HOW SHOULD WE SHRINK THE GAP ?
I was musing the other day about Diplomad’s post regarding life in what PNM advocates call the Gap – too often that life being one that is nasty, brutish and short. Terrible conditions that often through famine, civil war, ethnic cleansing and genocide – at least those that catch the eye of the Western media- provoke an outcry for ” humanitarian intervention”. Intervention that through a Leviathan invasion that suppresses ” bad guys ” followed by a System Administration force that can focus on the physical, social, economic and legal infrastructure that will permit connection to the Core. It seems not only morally right but a coherent strategy of tackling the worst cases or most ominous rogue state offenders first, providing an example or model. A ” big bang ” intervention in Tom Barnett’s phraseology.
The problem with this approach is that the models for success are few. Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia proved to be ill-conceived or badly bungled operations. Iraq teeters on the edge of ruin and only East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan qualify as a success. Of those three East Timor is the single example of this ” connectivity” process being predominantly a non-American show- a combination of effort by another Core state with hard power – Australia – and the UN.
However there’s another way. A strategy of ” Creeping Connectivity” where we expand the Core outward by picking ” the winners ” who are likely to be success stories first, gradually decreasing the size of the Gap, leaving the hardest cases for last. Collounsbury suggested as much in my comments section ( for those who aren’t familiar Col is a MENA specialist and an expert in investmen)t:
“The only way one wins the game is (i) marginalizing over the medium term the oil producers, (ii) supporting growth oriented regimes in the region (read up on Tunisia: you want a model for the region, it’s Tunisia. Not perfect, but sustained *real* growth of 5 percent year on year for 10 years is not something to shrug off. They could do better too. Forget pouring money into the corrupt Egyptian kleptocracy, focus on the guys who are really changing. Set up private equity like investment funds to invest in them, rather than bullshit aid programs)”
The virtue of the second approach is that it is reality-based – it fits the truth of the market that capital investment only flows to places where a reasonable return compared with risk exists along with adequate physical security. It would seem very likely based upon the example of nations like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia that such an approach will succeed – sort of Connectivity through market liberalization. The downside is, that to pursue such a strategy with the seriousness and consistency to ensure progressive global improvement requires that the United States abandon the people in the darkest regions of the Gap to their local version of Hell. Except of course, when there are also overriding security interests at stake. Not a very morally uplifting or inspiring vision nor one that I think the American people could stick to anyway, to their credit.
America can do both – in fact we are doing so but not in any kind of coherent fashion. We need a yardstick of prioritization for the Gap that will indicate which route to go and when.
UPDATE LINK: Thanks to Cardozo in the comments – an example of the Bush administration taking an innovative Creepimg Connectivity approach.