sought to resist integration into this industrialized world but also have proposed competing systems of government and economics that would both avoid this outcome and do it one better by leapfrogging humanity into some idealized alternative universe of near-utopian self-fulfillment.

The odd thing is that as globalization has progressively advanced in its technology and modernization, the rejectionist ideologies have been forced to retreat farther back in time to attempt to build their alternate universes. When Marxism began in the mid-nineteenth century, the assumption was that socialism would naturally be achieved at capitalism’s pinnacle of development, or at the point of the superabundance of goods. This ideology actually sought to extend the capitalist model of development beyond what were perceived as its logical limits. But since that ideology proved wrong in its diagnosis of capitalism’s weaknesses, it fell to Vladimir Lenin to turn Marx on his head at the start of the twentieth century and argue that socialist revolution was far more likely to succeed in a largely precapitalist society, meaning not industrial Germany but Russia just as it was approaching what would have been its industrial phase of development.

Later in the same century, Lenin’s great ideological successor, Mao Zedong, took his theory farther back in time, arguing that socialist revolutions made even more sense in largely agrarian societies like China, meaning a revolution led by rural peasants and not by an urban proletariat. Cambodia’s subsequent Khmer Rouge Communist movement later took Mao’s ideology to its logical extreme, not just engaging in “cultural revolution” against largely city-based “enemies of the state” but literally emptying the cities and forcing millions to endure “reeducation” (marking the revolutionary Year Zero that would reboot the system completely) and eventual genocide in the most backward rural areas of the country.

Meanwhile, with the fall of the Portuguese empire in sub-Saharan Africa in the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union’s leadership, despite the complete lack of revolutionary spirit back home, nonetheless deluded itself into thinking that successful socialist states could be constructed in some of Africa’s most backward economies, generating Moscow’s brief but ultimately failed ideological fling with the so-called Countries of Socialist Orientation (e.g., Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia). When the bankruptcy of that approach was made apparent in the failure of the Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan at the beginning of the 1980s, the great collapse of the socialist bloc began in earnest, fueled in Asia by China’s rapid turn toward market economics under Deng.

It was at this point in history that many political theorists began speaking of the “end of history,” a phrase made famous by philosopher Francis Fukuyama, who, not accidentally, began his career as an expert on the Soviet bloc and its relations with the Third World (the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation as well). What was meant by that was the notion that no feasible alternative to democracies and capitalism seemed to exist anymore, signaling the historical supremacy of each in combination. As a great wave of democratization swept the planet in the wake of the socialist bloc’s retreat and collapse, the judgment appeared warranted.

And in many ways this historical judgment does remain valid, for what has arisen in the years since the Cold War cannot be described as a full-fledged alternative model of development, since the Salafi jihadist movement promises no economic development whatsoever, but rather a strange sort of retreat into the past, with the utopian promise of somehow not only getting it right this time (i.e., returning to the golden age of the first several centuries following Muhammad’s life), but doing so in such a way as to become far superior to the current perceived alternative (“Westoxification” at the hands of a corrupt capitalist world system). Indeed, the world witnessed this back-to-the-future outcome in the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan across the late 1990s, right down to its pointless destruction of all symbols of foreign religions, the banning of television and music, and severe restrictions on the education of females (the quintessential disconnect). In all, the Taliban’s definition of the “good life” was almost prehistorical in its quality, demonstrating the absurd lengths to which the violent resistance to globalization has traveled in the current age.

Yet, despite this retreat into the past, which corresponds to globalization’s progressive encroachment into the world’s most ancient civilizations, the Salafi jihadist movement of today is, in the words of economist Brink Lindsey, “strikingly similar to its defunct, secular cousins.” For like all the Lenins and Maos before it, al Qaeda’s antiglobalization movement, while feeding off its adherents’ sense of alienation from, and resentment of, the Western-fueled globalization process, is still nothing more than a naked grab for power over others, or what Lindsey calls “the millennial fantasy of a totalitarian state that is the fundamental feature and common thread that unites all the radical movements of the Industrial Counterrevolution.”

But, unlike previous versions of ideological resistance to this expanding model of global economic connectivity such as socialism or fascism, which offered a marriage of conservative social values with modern technology, the Salafi jihadists promise simply the rejection of modernity—which, as Lindsey points out, effectively kills any sort of global appeal beyond their most like-minded coreligionists. So how can bin Laden and al Qaeda still maintain their widespread popularity in the Islamic world? Easy. Their main competition is the rigid, unimaginative authoritarianism that grips so much of the Middle East. With history “ended,” where else can young Muslims turn in their anger over the lack of both freedom and development in their countries?

You know, one of the things I like about the Wikistrat globalization model that we're building right now, is that we're using bits and pieces from the books like this to illustrate points and aspects of the model, so we're doing exactly what this Civil Affairs officer at Monterey asked if I could someday do:  create an online space where people could come and really immerse themselves in the ideas but have them framed and accessible around an ongoing exploration of globalization.

Anyway, I give you the clip there to illustrate:  Bolshevism & Marxism-Leninism was just a time-phase variant of the anti-capitalist/anti-globalization response that's existed throughout history (the clip, if I had extended it, would have gone into Occidentalism, or hatred of the West/modernity), but it was also a natural variant of the Russian relationship with the wider world.  

Russia, not unlike big chunks of the Middle East, is a tough place to live with the harsh winters and such.  So the code and rule sets there were strict about conformity, collectivism, and so on.  And outsiders were largely shunned in the early formative days of that civilization.  

When the West begins to make itself known, it is, by comparison, an opportunity for enrichment--if Russians are willing to change themselves and integrate.  This is a huge choice, and a frightening one.  To do it means to abandon a lot of the past rules and identity and that usually only is possible when you feel those rules and traditions have been radically trumped.  So it feels like surrender to the alien outsiders:  me bad, you good, me want to be like you!

Not easy stuff to swallow.  Naturally, such perceived self-abasement triggers an opposing emotion:  me not bad, you really bad, me actually unique and better and I need to act on that and make my world that much bigger and stronger and secure to keep you and your bad influences out!

That's basically the inner dialogue of the Westernizers and Slavophiles, and it's been going on for centuries, with the first great turn West coming under Peter the Great.

Well, Russia, after its bout with "restoration of power" under Putin, now suddenly feels like it's a commodities producer with nothing else to offer the world.  Maybe not Upper Volta with nukes but not much better than Iran--soon enough.  So, when Medvedev and Putin do their little dance about who gets to be president next, the old debate resurfaces, with Medvedev as the latest Westernizing siren.  

Medvedev has said, in effect:  we are not a modern country and we need to become one in this globalized age. We need to get closer to Europe--not pull away or be nasty over natural gas.  And we need to use these contacts to learn better their ways and make ourselves more like them.  

The underlying current of the Westernizers has always been, "Because going the other route and becoming more Asian really sucks!"

Putin had his time to emulate the Chinese, but the Russians, deep down, feel more European than Asia--always have and always will.  They admire and hate Europe, but they despise the Chinese.   Chalk it up to whatever, but that undercurrent is always there, by my estimation.

So the WSJ story talks about a big privatization plan the Russians are pursuing ($59B) "as the Kremlin seeks to cut the state's role in the economy and raise money to balance the budget."

Doesn't mean their version of state-dominated big-firm capitalism goes away tomorrow; just means they know it's not the future.  Living as a commodities producer just isn't a way to grow yourself, so the effort is back on to convince Western (and Eastern) investors that Russia can be made safe--once again--for investment.  

Second story from Spiegel speaks to a subject near to my heart for almost two decades:  Russia should join NATO.  Not just have close or better relations; it should join NATO.

Putin by contrast had attacked the "almost uncontained hyper-use of military force" by NATO and the US in his famous speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007 in which he warned that Russia had weapons systems that could get through Washington's planned missile shield, designed primarily to intercept missiles from Iran.


Under Medvedev, by contrast, the Kremlin appears ready even to contemplate Russia joining NATO one day. The Institute for Contemporary Development, whose board of trustees is headed by Medvedev, called in a strategy paper for Russia to integrate itself into NATO.

Now, everybody says that would "destroy" NATO's identity, but that's a past identity.  What NATO is today is undersubscribed (a point I made yesterday in the Global Political Trends on the Wikistrat model):  it's the closest thing we have to a Core-wide military alliance and it has too few members for its legacy sense of responsibility.  It simply needs to grow, and Russia's an obvious next target.  Not the Ukraine or Georgia BEFORE Russia, but Russia and perhaps those to soon follow.

As always, this kind of forward thinking is considered too naive, too out there, too whatever.  But compared to NATO's efforts to make Afghanistan work without Russian (and other) help, I think the idea is pretty sane.

We'll keep doing it the hard way because that's what our "wise men" know from their past--along with their trained next-generation acolytes.  But eventually, new minds come along and what is "inconceivable!" (in that Princess Bride way) suddenly becomes reasonable.

Is this the last go-around on the Westernizer-Slavophile merry-go-round?  I would never say never on that.  

But eventually, yeah, it will stick--if Europe is smart enough to make the deal.


Stratfor: yelling "Holocaust" in Germany's "multikulti" theater

Stratfor's CEO George Friedman in his Geopolitical Weekly takes note of Angela Merkel's speech to the young members of her Christian Democratic Union.

As the FT reported it, "Ms Merkel said Muslim immigrants and indigneous Germans must do more to encourage integration."  To that end, she said:  "We should not be a country that gives the impression . . . that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here."

But how Friedman spun it was fear-mongering at its best--fairly shoddy for a company that says it will make you more intelligent about the world.

The piece starts out just fine:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an Oct. 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally' . . .

The statements were striking in their bluntness and their willingness to speak of a dominant German culture, a concept that for obvious reasons Germans have been sensitive about asserting since World War II. The statement should be taken with utmost seriousness and considered for its social and geopolitical implications. It should also be considered in the broader context of Europe’s response to immigration, not to Germany’s response alone. . .

The onus on assimilating migrants into the larger society increased as Muslim discontent rocked Europe in the 1980s. The solution Germans finally agreed upon in the mid-to-late 1980s was multiculturalism, a liberal and humane concept that offered migrants a grand bargain: Retain your culture but pledge loyalty to the state.

In this concept, Turkish immigrants, for example, would not be expected to assimilate into German culture. Rather, they would retain their own culture, including language and religion, and that culture would coexist with German culture. Thus, there would be a large number of foreigners, many of whom could not speak German and by definition did not share German and European values.

While respecting diversity, the policy seemed to amount to buying migrant loyalty . . 

Friedman then talks up the different experience of the U.S. and contrasts the German "grand bargain."

The Germans tried to have their workers and a German identity simultaneously. It didn’t work.

Multiculturalism resulted in the permanent alienation of the immigrants . . .

Then he gets truly weird:

What is fascinating is that the German chancellor has chosen to become the most aggressive major European leader to speak out against multiculturalism. Her reasons, political and social, are obvious. But it must also be remembered that this is Germany, which previously addressed the problem of the German nation via the Holocaust. In the 65 years since the end of World War II, the Germans have been extraordinarily careful to avoid discussions of this issue, and German leaders have not wanted to say things such as being committed to a dominant German culture. We therefore need to look at the failure of multiculturalism in Germany in another sense, namely, with regard to what is happening in Germany. [emphasis mine]

So far we've got Merkel saying she still needs foreign workers, but that she wants them to integrate and truly join the German nation rather than be ghettoized, but Friedman's already insinuating the possibility of something far more sinister, as if modern Germany's choices here fall into the binary pairing of multikulti versus the Holocaust!

Seems a bit stark, ja?  As if Germans today are barely self-contained Nazis just waiting for the right moment to break out?  I mean, where does Friedman get the evidence to jump back over the past 65 years of German behavior and simply bring up the Holocaust?  Sure, I can always find you some racist right-wing Bavarian pol who speaks of "alien cultures."  Heck, we've got these retrograde types in the U.S. in good numbers, but jumping from that modest reality to invoking something on the level of genocide is a bit much, is it not?  Can't we get some more sophisticated analysis that explores scenarios between those two extremes? 

Remember, Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years, features a WWIII in the 2050s range, with Turkey subbing for Nazi Germany and Japan playing themselves in the new axis (Coalition), and the U.S. partnering with Poland this time. Germany, naturally, sympathizes with the new axis.  While Japan and the US duke it out on the Moon (our seemingly indestructible Battle Star buys it just like Pearl Harbor!), Germany sees its chance on Poland and launches a 21st-century bliztkrieg in 2051 (page 205)--France in tow.  But, as luck would have it, we pull a new Battle Star out of our toolkit, which stuns everyone (I know, scenario by George Lucas), and we rescue the embattled Poles (Germans to the right of me, Turkish to the south, here I am, stuck in the middle with you) with our cool new batteries fueled directly by the sun.

Anyway, to make this kind of dark-star future happen, Friedman needs a Germany that goes its own way in Europe--the return of 20th-century nationalism.

And he thinks he's found it in Merkel's speech:

Simply put, Germany is returning to history. It has spent the past 65 years desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity, the rights of minorities in Germany and the exercise of German self-interest. The Germans have embedded themselves in multinational groupings like the European Union and NATO to try to avoid a discussion of a simple and profound concept: nationalism. Given what they did last time the matter came up [emphasis mine], they are to be congratulated for their exercise of decent silence. But that silence is now over . . .

So there it is, subscribers, just in case you missed it.  The Nazis are back and all of Europe is at risk!

I have to you, I consider this to be complete nonsense and bad history to boot.  Germans have not spent the last 65 "desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity."  My God, these people have spent the last 65 years agonizing over it ad nauseum--and very publicly.  Friedman would have a better go of it pinning that analysis on the Japanese.

And all this because the Greeks couldn't handle credit cards:

After the Greek and related economic crises, the certainties about a united Europe have frayed. Germany now sees itself as shaping EU institutions so as not to be forced into being the European Union’s ultimate financial guarantor. And this compels Germany to think about Germany beyond its relations with Europe.

Wait for it, here comes the Lebensraum pitch:  "Ve need verkers, ja!"

Consider that Merkel made clear that Germany needed 400,000 trained specialists. Consider also that Germany badly needs workers of all sorts who are not Muslims living in Germany, particularly in view of Germany’s demographic problems. If Germany can’t import workers for social reasons, it can export factories, call centers, medical analysis and IT support desks. Not far to the east is Russia, which has a demographic crisis of its own but nonetheless has spare labor capacity due to its reliance on purely extractive natural resources for its economy. Germany already depends on Russian energy. If it comes to rely on Russian workers, and in turn Russia comes to rely on German investment, then the map of Europe could be redrawn once again and European history restarted at an even greater pace . . .

Once again, Germany looks East--with desire!

Okay, I kid a bit, but seriously, this is how Friedman extrapolates Merkel's fairly sensible speech?

How about this notion:

It is impossible for Germany to reconsider its position on multiculturalism without, at the same time, validating the principle of the German nation. Once the principle of the nation exists, so does the idea of a national interest. Once the national interest exists, Germany exists in the context of the European Union only as what Goethe termed an “elective affinity.” What was a certainty amid the Cold War now becomes an option. And if Europe becomes an option for Germany, then not only has Germany re-entered history, but given that Germany is the leading European power, the history of Europe begins anew again.

This isn’t to say that Germany must follow any particular foreign policy given its new official view on multiculturalism; it can choose many paths. But an attack on multiculturalism is simultaneously an affirmation of German national identity. You can’t have the first without the second. And once that happens, many things become possible.

This isn't analysis of the real issues; this is dredging up old imagery to scare you into thinking that Germany can't move beyond multikulti to anything but the destruction of the EU concept, and frankly, that's a whopper to begin with, given Germany's integral role in creating and sustaining the European community all these decades.  Truth is, you can attack the head-in-the-sand approach of multikulti without simultaneously boosting the notion of the exclusivity of German identity.  Merkel is searching for something bigger, not smaller.

European nationalism had its last gasp in the Balkans.  What Germany now confronts it a post-modern concept called identity. Nationalism is externally focused; identity is internally focused. Friedman, in my opinion, misuses the concepts to make you scared about untold-but-all-too-familiar-for-people-of-a-certain-generation possibilities.  The future is about what the young think, not about what the old fear.

It is an old story in this business: when you constantly bet on conflict/decline/devolution, you spend all your time looking for supporting evidence, rather than simply exploring where the evidence may take us.  The analysis I've always tried to bring to bear involves helping people get to where they want this world to be, versus running from past demons.  Leave that level of fun to Quentin Tarantino.

Friedman needs to elevate his game and stop peddling these reruns of the 20th century.  Stratfor does some nice work, but analysis needs to be more than simply regurgitating old scary stories to keep people up at night. The complexity of issues we confront going forward requires a collaborative solution-oriented mindset.


WPR's The New Rules: Global Warming Shifts Focus to Friendly North


From the Arctic Council's website.

According to virtually all global warming projections, humanity faces significantly more conflict in the decades ahead as we fight over dwindling resources in climate-stressed lands. However, those reports typically overlook one likely outcome that could counterbalance the more negative impacts of global warming -- that of northern territories becoming significantly milder, more accessible, and, most intriguingly, more hospitable to immigration. This is the essential good news to be found in Laurence C. Smith's fascinating new book, "The World in 2050."

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

Read about the book because of Smith's piece in the WSJ, which I blogged.  Asked Putnam for the book and got it pronto.  Like I hint at in the piece, Smith's survey of futurism was only average and didn't really add anything to the book.  I have no idea why he or his editors felt the need to promise "the world in 2050," because the text simply doesn't deliver. But the book-within-the-book on the "New North" was eye-popping. I would have loved to hear more about that and skip all the surveying.