Wednesday, November 8

"Chirac and Barnett: Two Peas in a Pod?"

Hello Pundita,
I hope your doctor's optimism has proven true and your hand is healed or at least nearly so. I read your post on Thomas P. M. Barnett's ideas and how they relate to Chirac.[*] Since the time I first saw Barnett on C-SPAN two years ago presenting his first book, The Pentagon’s New Map, I’ve been a follower of his line of thinking, though I have always been much too wary about China’s rise to completely embrace his vision of a strategic alliance with them.

However, a couple months ago I read about Barnett's ideas on Muslim immigrants in Europe on his blog and was astounded to see how wildly unrealistic he was being on how they would integrate into Europe’s culture. Barnett railed against Mark Steyn's “racist” predictions of an apocalypse for Europe. He believes the Muslims will go mainstream and form Islamist parties like the one that rules Turkey.

No account is given for the fact that the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants are less assimilated than their parents and that many do not know their adopted nation’s language. It made me think if he could be so wrong on that issue what other policies could be similarly misguided, like those concerning China.

Then about two weeks ago Barnett made as explicit a statement of China’s future in relation to America as I had ever seen from him, and it really turned me off from large portions of his analysis. He believes that America is the outgoing superpower –- like Britain was a century ago –- and that China will take over with America as the sidekick who is able to “punch above its weight” like Britain in the post WWII era did in its alliance with us. He views this as inevitable and I think him quite wrong.

If China is where America was a century ago, why isn’t it at the forefront of science and technology, still relying heavily on Russian and stolen western designs; why is it still so dependent on foreign capital, why does its demographics portend an unstable future, and so on? If America is the outgoing power it must be happening pretty slowly because as Barnett noted from the Economist even in 2040 our economy is still expected to be bigger than China’s.

Nevertheless, I still think Barnett is on the right track on what to do about terrorism and “shrinking the Gap” with his System Administrator concept even if I no longer agree with his alliance scheme. So here’s my two cents on where he stands in relation to Chirac:

I think the difference between Thomas P. M. Barnett’s vision and the Chirac school of foreign policy can be found within two statements:

The first statement was made by Condoleezza Rice: "The nature of regimes is more fundamental than the global distribution of power."

The second was made by Barnett: "During the Cold War countries who were like us politically were our friends but in the 21st century countries those who are like us economically will be our friends."

I remember thinking offhand that those two statements were irreconcilable. If you put the two statements together and replace "countries" with "regimes" you get the following statement:

The nature of regimes is more fundamental than the global distribution of power, and those regimes who are like us economically will be our friends.

The statement begs the question: To whom does "the global distribution of power" refer and how does that correspond with their economic preferences?

If Rice is referring to the balance of power schemes of the past and (to many) the imagined coming one between America and China, than one has to ask how is it that the nature of China’s regime can be divorced from the sort of power it will able to wield no matter its economic policies?

But that’s just it: Barnett disagrees with the assessment that conflict between the US and the Chinese is inevitable and in fact believes the opposite: that we are destined to be strategic partners as we were and have been with the British (though that relationship appears to be on its deathbed).

Nevertheless, taking such a position leads us to the opposite of Barnett’s claim -- that the global distribution of power IS more fundamental than the nature of regimes, not vice versa.

Otherwise, how can one gloss over the nature of the CCP [China Communist Party], urging the US to form a strategic alliance with them in order to ward off a potential Great Power War between America and China?

By the same token, focusing on the nature of the CCP means the US must be prepared to fight a Great Power War with China. So a more accurate version of Barnett’s construction might be that the nature of regimes is fundamentally tied to the global distribution of power and those who are like us economically will be our friends.

Chirac believes the opposite of Barnett: that the global distribution of power is more fundamental than the nature of regimes and those who are like France politically (in spirit, if not constitutionally) will be its friends.

Yet for the same reason as I cited with Barnett, the Chirac school of foreign policy’s version should read that the nature of regimes is fundamentally tied to the global distribution of power and those who are like France politically will be its friends. That seems to me to be the distinction between the two. Out of that departure you get two major differences:

Firstly, Chirac (being French, after all) posits that the elites of society should be running the show in a sort of quasi-EU like arrangement on a global scale, within which the EU would form an alliance with Russia and China to create a counterweight to American power.

Barnett certainly would not be in agreement with the latter part. Moreover, he sees the private sector, particularly that of his “New Core” (most prominently India and of course China, which he believes will become ever more open politically) as the crucial and dominant element in his “shrinking of the Gap.”

It is with the incorporation of China, still an authoritarian state, into the halls of global decision-making, I gather, that it most appears that he is of the same mind of Chirac. Yet even there he does not regard its authoritarian political system to be permanent, as no doubt Chirac and Co. believe, perhaps even hope (given that it is much easier to deal with a bunch of technocrats than an unruly mob of populists -- from their perspective; just look at the last time the French tried to improve their own domestic unemployment rate).

This leads directly to the second difference, namely that Chirac has no endgame vision of a completely democratic world -- and why should he, when his own nation has become more of a technocratic republic run by bureaucrats in Paris and increasingly from the EU, and whose constitution the French thankfully rejected last year?

On the other hand, the logic behind Barnett’s largely economic arguments, such as getting nations beyond the $3,000 GDP per capita barrier after which a lot of the ills of the Third World begin to subside, drives us to the eventual democratization of the world even if that road is longer than those such as yourself, who quite rightly in my opinion feel that the ideals of freedom should be pushed from the getgo, would like.

Lastly, a third difference clearly separates Chirac from Barnett in that in the latter’s vision Europe is almost completely irrelevant, destined increasingly to be a mere spectator on the world stage. So I don’t think it would be fair to put Barnett and Chirac in the same camp even if their starting points look very similar.

For an alternative to Barnett’s Core/Gap model I find James C. Bennett’s formulation much more useful as he divides the world along the lines of the former empires -- Franco-, Russo-, Islamo-, Sino-, Hispano-, and Anglo- spheres.

That to me offers much greater clarity and a more secure fortress to successfully defend and spread democratic ideals, as the cultural differences of each portion of the Core and Gap are roughly accounted for. It makes clear your point that Barnett’s Core is easily divided. Only the Anglo- and perhaps Hispano- spheres appear willing to defend and extend our ideals. "For can two walk together, except they be agreed?"

From that we must conclude that the UN must go the way of the League of Nations and in its place a League of Democracies must be formed beginning with the Anglosphere.

James Bennett gives an excellent set of book reviews, including Barnett’s Pentagon’s New Map, in this National Interest article titled Dreaming Europe in a Wide-Awake World.
Greg in Orlando

Dear Greg:
You central point is well taken; I'd agree that Barnett and Chirac do not march in lockstep when it comes to ultimate aims. Barnett would not support a world order in which France has a leading role. But then he doesn't support a world order in which America has a leading role, despite all the words he has written about America's leadership status in the plan he outlines.

Barnett sees America as Gulliver, and his blueprint for action is a clever strategy for helping the Lilliputs tie down the giant. That's just why China's generals are big fans of Barnett's ideas.

Your letter was written before I published a link to Jim Ellsworth's paper on SSTR, so you might want to read the last Pundita post and take note of the mention of "preemptive SSTR."

Understand that the "System Administrator" (SSTR) concept, when extended to include warding off war conditions, locks the United States into the very same multilateralism that the Chirac School represents. Indeed, Barnett's blueprint is an outline for the military wing of the Chirac School.

Watch carefully; don't blink: What Barnett has done is peel off the Nato approach to dealing with the Soviets and slap it onto all the world's troublesome regimes. So now, instead of the need to fight the Soviets driving the US into an alliance, what does Barnett envision? The US needs an alliance that includes every government that could possibly help the United States preempt any serious trouble that rogue governments could cook up.

What's wrong with that idea? It makes it virtually impossible for the United States to take preemptive action against a threat unless the alliance agrees.

This is just how we got into hot water; the threat from the Axis of Evil and their terror armies had been building for years but to deal effectively with the threat, the United States would have had to break with Nato allies. The State Department, the Congress and two presidential administrations didn't want to make the break. The consequences were 9/11 and all that has gone with it.

Thank you very much for introducing me to James Bennett's essay. I don't like his model any more than I like Barnett's because it's wrong for this era for the United States. As with Barnett's model, it does not acknowledge that the US is at war. But I found Bennett's essay to be a great summary of the debates about the future of the European Union and the Euro-Anglosphere tensions. Both discussions receive little press in this country despite their importance to US foreign policy.

Finally, I do not disagree with Thomas Barnett's view that in Europe "Muslims will go mainstream and form Islamist parties like the one that rules Turkey." A British pundit recently observed that there is a 'get tough' atmosphere building in Europe which translates to "Assimilate or leave" for the Muslim populations.

Pundita has been warning for years of the building blacklash in Europe and Britain against the Islamic radicals, which lumps every unassimilated Muslim into the radical camp.

Maybe Barnett is jumping the gun, but things are working up to the point that either the radical Muslims in that region go mainstream or they will be forced out. Then Western Europe will get its cheap labor from non-Muslim countries. Believe you me, that would certainly take the heat off Mexico, if the poorest in countries to their southern border headed to Europe to do gardening and construction labor. Don't think the Euro governments wouldn't pay the airfare for those workers and put them up in housing, if they can't get enough cheap labor from Eastern Europe.

The next post will be this Monday.

* From October 13 Pundita post:

"Barnett takes the world as he finds it, and so he's designed his blueprint to mesh with globalization. The problem is that the term 'globalization' has become a euphemism for multilateralism and what I call the Chirac School of foreign policy. So one might say that if Thomas P.M. Barnett didn't exist, the State Department would have invented him -- or at least the factions at State that still cling to the Chirac School.

Chirac's multilateralism is barely disguised neomercantilism; the school of foreign policy that he and his advisors pushed at the UN and EU, and which so greatly influenced US policy under President Clinton, excludes all but the exigencies of doing business from a government's foreign relations. That effectively places dictatorships on the same level as democracies, which includes decisions about development loans, aid monies, and trade."

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