One of the longer pieces that Tom has blogged in some time and it’s really good to see him go en fuego on such an important topic. Dr. Barnett puts the costs of playing the Russo-Georgian War ( and/or demonizing China. Some out there would like to do both!) in an unthinkingly “feel good” way as throwing away most of our gains from winning the Cold War. The Russians, meanwhile, demonstrate that there is no monopoly on strategically shortsighted hotheadedness by having bellicose generals issue aggressive bluster that alienates all of Russia’s neighbors and makes our job of rounding up diplomatic support in Europe about ten times easier. That was a complete gift ( and also an example on how events can start to spin dangerously out of control).
The Core comes with competing rule sets
…The same would be true for a Russia that militarily subdued the Baltics or Ukraine. When you re-introduce war into situations where the Core has collectively said to itself, “We think we’ve got this one in hand for the long haul,” then you’d shift defense thinking inside the Core away from its post-9-11 tendency to focus on the Gap and once again have it start giving preeminence to defending against such possibilities inside the Core. This, to me, is how you destroy globalization. Depending on how we play Russia in the weeks and months ahead, we can certainly put much of Europe and the U.S. on that pathway.
I see that as a stupid strategic choice that throws away decades of effort and sacrifice to get our international liberal trade order (just the West til about 1980 and called the global economy and globalization since) to where it is today, with just a mere one billion truly offline and the Gap eminently shrinkable–albeit with plenty of social tumult and violence to accompany that process (but not too much to handle for a Core whose attention isn’t diverted back to senseless intra-Core conflicts). I thought along these lines for a long time before PNM was published. My first major effort at the Center for Naval Analyses in 1991 saw me advocate radically ramping up navy-to-navy cooperation with the Russians. So I’ve been making this argument for 17 years and am not (surprise!) eager to trash the situation over Georgia’s miscalculations. If we put immature democracies (who start wars more than any other type of state historically) in that driver’s seat, we’re screwed.
Despite his muscular prose, Tom is actually understating the costs of a crashed globalization and defense budgets ramped up as far as the eye can see. I can’t put a dollar figure on it but the working denomination here is “trillions”. We should really stop a moment and think about that and start calculating three or four steps down the road rather than tacking our moves to the needs of the MSM news cycle.
Galrahn at Information Dissemination, aside from some very kind words for me, which I appreciate, dives into Tom’s post and adds his own excellent analysis:
Russia – Georgia Analysis We Can Support
….Russia and the US are not equals, but can be in their approach to the gap. I would also include other major powers in this equation. I love that piece by Tom, because in a great many words, he is essentially invoking our Yin Yang theory for strategically approaching our national interests.When any major power exercises power in the gap, it ultimately represents an opposing (competitive) and, at the same time, complementary (completing) application of power towards the ends of shrinking the gap. Tom found the Yin Yang.
In this case, Georgia, which has a relationship with the United States is being consumed by Russia, and ultimately will be regardless of what the United States does. This represents a loss of influence for the United States and Europe, a gain of influence for the Russians. BUT this also represents a long term complimentary action to the strategic goals of everyone in the core. Why? Because successful military intervention by a core nation into the gap shrinks the gap.Apply the same theory to Iraq. The US military intervention there represented a loss of influence by Russia and Europe, and a gain of influence by the United States. The result is an action that is complimentary to the strategic goals of other core nations (think China and energy here), and the effects of this intervention are broad. Consider what we see in the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait and we have movement towards more shrinking of the gap. There is no reason to believe that Russian intervention in Georgia couldn’t have a similar effect on regional nations, including Ukraine
The new states of the “near abroad” like Georgia are vulnerable to Russian meddling not because they are militarily weak but because their populations are disunited and their governments operate with dubious legitimacy, excess opacity and a systemic mafiya corruption that saps their national vitality. To stand strong, they need to clean up their acts in their own best interests so the help we extend can be effectively used.