TWO MUST READ POSTS ON TWO GREAT STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FACING THE WORLD
There is a rare conjunction of strategic turning points in world affairs today, any of which will have consequences that will matter a century from now. Globalization is one. The ultimate political form of the European Union is another. The third is the Rise of Radical Islamism. The last is the Rise of China. I recommend two posts on the third and fourth of these questions.
In the first, Dr. Thomas Barnett has blogged on the outline of the talks he gave in China to Chinese academics specializing in foreign relations and security policy. Go read the whole post
but here is a critical excerpt:
"o The biggest fear I have about China is a collapse of its internal banking system. In fact, that is the biggest fear I have right now for globalization as a whole.
o It makes sense for China's 4th generation leadership to focus more on China's rural poor than the 3rd generation did. It will keep China from destabilizing over the near term far better than any saber-rattling on Taiwan.
o I fear that the 3rd generation leaders still clinging to their last vestiges of power (Jiang Jemin especially) are seeking to push the Taiwan issue in order to record that historical notch on their belts before they leave the stage, and so I hope that this temptation will pass without incident, because I believe that China's vision for economic and political integration in Asia needs to be so much bigger than simply trying to get Taiwan back in the fold.
o I said that China's biggest challenge externally comes in the form of Beijing progressively enunciating a political and economic unifying concept that's larger than "China" but that is based around China's rising economic power. In short, Beijing needs to present to Asia and the world a vision of regional integration based on something bigger (and less threatening) than just "rising China." That is why I think the Theory of Peacefully Rising China is so important; it corresponds to the "happy ending" story that China needs to be telling the world right now, just like the U.S. needs to be selling some vision of a "happy ending" regarding the GWOT. Otherwise, fear will prevail, and China cannot afford the friction generated by that fear.
o I pushed the notion that China needed to keep up its relatively swift pace of economic, social and political reforms because if it did not, then gaps would open up between the rest of the Core and China regarding security issues such as Taiwan, North Korea and the Middle East in general. Specifically on those three issues, I said that nothing that Taiwan could do or say would really change the reality of its progressive economic (and ultimately political) integration with the mainland, so China needed to find its confidence level on that one and not let the talk out of Taipei rattle it so. On North Korea, I pushed the notion that an Asian NATO should logically arise out of the "victory" that should soon end the horrific regime that is Kim Jong Il's leadership of that nation. So China needs to define what is a win-win for everyone on that score, and begin that dialogue with the U.S. as soon as possible, because it's eventually going to happen and it should happen on our preferred timetable rather than on Kim's crazy one. On the Middle East, I repeated my usual notion that China was inevitably coming militarily to the region over the next couple of decades, either because the U.S. does a good job of exporting security to the region and China wants to help, or because the U.S. does such a bad job of it that China comes out of fear. Either way, China needs to get its security head straight regarding this inevitable long-term reality, so again, thinking beyond the myopic focus on Taiwan is crucial.
o My big point throughout both presentations was that China needs to stop asking itself what the world "owes" it and needs to start asking itself "What the world needs from China." In short, Beijing itself has the most say over whether or not the Theory of Peacefully Rising China comes to fruition or not. But that future worth creating will only come about as China learns to think more non-zero-sum about global security in general."
I'm going to comment on each of Dr. Barnett's points in a subsequent post but for the moment I'd like to move to the next subject, a post at Caerdroia
on the Islamist terrorists taking Russian school children hostage
near Chechnya. Jeff Medcalf has grasped the gravity of the Islamists adopting a tactic designed to create the maximum amount of horror and anxiety throughout a civilized society:
" As long as the jihadis are adopting the tactic of attacking children by the hundreds (hat tip: Belmont Club), it's only a matter of time before we are fighting not against the jihadis, but against all Muslims. Protection of the children is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, and people will not long abide absolute monsters. Between the slaughter of noncombatant adults and the attacks on children, the jihadis are bringing us closer to genocide ."
The Russians have an element of fatalism, sort of a long-suffering political melancholy and civic alienation, regarding their own authorities that will direct some
of the public anger at this outrageous attack on school children against the Russian government itself for incompetence. Or send some people into hapless despair. Russia is also not as media dense as the United States with 24/7 500 channel saturation news coverage, over which the Putin government has amassed a preponderant influence in any event. The spin will go in the direction that Vladmir Putin wants it to go.
( Incidentally, assuming the perpetrators are in fact Chechens, this attack demonstrates the lethality of mixing a ritualistically violent tribal code - the Chechen Adat
- with the ideologically refined memes of Islamism that break down the restraints of that code
and widen the potential targets. Even after the first Russian-Chechen war, it would have been preposterous to expect that a Chechen steeped in Adat would take indiscriminate vengeance against children unrelated to his enemy. We have seen this phenomenon before in Afghanistan where the Taliban imposed a hideous hybrid of Qutbist Islamism
and the Pushtunwali
However if this move is attempted in the United States by al Qaida - and to an extent a tactic like this is a confession of strategic impotence - the fury of the American public might well exceed that of 9/11. Recall the effect of the Columbine massacre . Now add in Radical Muslim terrorists as the perpetrators.
There are over fifty million k-12 American students. They all have parents who will react to that kind of potential threat to their children with the irresistible weight of a political tsunami.
Winds of Change has a briefing up with extensive links
to the Russian hostage situation.