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Tuesday, November 28

Tribalism and neomercantilism: now there's a combination of concepts to ponder

"Dear Pundita:
Regarding your reply [to my request for] your view of ethical realism:

Actually, I found your follow-up post (on Tribalism and Meerkats) more in line with what I was hoping for, in that it spelled out your "realist" motivation for supporting the Democracy Doctrine. In fact, the Meerkats have also prodded me to consider the roots of both virtue and vice, and what it takes to create a "nation" from a "tribe." From where I sit, it seems to require a ruling class bound by a shared belief in some transcendent purpose, plus at least semi-compliant subjects who see a long-term advantage in serving those rulers. That is, we need a combination of both values and dollars to "salt the fields" from whence terrorism springs. Would you agree?
Dr. Ernie"

Dear Dr. Ernie:
Well. Pundita will have to think on that one. But aren't those meerkats something? We should be grateful to the researchers who spent years studying those wonderful creatures. One can learn a great deal -- or at least be greatly reminded -- about some deep human issues by pondering the meerkats' complex society.

It's amazing what meerkats accomplish as a group. Yet that's just it; as we've seen from Mozart's tragic life, ostracism from the tribe spells death, just because the meerkats are so dependent on group effort to survive the Kalahari's environment.*

I think a lone wolf has a better chance of survival than a lone meerkat, don't you? So it could be that the more dependent a tribal creature is on the social contract for survival, the greater the fear of losing the tribe. And at some point, the fear can override the best course of action -- at least for humans, who have the greatest adaptive ability. But if you prefer to hang onto a tribal form of government out of fear, even if the government is no longer capable of dealing with the most serious challenges you face, that is deep trouble.

"Pundita! Just to let you know I have switched to the Zone Diet, which is SO GREAT you can't believe how great it is! It's by Barry Sears. I am going to stick with this diet. I hope your team is doing well.

Re your post yesterday where you said that Chirac's school is neomercantilist. I read an article on neomercantilism in Wikipedia. Chirac wants to have a world government based on trade but he wants to substitute an alliance of countries for individual nations, right? So don't you think he's really a neo-neomercantilist?
No Longer Sleepless in St. Louis"

Dear No Longer Sleepless:
Well. Pundita will have to think on that one. But a general rule of thumb is that for the sake of clear thinking and communication, one needs devise a new term to describe a phenomenon, if one has to double-prefix a term in the attempt to convey a meaning.

All nations that belong to WTO practice neomercantilism to a greater or lesser extent; with the advanced nations the commitment to free trade is always tussling with the neomercantile approach.

But I think you're on the right track in that Chirac's school wants to have a multi-nation legal or quasi-legal body set economic policy for all the major trading nations. Yet to a great extent that is what the World Trade Organization already does.

The big issue with the Chirac School is that they want economics to transcend defense in foreign policy. And because defense is at least nominally founded on protecting a sovereign nation's core values, the school virtually scuttles all values. The exception is the value of trade. But that's not enough to stop or even curb a dictator.

How can the Chirac School scuttle defense in foreign policy? Because the United States of America, not France or the EU, is carrying the lion's share of the burden of defending the free world.

Thanks for the diet tip. The next post will be up on Friday.

* Mozart is an elder daughter of Flower, who is the leader of the Whiskers tribe. (Tribe leadership among meerkats seems based on merit and the formation of a dominant male-female team rather than gender; not all the meerkat tribes are led by a female.)

For readers who would like to start following the series and want to play catch up, Wikipedia has published a list and description of the (named) meerkats shown so far. Note the spoiler ending warning in the article, if you want to be kept in suspense. I note that it's an insult to portray the series as a soap opera because this is life-or-death we're watching. The series has more in common with the Greek Tragedies than a TV soap opera. Come to think of it, the series has more in common with ancient human history than anything else.

Monday, November 27

Nationalism vs tribalism: a more productive debate than realism vs idealism?

“I wish we could take all the Lebanese to Canada or America, let them live there for two months and have them start thinking differently. Then we would bring them back, and they would change the situation at its most basic level.”
-- Resident of Ain Rummaneh, a segregated neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon

Pundita, dear, Regarding your nondiscussion [11/20 post] about Ethical Realism, I would like you to clarify whether you utterly reject the realist camp. If so, pray tell does that put you in the idealist camp? This is an important question because the realist school has gained ground in Washington in time with the growth of civil strife in Iraq. This does not bode well for America's idealistic, pro-democracy interventions in troubled countries. Or have you landed somewhere outside the realist and idealist schools?
Boris in Jackson Heights

Dear Boris:
First, for readers who have not been following the escalating idealist-realist debate, see
Robert D. Kaplan’s Washington Post opinion piece titled Interventionism’s Realistic Future for a crash course.

The debate revolves around whether and to what extent the United States should rely on humanitarian principles as a guide to foreign policy and military intervention. In short, the debate calls the Democracy Doctrine into question.

Kaplan points out that Nato’s refurbished mission as a “global constabulary force” tends to moot the argument. I think he's right; like it or lump it, Americans will continue to support politically correct interventions such as action in Darfur.

The issue underlying the current incarnation of the realist-idealist debate is the extent to which the United States should act unilaterally in humanitarian interventions. Also, just what constitutes ‘humanitarian?’ Is a defense of democracy reason enough for the United States to intervene in another country’s troubles?

I avoid the current debate because the realists lean heavily on the US actions in post-invasion Iraq to shore their arguments. But it's nonsense to claim that the United States invaded Iraq for humanitarian reasons. So it’s equally nonsensical to use the problems with the US occupation of Iraq to challenge the Democracy Doctrine.

And, as Pundita has pointed out until she's blue in the face, in this era of portable nukes it's dangerous to interpret a defense of democracy as an idealistic position.

The supporters of the Democracy Doctrine argue that democracy is the only workable defense against a government's embrace of totalitarianism. I think they are correct, to the extent one can avert a totalitarian plan. So in my view it is nostalgia to intrepret a modern defense of democracy as idealism; in this era it is simply facing up to reality that it no longer takes an invasion by a standing army to put a wealthy, nonaggressive government on the ropes.

What makes the point hard to see is that there are very few national leaders publishing their version of Mein Kampf. I suspect that many in Western foreign policy circles see the anti-totalitarian views of Paul Wolfowitz and Natan Sharansky as grounded in trauma -- in a fear of another Hitler arising.

Yes, they were traumatized, but that's just the point; people who are not steeped in the lessons of World War Two or Meerkat Manor need to see a massive armed invasion of a peaceful country before they can muster any concern about totalitarianism in this era. And they tend to believe that once the GDP of a country reaches a certain level and the median income of its citizens goes above the poverty line, this will erase millions of years of conditioning.

It's hard to reject that line of reasoning because the Marshall Plan, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are based on it. They are based on the notion that Hitler's totalitarian views were supported by the German populace because of trauma arising from Germany's treatment by the victors after World War One. So the victors in World War Two said in effect, "If we try to apply the Carthage Solution again, it will come back to bite us."

That's true but it doesn't prove that totalitarianism -- or the impulse to plunder -- is rooted in economic issues. The idea that poverty is the root of all human evil has bestowed a Nobel Peace Prize, rather the economics prize, on Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. Yunus argues that poverty is a great threat to peace. The argument depends on which side of the gun you're standing on if you're the target of a plunderer, doesn't it? You can ask a professional mugger why he doesn't go to work for MacDonald's flipping hamburgers instead of surviving by hitting on you. But you know, that's a really silly question.

Nowhere is it written that once a plunderer has a full belly -- or even a color TV and car -- will he stop plundering. Yet Yunus's argument has become an article of faith among the school of development policy pushed by Jeffrey Sachs and his cohorts.

However, I have come to question the position that launched this blog. Pundita's initial stance was that the central debate is between the neomercantilism underlying Jacques Chirac’s multilaterialist philosophy, and the importance that Paul Wolfowitz places on struggling against governments that espouse totalitarian views.

I think there is a more fundamental debate, which I subbornly insisted had been settled in the latter part of the 20th Century. The debate is between nationalism and tribalism. So smug was I about the winner of the debate that in September 2001, when asked what I made of the 9/11 attack, I snapped, “Tribalism’s last gasp.”

Tribalism is not dead yet, but it took three years of closely following events in the Middle East and ex-Soviet countries, and two TV seasons of studying the wars between Meerkat tribes, to bring home to me that it wasn’t just a few holdout tribes in the Third World that were against nationalism.

The impulse to belong to a tribe, as the way of reinforcing personal survival and identity, is rooted in atavistic behavior and maybe in our mammalian genes. The issue underlying the tribalism vs nationalism debate is whether a tribal form of government is superior to a nationalist one.

In my view the debate has been settled by the emergence of megapopulations. Tribal government gets increasingly difficult to administer as the numbers in the tribe rise much above 40 -- and I note that the lessons of Meerkat Manor shore this argument.

Yet one only need study the aftermath of Israel's invasion of Lebanon this year to have it brought home that national government, per se, is not the antidote to the limitations of tribal government.

Many Lebanese turned to Hezbollah for help in reconstruction and getting basic services restored. The national government was deemed by many of the poorest Lebanese as insufficient to deal with the post-invasion chaos.

One may argue that Hezbollah simply put on a good show: they showed their faces in the villages, handed out cash, and did a lot of running around. But at least they were there to give comfort and thus, made a powerful argument for the inability of national governments to truly care for and serve the needs of the people.

I interject that it doesn't help the larger situation if foreign powers have to play ministering angel among developing world peoples; indeed, the humanitarian interventions by the rich countries reinforce the notion in the recipient countries that one's national government is not capable.

The only solution to this perception is more efficient local and national government actions, which are on the way thanks to technologies such as Dial 311. The US also needs to redesign our humanitarian interventions so they have a more 'local' face. But here we are, about a quarter century away (even in the rich countries) from the efficiencies that technology will afford national governments.

So the question is how to effectively argue for nationalism to tribal peoples who haven't seen much if any benefit from national government, and who won't see it maybe in their lifetime. Also, should the argument be worked into America's foreign policy?

Ironically, the great reliance on cutting edge communications technology that today's tribalistic terror armies embrace tends to dampen the fear of one's loss of identity in a nationalist society. Yet it does not dampen the totalitarian impulse in the most aggressive mammals. Any doubts on that score, watch both seasons of Meerkat Manor.

The flip side can also be seen by the meerkats. The most aggressive mammals are tribal leaders; in other words, if the most aggressive among us didn't exist tribes would invent them. Yet week after week, you can study the great success of the tribal structure among the meerkats. Even while it's right before your eyes, it is hard to take in that creatures no more than 12 inches tall have mastered the challenges that the Kalahari Desert pose for weak mammals. The meerkats do it through treamwork among the tribe members. The same happened for humans. When arguing for national government over tribalism one has to keep that point in mind.

It would also help if the tribalism vs nationalism debate was called out on more occasions for what it actually is. The news media tend to report on the issue in terms of 'sectarian strife.' Witness Anthony Shadid's November 23 article for The Washington Post about the great toll that sectarian divisions are wreaking in Lebanon. I'm not knocking the article but 'sectarian' issues are an abstraction from the concrete concept of tribalism, whether the tribe is formed along racial, religious or familial lines. I think it helps to be very concrete in terminology while discussing the issue.

The quote featured at the start of this post is from Shadid's article. Would the solution proposed by the resident of Ain Rummaneh actually work? Well, I appreciate the sentiment but the tribal-minded masterminds of the 9/11 plot spent more than two months in prosperous democratic nationalist societies. And the ghastly inefficiences of the US occupation of Iraq have not helped shore the idea that nationalism is superior mode of thinking.

In the end, people don't want to be separate and apart -- walled off along sectarian lines; they want to be successful. The task is for developed nationalist societies to frame that truth in measures that help tribal societies improve the workings of their national government.

Monday, November 20

Dave Schuler keeps a close eye on China, Dr. Ernie asks Pundita to ponder Ethical Realism

"Dear Pundita: [Re Nicaragua and elsewhere.]

A point that seems to be missing from a lot of the discussion of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere is the role of China. It's darned hard for the Nicaraguas, El Salvadors, and Costa Ricas of the world to keep their positions as low-cost labor supplier when there's a China pumping out all sorts of goods with labor costs significantly lower.

On another (but not completely unrelated) subject I'm having difficulty reconciling the Mexicans' complaints about competition from U. S. bean growers (lowering agricultural tariffs part of the next NAFTA phase) when they're importing so many beans from China and Brazil.
Dave Schuler
The Glittering Eye "

Dear Dave: Hear! Hear! Your point can't be emphasized enough! But do you recall the Pundita Pharaoh essay? China's great success at undercutting the cheapest labor and goods is made possible by the rich countries and the policies of the IMF-World Bank. They subsidized China's emergence as the cut-rate capital of the world. And they aided and abetted China's ruling party in entrenching a pharaonic style of government for the modern era, which renders large numbers of China's workers virtual slaves.

So I don't know where all the rosy projections are coming from. I've read analyses that breezily predict China's success will soon price them out of the cheapest labor markets. How is that supposed to happen, if China's government can force hundreds of millions of their citizens to continue laboring for slave wages?

I honestly don't know what's to be done about the situation, but if your point continues to be ignored by China's biggest trading partners, the day of reckoning will come. More of the world's poorest countries will take a sharp turn to the extreme Left. And they will reject with a vengeance the trade policies of the WTO; indeed, they'll reject globalized trade. Regionalism will triumph over internationalism. Flags have already been raised; Ortega's victory in the Nicaragua election is another flag.

Thank you for the news; I had no idea the Mexicans were practicing bean sophistry. I think this is what's known as "full of beans."

"Dear Pundita,
With the shift in power in Washington, lots of people are trying to find an alternative to Rumsfeldian neo-conservatism. I'd be curious what you think about this (new?) approach known as "Ethical Realism." It comes from my friends at the New America Foundation, so please don't be too hard on them.
Dr. Ernie"

Dear Dr. Ernie:
I would not term Donald Rumsfeld a neoconservative; remember that neoconservative means "newly conservative" and I don't recall Rummy ever characterizing himself as a liberal. But I get your drift.

Pundita dutifully skimmed a few essays posted at the New America Foundation website; this one by Michael Lind seems representative of their view of the current state of US foreign policy. Pundita will make you a deal. If you can find as much as one sentence in the essay that indicates the USA is currently fighting a defensive hot war on many fronts, I will not be mean to your friends.

For readers new to the term 'ethical realism,' it's the title of a book. Here's part of a New York Times review that Dr. Ernie sent:
Ethical Realism represents yet another turn of the doctrinal wheel. One of the authors, Anatol Lieven, is a brilliant, fiery pamphleteer of the left who has described the neoconservative enterprise as “world hegemony by means of absolute military superiority.” The other, John Hulsman, is a former fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who supported the war in Iraq and applauded Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s rhetorical partition of Europe into the anti-American, played-out “old” and the rising, pro-Washington “new.”

The fact that these two thinkers have found enough common ground to write a book together is an astonishingly perverse achievement of neoconservative theory and practice. It has also become something of an inside-the-think-tanks cause célèbre, since Hulsman has said Heritage fired him soon after the book project was announced.
I will put reading the book on my To-do list. But for now -- Dr. Ernie, if you've read the book, can you tell me whether it contains a chapter -- or even a paragraph or sentence -- that discusses the world war the US is fighting? If not, the Fellows at the New America Foundation are not the only ones with their head in the sand.

Pundita searched Thomas P.M. Barnett's books in vain looking for a clear acknowledgement that the US is involved in a hot global war rather than a police action dressed in military garb.

At State, the CIA and in foreign policy circles -- indeed, among factions at the Pentagon -- one is hard pressed to find people who acknowledge that Iraq is not a stand-alone war and that it's just one theater in a world war.

Michael Lind called for fresh ideas in working out a foreign policy for this era. How can there be fresh ideas, if the majority in the foreign policy establishment don't want to acknowledge that war, and not theorizing based on grand strategies, must drive American foreign policy at present?

How many times must it be said before it sinks in? This is not a cold war we're fighting. The Soviets threatened war, but never attacked the US homeland. Not only did al Qaeda and their backers successfully attack the USA, they nearly got away with devastating the seats of the US military establishment and the government. Just as importantly Saddam Hussein, with the help of China, Libya and North Korea, nearly got away with building nukes at a facility in Libya.

But that's just it: real war tends to mock policy theory, so quite naturally the theorists tend to avoid what is plain as day and ignore intelligence reports that deflate their theories.

There is only one 'realism' for the United States at this time: victory or defeat. I am not sure where ethics comes in, beyond deciding whether to abandon the US double standard about democracy. That question, I am afraid, will continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis until the war ends. I say that's wrong; that it plays into the hand of the enemy. In a perfect world I am right. But for the love of sanity, we're in a war. What's the theory behind that? The theory is to fight.

Wednesday, November 15

The central fallacy

Scholars always bang on about the debate between "realism" and "idealism" in U.S. foreign policy, but the truth is that for most of the past century we've been simultaneously realistic and idealistic -- in favor of democratic change and deeply wedded to status quo stability -- much to the confusion of everyone else.
That from what I call Anne Applebaum's Halloween Essay (America to World: "Trick or Treat!") for the Washington Post titled Supporting Democracy -- Or Not. The essay is her grim commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolt against Soviet Communism, which saw a shameful response by the US government:
[...] Only after four days of street fighting did the American secretary of state, John Foster Dulles -- a man who had spoken often of liberating the "captive nations" of Eastern Europe -- finally declare that the U.S. government did not consider the Hungarians "potential allies." The message was clear: The West would not intervene.

Or almost clear: At the same time Dulles was reassuring everybody that nothing would be done, Radio Free Europe was explaining to its listeners how to make molotov cocktails and hinting at the American invasion to come. To use contemporary language, a part of the U.S. government was "promoting democracy." Another part was "advocating stability."

The result was a bloody mess. The Hungarians kept fighting even after Soviet tanks arrived, believing help was on the way. Hundreds died. And Western policy in the region suffered a setback from which it took nearly 40 years to recover.
Applebaum goes on to ask whether anything has really changed for US policy since then. She delivers a 'What If" scenario in the form of a democratic revolt against the Saudi government, then interprets the US response along the lines of the Hungarian Revolution.
The result: By simultaneously supporting democracy and stability, we would anger the rest of the Arab world, make U.S.-Saudi relations impossible however the rebellion was resolved, and probably damage, in multiple unforeseeable ways, U.S. interests all over the world.

[...] And the moral? Don't blame George W. Bush: Chaos in U.S. foreign policy is nothing new. But pity those, whether the Hungarians in 1956, or the Shiites in 1991, who take our democracy rhetoric too literally: Sometimes we really mean it -- and sometimes we don't.
I sympathize with Applebaum's pessimism but the debate between realism and idealism sets up a false dilemma. It's a fallacy to argue in this era that the choice is between democracy and stability; this can be seen by noting that mature democracies are stable societies.

The choice for the United States is between supporting oppression, which inevitably leads to instability (witness the Hungarian Revolt!), and supporting democratic reforms. The reforms don't automatically create stability but there is no way but through democracy to create genuine stability.

The difference between a half century ago and today is that now it's virtually impossible for a government to achieve stability through repression without massive outside help. In the case of North Korea, the regime would collapse without backing from China. In the case of Iran, the oppressive regime would collapse without backing from Britain, France and Germany. And so on.

So the debate today is actually between intelligence and stupidity. Unfortunately the debate has been repressed by the Wonk Establishment and the Theoretical Bubbleheads who inhabit US foreign policy circles.

Monday, November 13

Nicaragua and elsewhere: the search for a coherent, consistently applied US foreign policy

"Since Mr Ortega's defeat in 1990, US money has flowed to Nicaragua in the form of investments by foreign companies drawn by the country's cheap labour, low crime rates and recent decision to join the Central American free trade agreement."
"Pundita,
My reaction to Daniel Ortega's victory in Nicaragua is a measure of how much your ideas have influenced my thinking about US foreign policy. Two years ago I would have agreed completely with Bob Novak's dire view of Daniel Ortega's victory and blamed State's failure to back a particular candidate. But my first thought was about State's America Desk.[*] After US corporations spent a decade pushing free enterprise in Nicaragua, the country is still one of the poorest.

My second thought was about Russia. Despite the many differences between the Russia and Nicaragua, the same basic US actions have been in effect in both countries during the past decade:

1. After getting rid of the devil, the State Department and the IMF push onto the new regime whatever theory is currently the fad in economic circles to bring the poorest out of the worst poverty.

2. The country is then overrun with US companies cutting deals with the most corrupt, inefficient and powerful business interests in the country.

3. Nothing works to help the poorest.

4. The majority in the country then turn against the United States and support the strongman who promises them the most.

5. The US then uses whatever clout it has (loans, aid, entry to WTO, etc.) in the attempt to shore up their favored political party in the country and bully the strongman and his supporters into keeping concessions to US business.

6. The strongman wins and becomes the new devil. Repeat steps 1-5.

There must be a way out of this crazy cycle, which harms the US as well as the country in question.
Jan in Reston"

Dear Jan:
You put your finger on it when you termed the events you describe a "cycle" rather than policy. Policy is an explicitly stated outline of how an entity plans to act under specified conditions.

Of course the US didn't make Nicaragua into the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, any more than the US made the Soviet Union. But successive administrations and Congress along with the State Department become champion scab-pickers. There's no way the majority in the poorest countries can catch a break if the US keeps fueling the same cycle. And in today's world of transnational terror armies that's a deadly cycle for the US.

Here it's easy to be cynical and say that US business interests will always act according to their lights, the ruling class in another country will act according to their lights, Left and Right idealogues in Congress will act according to theirs, and IMF economists will act according to theirs -- and America's superpower status means it's easy to impose the resulting cycle on other nations. But none of that is a policy.

The central problem for America's foreign relations is that we do not yet have a foreign policy that can be universally applied, and which transcends conditions that entrench the cycle you described.

Yet America's foreign relations are under a microscope because of our superpower status; the upshot during this globalized era of instant communications is that we are called out, every time we apply a double standard. This is a key problem with making support of democracy the foundation of US foreign policy. Every time we favor a pro-American regime that represses democracy in their country there is instant feedback.

In a perfect world the solution would be for the US to abandon the double standard. However, we don't yet have the kind of minds in place in government to make headway. We have leftovers from the Cold War, and who are steeped in Cold War thinking.

Speaking of the Cold War mentality, I read that Robert Zoellick and Congressman Daniel Burton threatened to press for yanking a $175 million loan from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to Nicaragua, if Ortega won. I have not investigated the claim and because the article (a laundry list of US actions to influence the Nicaragua election) had some inaccuracies, the story might be inaccurate. Yet it sounds like a threat Zoellick would make. In any case the story makes a good illustration:

Millennium Challenge decides loans on the basis of strict guidelines that are specifically meant to support sound government practices and democracy in a needy country. So, provided Ortega's government adheres to the guidelines, why play fast and loose with the principles of a good US loan program?

I'd be surprised if Ortega intends to adhere to the guidelines but that's not the point. The US sacrifices integrity by using Millennium Challenge capriciously. It doesn't get more capricious than for a superpower government to use a thinly disguised aid program as a means to blatantly influence the outcome of an election in a struggling country.

State and the Congress should wait to pass judgment, at least until Ortega's government is formed and in a position to review the loan conditions.

If the US wants to break the cycle you outlined, the first step is to base US foreign aid and loans on a concrete (i.e., not abstract), empirically verifiable principle that everyone can understand and live with. Then apply the principle consistently with all countries. That's how the US can build a viable foreign policy instead of making Swiss cheese.

Now what would such a principle be? Can we base it on a defense of democracy? We'll examine the question in the next post, which will be on Wednesday at 9:00 AM. The question I pose never was an academic exercise but now with China's pledge to double aid to Africa it's vital to come up with a workable answer.

For a brief, reasonably balanced analysis of Ortega's victory, see the Time article but I like the Guardian piece I quoted at the start of the post because it underscores the points in your letter. The US experiment in making business the centerpiece of US foreign policy, which spawned the America Desk, has been a failure in Nicaragua.

With regard to Novak's analysis, I sympathize with Oliver North's angst over seeing Ortega returned to power. Yet US foreign relations strategy has depended on crystal ball gazing: analyzing what the other guy is going to do in the attempt to predict and control the outcome. The only thing you can predict and control with certainty is how you intend to act. The observation also applies to a government's foreign relations.

China's foreign policy is amoral but consistent to a remarkable degree at telegraphing how they will act toward other governments. US foreign policy strives to be moral but frequently falls into sin -- giving into the exigencies of accommodating special interests and US political infighting -- with the upshot that the US is perceived as inconsistent.

Peoples around the world know they'd be foolish to have high expectations about what a superpower can do for them. Yet what other governments feel they have a right to expect from a superpower is enough consistency on which to base predictions about the superpower's behavior. (If we do X, we know the US intends to do Y.)

That was the major reason Genghis Khan came to be trusted by the diverse peoples in his far-flung empire; he was the soul of consistency. The Khan laid down a few simple rules for everybody to follow. Everybody could set their hourglass by what he'd do if they flouted the rules. He was predictable, and he worked hard at being so. That was viewed as integrity, and for that he was respected.

Realize that the Khan was even more respected than the gods in the various god-worshipping cultures he ruled because the gods were fickle -- sometimes they sent rain in answer to prayers, sometimes they didn't. If the Khan said he was sending something to a government outpost, it got there.

That much dependability is too much ask of any modern government. The idea is for the US to aim for somewhere between the Khan's level of integrity and a policy so riddled with inconsistency that it resembles Swiss cheese.

* The Office for Commercial and Business Affairs at the US Department of State. See December 2004 Pundita post.

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."

Tuesday, November 7

SSTR

Professor James B. Ellsworth’s paper SysAdmin: Toward Barnett’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Force is now available online in PDF format. The paper is only ten pages (minus footnotes) and written in succinct, non-technical language, so it’s highly accessible to the general reader.

Jim Ellsworth sticks to a discussion of the central issues about SSTR ("Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction"), which Thomas P. M. Barnett terms "SysAdmin." One realizes from the paper that Barnett’s discussion about SSTR is highly projective. (The paper is also a good introduction to Barnett’s major arguments in Blueprint for Action, which owe much to the SSTR concept.)

Ellsworth stresses that SSTR is not new, and that no matter how you think about it, the DoD is moving ahead it. SSTR has profound implications for the US military -- indeed, for militaries in all major countries -- as well as US foreign policy. So I strongly recommend a reading of the paper.

The paper specifically addresses the key issue at this time about SSTR, which is whether it should have a military (“force structure”) or civilian structure.

Jim only mentions the issue that Barnett made much of in Blueprint for Action, which is "preemptive" SSTR. But the paper makes a clear distinction between preemptive SSTR and SSTR. It’s Barnett's discussion about preemptive SSTR that raised my hackles.

The idea behind preemptive SSTR is that if it’s waged judiciously it will avert or mitigate situations that lead to war. Yet in a world of national borders how does one wage “preemptive” stability, security, transition and reconstruction?

The US might wait for a natural disaster, such as the Tsunami, to deploy preemptive SSTR. But the US experience with the Bam, Iran earthquake points up an important fact:

It doesn’t necessarily follow that preemptive use of SSTR will avert or mitigate conditions that make the government of an underdeveloped country warlike or aggressive toward neighboring contries.

In any case, Jim’s paper sticks largely to a discussion of plain unvarnished SSTR while giving warning that the concept of preemptive SSTR is not something that Barnett concocted. So we can assume that as the discussion heats up about which agency will control SSTR, we will see the State Department marshalling their troops.

10:45 AM UPDATE - Letter from Jim Ellsworth in response to the above post:

Thanks, Pundita, for your comments. Actually, I do believe in preemptive SSTR -- but as you note, in a world of national borders that will in the overwhelming majority of cases be a matter of encouraging struggling governments to ask for our help in providing the short- to intermediate-term security necessary for intermediate term economic and long-term cultural development to take durable root. And here I would embrace your notion of the importance of restricting this to those meeting at least some minimum standard of commitment to the principles we stand for --or willing to be held to some defined standards of progress toward those principles. That is where Millennium Challenge comes in -- both in terms of the long-term Center of Gravity and of reasonable criteria for staying true to our principles as we work to shrink the Gap.

In some much smaller percentage of cases -- I would argue Sudan should be a case in point -- I would still endorse intervention whether the recipient national government wants it or not. But then that's not wholly SSTR, but rather something farther up the Range of Military Operations spectrum that by definition ends up having a big SSTR component anyhow (as I mention in the paper).

Of course for such a policy to be practical, we would need both a much larger Army (and USMC)--I still argue that this Administration's National Security Strategy requires a World War sized force (millions) to effectively execute--and, at least as important, a citizenry that understands we're at war, and going to have to be fighting that way literally for the survival of our way of life against the real "Axis of Evil" -- transnational terror, transnational organized crime, and kleptocracy -- for a generation at least.

And at the moment, we have neither.

BTW, "which agency will control SSTR" is, at least for the moment, officially settled: NSPD 44 assigns the role of Lead Agency for SSTR to State, and DoDD 3000.05 reinforces our (military's) supporting role. Of course war being merely the continuation of politics with the addition of other means, the result in politics -- like war -- is never final, so that certainly isn't meant to end the debate.

Sunday, November 5

Condition guarded but improving

Reader “E” suggested that I try a combination of ‘activated’ quercetin (with bromelain) and garlic capsules to alleviate the tendonitis. (1, 2) Together the supplements have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. He gave me the name of specific brands along with his comments. (3)

I have supplemented the activated quercetin formula with 100 mg. of calcium because I don’t like taking a magnesium supplement, even in the small dose (50 mg.) used in the preparation, without adding a calcium supplement. My understanding from reading nutrition books is that the calcium/magnesium ratio should be roughly 2:1.

Also, upon waking I take about a gram of the quercetin (two capsules of the recommended brand) instead of one capsule three times a day because I snack throughout the day, and the quercetin needs to be taken on an empty stomach. (4)

Although the quercetin – bromelain combination has stopped the pain, work at the computer (combination typing/ mousing) still causes discomfort if I do it for any more than about 15 minutes at a time, even though I am wearing a hand brace. (Discomfort, not pain, so there has definitely been healing.)

Also, I have had to learn to hold a full coffee mug with two hands and refrain from lifting/ carrying all but the lightest loads with the affected hand.

I suspect that if I put the hand in a sling and continued the quercetin treatment the condition would heal rapidly, but at this point I am unwilling to take such an extreme measure.

I did not take the cortisone shot. The specialist bailed on his appointments on the day I was to receive the shot. Because he came highly recommended by my primary care physician I will simply wait until he can fit me into his schedule -- and hope that by then the hand injury will have improved so much that I can forego the cortisone.

I am reluctant to get a cortisone shot because of the side effects and look at it as a last resort. So I am content for now to stay with the quercetin treatment, given the good results so far.

To give you a graphic idea of how much the quercetin has helped: before the treatment, I had been taking 1,800 mg./ day of Ibuprofen. It made no difference -- didn’t do a thing to relieve the pain. One gram of activated quercetin had very dramatic results within an hour or so. And without side effects.

Allergy sufferers and those with bursitis or tendonitis – or any type of inflammatory condition – might want to take note of my experience with quercetin. Note, too, the Wikipedia mention (below) of quercetin’s ability to shrink tumors.

I don’t know where all this leaves the blogging. There are posts I want to type up. Yet there is nothing like having an injury to the hand that you use the most to put a scare in you. I want the hand to get better; I want the full use of the hand back! At the same time, light typing for short periods does not seem to do any more harm than ordinary use of the hand provided I use care. And straight typing doesn’t bother the tendonitis as much as mousing. If I limit mousing I can get away with using the left hand for the mouse.

So I am going to write up at least one of the two posts I want to publish and use the left hand for the mousing I’ll need for the publishing process. After that, I will take it a day at a time.

My target for publishing the next post is Tuesday around noon.

Thanks very much to E for the advice and his good wishes, and for the other letters of support, and thanks to everyone for their patience!

I should note that at least one author (who works for a company that makes quercetin supplements) disputes that quercetin should be taken in megadoses. (5) Here’s my experience with the dosage amount:

I started with 500 mg. of quercetin and saw no improvement. It was not until I took a gram that I saw the dramatic results. But not all inflammatory conditions might require a megadose, so one has to play it by ear.

Also, at first I took the quercetin – bromelain preparation without adding the high - allicin garlic preparation that E recommended. I am not sure how much ‘boost’ the garlic gave to the quercetin/bromelain supplement but surely it’s been a help.

However, if you are taking a blood thinning medicine (e.g., aspirin therapy) you’d want to forego the garlic or at least discuss with your physician whether that high a dose of allicin is safe.

1) Wikipedia article: “Quercetin is a flavonoid that forms the "backbone" for many other flavonoids, including the citrus flavonoids rutin, hesperidin, naringin and tangeritin. Quercetin is found to be the most active of the flavonoids in studies, and many medicinal plants owe much of their activity to their high quercetin content.

Quercetin has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity because of direct inhibition of several initial processes of inflammation. For example, it inhibits both the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergic/ inflammatory mediators. In addition, it exerts potent antioxidant activity and vitamin C-sparing action. […]

Quercetin also shows remarkable anti-tumor properties. A recent study in the British Journal of Cancer shows that when treated with a combination of quercetin and ultrasound at 20 KHz for 1 minute duration, skin and prostate cancers show a 90% mortality within 48 hours with no visible mortality of normal cells. Note that ultrasound also promotes topical absorption by up to 1,000 times making the use of topical quercetin and ultrasound wands an interesting proposition.

Quercetin may have positive effects in combating or helping to prevent cancer, prostatitis, heart disease, cataracts, allergies/inflammations, and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma.

Foods rich in quercetin include apples, black & green tea, onions (higher concentrations of quercetin occur in the outermost rings[1]), red wine, red grapes, citrus fruits, broccoli & other leafy green vegetables, cherries, and a number of berries including raspberry, bog whortleberry (158 mg/kg, fresh weight), lingonberry (74 and 146 mg/kg), cranberry (83 and 121 mg/kg), chokeberry (89 mg/kg), sweet rowan (85 mg/kg), rowanberry (63 mg/kg), sea buckthorn berry (62 mg/kg), and crowberry (53 and 56 mg/kg).[1] A study[2] by the University of Queensland, Australia, has also indicated the presence of quercetin in varieties of honey, including honey derived from eucalyptus and tea tree flowers.[3] [...]

2) “Garlic has decongestant and anti-inflammatory properties and is a good source of quercetin, a natural antihistamine, making it good for colds and hay fever."

3) “Activated Quercetin (in this case, the brand matters)
Allicin Garlic (it's odorless)”

4) "Quercetin’s main disadvantage is that it is barely soluble in water, and therefore difficult for the body to absorb. Without biochemical help, its beneficial properties may be of very limited use to our bodies. There are lots of quercetin products on the market, but they won’t do much good if the quercetin is not activated for use by the body. Source Naturals combines its quercetin with bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple that is known to increase the body’s ability to absorb various substances. Bromelain also is known to have many of the same histamineand leukotriene-inhibiting properties as quercetin, so they enhance each others’ performance. Source Naturals ACTIVATED QUERCETIN contains vitamin C in a non-acidic form, magnesium ascorbate. Studies suggest that vitamin C has a synergistic relationship with quercetin, which improves quercetin’s use by the body. Since the acidic form of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can create mild stomach irritation, and since quercetin is best taken on an empty stomach to maximize absorption, a pH-buffered form of vitamin C such as magnesium ascorbate is preferable."

5) Disputing megadose: “Because [quercetin] is not considered an essential nutrient, there is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) set. However, various studies have indicated that there doesn't seem to be an issue of toxicity with quercitin [sic]. However, to err on the side of caution, we would suggest refraining from using mega-doses -- 500 mgs or above. A dosage of between 50 mgs and 150 mgs seems much more reasonable."

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