Skip to comments.RETHINKING OUR ALLIANCES
Posted on 04/18/2004 8:11:00 AM PDT by Lando Lincoln
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.
The Bush administration has declared its intention to "transform" the Middle East, but beyond merely stating that goal and offering regimes there a "to-do" list for democracy, it remains unclear what constitutes the finish line in this global war on terrorism. Defining happy endings is important because it can help America understand who its true allies in this great historical struggle should be -- not globalization's old core of Europe but its new pillars in Asia and elsewhere.
During the Cold War, the United States was able to enlist the long-term support of Western Europe because those nations felt most under the gun from the Soviet bloc's military threat. All they had to do was to peer behind the Iron Curtain to envision the future they wanted at all costs to avoid.
Europe today faces no such threat. All the Islamic terrorists demand is that Europe remain on the sidelines while they wage "holy war" against American "imperialism" in the Persian Gulf. Al Qaeda wants to drive the West out of the Middle East so that it can drive the Middle East out of the modern world.
Osama bin Laden has seen our future and prefers Islam's past, and many in Old Europe are willing to agree to his offer of civilizational apartheid, preferring to concentrate on inwardly perfecting the European Union, where they have their hands full merely integrating the former East bloc states. And if Turkey remains "too different" for that club, you can imagine how any effort to connect Iraq to the West seems like a bridge too far.
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.
But realistic grand strategy likewise demands that we be clear about which of our "allies" not only support globalization's advance but can also handle the clash of civilizations that it will trigger.
The Bush administration's "big bang" strategy in the Middle East started with removing Saddam Hussein from power, but it will pick up speed only after the United States and its allies successfully reconnect Iraqi society to the world outside. That ambitious effort naturally attracts regional Islamic jihadists committed to fighting "American imperialism," which, absent allies with staying power, our occupation would soon come to resemble.
So who's going to stay with us through the tough times ahead? Here's a hint: If 10 well-placed bombs can flip a country's national election, that country probably isn't cut out for the job of waging a global war on terrorism.
A country also probably isn't cut out for the job if its society is generations past remembering what religious fervor feels like, if its military hasn't suffered significant (or any) combat losses since World War II and if its government hasn't been accused of significant human rights violations in recent memory. Messy wars require allies who don't mind getting dirty.
Last year, India almost sent 17,000 peacekeeping troops to Iraq. Imagine what a different coalition we'd have there today if we had been able to close that strategic deal.
What would it have taken on our part? Probably a much closer security relationship with New Delhi at Pakistan's expense. But since Pakistan is home to many al Qaeda forces still eluding capture, the United States chooses to designate this desperately failed state its new "major non-NATO ally," while rising economic powerhouse India remains -- what? Chopped liver?
An international occupation force in Iraq that included the vigorous participation of the Chinese, the Indians and the Russians would speak to a global future worth creating, not just some trans-Atlantic partnership overtaken by events. Let me give you three crucial reasons why.
First, new core powers are the most willing to wage war to protect the global economy because they have the most to lose by its collapse. Old Europe would still have itself to rely on; North America constitutes an economic universe all its own. But China, India and Russia desperately need access to the global economy because each is making up for a lot of past disconnectedness.
Second, such new core powers show a real passion for doing what it takes to further globalization's advance. Note the emergence of the so-called Group of 20-plus in the current Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. These new core powers (e.g., India, China, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea) are aggressively working to conclude new trade bargains between globalization's old core powers (the United States, Europe, Japan) and those regions currently sitting outside the global economy, noses pressed to the glass.
Third, primarily because their rapidly growing economies are the most dependent on future access to the energy resources in the Middle East, the new core states of developing Asia will clearly be most interested in making sure that the Middle East does not fall into the sort of extreme disconnectedness desired by the bin Ladens of that region.
When the United States enlists the active support of a China, India or Russia, it gains military partners who won't run at the first sight of blood, argue incessantly about the constitutional rights of "enemy combatants" or see their governments collapse every time that the terrorists land a lucky strike back home.
Yes, we will occasionally have to hold our noses over China's human rights record, Vladimir Putin's rough manipulation of the Russian media or New Delhi's tendency to look the other way on certain forms of internal sectarian violence. But favoring order over justice makes sense at this point in history, at least when it comes to picking strategic partners.
These states are rapidly integrating with the global economy, inevitably generating the middle class that creates pressure for greater political freedom far faster than any externally imposed sanctions can produce it.
Such support will clearly have costs. But we won't know what they are until we make a serious effort to find out what these nations would need from an alliance. One thing is certain: Like our oldest European allies, these governments would want a clear sense of where the United States thinks it is going in this global conflict.
The Middle East will continue to serve as the world's wellspring of terrorism until it fully participates in the global economy, and that means moving beyond just the oil trade that keeps elites rich and the masses marginalized. With the hydrogen economy looming on the strategic horizon, the alternative is clear: condemning roughly a billion Muslims to a life of disconnectedness that benefits only the dictators of the region.
The grand strategy of connecting the disconnected means you cannot simply throw up firewalls between your "good life" and all that "chaos" over there, as many Europeans and not just a few Americans might prefer.
The United States would find far more realistic partners in China, India and Russia because none of those states is foolish enough to believe that its future strategic security can be bought by distancing itself from the Middle East's chronic conflicts. Until Washington effectively enlists globalization's new core powers in the war on terrorism, our historic reliance on Old Europe will remain our Achilles' heel, easily exploited by an al Qaeda whose strategic vision currently exceeds our own.
Thomas Barnett served in the office of the secretary of defense from 2001 to 2003. He is the author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century, to be published this month by G.P. Putnam's Sons.
"George W. Bush's report on "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America," released on September 17, 2002, has stirred controversy, though, and surely will continue to do so. For it's not only the first strategy statement of a new administration; it's also the first since the surprise attacks of September 11, 2001. Such attacks are fortunately rare in American historythe only analogies are the British burning of the White House and Capitol in 1814 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941but they have one thing in common: they prepare the way for new grand strategies by showing that old ones have failed. The Bush NSS, therefore, merits a careful reading as a guide to what's to come."