[ by Charles Cameron — blowback (unintended consequence) i’m happy to see ]
Trump galvanizes support for Paris Accord? That at least is what Gov. Jerry Brown of California believes just happened: President Trump‘s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is a “very misguided action” which will “act as a catalyst to galvanize the people of California and, I would say, of the whole world, to do the right thing in getting us on a path of sustainability.”
Two quick quotes:
I certainly don’t think Trump, in his statement toiday is the last word — far from it. This is a temporary deviation from the norm, the world norm, and it will be corrected. How soon? I don’t know..
Trump is going to act as the null hypothesis. He’s demonstrating that climate denial has no integrity and no future, and the opposite, climate activism, is the order of the day,
Here’s the full context:
We are, I think, used to the pattern of blowback in the negative sense, as when news of the abuses at Abu Ghraib feeds into AQ recruitment — here we have, from my POV at least, an example of (possible, plausible) positive blowback, with a damn foolish action on the President’s part rousing a contrary movement for the good of planet and humankind.
There’s something in all this that Chuang Tzu would relish, at least when not taking himself for a butterfly.
[ by Charles Cameron — fitness landscapes and the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond ]
With the rise and fall of sea levels, sky levels, land emerges or submerges, mountain ranges with scattered lakes in their valleys transform into archipelagos, island clusters surge up to become continents — rise and fall, ebb and flow, wave upon wave..
Biologists talk about adaptive landscapes. In these metaphorical places, species climb uphill towards optimal fitness. Going up is a struggle. Climbing takes energy. Optimal peaks can be hard to attain. Many species are distracted by getting stuck on sub-optimal false peaks, or waylaid by the intervening rugged landscape.
[ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”
I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.
And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.
Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..
If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.
In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.
Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.
The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us
a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities
— down to our own times.
What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.
The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:
Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.
Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.
Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.
The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.
And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being real – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.
The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.
Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..
Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?
He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:
Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.
— and had the final, pointed word:
We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.
Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:
I just opened up Michael Mazarr‘s NDU Strategy Study Group report, Discriminate Power: A Strategy for a Sustainable National Security Posture. It’s quite far from my usual apocalyptic and more generally religious interests, but he and I once co-led a Y2K scenario role-playing game at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, so I have a friendly interest in what he’s up to.
What interested me next, though, was the overview to their report that Mazarr and company present in their Introduction. Their purview:
In the coming decade, the constraints on U.S. foreign and defense policy — fiscal, social, Geopolitical — are likely to intensify. At the same time, the security environment is evolving in ways that pose a more diverse array of risks, threats and opportunities. While foreign threats have dominated national security planning in the past, for example, future wars may more typically involve nontraditional foes and means threatening the homeland. This will change how we perceive and provide for national security, even as we confront new constraints.
This paper summarizes the work of a study group chartered to assess strategy under austerity for the next ten years. A core conclusion was that the United States is buying systems, forces and capabilities increasingly mismatched to the challenges, threats, and opportunities of the emerging environment. Military power, for example, cannot resolve many of the most complex and pressing challenges we confront — and yet our investments in national security remain vastly over-weighted to military instruments. The most likely threats to the U.S. homeland will come from nontraditional challenges such as biological pathogens, terrorism, cyber, and financial instruments, and yet resources for these issues remain minimal compared to traditional military instruments. At the same time, on our current trajectory, we will end up with a national security establishment dominated by salaries, health care, retirement costs, and a handful of staggeringly expensive major weapons systems. We are spending more and more to get less and less, in terms of relevant tools and influence.
There’s some ambiguity in here. There’s a segue from “foreign threats” to “future wars” without so much as a hiccup — but the actual threats our National Security strategy will need to address are presented as “nontraditional challenges such as biological pathogens, terrorism, cyber, and financial instruments”.
That’s a far broader array than “future wars” to be sure — but maybe still within the ambit of “foreign threats”. What I’m interested in, in the present context, however, is climate change. And unless my .pdf search function is deceiving me, I can find no mention of either “climate” or “warming” in the entire report.
The national security impacts of climate change stem from the increasingly severe environmental impacts it is having on countries and people around the world. Last year, the lower 48 U.S. states endured the warmest year on record. At one point, two-thirds of the contiguous United States was in a state of drought, and almost 10 million acres of the West were charred from wildfires. And while no single weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, we know that climate change is fueling more frequent extreme weather events. Last year alone, we endured 11 weather-related disasters that inflicted a $1 billion or more in damages – including Hurricane Sandy.
Internationally, we have seen the same: the first twelve years of this century are all among the fourteen warmest years on record.
Climate Change: The danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe. The United States will therefore confront climate change based upon clear guidance from the science, and in cooperation with all nations — for there is no effective solution to climate change that does not depend upon all nations taking responsibility for their own actions and for the planet we will leave behind.
America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.
Todd Ebitz, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency would continue to monitor the security and humanitarian challenges posed by climate change as part of its focus on economic security, but not in a stand-alone office.
Okay. I know Mazarr’s report will have been written to fulfill certain criteria, specified or unspecified, and I’m not the one who set them — but isn’t climate change a part of the context that would need to be addressed, if “how we perceive and provide for national security, even as we confront new constraints” is the topic under discussion?
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.