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Archive for October, 2004

Thursday, October 28th, 2004


Scientists discover a tool-using, perhaps culture creating, prehistoric dwarf race on the human family tree, which appears to be more complex than previously imagined.

Since the dwarfism of this Homo Erectus -like proto-human who probably coexisted for thousands of years with modern Homo Sapiens is being explained by hypothetical localized evolutionary pressures, that begs the question if scientists will one day make a discovery on the other end of the size spectrum. Perhaps we will find that there were once ” giants ” who walked the earth.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004


Count me as someone who thinks the airwaves should be auctioned off as property rights or long-term leases to the highest bidder and the FCC be abolished or converted into an institution to prevent infringement on those rights to broadcast on a particular part of the spectrum. I’ve never bought into the whole public airwaves argument but that is currently the law – obligations to serve the public interest and all that – and the law is the law until found unconstitutional. I think it should be and free speech should reign but that’s merely my opinion, not the law we live under.

So therefore, if a broadcaster decides repeatedly to attempt to manipulate the electorate by providing false information under the guise of “news” designed to ” tilt ” the public against a candidate – is that in the public interest ? Isn’t that also a calculated attempt to break the recent McCain-Feingold regulations – another stupid law contrary to our liberties -regarding the 60 day time limit and political advertising ? How can it not be ?

Shouldn’t then, if we want to follow the law, all of that broadcaster’s station licenses be suspended or pulled altogether ? And heavy fines be imposed by the FCC and the FEC ?

If not, why not ?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004


Dave Schuyler of The Glittering Eye is tackling PNM theory and is demanding greater precision and quantification from Dr. Barnett. I’ll offer some commentary from my perspective on Dave’s questions. Everyone else feel free to chime in as well.

“I continue to find Dr. Barnett’s notion of an integrated Core and a non-integrating Gap perplexing. How long has there been a Core? What is its history? If it existed a hundred years ago, what were the then-Core’s rule-sets? How have the rule-sets changed over time?”

Dr. Barnett discusses several attempts at Globalization in world history in PNM. Diplomatic and economic historians as a group would generally point to a first attempt at globalization in the late 19th century during the apex of classical liberal thought that was ultimately aborted by the Great War in 1914 and pronounced dead in 1930 by Smoot-Hawley. Sadly, American protectionism played a role in provoking both Great Britain’s retreat from Free Trade into Imperial Preference and the reinforcement of Germany’s innate tendencies toward cartel-corporative capitalism and expansionist autarky. Brooks Adams had more or less predicted such an outcome in 1900 from unrestrained pursuit of beggar-thy-neighbor tariff wars.

Overall though, I would say ” The Core ” was evident but not yet integrated by Teddy Roosevelt’s day when the great economic and political powers were the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Russia. I realize it’s not common to think of Imperial Russia as an economic power but Tsarist Russia played a ” New Core ” role much the same way China does today with phenomenal GDP growth rates of about 7-8 % in a rapidly industrializing but mostly peasant society. The Core became the Core in the full sense by achieving integration – minus Russia – in the aftermath of WWII with the Bretton Woods-IMF-World Bank-GATT- UN-NATO -EEC superstructure tying the West and Japan together. Even tinkering with the system – Nixon floating the dollar and junking fixed exchange rates or France pulling out of NATO’s military command – did not dissolve the Core.

“Why, instead of discrete Core and Gap, isn’t there a spectrum of Core-integration with countries being more-integrated and less-integrated over time? Why does the rule-set seem so binary?”

I think a spectrum is a valid mechanism of evaluation, particularly if we used it to ” rate connectivity” within the New Core or Gap states on ” the seam”between the two. My guess here is that as a briefer to Pentagon war planners, policy makers and Brass that Dr. Barnett was finding a more receptive audience for his ideas with categorical classification than with some kind of sliding scale. Just a hunch however, we’d have to ask Tom to be certain.

“And shouldn’t there be some meta-rules for the Core rule-set? I would really like to see examples of each of these rules in action. And, more importantly, methods of testing whether a specific rule is actually in force. Without standards for specifically disproving each rule aren’t we looking at self-defining tautologies?

Take Rule #9, for example:

The potential for conflict is maximized when states with differing rule sets are forced into collaboration/collision/clashes.

Do any two states actually have the same rule set? How do you measure it? It would seem to me that, once again, we are always dealing with a spectrum of degrees of congruity between rule-sets rather than an equivalence/non-equivalence situation”

Good questions.

I think during the Cold War there was a consensus within the Core G-7/NATO/Japan bloc on ” the rules of the game”. The UN was a fictive, ceremonial institution except by accident ( Korean War) when the advocate of a competing rule-set dynamic known as Communism happened to have walked out of the UNSC. Oh, the UN was useful for talking about middling problems but nobody expected it to prevent either superpower from doing something – only the other superpower could do that through he logic of deterrence, MAD and detente. Within the Core, even the French were substantively cooperative most of the time, so long as the Soviet Union endured.

Without Bipolarity the old rules need not apply. The French were quick to recognize this, American liberals and much of our Bipartisan Foreign Policy elite have not. The former have learned how to reap advantages through obstructionism and leveraging the EU and UNSC, the latter are trying to breathe life through demonstrations of multilateral goodwill into the dead husks of Cold War era alliance structures. It can’t work. The old relationships can endure in new forms but trying to conduct American policy as if a new strategic dynamic has not emerged from the Soviet collapse and globalization is like ignoring the oncoming car because you have the right of way.

So, to sum up my long-winded answer – we had common rules within the Core and now we are struggling over what will be the New Rules. If the French-EU-Transnational Progressive-International Law extremists win this debate it will not be the Core that connects the Gap but the chaos of the Gap that creeps into the Core. – they are championing rules to systematically maximize disconnectedness because that scenario rewards regional powers, NGO’s, transnational entities and superempowered individuals at the expense of everyone else.

UPDATE: ” Mr. Soft Power” Joseph Nye in a CSIS sponsored event to address the Future Transatlantic Relationship. Y’Know, everything high-powered meets everywhere else except in Chicago. It’s irritating. And if it does meet here it’s usually closed to the public.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004


It isn’t up yet online but in the paper edition of Foreign Policy on newstands now, Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell discuss in their article ” Web of Influence “ how blogging is changing the formation of policy. The erstwhile professor-bloggers christen the blogosphere

” The Fifth Estate” – in itself a revealing statement on the human tendency to force fit new things into old forms of understanding- and explain how the elite blogs act as important information filters moving new views from little known bloggers upward toward elite blogreaders – mainstream journalists, pundits and government officials. As expected many of the big names of the blogosphere get their due but so do foreign bloggers, particularly in Iran and China as well as Salman Pax, Iraq the Model and Baghdad Burning.

It’s a well-done and thoughtful article though avid bloggers will probably roll their eyes and exclaim ” DUH” at observations like ” North Korea is perhaps the most blog-unfriendly nation” it’s doubtful that most of Foreign Policy readers as a group are deep into blogging. So basic explanations were a useful component of a very good ” bridge” article between old media and new. Worth reading. Or if you are cheap and lazy, worth waiting for Foreign Policy to post the online version in a few weeks.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004


Reviewing rules # 7 – 9 from Dr. Barnett’s Deleted Scene on System Perturbation. As before my remarks are in regular text, Dr. Barnett’s in bold:

“Where are the boundaries in System Perturbations?

Rule #7: Vertical scenarios are always preceded by horizontal scenarios that generated the preconditions for system shock.

This one I definitely stole from the complexity guys. Their basic point is that no vertical shock occurs in a vacuum. With 9/11, there were a host of horizontal scenarios on our side that led to all that lax security and our government’s downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda. So looking for that one “smoking gun” is always an illusion, despite the fact that we always pretend to ourselves that we have really found one, like the FBI “Phoenix Memo.” To believe that one little memo should have turned the tides on all those long-term horizontal scenarios is just fantasy. You cannot turn conventional wisdom on its head without a serious shock. On Al Qaeda’s side, 9/11 was the culmination of a slow build-up of capabilities and demonstrated strikes over the years. This group did not appear out of nowhere, nor did their grievances.

Amen. Dr. Barnett has provided grist here for historians like myself where one of the great difficulties when asked by someone outside of the field for an explanation of a historical event is to give one that has brevity yet respects the complexity of multiple-causation. Almost every significant event in the history of the earth – at least as far as I can authoritatively speak- is a result of multiple causation of unfolding horizontal and vertical scenarios. Political partisans and ideologues in particular prefer simple, single-causation, explanations that are usually correct only to a limited and compartmentalized extent and often become dangerously wrong when subsequently extrapolated into a demagogic slogan.

I suppose an exception might be examples of divine revelation that became slow-moving System Perturbations – Muhammed’s vision, Constantine and St. Paul’s conversions, Buddha’s enlightenment but even here the spread of new religions occur within a social and historical context. The collapse of Roman power, the destruction of Temple Judaism, the political disorganization of Vedic-Hindu India and vertical organization of dynastic China all provided a space for these belief systems to triumph as rival rule-sets over earlier moral systems.

Rule #8: Vertical scenarios are invariable followed by horizontal scenarios that generate preconditions for future shocks.

This one sort of says, “Be careful what you wish for.” Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and hopes it will shock the U.S. into rapid defeatism. Instead, we respond with the Pacific Campaign, or a methodical dismantling of Japan’s empire. Hitler thought Germany might conquer Russia with the same blitzkrieg that overwhelmed Poland and France, and he got the Battle of Stalingrad and the Siege of Leningrad instead. Al Qaeda thought America would be shocked into isolation after 9/11, and got a Bush Adminstration hell-bent on transforming the Middle East. Of course, as part of that transformation, we invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. That was the “big bang” America put on the Middle East as a whole. But that vertical shock invariably creates its own horizontal scenarios like leaving tens of thousands of U.S. troops trapped in Iraq for the long haul, pulling in jihadists from all over the world to try and kill the “infidels,” and forcing the U.S. into an accommodation with the UN it had long sought to avoid regarding postwar Iraq. What new vertical shock comes out of that maelstrom of horizontal scenarios? Good question.

Sir Isaac Newton wrote: “Forces always occur in pairs. If object A exerts a force F on object B, then object B exerts an equal and opposite force -F on object A” or as every school child calls it ” Every action has an equal and opposite reaction “. If you remove the critical term ” equal” and substitute the phrase ” probable set of ” you have a good, analagous, ” Law of Blowback ” to Newton’s Third Law, for unfolding vertical and horizontal scenarios.

” For statesmen, every action has a probable set of opposite reactions “

If we are going to act strategically in the context of everything else – which means thinking systemically – we need to be aware that systems exist as a set of interconnections and automatically there will be a feedback loop of sorts for every gross disturbance that is out of sync with the pattern of the system’s usual internal actions. This is not a Chalmers Johnson type argument for policy paralysis and geopolitical inertia – such advice is worthless as well as politically motivated. Policy makers though should take into consideration the Law of Unintended Consequences and the Law of Diminishing Returns when planning a move so as to minimize the extent of any worst-case scenarios. The current situation in Iraq where the Leviathan planning was superb and the System administration planning was incompetent argues the case eloquently.

Rule #9: The potential for conflict is maximized when states with differing rule sets are forced into collaboration/collision/clashes.

This rule basically defines America’s dilemma in pursuing this global war on terrorism: we will constantly be getting into bed with countries whose rule sets do not go well with our own, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or even Syria. How does America cooperate with essentially non-democratic states to spread democracy? Then again, if you want converts, you better work among the sinners, yes? But even tougher questions abound in response to 9/11. You could say, for example, that in pursuing this war on terror, America is basically adopting the Israeli approach of an-eye-for-an-eye, which is problematic for most Americans. Israel may, for religious and cultural reasons, be comfortable with that Old Testament approach, but America is basically a New Testament-style democracy, where the “golden rule” of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” drives most of our rule sets. As I stated earlier, I think the Core-Gap division forces some genuine bifurcation in our security rule sets, and yet, there is no pasting over the reality that this war on terror will cause very profound rule set clashes within America itself.

For a very timely example of this clash of rule sets within America itself, see the new Foreign Affairs article entitled -ironically- ” The Sources of American Legitimacy “ a moderate sounding but extremely radical thesis from two Transnational Progressive scholars Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson. Their argument is so dangerous to American national security and so inimical to Dr. Barnett’s vision of ” Connecting the Gap ” that it requires a post on it’s own to explain – as indeed TM Lutas and JB at Riting On The Wall have already done. Reader’s Digest version – they argue International Law is properly the handmaiden of tyrants and genocidaires who are legitimate sovereigns but American “legitimacy” is rooted in our cession of sovereignty to the opinion of the world community as interpreted by unaccountable NGOs, transnational organizations and activists like Tucker and Hendrickson. A more perverse, self-interested, revisionism masquerading as orthodoxy- outside of Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists- cannot be imagined.

The Core has to come together on rewriting the Rule-set for handling 4th Generation warfare opponents like al Qaida and this will mean engagement with our real( Britain, Japan, Israel, Australia), putative (France, Germany) and potential( Russia, China, India) allies. The Bush administration has been great at identifying the new rules we need and rebuffing outrageously stupid demands from the implicit villain community by indentifying their conduct for what it is – hostile. Now however the next step is demonstrating the same diplomatic finesse with Europe and at the UNSC that put together a regional consensus for six power talks on North Korean nuclear weapons programs. The great redeeming value of some of the implicit villains overseas is that many of them as a result of their corruption and cynical self-interest can be bought off, rather cheaply in fact as Saddam demonstrated.

Recall the case of Admiral Darlan and Operation Torch. Let’s buy some of the decadent ones off long enough to diplomatically isolate those implicit villains who are ideologically the immovable objects in our path so we can get on with the business of winning the war the making a future worth creating.

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