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Archive for March, 2006

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006


My blogfriend Dave Schuler had a post today entitled “American foreign policy in an age of proximity” which spurred me to think on many levels. A thoughtful, well-crafted, essay it is definitely worth the full read but here is a significant excerpt:

“My own view was (and is) that America has a foreign policy and, using the diction I’d use today rather than the way I’d have put it back then, the policy is an emergent phenomenon of the major forces in American foreign policy thought: mercantilism, missionary internationalism, populism, and libertarian isolationism (AKA Hamiltonianism, Wilsonianism, Jacksonianism, and Jeffersonianism).

This emergent policy has a number of components but included among them are open borders facilitated by ensuring that our neighbors are weak. This is a policy that has been pretty successful for the last two hundred years or so. I’ve argued against it for the last forty and IMO the policy is beginning to look a little shopworn at his point.

Consider the case of Cuba in the light of this policy. We don’t really care whether Cuba is communist or dominated by a dictator or spreads instability in other countries in the hemisphere (that’s actually something of a feature rather than a bug) or outside of the hemisphere or makes its people miserable. We’ll avoid trading with Cuba (a few cavils from Hamiltonians notwithstanding) but we won’t stop others from doing so nor will we overthrow the tyrant (a few sporadic actions from Jacksonians and complaints from Wilsonians notwithstanding). We’ll even encourage emigration from Cuba (which provides a safety valve for the Castro tyranny). We’ll accept it as long as Cuba is weak.

But if Cuba shows signs of becoming strong (as it did during the Cuban missile crisis almost 45 years ago) then it’s a threat and we’ll act forcefully to correct the situation.

Things have changed quite a bit since the first quarter of the 19th century. They’ve changed quite a bit in the last 45 years. China and Iran are closer to us today than Mexico was in 1850 and little farther away than Cuba was in 1962. We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe.”

I have many comments.

First, I very much like Dave’s elastic use of ” proximity” as a relative cognitive perception. He’s right. As the world has globalized and moved into the information age, what constitutes “distance” has changed irrevocably for people in advanced ” Core” societies. Only a little more than a half-century ago a British Prime Minister justified appeasement because the costs were being borne by a ” far-away people, of whom we know nothing”. What was that, of course, compared to ” peace in our time”?

That excuse is much harder to make these days, at least in terms of Western statesmen avoiding obloquy. Just ask former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, whose new first name might actually be ” Feckless”.

Secondly, (and at least to me, interestingly) revisionist historians like William Appleman Williams, Walter Lefeber, Thomas J. McCormick, Gabriel Kolko and Lloyd Gardner
would agree with Dave that “We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe”, albeit for very different ideological motivations.

Thirdly, I sense in the immigration debate to which Dave refers a growing and serious disconnect in terms of values betwen our leaders and the American people. I generally consider that immigrantion has been helpful to this country. Unlike, say, Pat Buchanan, I am not alarmed by Mexican immigration per se, brown skin can be good kin, as it were.

But the sheer magnitude of illegal immigration coupled the deliberate attempt by Mexico’s Vicente Fox government to cultivate and retain the immigrant’s primary loyalties is worrisome. The inability of our current security procedures to exercise even minimal control our own borders is worrisome. These things are basic challenges to American sovereignty. A policy encouraging a high degree of mobility across the border does not have to be implemented with a high degree of stupidity.

Most worrisome of all is that our bipartisan elite is content to tur a blind eye to the problem and pursue an uncontrolled borders policy to which nearly 60 % of the Americans are strongly opposed – opposed even by a majority of Hispanic immigrants. A policy contrary to American national interests but very much conducive to the political and economic interests of this insular bipartisan elite.

End Part I.

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006


Ahem. A rare address on the state of Zenpundit. First, the blogroll.

I have added some newcomers to the blogroll – many thanks to Dave Schuler of the Glittering Eye and Tom Scudder of ‘Aqoul for their suggestions – more changes will soon be forthcoming but for now you can welcome:

Ann Althouse

Bliss Street Journal

Chicago Boyz

History Unfolding


Window on the Arab World, and More !

A fine group of blogs worth your online time to peruse. The next batch of additions will remediate some topical or domain gaps on my blogroll that I believe need plugging. There will be a few deletions of dead or dying blogs or people whom I do not read that often and who, in the interim, appear to have gone insane or joined a sect of unreconstructed wingnuts.

Secondly, after some reflection, I have decided to accept some degree of paid advertising from a reputable company which can be seen in the form of unobtrusive text ads in the margin. I have had inquiries in this regard in the past but have never accepted until now. Why alter my policy ?

While I do not need the money per se I do incur some costs from subscriptions to periodicals, online data bases and ( an exceedingly large number of) books that support my blogging that I might not otherwise have purchased. Moreover, I have plans for upgrading Zenpundit in the near term that involve additional expenditures and it would be nice if the blog can self-finance at least some of these things.

Therefore, I will accept some sponsors who offer products or services that have nothing to do with the topics on which I usually write. If it could be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest I simply won’t take the ad. Completely off-limits would be ads from partisan political campaigns or websites of an adult nature ( call it the “no politicians or whores” rule). Also rejected a priori are gaudy, bandwith sucking, banner ads or pop-ups because I find such things very annoying myself and do not wish to inconvenience my readers.

Other than that, let capitalism reign.

Monday, March 27th, 2006


Hey everybody, Geitner’s back ! Even the heavy responsibilities of being an editor and author cannot forever hold the siren call of the blogosphere at bay ! :o)

Regions of Mind was one of the first blogs I ever read and the quality of Geitner’s blogging, visually as well as his prose, remain an example to follow for the rest of the blogosphere.

Sunday, March 26th, 2006


Cruising my archives reveals I’ve done some thinking…about thinking. Some of you, like Dan of tdaxp , are very familiar with these but newer readers might not have caught these posts on the nature of cognition when they first appeared.

Understanding Cognition Part I.
Understanding Cognition Part II.
Understanding Cognition PartIII.

Creativity as the Key to escape Self-Referential Paradigms


Complexity, leadership, ideology and perception

Enjoy ( Or not, either way, here they are) !

Sunday, March 26th, 2006


Art Hutchinson of Mapping Strategy has a bone to pick with Bruce Schneier’s assessment of cost to benefit ratios in counterrorism security practices:

“Terrorism is fundamentally not a forecastable thing. That’s especially true during a period of innovation and expansion in that sad, sick “industry”. The fact that the peak death number changed so suddenly makes a conservative rational calculation based on past history just as tenuous as any radical emotional guess based on fear. Given that the trend is clearly up however, and that the last jump was by 10X, it is only prudent that we err to the side of assuming high and being wrong than assuming low and waving bye-bye to New York or Los Angeles.

…The larger point? What’s tough about predicting terrorism is also tough about predicting discontinuous change in business. Applying the same forecasting methodology to discontinuous possible ‘left-field’ problems as to well-understood, clearly bounded problems with deep actuarial data-sets is like trying to eat soup with a knife. A tool that’s extremely precise and powerful for some jobs is utterly misguided for that one.”

[emphasis in the original]

Much of what Art is discussing relates to “creative uncertainty“, a factor that I believe will become relevant rather than less as terror risk downshifts from highly centralized hierarchical networks to scale free networks to superempowered individuals seeking to pull off one -man 9/11’s. The incentive for terror groups is that the loss of control and the magnitude of effect acheivable in operational parameters caused by downshifting is partially compensated by the much greater difficulty security agencies have in detecting and preventing attacks coming from the decentralized end of the spectrum.


Younghusband -“Leaderless Resistance” at Coming Anarchy

John Robb – “Louis Beam

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