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Current Topic: International Relations

The Great Leveling
Topic: International Relations 3:23 pm EST, Apr  2, 2005

"It's not about ruling anybody. That's the point. There is nobody to rule anymore."

"The most important force shaping global economics and politics in the early twenty-first century" is not the admittedly important war on terrorism but a "triple convergence -- of new players, on a new playing field, developing new processes and habits for horizontal collaboration."

Friedman offers an engrossing tour of Flat World, but he sometimes overestimates its novelty.

It's not at all clear we'll like the long-term geopolitical consequences of having emerging powers reliant on scraps from the American economic table.

In a sense, The World Is Flat serves as a sort of bookend to this spring's other blockbuster economics book, Jeffrey D. Sachs's The End of Poverty.

While The World Is Flat is not a classic like From Beirut to Jerusalem, it is still an enthralling read.

The Great Leveling

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
Topic: International Relations 3:12 pm EST, Apr  2, 2005

Tom Friedman's new book is in stores on April 5.

When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization? And with this "flattening" of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The World Is Flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Mapping the Global Future
Topic: International Relations 10:44 pm EST, Jan 15, 2005

"Mapping the Global Future is the third unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in the past seven years that takes a long-term view of the future. The National Intelligence Council, as a center of strategic thinking and over-the-horizon analysis for the US Government, takes this as one of its key challenges."

At no time since the formation of the Western alliance system in 1949 have the shape and nature of international alignments been in such a state of flux.

The likely emergence of China and India, as well as others, as new major global players -- similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century -- will transform the geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries.

The world economy is likely to continue growing impressively: by 2020, it is projected to be about 80 percent larger than it was in 2000, and average per capita income will be roughly 50 percent higher.

The so-called "third wave" of democratization may be partially reversed by 2020 -- particularly among the states of the former Soviet Union and in Southeast Asia, some of which never really embraced democracy.

The likelihood of great power conflict escalating into total war in the next 15 years is lower than at any time in the past century, unlike during previous centuries when local conflicts sparked world wars.

We expect that by 2020 al-Qaida will be superceded by similarly inspired Islamic extremist groups.

Mapping the Global Future

Powell's Meme
Topic: International Relations 1:39 am EDT, May 12, 2004

Supposedly Powell warned Bush that if he sent U.S. troops to Iraq, "you're going to be owning this place." That was based on what Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage called "the Pottery Barn rule" of "you break it, you own it."

The real Pottery Barn has no such rule.

Powell's Meme

Contradictions of a Superpower
Topic: International Relations 5:51 pm EDT, May  2, 2004

The more broadly you view the new national security strategy, the clearer its contradictions become.

Apparently the administration is counting on China to undergo a kind of spiritual transformation. "In time, China will find that social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness." Meanwhile, the United States will somehow escape this particular epiphany.

Nobility is a nice feature in a president, but not as nice as wisdom.

Contradictions of a Superpower

Applied Memetics as Foreign Policy
Topic: International Relations 7:23 pm EDT, Apr 24, 2004

Sandy Berger puts Musharraf on notice. He also manages to write more than 6,200 words about foreign policy without a single one of them being "Saudi".

Although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade.

The Bush administration has gone badly wrong in applying its "with us or against us" philosophy to friends as well as foes. Put simply, our natural allies are much more likely to be persuaded by the power of American arguments than by the argument of American power.

The United States must re-engage in what the rest of the world rightly considers the cornerstone of a lasting transformation of the Middle East: ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Afghanistan, with Pakistan, remains a frontline battleground in the war on terrorism. A new administration will have to overcome this ...

In North Korea, we must be prepared to take yes for an answer.

Since the Cold War ended, we have witnessed two generations of military reform. The war on terrorism will require a third military transformation. At heart, this effort will be an intelligence challenge.

In Asia, a tectonic geopolitical and economic shift is taking place. But the US remains strangely disengaged.

All terrorism is evil, but not all evil is terrorism.

Whoever is president, we will need to rely most often on persuasion, not power, to achieve our goals.

Step 1. Win White House.
Step 2. Establish Palestine.
Step 3. Oust Musharraf.
Step 4. Kill Bin [Laden].

In short, the theme is that the US should strive to "Win Over All the World" rather than "Win, All Over the World."

Might I suggest, as soundtrack while you read, the Beatles classic "All You Need Is Love"?

Applied Memetics as Foreign Policy

Anthony Zinni's 20 Principles of Peacemaking and Humanitarian Intervention
Topic: International Relations 5:54 pm EDT, Apr 11, 2004

1. The earlier the involvement, the better the chances for success.

2. Start planning as early as possible and include everyone in the planning process.

3. If possible, make a thorough assessment before deployment.

4. In the planning, determine the center of gravity, the end state, commander's intent, thorough mission analysis, measures of effectiveness, exit strategy, cost-capturing procedures, estimated duration, etc.

5. Stay focused on the mission and keep the mission focused. Line up military tasks with political objectives; avoid mission creep; allow for mission shift.

6. Centralize planning and decentralize execution during the operation.

7. Coordinate everything with everybody. Set up the coordination mechanisms.

8. Know the culture and the issues.

9. Start or restart the key institution(s) early.

10. Don't lose the initiative/momentum.

11. Don't make enemies. If you do, don't treat them gently. Avoid mindsets.

12. Seek unity of effort/command. Create the fewest possible seams.

13. Open a dialogue with everyone. Establish a forum for each individual/group involved.

14. Encourage innovation and nontraditional approaches.

15. Personalities often are more important than processes.

16. Be careful who you empower.

17. Decide on the image you want to portray and stay focused on it.

18. Centralize information management.

19. Seek compatibility in coalition operations. Political compatibility, cultural compatibility, and military interoperability are crucial to success.

20. Senior commanders and staffs need the most education and training for nontraditional roles. The troops need awareness and understanding.

The Future Security Environment in the Middle East
Topic: International Relations 1:51 am EST, Apr  3, 2004

This report identifies several important trends that are shaping regional security. It examines traditional security concerns, such as energy security and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as newer challenges posed by political reform, economic reform, civil-military relations, leadership change, and the information revolution. The report concludes by identifying the implications of these trends for US foreign policy.

The Future Security Environment in the Middle East

Outsourcing the Friedman
Topic: International Relations 4:23 pm EST, Mar 27, 2004

Thomas Friedman hasn't been this worked up about free trade since the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

But never mind the details. In Friedmanworld, call centers are the front lines of World War III: The Fight for Modernity, bravely keeping brown-skinned young people out of the clutches of Hamas and Al Qaeda.

Naomi 'No Logo' Klein squeezes Victoria's Secret, outsourcing, Al Qaeda, the intifada, and the presidential campaign into 1,000 words.

Outsourcing the Friedman

Renewing the Atlantic Partnership
Topic: International Relations 12:59 am EST, Mar 26, 2004

Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Summers co-chaired an independent task force that studied the relationship between the United States and Europe.

The Task Force, consisting of both Americans and Europeans, argues that despite the forces pushing apart the two sides of the Atlantic, the United States and Europe still have compatible interests and complementary capabilities.

The Task Force makes a strong case that the United States and Europe should reassess existing principles governing the use of military force and seek to reach agreement on new "rules of the road." Similarly, it argues that America and Europe should develop a common policy toward states that possess or seek to possess weapons of mass destruction or that support terrorism in any way.

Renewing the Atlantic Partnership

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