ZenPundit
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
 
PART VI -HOW DO WE DEAL WITH OTHER STATES DURING SYSTEM PERTURBATIONS ?

To continue the series on Dr. Barnett's Deleted Scene on System Perturbations ( for previous posts go here.). As always my commentary is in regular text, Dr. Barnett's is in bold font:

"How do we deal with other states during System Perturbations?

Rule #13: There is no statute of limitations on cultural blowback, so avoid providing future foes with chosen trauma.

Middle East experts will tell you 9/11 is twenty years of blowback from Afghanistan and the mujaheddin we supported there, half a century of blowback from the creation of the state of Israel, and even eight centuries of blowback from the Crusades. Like in your marriage, no "past sins" are ever forgotten, so it is crucial that in our responses to any System Perturbation, we do not simply plant a host of new historical grievances in the hearts of those we hope ultimately win over and integrate into the Core. This is, of course, the great danger of the Big Bang strategy of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime. My Muslim colleagues from that part of the world have told me repeatedly that, immediately following 9/11, America had the chance to win over not just a small percentage of the Muslim world, but a very large one -- depending on its response. These same friends tell me now that that share of potentially winnable Muslims is far smaller, and far more difficult to win, precisely because we have provided them with a new chosen trauma. What is our solution now? As Thomas Friedman likes to argue, America's best hope now is to do whatever it takes to make Iraq a beacon of freedom and progressive change in the Middle East. In effect, we need to turn that chosen trauma into a chosen triumph -- not ours, mind you, but the Iraqi people's.

Earlier, commenting on Rule #8 I suggested that Blowback was not just a possibility but a range of probable outcomes from any major foreign policy event, much less a true System Perturbation, calling it the " Law of Blowback":

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

This is something statesmen and geopolitical thinkers have understood intuitively since the Pelopennesian War ( reading Thucydides isn't a bad idea to school oneself on the perils of statecraft). People will always resist the demands of power to the degree that they can do so safely ( at least) unless the incentives to yield are recognized as being measurably greater.

Those incentives include intangible variables - psychological and ideological factors. To return to our Ancient Greek example, the Melian Dialogue was a failure of the Athenians who considered only the material or practical considerations that faced the Melian leadership and not their sense of honor. Toppling Saddam Hussein certainly offended Muslims of radical Pan-Arab and Baathist sentiments but those Gatekeeper Elites were our enemies anyway and their demoralization was a desirable and intentional outcome of our post 9/11 " Big Bang " attack. What was not desirable was the Abu Ghraib scandal which - for whatever value in terms of interrogation and intimidation of such practices - they created a wave of horror and revulsion that extended far beyond the Arab world and discredited the entire occupation in Arab eyes and provided our enemies with decades of future propaganda.

The existence of blowback is not an argument for policy paralysis but for choosing options when we launch a System Perturbation against our enemies where we maximize our objectives while minimizing long-term costs. Horizontal systems with the highest degree of connectivity are also the ones most vulnerable to damage from a System Perturbation so they should be used sparingly and with great forethought. Choose your Blowback, do not let Blowback choose us.

Rule #14: In response to vertical scenarios, horizontal systems naturally come together, as do vertical systems.

This one we saw in spades following 9/11, as the world's free states rushed to our support and joined our substantial multinational coalition that toppled the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan. Horizontal systems naturally saw a common threat in the attacks, meaning something that could just as easily happen to them. But vertical systems, in general, saw something very different in 9/11. First, since many such states are not our friends, they saw America receiving her comeuppances for past sins. Second, since a few of these states have long been identified as state sponsors of terrorist groups, they knew they could soon be on receiving end of any general U.S. response. Of course, when President Bush identifies an "axis of evil" by name, then the U.S. simply drives this countries even closer together, furthering their collective disconnectedness from the rest of the world. I do not see anything wrong with that, because I believe in calling a spade a spade. It is just that once you generate such a list, expectations are immediately raised about what you intend to do about that list, so follow-through is crucial. In that way, you could say that the "axis of evil" is a self-declared "domino theory" for the global war on terrorism: America sets itself up for having to deal with the entire lot to demonstrate significant milestones in the war. Is this an aggressive approach to shrinking the Gap? You bet.

Dr. Barnett's analysis here is interesting to consider when contemplating the existence of TM Lutas' Implicit Villains within the Core.

The United States had a great deal of difficulty with France in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and this was attributed to many things by the " Freedom Fries" brigade - envy, a cultural predisposition to surrender, Jacques Chirac's perfidy, financial corruption and so on. While this was amusing or had some smidgen of truth the popular fury tended to obscure the reality that France was acting in terms of it's national interests which it's elite generally has perceived for some time to be in counterbalancing American power and leveraging French influence via procedural strangleholds on international bodies like the EU and the UNSC. As early the Free French entry into Paris, DeGaulle was manuvering to create room for France in the world separate from " the Anglo-Saxons" which is why he pulled France out of NATO's military command in 1965 and developed nuclear weapons. French complaints over American " hyperpower" began during the Clinton administration, not during Bush II.

France has a long political tradition of high-handed technocratic administration with an elite bureaucracy trained in select universities. Their political economy is statist and the French see their lavish welfare state as a viable alternative ideological model to American-style capitalism. In PNM terms, the French prefer Vertical scenario organization to a much greater degree than do Americans or even the British. Under steady French pressure, though by no means solely due to them, the EU which was originally conceived as a Horizontal scenario free trade zone of borderless exchange has been transmogrified into a more of a top-down, interventionist, bureaucratic superstate that suffers from a democratic deficit, a weak legislature and an uncertain executive. The EU has power without accountability at home and abroad in world, claims to share authority with the United States without accepting responsibility for the dangerous Leviathan chores. This is not a promising long-term situation for Core stability.

When we see " nations making their choices" in the aftermath of 9/11, that includes members of the Core who see a strategic or financial interest in the Gap remaining non-integrated. We need to outmanuver those nations to establish the new Rule-set while appealing to the better angels of their nature.
 
Comments:
I agree that we ought to choose our blowback before it chooses us. After all, isn't this what OBL effectively did? But how do we know what we are choosing? OBL thought he was going send the US scampering out of the ME (not Afgahnistan, he had to expect that). Instead he got the exact opposite of what he wanted, namely more connectivity instead of less.

So where does that leave the US the next time we need to create a 'big bang'? How do we determine pathways of future events? In my opinion, there will always be certain effects that are unknowable. While I am not suggesting that fiascos like Abu Ghraib dissuade us from action, I do think we need to focus on we can best predict future pathways. A short while after 9/11, you may remember ideas for a futures market for terrorist attacks. I think
(http://hanson.gmu.edu/policyanalysismarket.html).
(http://www.iwar.org.uk/news-archive/tia/futuremap-program.htm_

While it was shot down in the emotional aftermath of the attacks, I think it is something to consider in this new global security environment we are in, especially we are to be in the business of creating 'big bangs'.
 
I recall the " terrorist stock market " - from DARPA, I believe - mathematically it's a very sound predictive principle if you can get a sufficiently large pool of participants. Jude Wanniski, the supply-side guru to Kemp and Reagan, wrote about this methodology years ago and it later emerged as a slogan among free-market libertarians that " Markets are smart, government is dumb" - a favorite phrase of Dick Armey's.

As for using System Perturbation against others, part of minimizing the Blownback is in identifying what magnitude and kind of system you are trying to target. The optimum strategy would be to hit things that are critical to the correct internal functioning of a system like a nation-state without hitting things that have clearly global connections ( like deliberately sending a currency tumbling and accidentally triggering runs on the currencies of neighboring states)
 
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