Monday, September 8, 2008

Let's Not go Overboard...

...on Russia, says Thomas Barnett, and I agree with him. Because to do so means throwing away the strategic opportunity to finish off Al Qaeda and, longer term, to Shrink the Gap:
I see essentially four million-man armies out there: U.S., Russia, India, China. A fifth wheel would be NATO (with the body core really being Turkey).

You put those resources in rough combination (frenemies competing and collaborating economically and security-wise) and there's no question that there's enough Core-wide resources to pool against the tasks of shrinking the Gap. You put them largely at odds with each other, then the hedging requirements will gobble up most of the important budget, and in the U.S. that means a Leviathan that continues to grab the lion's share of acquisition, keeping emerging SysAdmin capabilities as strict lesser-includeds.
And, later in his post:
From history's perspective, it can't get much dumber than this: our globalization sweeping the planet in the form of an international liberal trade order, but right at its apogee, the four million-man army nations find a way to turn on each other more than the collective problems and opportunities staring them in the face.

From an international businessman's perspective, this is potential tragedy in the making. From a grand strategic perspective, this is an unthinking America playing down to the lower-order dynamics generated by less-mature great powers.

In short, we should know better and act better and avoid this pathway.

But Americans are, by their nature, strategically short-sighted. We respond emotionally to events--this week's column (above).
The column he references can be found here.

Well, I am going to differ with Dr. Barnett here only in that he sees a greater likelihood of this strategic blunder occurring with a President McCain than with a President Obama.

I think Obama's open protectionism is more harmful here than McCain's occasionally strident rhetoric. It will not only hurt the very Gap nations we're supposed to be helping, along with hurting the U.S. economy, but it will also increase the likelihood of trade blocs forming.

I may be wrong about this, and I will be the first to say so in that event, but with Henry Kissinger advising McCain, even from the sidelines, I doubt very much a President McCain will make the mistake of going back to the Cold War. Never forget it was Kissinger who advised that old Cold Warrior Nixon to make the strategic stroke of genius that was flipping China to the anti-Soviet side, while also aggressively pursuing detente with the Soviets themselves.

Which leads me to a final question: if "only Nixon can to China," is the modern equivalent "only McCain can go to Iran"?

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