September 18, 2006


Explaining the J Curve (JOHN BATCHELOR, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Simply, the J curve according to Mr. Bremer's Eurasia Group is drawn on a bar graph with "stability" as the X-axis and "openness" as the Y-axis. By stability, Mr. Bremmer means the ability to withstand shocks from the outside, such as a terror attack, as well as the ability to avoid shocking yourself, such as a market crash or a coup. By openness, Mr. Bremmer means that citizens have access to information both from outside the state and from fellow citizens, such as perfectly describes the internet. What is striking about the J curve is that a maximum tyranny such as North Korea, on the extreme left of the curve, is almost as stable as a maximum free society such as Denmark on the extreme right of the curve. The distinction with the difference is what happens to a nation when it moves from being the prison of North Korea on the left to being the liberated salon of Denmark on the right: the stability dips severely.This is the J shape, so that a country that throws off its tyranny will plunge into chaos quickly and keep sinking into Hades for some time before it can hope to rise to new enterprises as an open society. [...]

Currently slipping from intolerant stability to the long depths of chaos are Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. At the depths of the curve, when all hope is murdered, are South Africa after apartheid and Yugoslavia after the Soviets. And now climbing from the depraved depths toward enhancing openness, according to Mr. Bremmer, are Turkey, Israel, and India. Coyly, Mr. Bremmer sidesteps China and calls the PRC a dilemma. [...]

What hedgies do not readily entertain is that the historical record is filled with events that describe illogical possibilities that actually happened and changed the map, such as the contest between revolutionary Bonapartist France and imperial merchant England. Waiting out Napoleon's bloodthirsty vanity would not have worked, even over half a century of patience. Further, it is unimaginable, on reading the London Times in 1805, that anyone could have constrained the Admiralty from sending out Nelson and Collingwood to find the combined French and Spanish fleets. Horatio Nelson closing on the enemy at Trafalgar can sound as if he is schooling George Bush as he closes on Saddam at Baghdad: "When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive, I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

Mr. Bremmer's genius does illuminate the present bootless homicide in Baghdad, however, because in order to gain the gift of an open democracy, Iraq must pass through the depraved low point of the J curve. Elections are not the objective. Stability with free-flowing information in a capitalist forum is the mission, and that will take time and intrepidity.

Using the J curve as an analytical lens through which to view just the 20th century, it becomes apparent that given three opportunities to shove things towards the upslope of the curve, even if it would have been more chaotic, we instead favored the left, and "stability," thereby retarding development and prolonging the Long War: when Wilson chose the League (perforce accepting the re-establishment of colonialism) over self-determination after WWI; when we failed to destroy the Bolshevik regime at the end of WWII; and when George H. W. Bush sided with the PRC and Ba'athist dictators after the Cold War. These episodes of Realism have all proved disastrous in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2006 8:42 AM

How on earth did the creation of the League of Nations accept "the re-establishment of colonialism?" Colonialism had not been dis-establshed. England and France still controlled all of their colonies, plus those of the Netherlands and Germany.

Posted by: Brandon at September 18, 2006 12:03 PM

Wilson decided to sacrifice all the rest of our Points in exchange for the League, the only un-American Point.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 12:09 PM

Because he couldn't convince England and France to go along with the other points. But that's not the same as saying the League re-established colonialism. Nothing short of war with England and France could have do that.

Posted by: Brandon at September 18, 2006 12:26 PM


Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 12:34 PM

So by refusing to try to conquer the world, we "favored the left"?

Curious dichomtomy.

Posted by: Brandon at September 18, 2006 3:22 PM

Opposite. Given the opportunity to liberate we favored the conquerors.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 4:09 PM

In what sense did we have an "opportunity to liberate" all colonies in 1918?

Posted by: Brandon at September 18, 2006 4:32 PM

France, Britain and Germany were defeated and we could dictate the terms of the peace.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 4:40 PM

Again I'm left do conclude that - since we didn't turn on our allies and force them to give up their colonies at gunpoint - we were favoring the left. Wasn't it the left that wanted Europe to give up their colonies?

Posted by: Brandon at September 18, 2006 6:21 PM

No, Anti-imperialism wasn't unique to the Left--much of the Right was isolationist and Europhobic. Actually, neither was the desire for a transnational institution like the UN. Bob Taft, of all people, was a devout believer.

Wilson wanted a monument to himself and was racist enough not to care what happened to the colonies.

The point of a gun stuff is just nonsense. The "allies" were beaten and broke and had to do whatever we told them to do. Just threatening to withdraw and allow Germany a free hand and to collect the money they owed us would have sufficed.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 7:02 PM

It's not nonsense. Do you really think that had Wilson simply ordered two sovereign nations to abandon their empires - after they'd just spent millions of lives defending them in a war they believed they'd won - they would have meekly complied? Show me an historical example of that.

Posted by: Brandon at September 19, 2006 12:06 AM

The French and Brits knew they'd lost and were still justifiably terrified of the Germans who'd kicked their butts relentlessly, of us (we'd actually defeated the Germans in combat which the Allies never had), and deep in debt.

We made them decolonize after WWII -- the other war where a democracy bailed out colonial powers -- but it was too little too late.

Posted by: oj at September 19, 2006 12:15 AM