April 18, 2004


RETHINKING OUR ALLIANCES: It's time to forget Europe and find new allies (Thomas P.M. Barnett, 4/18/04, The Washington Post)

Terrorists buy a national election in Spain for the price of 10 backpack bombs and remove a "crucial" pillar of the Western coalition in Iraq. Predictably, Op-Ed columnists and talking heads raise the cry for the Bush administration to "save the Western alliance." This is a knee-jerk response that reflects historical habit more than strategic logic.

Clinging to the Western alliance isn't the way to win the global war on terrorism. In fact, it's a backward-looking approach that's certain to doom our efforts in this conflict. Combating transnational terrorism in the era of globalization will be a decades-long task, and anything that long and complex requires a genuinely grand strategy -- something that this country has lacked since the end of the Cold War.

Grand strategy is about figuring out what kind of global future is worth creating, understanding which states have the incentive to build that future and concluding the bargains necessary to keep them on board for the duration. [...]

Instead of focusing on what it will take to keep Old Europe enlisted in the effort to transform the Middle East, what the United States really needs to concentrate on is developing an entirely new alliance with such emerging powers as China, India and Russia. We can bend over backward trying to keep Spain's 1,300 soldiers in Iraq, or we can figure out what it will take to get these emerging pillars of globalization to contribute far bigger numbers to the effort.

It might seem counterintuitive to enlist nations wanting in the democracy department to promote it in the Middle East. But democracy is a long-term goal at best, when what the region needs right now are states willing to export security in the form of peacekeepers. That is true for not just the Middle East but everywhere else that we'll be fighting terrorism in this global war.

Globalization's steady advance across the planet marks the battle lines in the war on terrorism. Show me regions deeply embedded in the global economy or moving rapidly toward its rule-bound embrace, and I will show you all the states that should logically be counted among our strongest allies.

That "functioning core" of globalization includes North America, much of South America, the European Union, Russia, Japan and Asia's emerging economies (most notably China and India), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa -- representing more than 4 billion people in a global population of 6.4 billion.

Are all of these states democratic today? Hardly. But connecting up to the global economy is how you grow a middle class, and that's the main ingredient needed for a stable democracy over the long haul.

Conversely, show me the regions most disconnected from the global economy, and I will show you those regimes that should be overwhelmingly targeted for reform or, yes, even periodic violent dismantling. These countries lie chiefly within the Caribbean Rim, Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. A wide swath of the world, to be sure, but that's hardly a "global" war.

Terrorism thrives where globalization has yet to extend itself in any meaningful way, because countries that lack widespread economic interactions with the outside world (beyond just pumping oil) are either failed states or brutally repressive regimes, both of which generate desperate young men seeking political change through violence.

You want to dry up global terror? Make globalization truly global.

China is still an enemy, which is part of the reason to cultivate India and Russia so steadfastly, but if we place enough pressure on it the government likely can't resist reform nor even hold the country together. The successor regimes should be worthy allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2004 11:59 AM

Smart on Europe, but why a search for allies at all? Why not let them search for you? Build it and they will come.

Posted by: Peter B at April 18, 2004 6:36 PM

Just yesterday you said Russia was finished. Why would be want a washed-up failed state that cannot feed itself as an ally.

Barnett has got one thing right and the rest all wrong.

He's right that we lack grand strategy. More precisely, we have not identified the enemy.

The enemy is not terrorism, as such, and the antiBushites are correct in saying that merely picking off terrorists always leaves more terrorists.

The idea that at some point, we kill that Xth terrorist and the others all say, "Lousy idea, let's go home and cultivate our own vines and fig trees" is absurd. Never gonna happen.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 18, 2004 7:10 PM


Because they can serve our purposes as they die. We need them to contain Islam's northern border and China's, with nukes and with no reason not to use them.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2004 7:23 PM

But China is dying as well, OJ, so what's the point? Oh, I forgot, they're becoming Christianized, so they have hope. Never mind!

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 19, 2004 4:38 PM


Yes, China is no threat in the long term. But in the short it's convenient to have two of their neighbors willing to nuke them.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2004 4:50 PM