The Great Game, in Not-So-Great Writing

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest: 2005 Results, compiled by the Department of English and Comparative Literature, San Jose State University, downloaded 30 July 2005, http://www2.sjsu.edu/depts/english/2005.htm (from Slashdot).

A post for the Hindoostan/British/Great Game loving folk over at Coming Anarchy

The Worst Writing of 2005

Ken Aclin (Shreveport, LA ):

India, which hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia, presented itself to Tex as he landed in Delhi (or was it Bombay?), as if it mattered because Tex finally had an idea to make his mark and fortune and that idea was a chain of steak houses to serve the millions and he wondered, as he deplaned down the steep, shiny, steel steps, why no one had thought of it before.

Eric Winter (Minneapolis, MN):

It was high noon in the jungles of South India when I began to recognize that if we didn’t find water for our emus soon, it wouldn’t be long before we would be traveling by foot; and with the guerilla warriors fast on our heals, I was starting to regret my decision to use poultry for transportation.

David Lindley (Sheffield, England)

Anyone with a less refined air of unabashed insouciance would not have been able to so easily slip through the security cordon, charm their way past the armed guards, breeze through the marbled reception area and blithely enter the inner sanctum of the UN Security Council and there successfully negotiate an end to all conflict in the Middle East, but that was the sort of man Nigel Simpkins was.

Response to Chirol on "2nd Generation Empires" – Part 1

Fifth Generation Warfare?,” by William Lind, from Defense and the National Interest, 3 February 2004, http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_2_03_04.htm (from Zen Pundit).

A History of Empires,” by Chirol, Coming Anarchy, 28 July 2005, http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2005/07/28/a-history-of-empires/.

John Ikenberry’s Pissed,” by Daniel Nexon, The Duck of Minerva, 30 July 2005, http://duckofminerva.blogspot.com/2005/07/john-ikenberrys-pissed.html.

Chirol from Coming Anarchy has begun an interesting discussion on 2nd Generation Empire. His extremely well written post deserves attention, and I hope I am bringing enough in this reply.

Without further wait, my thoughts for Chirol…

The answer is what I will call a “Second Generation Empire” or 2GE for short (to be fully defined later).

I look forward to your definition. Remember Lind‘s definition of “generation,” as a “dialectically qualitative shift” or that “absent a vast disparity in size, an army [empire?] from a previous generation cannot beat a force from the new generation”

realism, namely that there is no world order and that nations exist in the world in a state of anarchy

Duck of Minervagave the definition of “realism” as

“Realism comes in a wide variety of flavors, but its adherents generally agree on a number of principles:

1. International politics are, at heart, characterized by a struggle for power.
2. Attempts to transcend power – through, for instance, international institutions – are at best misguided and, at worst counterproductive.
3. The primary actors in international politics are states and the leaders of states.
4. They ultimately pursue “state interests” (‘raison d’état’).”

As realism assumes that states are the primary actors, realism thus implies that the world order can be understood by examining states.

Osama bin Laden and others strongly refute this claim.

Might there be a pattern in the phrases: Pax Romana, Pax Mongolica, Pax Britannia and Pax Americana?

That three of them were largely connected through internal waterways, high-tech roads, and/or oceans, while a fourth is a revisionist defense of a temporary barbarian occupation built-to-fail?

You’ll not find many, if any, examples of the Russians or the British tossing people from towers, gouging out their eyes, keeping them in rat and flea infested underground pits, removing body parts and so forth as the result of policy. While extreme things often happen during battle and the darker side of men sometimes gets the better of them, countries or regions outside the control of empires have hardly had a better track record, if not often a worse one.

The more desperate the fight, the more desperate the measures. Neither the Czar nor the Queen was fighting for existence. The Khans were.

Empires have always begun in successful states

The European Union, which Niall Ferguson calls an “Impire” was formed by Italy, France, and Germany, three Axis dictatorship losers of the Second World War (of course this is unfair to Italy, which retained some capability for internal debate during the war).

Lastly, there is nothing more crucial to an empire than its strength. Sheer military might is the backbone of its credibility .

The Romans were unable to militarily pacify Germania. This did not stop the Romans from integrating the Germans into a world order which transcended Rome itself. Just as the Americans lost the Vietnam War but won the Vietnam Peace, the Roman trade system extended past the frontier of the Empire proper, bringing Roman civilization into places the military could not penetrate.

The military formidable but culturally bankrupt Mongolians, by conquest, absolutely failed at their attempt to rule by force.

Every game needs a Referee and we are it.

Just as every undertaking requires a plan?

The individual hand guides markets, so it is so unreasonable to expect an invisible hand to guide nations?

Other commentators also wrote provocatively:

Mark Safranski from ZenPundit opined:

Minimal rule-sets are very economical – fewer strictures to require enforcement ( which has costs) and fewer unintended consequences as the effects of Rule-sets interact. Maximal Rule-Sets sap strength and waste resources ( USSR).

True. However, minimal rule-sets may impose a very high psychological cost. Maximalist pedophilia rulesets may be easier for a state than minimalist pedophilia rulesets, even if they increase terrible crime, because of the human pressure to “do something.”

Jing Who Dares states:

If we see the past as a guide, empire may have brought prosperity but the seeds of their demise were also sown within that success. As the saying goes, prosperity brings complacency, and no matter how prolific the prophets of empire may have been their power and the order they established eventually collapsed under the weight of entropy and chaos only to be succeeded by a new order.

However, the Roman Peace did not bring complacency. It brought internal struggle — a fourth-generation religious movement. Struggle is natural for humanity, so, if anything, prosperity brings non-complacency.

French-Style Protectionism Comes to America (and soon the world?)

A New Threat to America Inc.,” by Jeffrey Garten, Business Week, 25 July 2005, pg 114, http://businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_30/b3944123.htm.

France and the rest of “Old Europe” have rightly been criticized for trying to export burdens on the rising states of central Europe. From the old Iron Curtain to the borders of Russia herself, the central European states have lowered taxes, lightened regulations, and enjoyed strong growth. But this was not good news to the French and the Eurocrats, who saw a pro-growth economy as “unfair.” France’s solution has been to try to force New Europe to have higher taxes and more regulation. After all, if the French suffer because of bad French decisions, why shouldn’t everyone?

Former Clinton appointee and Yale Professor Jeff Garten believes America should act like the French

The rise of these new multinationals will force Corporate America to rethink strategies for Third World product development, marketing, and links with local companies. But growth of these new rivals should also compel Washington and other Western governments to revamp today’s inadequate hodgepodge of global commerce rules. The reason: Western companies could be disadvantaged by having to adhere to more stringent economic and social standards than the competition [sic — tdaxp], because of their tougher [he means “less competitive” — tdaxp] home-country laws and expectations.

There is a huge gap in the international framework for such standards. The World Trade Organization deals with governments but not with companies. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development has established a code of conduct for multinationals, but compliance is voluntary and pertains only to its members — mostly from rich countries.

For example, all companies should be held to international accounting standards, including financial disclosure and transparency [so much for competition! — tdaxp]. There should be accepted corporate-governance rules, including protections for minority shareholders. The requirements for listing on major stock exchanges should be more rigorous and uniform. And all global companies — including those from the West — should disclose their labor conditions and the impact they have on the environment using a common, audited format. None of this has yet happened.

As long as American multinationals ruled the global roost, Washington resisted most formal rules for international business on the grounds they would constrain U.S. outfits such as IBM (IBM ) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO ) But the challenge from emerging-market companies signals that the dominance of big U.S. and European corporations is no longer assured . Uncle Sam should take the lead in efforts to build a new global commercial order — while the U.S. still has the clout.

In other words, Garten thinks America should export rules, not import freedom; government dictates, not peer-to-peer agreements.

The French would be proud.