Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How comfortable would you feel if you knew that in the future, the teacher in your child's classroom had been pre-selected on the basis of adherence to an extremist ideology or that to graduate college they had to parrot these beliefs whether they agreed or not ? Or that the accreditation of your child's public school or university was going to ride on the school's administration, teachers or professors demonstrating loyalty to this agenda in their classrooms to the satisfaction of unknown, unelected, unaccountable but zealously committed bureaucrats ?

Well, brace yourself because it's already here. The new teachers fully " educated" in this vein should be hitting the job market in most, though not all, states by 2007 or 2008 at the latest.

Accreditation agencies operate mostly out of the public or legislative spotlight and hand out what amounts to good housekeeping seals of approval on various university programs to indicate that a Law or Medical School does indeed dispense knowledge that will allow graduates to function as lawyers and doctors. High Schools have their own accreditation agencies and a similar program of certification. Essentially the process is supposed to be a review to ensure that fraudulent diploma mills do not operate on par with Harvard or legitimate state universities or schools.

Unfortunately, it seems that the American hard Left, envious of the neo-Stalinist conformity of some foreign Teacher's Unions like those in South Korea and dismayed at the success of civil libertarians in attacking campus P.C. speech codes and overt indoctrination tactics, have spent the last few years infiltrating accreditation agencies to impose their values through the accreditation process. It is a strategic initiative of breathtaking scope and one quite likely to succeed.

Universities are now going to have to certify prospective teaching candidate's commitment to " social justice" in order to win accreditation for their Colleges of Education. For teachers that means providing evidence in their lesson plans to their university program supervisors of following the multicultural left's Afrocentric-Radical crit interpretation of American society as a bastion of oppression. Candidates who hold other views will not be allowed to graduate and become teachers:

"Brooklyn College's School of Education, which is the only academic unit at the college with the status of school, is among dozens of education schools across the country that incorporate the notion of "social justice" in their guiding principles. At Brooklyn, "social justice" is one of the four main principles in its conceptual framework. The school's conceptual framework states that it develops in its students "a deeper understanding of the quest for social justice." In its explanation of that mission, the school states: "We educate teacher candidates and other school personnel about issues of social injustice such as institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism."

Critics of the dispositions standard contend that the idea of "social justice," a term frequently employed in left-wing circles, is open to politicization.

"It's political correctness that has insinuated into the criteria for accreditation of teacher education institutions," a noted education theorist in New York, Diane Ravitch, said. "Once that becomes the criteria for institutions as a whole, it gives free rein to those who want to impose it in their classrooms," she said. Ms. Ravitch is the author of "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn."

A case in point, as Mr. Johnson of Brooklyn College has pointed out, is the way in which the term was incorporated into Ms. Parmar's course, called Language Literacy in Secondary Education, which students said is required of all Brooklyn College education candidates who aspire to become secondary-school teachers. In the fall semester, Ms. Parmar was the only instructor who taught the course, according to students.

The course, which instructs students on how to develop lesson plans that teach literacy, is built around themes of "social justice," according to the syllabus, which was obtained by The New York Sun. One such theme is the idea that standard English is the language of oppressors while Ebonics, a term educators use to denote a dialect used by African-Americans, is the language of the oppressed.

A preface to the listed course requirements includes a quotation from a South African scholar, Njabulo Ndebele: "The need to maintain control over English by its native speakers has given birth to a policy of manipulative open-mindedness in which it is held that English belongs to all who use it provided that it is used correctly. This is the art of giving away the bride while insisting that she still belongs to you."

Among the complaints cited by students in letters they delivered in December to the dean of the School of Education, Deborah Shanley, is Ms. Parmar's alleged disapporval of students who defended the ability to speak grammatically correct English.

Speaking of Ms. Parmar, one student, Evan Goldwyn, wrote: "She repeatedly referred to English as a language of oppressors and in particular denounced white people as the oppressors. When offended students raised their hands to challenge Professor Parmar's assertion, they were ignored. Those students that disagreed with her were altogether denied the opportunity to speak."

Students also complained that Ms. Parmar dedicated a class period to the screening of an anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a week before last November's presidential election, and required students to attend the class even if they had already seen the film. Students said Ms. Parmar described "Fahrenheit 9/11" as an important film to see before they voted in the election.

"Most troubling of all," Mr. Goldwyn wrote, "she has insinuated that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers."
Students who filed complaints with the dean said they have received no response from the college administration. Instead, they said, the administration and Ms. Parmar have retaliated against them, accusing Mr. Goldwyn and another student of plagiarism in January after the semester ended.

Ms. Parmar referred a reporter's inquiries to a spokeswoman for Brooklyn College. Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, Inc., a New York City public relations firm representing the CUNY school, later responded. The firm's Colleen Roche told the Sun that Ms. Shanley, dean of the education school, spoke with students about their complaints December 21.

Though students said Ms. Parmar did not inform them about the new dispositions assessment policy, an e-mail obtained by the Sun from one of Ms. Parmar's colleagues, Barbara Winslow, suggests that the aspiring teachers were in the process of being evaluated by the new standard.
Writing to three history professors, including Mr. Johnson, who had Mr. Goldwyn as their student, Ms. Winslow said the School of Education had "serious concerns about his disruptive behavior in the SOE classroom as well as aggressive and bullying behavior toward his professor outside the class."

She wrote: "The School of Ed is trying to be more systematic in looking at what educators call 'dispositions,' that is behaviors necessary for being a successful teacher in the public schools. Being able to do excellent academic work, does not always translate into being a thoughtful, self-reflective and effective teacher for youngsters."

KC Johnson, a noted rising star historian ( and no conservative either), was one of the first to shine a light on this under-the -radar attempt at the politicization of American public school classrooms by multicultural leftists, now effective for 37 States. But he doesn't have to be the last.

Write your legislators. Write to the Bush administration.Political agendas do not belong in our children's classrooms. It's time to change how schools and universities are accreditated if political indoctrination by wingnuts is going to be the litmus test.
Monday, May 30, 2005

Bruce Kesler explains why reporting from Iraq remains schizophrenic, scattered, scanty, obtuse and negative:

" A correspondent in Mosul, Iraq, Michael Yon, recently wrote: "Finding or generating news can be costly ... the media squeezes news cheaply from Iraq." Yon describes, step-by-step, how actual news dispatches are created. Yon points out that with rare exception, the media condenses military action reports into collections of one-line U.S. casualty lists ending with the latest cumulative death count. Yon observes, "a consequence of these media releases is that they allow the press to appear omnipresent on the battlefield, when in fact they usually stay close to the Green Zone in Baghdad." Yon continues: "The math is easy: Send a dozen journalists to Iraq, or hire one cheaply to live in Baghdad. The media gets a bargain rate on instant credibility from their 'embedded journalist in the heart of the Sunni Triangle,' who spends a few minutes a day paraphrasing media releases, then heads downstairs for a beer at the hotel bar.

....The declining market of the leading media is rooted in the twin niche-ditch digging of alienating its customers by being so markedly more liberal in political and social viewpoints and from resulting corporate cost-saving providing a shabby product. It is difficult to see working harder at coordination with society's other most liberal constituency in academia as meeting the most pressing challenges for journalism's successful reform. In the '70s, General Motors kept its engineers in Detroit, while Nissan attracted engineers to Southern California. Today, GM has half the market share it once had, and Nissan's innovative designs increased its market share. "

Go read the whole thing.

Picked up a couple of books yesterday at Border's. The much hyped Freakonomics which I have yet to open and George Lakoff''s don't think of an elephant: Know your Values and Frame the Debate, which I read through last night at one sitting ( including time for highlighting and writing marginalia) and you can too.

Don't think of an elephant is Lakoff's pamphleteering version of his more serious and substantive Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, which he published to help passionate but not terribly bright progressives become more articulate parrots when commenting in internet chat rooms. Snarkiness aside, Lakoff managed to convince me of several things:

a) He's a smart man and it's worth my time to go read his real book.

b) Like all linguistics guys, Lakoff overdoes the language as perception as reality thing.

True enough, he cautions periodically that cognitive frames require actual conceptual chains of reasoning behind them and that these must be common enough to function as a cultural reference point in order to possess political resonance but Lakoff oversetimates the effect. The whole " Strict Father- Nurturant parent" paradigm ( which,by the way, originated with Jude Wanniski decades ago) works far better on social issues than on economic ones which actually have measurable intrinsic merits worth debating and not just normative preferences.

It also occurs to me that the whole Lakoff " Strict Father" connection to conservative politics is merely correlative to the United States and a few other countries with the Weberian " Protestant work ethic". Patriarchal systems prevail in most of the societies of the world and most nations have accepted the Anglo-American capitalist model to the minimum degree possible and that only in recent decades. Some super- " Strict Father" regimes reject it vociferously in favor of collectivist-communitarian traditional socioeconomics.

Nevertheless cognitive frames remain a useful tool to be mastered and used.

Marc Schulman of The American Future has posted his long-awaited next installment of " The EU and The Arabs " Part V. Here's a snippet:

"While I’m fully aware of the inherent dangers of a post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) analysis, there’s little doubt that the EU (led by France), by its enthusiasm for moving closer to the Arab world through the creation of the EAD and the PAEAC, lent legitimacy to a terrorist organization (the PLO) and instigated the demonization of Israel. These were the results of the EU’s policy of appeasement that took form during the 1973-1974 energy crisis. For the French, the policy served a double purpose: in addition to appeasing the Arabs, it sustained their influence in the Middle East by countering Washington’s pro-Israeli policies. Had Kojeve still been alive, he would have applauded France’s policies. "

Dr. Von takes up the gauntlet on cognition and insight where I left it lying and adds some incisive analysis and speculation on the nature of pathbreaking creativity and its subsequent decline:

"It becomes, generally speaking, more difficult to make significant, creative contributions to a field as one ages, and there are several reasons for this. Perhaps most significant is the amount of bias one develops over time. It becomes more difficult to see outside the box and remain as open-minded as in younger days, since experience creates biases. Normally as you age, more responsibilities are placed on you, whether it is family and children or requests for lectures or performances of previous works, and there are more distractions, which can take away time for isolation. And many creative figures in certain fields may develop interests in other fields, or simply experience ‘burnout.’ "

The esteemed Pundita is her usual, soft-spoken, self on North Korea policy:

"Remove Christopher R. Hill from his assignment as head of the US delegation to the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. Mr. Hill does not speak Korean, Japanese, or any Chinese dialect. He speaks Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, and Albanian. Not speaking the lingo is not automatic disqualification for such a sensitive job but Mr. Hill is also an idiot. He's also an advocate of the Nanny School of foreign policy. This is where you lecture countries to try to get along, after you've put them together in an untenable position."

On the strong recommendation of Dave Schuler, I give you the interestingly named " Duck of Minerva" on the EU " Non" vote in France:

"The far right seemed to frame the issue along purely nationalistic lines; i.e. we should not allow some supranational body to determine our fate, policies, interests. This argument is not just about economic issues specifically, but rather encompasses a purely parochial notion of identity and the need to maintain sovereignty lest some distrustful other in Brussels becomes empowered.

But those on the left, especially the over 60% socialist voters who came out against the constitution, seemed to be more interested in their economic identities rather than their national identities. What this means is that the left objected because of the economic elements in the constitution which they viewed as Anglo-Saxon and ultraliberal--not simply for the fact that France may loose some sovereignty to Brussels. For the left, they were defining themselves as workers to some extent, a group that is likely to be harmed by such a constitution even though it might benefit the EU overall (i.e. by making labor markets more productive and increasing productivity--two things most commentators believe is crucial for EU economy). It seems to me they weren't rejecting those outside of France per se, but rather the symbol of the EU as an entity which represents ultra-liberal, market values rather than socialist values. It could be argued that those on the left weren't simply thinking of the damage to the French left but to workers, period, across Europe. But more data is needed to validate that assertion."

And Chirol of Coming Anarchy puts his pinch of salt in Chirac's wound as well.

That's it.
Sunday, May 29, 2005

No words are adequate. Rest in peace.

Thank you, American veterans, for all your service and sacrifices on this Memorial Day.

This week HNN ran an exceptional essay by Dr. David Greenberg that delved deeply into the divide between professional, academic historians and " popular" historians like the late Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough. Academic historians usually regard the latter with bitter disdain. Greenberg attempted to look at the two sides with some evenhandedness and objectivity - at least more than professional historians usually evince:

This month marks the publication of 1776, David McCullough's rousing, feel-good tale of how George Washington led a ragtag crew of continental soldiers into their fateful battle for independence. It's safe to predict that 1776—the latest in a series of heavily hyped history blockbusters—will vault to the top of the best-seller lists, beguiling readers with its reverent portrait of Washington's heroism and the dulcet cadences of McCullough's finely wrought prose.

It will also drive many academic historians up the wall.

Our exasperation will stem partly, to be sure, from envy of McCullough's undeniable gift for storytelling and of his smashing popularity. But my academic colleagues will (or should) raise legitimate objections to the approach of a book like this—the surfeit of scene-setting and personality, the meager analysis and argument, the lack of a compelling rationale for writing about a topic already amply covered. McCullough's fans won't care. They typically have little use for what they regard—not always wrongly—as the narrowly focused, politically correct, jargon-clotted academic monographs that dwell on arcane issues instead of big, meaty topics like politics, diplomacy, and war.

Instead of grumbling over the public's middlebrow book buying tastes, the best thing academic historians can do is to try to offer them something better. A number of our own practices lead us away from engaging the public as we should. I've seen students entering graduate school aspiring to write like Arthur Schlesinger, only to be shunted into producing pinched, monographic studies. I've seen conferences full of brilliant minds unable to find an interesting presentation to attend that isn't literally read off the page in a soporific drone. We write too much for each other—and, as we do, a public hungry for good history walks into Barnes & Noble and gets handed vapid mythmaking that uninformed critics ratify as "magisterial" or "definitive."

Aside from the natural division between horizontal-thinking generalists and often arcane specialists operating at very high level of vertical expertise, the problem academics have with popular or amateur historians is really one that is self-referential.

First, academic historians, even those used to teaching freshmen year survey courses have a misleadingly skewed view of the level of basic historical knowledge among the general public. University profs tend to deal most often with other experts or aspiring experts ( grad students) in their own field. Recall that college students are usually in the top two deciles of the Bell Curve in terms of intelligence and their knowledge and analytical prowess in terms of history is often exceptionally spotty. These freshmen then represent a mental baseline for most historians but unfortunately its the wrong one to use when writing for the general public.

Trying to then go out and write a history book that can be enjoyed and understood by the remaining 80 % of the population after spending extended time in that narrow, rarified, campus environment is hard. Academic historians often wildly underestimate the degree to which the fundamentals must be coherently explained before the public can grasp the point the historian would really like to make. Good storytelling is important because it is the " hook" for the reader to follow the subsequent analysis. We're mentally " wired" for narrative structures, not expository writing, which is why no one likes to read their computer software instruction manuals.

The second point of self-referentiality is, I'm sorry to say, whether anyone likes to hear it or not, political. Holding even a " mainstream" or " centrist" position in the historical profession puts you very far to the Left of the general public, in terms of the mean on critical issues of public policy. And no, it isn't always greater amounts of knowledge that lead historians to the " correct" conclusions -that is simply an arrogant conceit -it's a difference of values.

Eric Foner's political desire to substitute Social-Democracy for the currently influential libertarian definition of " Freedom" in American culture is a result of personal philosophy and preference for socialist politics - not an inarguable conclusion drawn from his research on intellectual and political history. I can agree with Dr. Foner the presentation of his evidence without accepting his normative judgement in his conclusion.

The combination of poorly prefaced writing, esoteric Left positions, use of weird jargon and the media's preference for sound bites makes academic historians look more than a little nuts to the public when something radical pops into their USA Today front page article. The media's editing style is not the fault of the historian but it is a reality to be considered when making an argument in the popular press.

Historians, for all the good work they do and the analytical skills they cultivate, do not " own " history. No group does. History is the intellectual commons of humanity for everyone to take from or add to with the only appropriate standard of judgment being truth.
Saturday, May 28, 2005

The ubiquitous praktike is posting on intra-Democratic Party politics today and the difficulty that the factional division between liberal hawks and left-liberals is causing the Democrats in terms of articulating a coherent and attractive foreign policy to the voters:

"What Democrats need to do is convince a majority of Americans that they will protect them from danger just as well if not better than the Republicans. I don't think Kosovo furthered that agenda one way or the other, because it wasn't about a threat to us except in an indirect "save NATO from irrelevance" sense. That didn't excite too many folks outside the beltway, and I think most Americans don't go for humanitarian wars either. Terrorism, on the other hand, is very scary, and the GOP is masterful at playing upon and amplifying genuine and understandable fears and offering a simplistic narrative as to how those fears are best combatted. Likewise, the spectre of "weapons of mass destruction" looms large in the American imagination."

I have said before that I wish praktike and his cohorts at Liberals Against Terrorism well. While the conservative in me likes to see the GOP trounce the Democrats at the polls the American in me realizes that to have one of the two political parties of the preeminent world power paralyzed on issues of defense, counterterrorism, foreign policy and covert operations is a very bad thing. While Democratic and Republican foreign policies should vary in emphasis and detail, this variance needs to revolve in an orbit around a core of commonly held assumptions about American national security. A core that in some important areas doesn't exist any more.

I think praktike and those like him will be stymied for the medium term. The left-liberal boomers and Gen-X anti-globos who control the mass of the Democratic base of activists are Oliver Stone Democrats who have internalized the New Left revisionist critique of American power. It's a visceral schema now for this crowd and it isn't going to change. Rational arguments on points of policy by centrists and liberal hawks along with appeals to electoral self-interest by Democratic Party political pros do not merely fall on deaf ears but they evoke enraged howls of " Republican lite" and worse by the fifty-something, MoveOn.org, ex- Deaniacs.

The left-liberals are not interested in policies that protect American security - they think our security is a problem for the rest of the planet. The perception of the American voter that the Democrats can't be trusted on security issues is a valid one at this point in time; the left-liberals simply have too much influence in the Democratic Party to be discounted when a voter casts a ballot. It's like discounting the power of the Christian Right on social issues when voting for a moderate Republican - party factions are political baggage.

On the other hand, these characters are aging fast and liberal hawks might do well to give up on these fools and instead cultivate a generation of recruits from college campuses today who can be the state and national party leaders of tomorrow. Something that means forming new organizations to challenge the dominance of established liberal NGO's jealously controlled and vetted by Boomer leftists. In short, liberal hawks need to do to the Democratic Party what the young Goldwaterites did to the GOP when they took the Republicans from being the Party of Nelson Rockefeller to the Party of Ronald Reagan in just 16 years. This will incidentally, help my party as well because a quality opponent will make it less easy for GOP leaders to adopt bizarre and harmful policy positions beloved by small sects of exceptionally vocal wingnuts.

There's a Party of Ted Kennedy just waiting to be refashioned for the 21st century.
Friday, May 27, 2005

The mighty Firstborn of Zenpundit had her first slumber party this evening amid squealing and an oversupply of treats, ice cream and microwave popcorn. Needless to say the festivities cut somewhat into my blogging time tonight. I am currently winding down with a Sam Adams and am contemplating a light night of just commenting on the blogs of others.

(Hat tip Dave at The Glittering Eye )
Thursday, May 26, 2005

While doing some research on foreign policy and military strategies of the Bush administration I happened to pull up some NCW articles by Dr. Barnett's mentor, Vice-Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski which I found to be very stimulating reading. In particular, one powerpoint graph by Cebrowski had a segment he labelled " Shared Awareness"that was adjacent to Network-Centric Operations to indicate the real-time, mutual, cognizance of the same information and concepts throughout the chain of command in a battle. I found the Shared Awareness concept an attractive one and upon reflection decided that Admiral Cebrowski had articulated a phenomena with far wider application than in the military scenario alone.

In public affairs we hear journalists and intellectuals refer to " the marketplace of ideas " and "the war of ideas ", usually to illustrate the conceptual competition between Right and Left for the public acceptance of their policy proposals and general political ideology. Marketplace is a kinder and gentler term or end of a continuum for a contest that in international relations or undemocratic societies often accompanies or incites ramped up levels of organized violence or implies that possibility. Despite claims of detente there was nothing peaceful about the coexistence of the Soviet Union and the West. Likewise, the caustic rhetorical contempt hurled on liberal democracy and on the Jews by the Nazis was a necessary prelude to trying to liquidate both. The Cold War and WWII both represented true "wars of ideas" as well as physical battles.

Memes and memetic theory are a popular explanation for the process by which ideas spread through a population by a sort of ideological Darwinist competition. Certainly some ideas seem to be more "contagious" than others, particularly those concepts that are produced via Horizontal thinking and cross the borders of domains. Some ideas, particularly political and religious concepts can inspire so much intensity of devotion that millions have willingly gone to their deaths to champion them or committed ghastly atrocities on " non-believers".

I'm borrowing here from both Richard Dawkins and Admiral Cebrowski when I suggest that wars of ideas are fought in the realm of Shared Awareness with the mediasphere of modern telecommunications being the primary transmission belt, allowing the rapid networking of adherents that was impossible fifty, thirty or even ten years ago. The speed of transacting attractive memes through self-organizing networks is what may drive public debate in the future, possibly today - a " dominance of the intellectual battlespace":

To dominate the intellectual battlespace, a network injects its memes into the Shared Awareness of the mediasphere either spread its worldview, achieve concrete objectives or discredit and frustrate rival networks. Memes do not need to be true to become contagious or be more " right" than the memes of rival networks - just have a greater psychological attraction. What makes memes attractive ? I'd postulate that two factors weigh heavily - utility and versatility.

I use the term "utility" to refer to the capacity of the meme to fill a psychological need by lowering anxiety by either increasing an individual's comprehension of the world ( positive) or by reinforcing denial ( negative) and screening out perceptions and innoculating the individual from concepts they consider disturbing. The flourishing of concepts like anti-semitism, Nazism, racism. Stalinism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, astrology and the like are evidence that truth or at least falsifiability are not directly related to a meme's attractiveness.

I use the term "versatility" to refer to the horizontal quality of the meme - the extent to which it can be adapted across the boundaries of domains or cultures. Simple memes would seem to have a greater advantage over complex memes in terms of becoming attractive. String theory for example, has not spread as widely through our Shared Awareness as concepts from classical physics because String Theory is only well-understood by relatively few people and is difficult to analogize. Complex memes however, might have greater traction within a domain, among field experts or they might move to discredit the meme if it runs counter to orthodox ideas.

A meme that has high utility and high versatility would be a good candidate to " infect" other networks and systems through the common space of Shared Awareness or to distract as an attention-diverting " white noise" attack. A network that systematically and strategically plans the introduction of memes into our Shared Awareness is a network aiming to dominate the intellectual battlespace.

Dave at The Glittering Eye has posted his long awaited piece on the WTO and intellectual property rights, entitled "The Sound of Coins ". In a nutshell, Dave gives a cogent explanation of the core issue:

"In practice, things are not quite so rosy. Once again narrowing the focus to the intellectual property law of biotechnology, Article 27.3(b) of the agreement micro-organisms, non-biological, and microbiological processes must be eligible for patents. Governments may elect to exclude plants, animals, and “essentially biological processes” from patent protection but plant varieties must either have patent protection or some sui generis system created especially for the purpose (or both). There are also a number of issues outstanding:"

My second recommendation involves the semi-psychotic outburst from Amnesty International on al Qaida detainees at Guantanamo ( one wonders how the entire island of Cuba can be invisible to Secretary Khan except for Guantanamo. It's a remarkably selective sense of political geography to say the least) covered by Penraker who argues that Amnesty has lost all credibility because their Secretary is a moral idiot:

"What is Khan doing? Is she really this dumb? No. She is fundraising. She knows what impulses drive her contributors. She is doing this at the expense of the honor of the United States. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch used to be of some value. But like many international organizations, they were taken over by the more radical elements, and have become seriously opposed to the United States and perhaps even to democracy. How else can you account for their relative nonconcern for the real trouble spots in the world? How else to account her giving China, Cuba and a hundred other countries with far, far more egregious abuses a free pass?"


ADDENDUM: Marc Schulman weighs in asking if Secretary Khan has a soft spot for Islamists.

Called NuSapiens: Biology, Technology, Philosophy The proprietor is certainly a more liberal fellow than I am ( not a high bar to meet, admittedly) but he/she devotes the blog to an array of congruent issues that you find here at Zenpundit, plus some different ones that are just plain intriguing. This blog would be, I think, right up the alley of praktike, Whirledview, Dr. Von, Armchair Generalist and perhaps Mithras while Pundita, riting on the wall , Marc Schulman, Dave, Dan and the gentry at Coming Anarchy will find an intelligent raconteur to debate ( or perhaps bait, as the case may be).

I left a comment on the " Occidentalist" post and I encourge you to peruse. Good visual format and Gravatar enabled as well.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I realize that have not posted any in-depth analysis in a few days but that is a result of a couple of factors - reading through a vast amount of research material for another project and " real world" commitments that will remain intense for a couple more weeks. I do have a post in the works though that builds on the earlier " White Noise" discussion but it is not yet finished.

In the interim I'd like to offer a set of point -counterpoint articles that take the interested reader to the days when some elements of PNM theory were just starting to fuse into intial concepts - at least that's how I'm reading these with the advantage of an outsider with hindsight:

1) "Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future" by Vice-Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski.

2) " The Seven Deadly Sins of Network-Centric Warfare" by Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett

The second article is a critique of the ideas presented in the first and it should have eyes lighting up in those who have read through The Pentagon's New Map. I may possibly offer a critique of my own later today, assuming I can move the pile of paper off of my desk and still see straight afterwards.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This is the centennial of Albert Einstein's revolutionizing the field of physics and Dr. Von has directed attention to the implications of Einstein's less-well known discoveries from 1905.
Monday, May 23, 2005

It's getting late but I read this paper today while walking on the treadmill at the gym, part of a bundle of research material I gathered for a paper I'm writing on the Bush Administration. The author is Vice-Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski (ret.), until very recently he was a top adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on defense transformation issues. Cebrowski is also one of Dr. Barnett's mentors and the father of Net-Centric Warfare theory .

A deep horizontal thinker and a formidible conceptualizer. This one is worth your time.

One of my favorite liberal bloggers, the ubiquitous praktike, is deeply puzzled by Pundita's characterization of the State Department's senior grades - the CSRA superclass eligible and often used for political positions as well as career bureaucratic management posts - as poweful and secretive " Mandarins". praktike writes:

" Pundita is making no sense " when she in turn wrote:

"Running alongside those trends, and fed by the Cold War, is a foreign office—the US Department of State—that by 2000 had gathered more power than all three branches of US government. This is an opaque power, remarkably evocative of the Mandarins’ power under Chinese dynastic rule."

Having read more diplomatic and political memoirs than I care to remember, going back to the early 20th century plus select chunks of FRUS for certain periods I would opine that Pundita is pretty much on the mark. This situation prevails regardless of what political Party controls the White House though the effect is much reduced when and where a strong-willed President with a competent staff is deeply engaged in foreign policy matters. Overall, State is probably happier with Democrats in office but then again look at what happened to Jimmy Carter. Power trumps partisanship.

No it isn't the case that the State Department dictates policy or even operates like Whitehall senior civil servants with their minister but few Americans understand the considerable power that accumulates in the hands of a head of a regional desk or in the top tier of State's senior career employees as a collective. While the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 greatly increased the President's control over the Executive Branch in theory, in practice, the drawn out Senate confirmation process has led to a lot of career people filling the political appointee slots. In other words, more or less the opposite of the law's intention. Mostly, this is done on the lower policy levels - the deputy assistant secretaries - but sometimes they can snag the big enchilada like Lawrence Eagleberger did.

When a President is not paying much attention or is ill-informed on foreign affairs - Bill Clinton - or has a disengaged style and/or a weak NSC decision process - Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter - one of two things usually happens. Either the State Department runs away with the interagency process and turns policy, slowly, over time and endless meetings to its preferences rather than the President's or basically the administration foreign policy process comes to resemble Beirut in the 1980's with media leaks, attempted coups and vicious character assassinations. It makes for fine theater but a poor foreign policy.

The State Department is not a nefarious entity but their responsibility is to give advice and then execute policy whether or not it comports with the inclinations of Foggy Bottom's received wisdom and not stall, obfuscate, leak or sabotage what they regard as the " bad" policy of a bozo President or a law passed by some yahoo House Committee Chairman.

Making foreign policy is the prerogative of the people's elected representatives, though at times they let that power run through their fingers like fine grains of sand.

I'm hip deep in some primary source research today, but I have added a site to the blogroll that fans of PNM will find very interesting, as well as interactive. Critt Jarvis has set up BLOGGING THE FUTURE as a discussion forum for PNM theory intersecting with globalization-foreign policy issues. You can ask Dr. Barnett questions directly (or Critt for that matter) and put in your views on world events. The site requires registration and a valid email address which should help keep the discussion on a higher plane than the average blogospheric comment section.

Hope to see you there !
Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dan at tdaxp bitch-slaps the eminent and usually wise, Victor Davis Hanson about the room in his post on the implications of revoking tenure on Peer-to-Peer networks. Hanson's recent essay on this topic reads more bitter than smart. Or at least less smart than I associate with VDH. Come to think of it, he's had some other sloppy generalizations of late. Sharpen your noodle Professor, you can and have done much better thinking in the past.

At Whirledview we find three posts to examine: CKR has two in reaction to the Foreign Affairs article by the formerly respected Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. In the first CKR critiques McNamara's argument and goes on to explain the crucial the issue of stockpile degradation. In the second post, CKR comments on the " Global Strike " article by Wiliam Arkin in the Washington Post and asked:

"The big question is what the response of Iran or North Korea would be to such an attack. Presumably global strike planning includes taking out bases from which missiles could be launched against Israel, Seoul, Tokyo, or Anchorage. If the pre-emptive/preventive strike takes place as planned, and if the intelligence is correct, there should be no retaliation. How much retaliation is considered acceptable? This would indicate how good the intelligence needs to be, and how perfectly the munitions need to perform. "

Inspired by CKR, I emailed Mr. Arkin and asked him a technical question regarding the destructive parameters of a potential of a robust-earth penetrating nuke strike on a hardened target vs. a time-sequenced series of conventional armed superbombs like the MOAB. Mr. Arkin wrote me back and confirmed that the destructive potential of the latter technique would be in the same ballpark in terms of effect, assuming it was done properly ( something that would require air supremacy or total surprise). Neither of us really could figure out why the nuclear option was therefore featured so prominently in the Global Strike policy. Perhaps it is a distractor or a nod toward deterrence of proliferation. I'm not against the nuke option per se, just curious as to why it was presented as the primary military option by the Bush administration when in fact, it isn't.

The third post at Whirledview was by PHK who featured a Naval War College professor Todd Greentree who is in the midst of writing a book on the implications of Small Wars for American foreign policy ( is there something in the water at the Naval War College that produces strategic thinkers ?). PHK is kind enough to link here to my Syracuse post as she makes some much needed points about hyperpower hubris in formulating strategic policy, citing the wisdom of von Clauswitz.

In the spirit of Episode III, I am linking to Stuart Berman's commentary on the subject. Stu sold me on this one with the following sentence alone:

"After considering the dust up in Cannes over comparisons between American policy and the Empire I find that the comparison requires a significant vacancy of thought."


That's it for now.

I greatly enjoy reading Pundita and highly recommend her blog for anyone looking to discuss root causes of foreign policy problems, particularly from a geoeconomic analytical perspective. Today was no exception as she expounded on the problem of global criminality in government by drawing on the example of the great Mongol conqueror Temujin, who became known to history as Ghengis Khan -correctly pointing out that he was ultimately a preserver of civilization rather than a destroyer like Attila or Alaric.

Usually I simply let Pundita's posts speak for themselves and link but today I have a number of comments to make. Pundita responds to a question on foreign relations with corrupt governments:

"That is a fair question. The answer is that you don't make policy for crooks or law-abiding governments; you make policy for the era and consistently apply the policy. "

Here we see the difference between thinking strategically, which only a few leaders in American history have managed to do, and muddling through by reacting ad hoc to unfolding events as if all misfortunes or opportunities are simply coincidental. The latter is the preferred stance of the State Department which sees itself as the guardian of the status quo. It is also the preferred stance for the USG of all those who look with alarm at the prospect of the decline of statism abroad and the rise of globalized, free market, exchange. They like a lumbering, blind, stupid and passive United States better than active and clear-eyed one.

"The age of globalization came and intersected with megapopulations and the scramble by poor governments to make oil payments and build up their arsenals. And nobody--no major government--was ready for the upshot, which was crime on a scale we haven't seen since the days of Genghis Khan's youth.

The Khan hadn't imagined how many crooks there were in the world but as his conquests proceeded he found out. The same key factors were in play at that time as now. There was a boom in global trade--the globe at that time. The boom was fed by the demands of the walled cities, which fed a population boom. The upshot was that a caravan couldn't travel two miles without being set upon by brigands or marauding tribes, which meant payoffs, which bumped all the way up to highest government levels. "

The Khan's initial reaction, it must be told, was chillingly utilitarian. He obliterated the cities that resisted with the thoroughness of the Romans at Carthage so that the urban civilization of the neighboring peoples would be replaced with the pastoral one of the Mongols. Fortunately for the world, Ghengis Khan proved to be an empiricist and he changed his policy when he was presented with new data.

"This was accompanied by price gouging, usury, and every type of dirty business and corruption you can think of. All that led to cities living under constant threat of attack.

All that was accompanied and fed by a level of hypocrisy that would be right at home in today's world. The Khan saw it all. He saw the Chinese mandarins and the emperor worship they promoted. He saw the Calculator Christians, who totted up conversion rates while stepping over starving Christians. The Turks lectured him about Islam. He looked at their showy mosques and how they treated women and the poor. He told them to their faces they were phonies. "

Ghengis Khan was unusual in his day that as a ruler his policy was freedom of conscience. The Khan was most partial to the Nestorian Christians, who were the weakest of his subjects, being significant mainly in the Buddhist-Hellenic kingdoms North of the Amu Darya and West of Tibet. He was " Qaan monghka tangri-yin kuchun-dur" the universal emperor by the will of Eternal Heaven and did not feel the need to force diverse peoples into the Mongol worship of Tangri. The Mongols were most adversarial toward Islam, until the later conversion of some Mongol tribes ( the Golden Horde) because of Islam's aggressive attitude of superiority and intolerance which Mongol generals regarded with utter contempt ( " What have you to teach us, we who have the Yasaq of Ghengis Khan ?").

"In short, it was chaos. All the gains civilization had made during the preceding few centuries were in danger of being wiped out. With the help of a brilliant Chinese bureaucrat, the Khan saved the day. He did this in many ways, some of them horribly ruthless. Yet the single greatest reason for his success at ruling over so many peoples was a fair code of laws that he enforced with consistency; consistency meaning no exceptions, not even for the Yakka Mongols--his own tribe.

The upshot was that, "A naked virgin carrying a sack of gold could walk unmolested from one end of Genghis Khan's empire to the other."

The bureaucrat was actually a Khitan, an ethnic group related to the Mongols that had been Sinicized culturally, a prince named Ye-liu Ch'u ts'ai who was a highly educated administrator and statesman. He became one of the Khan's closest advisors and helped make Ghengis Khan's austere moral code - the Yasaq ( " Regulations") - a functional governing system as well as a moral one. It was he who convinced the Great Khan of the advantage of sparing cities by showing him their annual economic productivity - essentially their GDP - in taels of silver and how they could be taxed. Before Ye-liu, the Mongol leadership was contemplating the extermination of the entire Chinese race - about 10,000,000 people at the time - and the conversion of China's agricultural lands to grazing territory.

"The key concepts are fairness and consistency of application. There is not a single factor to explain the rise and scope of globalized crime, just as there is not a single factor to explain criminality. There can be different reasons why governments come to rely on crime. However, there is only one reason governments in the modern era consistently get away with crime: that's if other governments employ a double standard in their relations with criminal governments--a standard that shifts with the expediency of the moment."

Agreed. A ruler who takes bribes is operatring on a range of the moment time horizon. Such actions do not remain secret. They are noticed and imitated by underlings and by foreigners who will then offer yet more bribes. The cycle of corruption then accelerates and spreads like an infection to connected systems. Unless the infection is ruthlessly cut out.

Ghengis Khan made a signal example of one governor of a neigboring province to his growing empire who had looted a caravan that Ghengis Khan had sent to the Emperor of the short-lived empire of Khwarizm. The corrupt governor was captured alive by the Mongols and executed by the pouring of molten silver into his eyes and mouth. The lesson was not lost on anyone.

"People can adjust to a double standard if it's consistently applied; what they can't adjust to is a high level of uncertainty. If you have the means to force people to live according to your shifting political whims, you breed the sense among them that nothing can be relied on, that integrity is a penalty, that truth has no meaning. So then you should not wonder why, when criminal behavior becomes rampant."

Uncertainy in the rule of law is destructive to economic productivity because it prevents rational planning on an individual basis and drives people in a society to become risk-averse and secretive - to fly below the radar of rapacious authorities and predatory gangs.

"Policy begins not with your expectations of others but with how you conduct yourself. It begins with the rules you lay down for your company or government's conduct. If the rules are inconsistently applied, "foreign" policy is a joke. As with any joke, it won't be taken seriously"

Actions speak louder than words. As much as the Left excoriates and mocks George W. Bush for his policies in the GWOT, there are a number of unsavory regimes that are now thinking twice and three times before acting. Some are reacting by advancing with haste into confrontation, others have run-up the white flag and still others are paralyzed with fear and doubt. Regardless, all of the rogue states have been knocked off of their timetables and their game plan by George Bush. Something for which he deserves credit.

"One General Temujin--Genghis Khan--was quite enough for world history. We now have much experience to guide us, so humanity should be able to avoid the need for another supercop of the magnitude represented by the Khan. The ball, however, is in our court."

It should have been enough but too many of the other potential " cops" are morally wavering, sitting on the fence in regards to the criminal regimes and the Rule-sets we will collectively enforce against them. When the leader of a major American ally has a vacation home that his own countrymen have mocked as " Chateau Iraq" then the global police force is in need of, if not a Super-cop, then at least a Serpico.
Saturday, May 21, 2005

Earlier this week, on his blog, Dr. Barnett commented on 4GW theory and propaganda:

"We are told by Fourth Generation Warfare adherents that what is real and what is perceived are two different things, with the latter almost always trumping the former's impact on the 4GW battlefield. Much as with cyberwar, however, 4GW's theory of conflict often seems overwhelmed by the sheer mass of stuff that goes on accidentally in the global environment, such as the recent journalistic snafu by Newsweek.

Point being: as globalization grows and complexity takes root over more and more of the planet, the ability of any 4GW-waging warrior to have his attacks rise above the level of "white noise" in the system gets harder and harder. "

Critt Jarvis suggested to me and a few others that this topic bears further examination and I agree. Information and perception are critical aspects of connectivity and the media has become a dynamic feedback loop that helps shapes how people, individually and collectively, will frame and interpret events. This of course depends on what information succeeds in capturing their attention. Those of us in the Core live not only in the era of " White Noise" but also in the age of Mass Distraction.

Some background to consider:

First, while we face an ever increasing onrush of information the format by which " news" content is sorted before we receive remains primarily "Pulitzerian", regardless of the source. That is to say in the journalistic " what, where, who, why, when - lead paragraph " frame invented by the 19th century newspaper titan Joseph Pulitzer, whose method was swiftly copied by all his rivals and later adopted by both Radio and Television news broadcasters essentially unchanged. It is so ubiquitous a method of organizing information that its implications are virtually invisible. It is ironic, but al Jazeera is an unwitting conduit of Westernization. Their broadcast content may be critical of America and sympathetic to Islamism but the broadcast format itself is teaching their Arab audience to process information like Westerners. The medium here, as McLuhan wrote, is the message. No indigenous Arab or Chinese or Indian or other cultural-epistemological model of news information processing will be likely to develop because the triumph of the Pulitzerian frame has preempted such an evolution.

Secondly, the twentieth century was an era of top-down, centralized, communications. In free press America, until the 1990's, our access to information was effectively determined by a narrow Oligopoly of the broadcast Networks and the New York Times which set a tone of corporate liberalism for the media. While the occasional cranky voice might appear on the Right (Col. McCormick's Chicago Tribune, William Loeb's Manchester-Union Leader) or Left (The Village Voice, The Nation) it was a fairly monotonous political consensus. The totalitarian states, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, the USSR, Red China took message control to the nth degree - so much so that Russians and Germans became more adept at reading what information was made conspicuous by its absence ( or finely graded nuance) in the state media organs than by what was actually published.

The overall effect was that globally, societies operated " on message" to a relatively low ratio of " White Noise"; public attention was directed to subjects and opinions within a set of defined societal parameters and then to only a few subjects at a given time.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the repeal of the" Fairness Doctrine" and the rise of alternative media, the power of the gatekeepers, if not broken, has been badly battered. From an elite perspective, the barbarians are past the gates, in the city and setting up shop. This diversification of media voices has brought a much higher degree of potential transparency to government and media operations.

It is far harder now, whether you are interrogating al Qaida captives in Afghanistan or making editorial decisions on the slant of a CBS news segment to keep the information process secret from the information consumer. It is also the case that the sheer volume of information transmission, the number of mediums and the esoteric variety of content is subdividing mass audiences into networks of niche subcultures - the " demassification" predicted by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. It is harder and harder to command mass attention because an event that once might command global or at least national attention is often merely a needle in a haystack of media choices and goes undigested by vast swaths of the population. Even for those who do see and react to an event find that the " news cycle" has accelerated and devalues the significance of any event, on average, the way inflation devalues a dollar.

How can this situation be manipulated in a 4GW sense ?

Deception, misdirection and camouflage are naturally easier to achieve necause it takes advantage on the increase in media " White Noise" to which Dr. Barnett has referred. Occasionally, a mega-story will develop by chance that manages to capture the imagination of the masses and dominate various mediums for varying lengths of time - the Tsunami, the OJ Simpson Trial, the death of a revered world-historical figure - and so on. These are periods in which to initiate operations that must fly under the radar.

Since a a grave natural disaster does not happen on a weekly basis - Weapons of Mass Distraction can be employed, essentially psychological warfare conducted by hyping psuedo-issues in the media, a technique that relies upon the same cognitive principles as does negative advertising in political campaigns. It doesn't really matter intrinsically what side " wins" on such issues as Terry Schiavo, steroids in professional sports and the " appearance of impropriety " ethical scandal of the week - the real win is moving the media attention away from a subject you'd rather not have them notice. " Feeding the Beast" makes for a more docile pet and regular " feeders" are recruiting journalists and through them, their editors and producers.

As Dr. Barnett suggested, those clamoring for attention in the fractured, global, mediasphere have their work cut out for them. Not only do they face the structural problems mentioned above but events are perceived through different cultural-linguistic frames in a way that prejudices against a complexity of message. Such groups will have to rely upon two primary tactics:

Archetype imaging to hit the lowest common psychological denominator but the widest cross-cultural appeal. The grotesque beheadings carried out by Zarqawi's al Qaida offshoot in Iraq exhibited a lurid fascination in the global media. The shelf-life of this stunt was relatively short.

Magnitude. Staging an event on a scale that cannot be ignored such as 3/11 or 9/11 - some of these are full fledged System Perturbations.

The media is a dynamic feedback loop. It can be prompted, shaken, fed, distracted, manipulated, intimidated or engaged but outside of a few isolated, totally disconnected Gap hellholes like North Korea, it cannot be controlled. It is part of the environment for the players on the global stage, shaping them and being shaped by them.


Critt Jarvis, posting on Dr. Barnett's blog, develops the discussion further bringing in the ideas two thinkers I now feel I need to learn more about - John Robb and Dan Gillmor. Critt is also recommending von Hayek's classic The Road to Serfdom. I concur - though if readers have a bent toward more technical economic explanations I would recommend Hayek's underappreciated mentor Ludwig von Mises, particularly his Socialism and Human Action.

( Note this is NOT a recommendation or endorsement of some of the kooky, Rothbardian, anarcho-capitalist followers on the internet who misrepresent themselves as serious students of von Mises. These folks, who once published the most bizarre review of PNM on record, are IMHO, a gang of crypto-Trotskyite crackpots. I'm not sure if even Murray Rothbard- who was way out there himself- would have endorsed all of their internet antics.)
Friday, May 20, 2005

Have something very analytical and much linked coming down the pike, to be posted in the later evening. I'd work on it now but it's a nice day outside and the Son of Zenpundit is tearing around my study like a pre-school Panzer division on crack.

More to come............
Thursday, May 19, 2005

Caerdroia, one of my old favorite blogs to read has finally returned from blogospheric limbo. Excellent ! ( Hat tip to Dave ).

It is History Week at SLATE ( hat tip Cliopatria) and in a debate about the sorry state of historical knowledge in this country, scholar Diane Ravitch put her finger squarely on the systemic source of the problem - that most Americans are taught history by teachers in the public schools who are themselves, uneducated in any field of history:

"...in most states and most schools, history has gotten submerged and smothered by social studies. We know what history is, even if we argue about the specific issues to be included or how to interpret them. Social studies, on the other hand, is a curricular smorgasbord that includes all sorts of studies, which collectively diminish the time available for history. Social-studies teachers treat history as only one of a dozen different "studies" that they cover, and by no means the most important. Worse, they emphasize concepts and ignore chronology, which makes hash of history.

...because of the dominance of social studies and the diminution of history, a large percentage of people who teach history have not studied history; instead, they have majored in social-studies education, a social science, communications, or any number of other fields, but not history. Data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that a majority of people teaching history do not have a major or a minor in history. You can understand that when the teacher does not have an in-depth knowledge of history, it is very difficult to expect him or her to have a secure grasp of complex historical issues and debates and to be able to raise probing questions of the conventional accounts."

The reason for this national perpetuation of subpar instruction in a major field of knowledge is twofold. The first reason is the self-interest of the education system's major players.
School administrators, school boards, colleges of education and the States like having wide-open licensing criteria for teaching " Social Studies" instead of a rigorous standard for History because all benefit in having a vast oversupply of underqualified job applicants.

School boards and State education officials and legislatures have a buyer's interest in keeping teaching salaries low while Colleges of Education have a seller's interest in keeping the gate wide open. At a certain point, even in a mostly non-market based system like public education, specialty slots like bilingual special education, advanced mathematics and computer science/technology are quietly bidded up through signing bonuses, liberal placement on the salary schedule and changing job descriptions to become " administrative" posts, enabling higher salaries. If actual history degrees were required tomorrow to teach Social Studies then, at a minimum, two-thirds of the Social Studies teachers in America would have to be replaced. Colleges of Education, which process future teachers for the States, would lose a huge number of customers since the overwhelming majority of the communication and sociology majors turned Social Studies instructors will go on to get a Master's degree in Education, not in History or Political Science.

School administrators, particularly at the secondary level, also like the hiring " flex" that minimal Social Studies certification requirements provides in order to select the best possible football and basketball coaching staff. Recall the movie " Hoosiers" ? Rent it at Blockbuster this weekend and see if you can catch what Gene Hackman's character was allegedly hired to teach. This is no exaggeration and it has been going on for decades.

The second reason for the status quo, which most of the above players will sheepishly admit is not educationally ideal, is that historical ignorance engineered on a systemic basis becomes self-referential.

A principal who never learned history himself is unlikely to place a premium on a job applicant who did - or even be able to tell the difference between mediocrity and excellence because in comparison with ignorance, even a mediocre grasp of a an alien field of study seems impressive. State legislators who have not learned much history are content with an incoherent hodgepodege of learning standards across 5-6 social science fields, glibly presented by a fast-talking consultant, because they know no better. What they do know as politicians, is that too close a focus on controversial historical issues may enrage organized groups of constitutents, so blandness and thematic schizophrenia seem preferable.

We are in a box of our own making and it will take a long campaign to educate the public in order to force the politicians to let us out.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dave Schuler of the Glittering Eye who, like Curzon of Coming Anarchy, speaks Chinese, has weighed in on the call by Robert D. Kaplan for a second Cold War against China. Dave offers some sage advice to the Sinophobes:

"I'm stealing my own thunder but the points I'm trying to make in my as-yet-unfinished “China's time bombs” series are that

1. China has problems of its own.

2. China is focused on China in a way that Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have never been.

3. We should be encouraging China to solve its problems rather than worrying about what China's plans for us might be."

Well said. Read the whole thing.

Pundita opines on the Khordokovsky trial and Peter Lavelle covers the trials of the Beslan terrorists and the corrupt local officials who may have been bought off by the Chechen Islamists.

Further thoughts on the implications of the great Barnett-Kaplan debate.

During the Peloponnesian War, the democratic Athenians faced a determined and powerful enemy in oligarchic Sparta. The Athenians were a great naval power and were secure from Spartan attack safely behind the " the long walls" to Piraeus. Control of the sea meant the advantage of greater mobility and the wealth brought in from trade within the empire and thus Athens held the upper hand, though the war was far from won.

It was at this juncture that the citizens of Athens were convinced to turn away from prosecuting the war against Sparta toward an expedition to conquer far-away Syracuse because, someday, Syracuse might grow strong enough to become the enemy of Athens. With great fanfare, the Expedition was launched and it ended, after ruinous expenditure, in the defeat of mighty Athens. The Syracuse campaign reversed the tide of fortune and gave heart to Sparta, which went on to become a passsable sea power in its own right and defeat the now gravely weakened Athenians.

Today we have those for whom the War on Terror, a complicated and shadowy battle against a rising transnational Islamist insurgency that wishes our destruction, is not enough. Instead they look at Russia, a weakened former foe, struggling against part of the same Islamist insurgency and see not a potential ally but a target of opportunity. Others see China rising and call for a " Cold War II " based on - well - nostalgia for Cold War I. I can't think of a better way to isolate the United States than to drive - actively drive - all the other great powers into an active collusion against our interests while we are engaged in a 4GW war against the Islamist terror networks. Even if such a pessimitic analysis of Russia and China is correct there is something to be said for biding one's time, being subtle and prioritizing objectives.

This isn't a " Clash of Civilizations" or even " The West against the Rest" but a call for " America vs. The World " and it represents a strategic vision on par with invading Russia in winter or starting a land war in Asia.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent"
- Winston Churchill

" Power flows from the barrel of a gun and that gun must never slip from the grasp of the Communist Party "
- Mao ZeDong

Harsh words from the age of the Cold War. The words however are for that age and not for ours. We have an entirely different enemy today and our war is not the Cold War redux. If we were to follow the advice offered by Robert D. Kaplan in the pages of The Atlantic we would be propelled into the wrong fight at the wrong time with the wrong enemy, which China is not unless we choose to make her so. By counseling as he does, Mr. Kaplan indicates that he not only does not understand China, he clearly doesn't understand the Cold War either.

This is not an argument that China is a friend or ally of the United States. It is not. Nor will I argue that China's economic and geopolitical rise does not represent a shift in the global order and a strategic challenge for American policy makers. It does. What I will illustrate is that China in 2005 is not the Soviet Union of 1945 and that to base our strategic policy of how to relate to China as " Cold War II" is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One crucial difference that Mr. Kaplan does not seem to be aware of is that the fundamental economic and foreign policies of China today and the Soviet Union circa 1945-1949 differ by approximately 180 degrees.

Josef Stalin's strategy was to hermetically seal off the Soviet bloc from not only Western but all foreign influences, including independent Communist voices such as Tito's. Stalinist trade policy promoted autarky, preferring barter agreements to cash exchange whenever possible and even aid - whether for famine relief or the Marshall Plan was decisively rebuffed. Eastern Europe had Communist satellite governments imposed upon them and miniature Terrors executed that killed hundreds of thousands of Polish, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian and Czechoslovak intellectuals, religious believers and " reactionaries".

When after Stalin passed from the scene in 1953 - though not until after Blockading Berlin and sanctioning the Korean War - his successor Nikita Khrushchev made support for " Wars of National Liberation"the cornerstone of Soviet policy in the Third World. This policy remained unchanged up until the USSR began collapsing in 1990. Khrushchev - who compared to Stalin can be regarded as a " moderate" - also brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, invaded Hungary and erected the Berlin Wall.

Where or how does China represent anything close to that order of threat magnitude to the United States ? Outside of Taiwan, which remains a true potential flashpoint, have the Chinese in recent decades resembled in their behavior toward their neighbors , the Soviets of the 1940's ? Or even the Soviets of the 1970's and 1980's ?

These are not differences of degree but of kind.

What Kaplan does not realize is that Containment worked well in part because the USSR's own paranoid totalitarianism complemented our strategy by isolating themselves from all forms of connectivity. Watching any " flows" of people, ideas or force across the Iron Curtain became a simple surveillance task for our intelligence services and multilateral alliances alike.

How well would George Kennan's grand strategy have fared if the Soviets sought not isolation but integration ? Not conquest and domination but connectivity, influence and markets ?

The supreme irony of Mr. Kaplan's argument is that even if China is an enemy, using a Cold War model strategy might doom us to defeat. Different opponent with different objectives who presents a completely unique and primarily longitudinal set of challenges. Few of which are military in nature and none of which are as imminent as the War on Terror that Kaplan has waved away as a " blip".

Geopolitics is not a cookie-cutter operation Mr. Kaplan


Curzon at Coming Anarchy - defending Robert D. Kaplan against Dr. Barnett.

Thomas P. M. Barnett - Burning Bridges

Nadezhda at Liberals Against Terrorism - sees Kaplan as a self-fulfilling prophet as well.
Monday, May 16, 2005

Two posts today had striking visual charts that readers interested in strategy might care to see. The Armchair Generalist linked today to a critical review/powerpoint briefing of American Counterinsurgency Doctrine as it is used in practice by an Australian Colonel and military analyst. He seems to have pinpointed the DoD's Achilles heel in a minimum number of slides - an economical use of intellectual force.

Dan of tdaxp, who is immersing himself in applying 4GW theory to all sorts of domains, is also becoming the master of the creation of crisp, clean, graphics to illustrate his point - contrasting nicely with my half-assed concentric circles, several posts below.

Dr. Thomas P. M. Barnett blasts reporter-author Robert D. Kaplan for his controversial cover article in The Atlantic Monthly magazine " How We Would Fight China".

I had a feeling this one was going to come hot and heavy just from seeing the sinister " Yellow Peril" cover on The Atlantic Monthly alone, but Dr. Barnett's vehemence may have overshadowed his substantive critique of the PACOM strategic worldview being transcribed by Mr. Kaplan. Wow ! I'm glad I'm not going to be handling the resulting email on this one. Critt may need body armor just to open his NRSP inbox.

In terms of the Kaplan piece, I'm reminded of Abraham Lincoln's answer when Secretary of State Seward proposed that the best way to resolve the crisis over Fort Sumter and reunify the North and South was to start a war with Spain, France, Great Britain and Russia. Lincoln paused a moment and said:

" One war at a time"

It may be that events in China, probably over Taiwan and not North Korea, might someday compel the United States to have to fight China but having a war with a nuclear-armed nation of over a billion people is not a war we ought to go looking for on a lark. Particularly not when when we have more than enough to do fighting a war against radical Islamism. China is one we'd take only by force of circumstance rather than by choice.

As for my thoughts on China as a potential enemy or friend of the United States, I'm re-posting an essay from an earlier date that I think retains some relevance to the current Barnett-Kaplan debate on China:

" The Globalization Bull in the China Shop: Promise and Peril in PNM Strategy"

Even before Deng Xiaoping defeated his hardline Maoist opponents in the late 1970’s to set Beijing on " the capitalist road", China’s potentially bright future has been the topic of investors and statesmen. Richard Nixon foresaw China as the superpower of the 21st century. So did Brooks Adams more than a century ago. So when academics and economists are awed this year by China’s stunning, near 9 % GDP growth rate, it appears the long-predicted arrival of China may be finally coming to pass.

Since we are discussing The Pentagon’s New Map it’s of no surprise that China is a critical country in Dr. Barnett’s strategy ( which I discussed earlier here and here ). Rivaled only by India, China would be the most important part of the " New Core " of states that decided to join the " old Core" by adopting their rules and engaging with the world instead of isolating themselves from it. Barnett however, quickly identifies the crux of the problem with China's progress ( p. 241)

" Of that New Core group, China is the most worrisome, while India is the most promising…China is most worrisome because the hardest rule-set still needs to be changed – the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party"

This is an aspect that clearly worries the United States government as well. ( hat tip to Jodi) Dr. Barnett has ample descriptions in his book of Pentagon war planners and defense intellectuals envisioning China in a worst-case scenario war for dominance of East Asia. To focus on military might alone - where the increasingly professional PLA is really still not all that impressive next to say, the IDF much less the U.S. Navy - is a mistake that Dr. Barnett does not make. He's looking at the global parameters of power that an economic surplus is giving- and demanding of - China for the first time since the fall of the Q'ing dynasty :

"Paul Krugman likes to point out that China's central bank is one of the main purchasers of Treasury bills in the world, so -in effect- they finance our trade deficit" (p. 311)


" China has to double its energy consumption in a generation if all that growth it is planning is going to occur. we know where the Chinese have to go for the energy: Russia, Central Asia and the Gulf. That's a lot of new friends to make and one significant past enemy to romance. "(p.230)

Overall, Dr. Barnett is betting that the growing complexity of connectivity's interactions as China rewrites its rule sets to accept " the four flows " of globalization is the ultimate hedge against conflict with China. Or China lapsing into the disorder that plagues the Gap states.


First, I am not a Sinologist by training and my knowledge of Chinese history lags considerably behind my understanding of say American diplomatic history, Soviet history and a few other topics. On the other hand, the last part of what I'm going to state about China here applies analytically to most societies that would have to make the transition to " the New Core ".

While China's current growth rates are amazing we have to keep a few things in mind and try to see some of this PNM scenario through Chinese rather than western eyes.

First, China's cultural values formed during the warring states period and that China was twice unified and given stable government only by the most ruthless application of totalitarian rule. First by the Emperor Shih Huang-ti who followed the tenets of Han Fei-tzu 's Legalist-Realist school and secondly by the equally indomitable Mao Zedong, with his own particular version of Marxism-Leninism. In between the two despots dynasties rose and fell and generally tried to tie together a continental-sized nation with a natural centrifugal tendency to split into unrelated regional economies and eventually warlordism, civil war and dynastic collapse. In short, China's rulers do not take the unity of their country for granted the way the French or the British or postbellum Americans do. Chinese leaders are crazed about Taiwan because in their minds if Taiwan is ever recognized by the world as an independent state than so can Tibet...and Xinjiang..and perhaps the rich coastal provinces might feel better off without their inland cousins. An authoritarian ledership of already shaky political legitimacy may choose the economically suicidal course if they believe that Taiwan's independence will bring their regime down regardless.

Secondly, in assessing China's might keep in mind the reality of per capita facts. As Brad DeLong conveniently noted the other day hundreds of millions of Chinese remain extremely poor, living on less than a dollar a day. Hundreds of millions more are better off than a generation ago but they still hover not terribly far above subsistence. These people are not, as most suppose, a danger to the regime. Peasants have starved for a millenia without ill political effect and these people are, fortunately, at least eating. What they represent instead is an enormous claim on the economic surplus that China is currently generating - a claim on roads, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, basic comforts - before providing " rich " urban Chinese with internet cafes, dance clubs, imported cars or more missile frigates for the Chinese Navy. These people need exceptionally robust economic growth for decades to see real improvement in living standards

Thirdly, the inner circle of China's leadership have undergone an important transformation during the end of Deng Xiaoping's tenure as paramount leader. Unlike in the USSR where the Red Army was strictly subordinate to the CPSU, Mao's guerilla war left far greater cohesion between the PLA and the CCP. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were bona fide military leaders. Zhu De and Lin Biao were also political leaders. PLA generals routinely sat in the Central Committee and higher party cadres did military work. Today, China's generals and politicians are distinct leadership classes with factional interests. The generals have become much more the military professionals and no one mistakes Jiang Zemin for a field marshal. To a certain extent, the politicians are appeasing the military elite while the latter are developing a far more narrow outlook.

Lastly, globalization brings with it to all societies a danger of raising up a countervailing power. For example, in one sense al Qaida's radicalism is merely the culmination of an ideological debate that has been going on within Islam since the Turks retreated from the gates of Vienna in 1689. But in a general sense bin Laden's violent answers only have traction among Muslims because globalization has created enough new " connections " to create economic and social upheaval in very traditional, formerly disconnected, Arab and Central Asian nations.

China's previous experience with opening up to the outside world is not a heartwarming tale. The Ming and Q'ing dynasties, like the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan, had " disconnected " from the world even as the European nations began explosive advances in science, wealth and technology. The world intruded anyway. Japan opted to reconnect via the Meiji Restoration and catch up to the West. China resisted and suffered not only external humiliation at the hands of the West, Russia and Japan but also two internal rebellions - the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxers. The former revolt, fired by half-understood western religious ideas, was warfare of a magnitude not exceeded in scale until the western front in 1914.

China's current rulers have chosen connection but the threat of countervailing power comes not from the still disconnected but from the already connected but discontented. Al Qaida and Hizb ut-Tahrir are not filled with illiterate fanatics but lawyers, engineers, doctors and businessmen who have chosen a radical political program for the goal of Islamist religious reaction. The Nazis appealed most to the lower middle class and unemployed intellectuals who had risen but feared to sink back into the ranks of the workers during the Depression. The Russian peasant who was most helped by Petr Stolypin's land reforms flocked not to support the Tsar but the Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1917. In our own history the Populists and Alliancemen who agitated for cooperative economics and against banks and monopolies in the 1880s were not workers but ex-yeomen turned tenant farmers, commercial farmers with mortgages and deflating prices.

If China's growth sags trouble will come not from the rural areas but from the tens of millions of educated, new middle-class Chinese who have had their expectations raised by cell phones, scooter bikes, refrigerators, internet access and discman players. They will not return to the countryside and nor will they abide a loss of status that Richard Hofstadter once identified as the root of paranoid politics.

That is the tightrope China will be walking for a long time to come.
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

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