Friday, August 22, 2008
Mark Safranski, also known as Zenpundit, has an article out on Pajamas Media regarding the Russian - Georgian conflict called Lets Not Rush Into Cold War II. Mark nails every point perfectly, scores on every possession, and generally educates at a level even the politicos should be able to understand.
From administration to administration, we zigzag with the needs of the moment in our dealings with Russia without a clear vision of what America’s vital interests in the former Soviet states actually are.Exactly, our policy with Russia is a step by step tactical approach absent a comprehensive strategic approach. Slam and Dunk. So what do the politicos do? The commenter's claim the Zenpundit is a liberal infiltrator. However, had the Zenmaster posted the same piece on DailyKos I'm betting he would have been nailed with the neocon label. In my book, what is missing is a clearly stated foreign policy from either side of the isle of politics, so any clearly stated strategic discussion of foreign policy commentary from an economic first perspective that doesn't follow a traditional ideological mindset will be rejected by both sides until we collectively find our national strategic vision articulated by a President.
Georgia is a textbook case. While America has a legitimate concern in encouraging former Soviet states to develop into market democracies, there is no intrinsic economic or strategic American vital interest in Georgia per se and even less in South Ossetia. Georgia is our ally for only two reasons: Tblisi was enthusiastic to send troops to help in Iraq in return for military aid and it occupies a strategic location for oil and gas pipelines that will meet future European energy needs. In other words, Georgia’s role is of a primary strategic interest to the EU, not the United States. Which is why European and British companies have such a large shareholder stake in the BTC pipeline and why European FDI in Georgia exceeds ours. Yet it will be American troops in Georgia handing out bottled water and MREs, not the Bundeswehr or the French Foreign Legion. Something does not compute here.
While Mark got my blood pumping, the adrenaline gave me a natural buzz when I followed up Mark's piece with Thomas Barnett's 3000 word passion statement. When I use the F bomb, it means I'm having an emotional moment and care about a topic, and that is generally how I see it when the bombs drop on other blogs. Quoting any part of the 3000 words to summarize the whole is futile, so go read it and come back.
Russia and the US are not equals, but can be in their approach to the gap. I would also include other major powers in this equation. I love that piece by Tom, because in a great many words, he is essentially invoking our Yin Yang theory for strategically approaching our national interests.
When any major power exercises power in the gap, it ultimately represents an opposing (competitive) and, at the same time, complementary (completing) application of power towards the ends of shrinking the gap. Tom found the Yin Yang.
In this case, Georgia, which has a relationship with the United States is being consumed by Russia, and ultimately will be regardless of what the United States does. This represents a loss of influence for the United States and Europe, a gain of influence for the Russians. BUT this also represents a long term complimentary action to the strategic goals of everyone in the core. Why? Because successful military intervention by a core nation into the gap shrinks the gap.
Apply the same theory to Iraq. The US military intervention there represented a loss of influence by Russia and Europe, and a gain of influence by the United States. The result is an action that is complimentary to the strategic goals of other core nations (think China and energy here), and the effects of this intervention are broad. Consider what we see in the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait and we have movement towards more shrinking of the gap. There is no reason to believe that Russian intervention in Georgia couldn't have a similar effect on regional nations, including Ukraine.
The major powers in competition with the United States can be described as 7 primary regional powers (US makes 8, and is unique because it is the only true global power). In no particular order.
3) Western Pacific Nations (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia)
6) Brazil and South Africa
7) Canada and Mexico
Those seven power bases represent the "core" of where the focus of American strategic interest lies in globalization. If the State Department backed by the president can manage the competing relationships the US has with these 7 powers, the DoD can then manage the threats that emerge in the gap. If we do not maintain a good relationship between the United States and those 7 powers, the United States cannot guarantee the global system that currently governs economics. Those 7 major power regions represent the map for the State Department.
Everything else represents the map for the DoD. Part of the role of State and the DoD is to remember, when any of the above 7 engage militarily in the gap, while it is factual to say it is in our competing interest, it is also factual to say it is in our completing interest.
One point here I'll expand on later... we have been talking about operational capabilities and strategic environment a lot on the blog since this post. We firmly believe the DoD must maintain acquisition focus against the operational capabilities developed by nations in the core, but align those capabilities in a way that gives them creditable capability in the gap. Why? Because the market for military technology in the gap is the core, which means we must expect to see core capabilities in the gap.
Anyway... Mark and Tom are both on the money here. The driving force behind both our political and strategic national interest is economic. The other seven major powers we describe above represent the stakeholders in that economic system, and the system is key. While the US faces major economic challenges in the near term due to debt issues, long term stability of the economic system is also the solution to that problem as the gap becomes the emerging consumer market.
And while i shouldn't have to say it, the competition between the powers of the core is obviously about one thing: Resources, including energy. This is why bio-diesel, and other alternative energy sources not named ethanol should be a national security priority, which takes enormous priority over a climate issue. Georgia isn't the first gap nation to see military intervention by the core, it is essentially the same strategic choice the US made in Iraq except from a Russian interest point of view. It also represents the beginning of what will be a century of interventions throughout Africa by core nations, after all, that is ground zero for the future competition in the 21st century.
If Mark is the liberal, and Tom is the neocon, I must be the globalization nazi. So be it, in my realist world, world peace requires tough men with guns defending a global economic system where all regional powers are stakeholders, and in my academic world, economic prosperity requires measured cooperation as part of the competition of major powers.