1980s Thinking

If you’re geopolitical orientation is basically that from the late Cold War, and you believe that a country roughly as powerful as Portugal should be viewed (together with the Muslims) as being ‘the whole world,’ this post makes a lot of sense:

We modeled the behavior, and now it’s being imitated. We’ll over-react and then it’s off to the races. I used to believe the damage of the first Bush administration could be “reset” by the better behavior of the second Bush administration, meaning we’d reset the clock back to roughly 9/11 geopolitically. But the damage now seems worse than that. We’re reverting all the way back to the late 1980s.

And if you want to scenario-ize globalization’s destruction, this is a realistic pathway.

The only way it really goes downhill is if America is suckered by circumstances into believing it must basically take on the entire world. This is Bin Laden’s supreme dream, affording him more strategic wiggle room than he ever dared to hope would be his.

A nice rendition of why it’s okay to be gloomy right now on globalization (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog).

I don’t think it does for anyone else, though.

The fall of the Soviet Empire brought us real advantages, such as the integration of New Core of Central Europe (and now the Seam of Eastern Europe) into the global economy.  However, a much bigger prize was the discrediting of socialism generaly, which allowed China to accelerate her reforms and India to begin hers.   

The only “Cold War thinking” I have seen in response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia has been posts like this, by people who are convinced (for no reason they have shared) that a dying Gap state is so important in itself. 

There are dangers coming from Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Such as rewarding the invasion of neighboring countries and expanding the Gap generally.  But these are nothing that we did not face when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. That did not destroy globalization.  That merely was a teachable moment on the question of war as a tool of diplomacy.  This is the same.

(Note, by the way, that these posts, which show Russia as being ten feet tall, talk all the time of ‘modeling’ but never of behavior modification through rewads.  One concept is in pop culture. Another is a well observed behavior of all learning systems. The lack of analyis by the Russia-first crowd is all the more disturbing, because of its repetitive rhetoric and narrow focus. )

Russia is not an evil empire, not half the world economy, only a runt gap state lashing out aat one pillar of the Core when another pillar does not go along.  The only country so far to recognize Russia’s dreamlands of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is Nicaragua, of all places! (ButBelarus may be on board too, if you want to run up the number of Russia’s friends!)  Russia has had its feeling hurt in two organizations it thought it owned — the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (actually run by China) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (a gathering of fellow central asian dictatorships) — neither of which recognized the dremlands either.

My advice: Abandon the thinking of the 1980s.  It is a generation out of debate.

7 thoughts on “1980s Thinking”

  1. not to be snarky, are you agreeing and/or disagreeing with Barnett?

    The idea that India picked up the pace of reforms because of the fall of communism and the “discrediting” of socialism is bunk. Indian reforms started in the 1980s as a state driven effort to modernize. Results were overinvestment in certain areas (high tech education, chemicals, industry) while ignoring basic reforms (education, food). In 1991, the key path to reform was that India had run out of foreign exchange and had to start selling gold reserves on the international market.

    They didn’t really have a choice, although based on ten years experience they knew which policies to adopt.

    The key effect of the fall of communism inside India was money flows to Soviet oriented commie parties stopped and those parties suddenly needed to become friendly to local money to survive. Chinese communist parties, however, have continued to thrive. As commmies in India are a regional phenomenon, it didn’t change much on the national political scene.

  2. The only way we are going to see another cold war is if somehow Russia defines a new ‘Core’ based in its rule-set, and that rule-set somehow rivals (or is percieved to rival) that of the Western ‘Core.’

    An actual rivalry is incredibly unlikely. The West’s rule-set is much more developed and accepted and intrinsically stronger. A percieved rivalry, however, is more likely and much more dangerous and could define a confrontation and conflict that should never have happened in the first place.

    Is this the perception (4GW) / context (5GW) battleground of the future?

  3. India’s reforms were “by accident”. They were the result of a cautious attempt to apply basic economics principles to the economy and business structures. Had more politicians and business figures caught on to what was being attempted it would have been shut down far faster than it eventually was.

    India’s democracy is perhaps twice as dysfunctional as ours with far better (and many more) organized competing interest groups. When analyzing India now or in the recent past we should keep that in mind.

    (backstory on this can be found in “India After Gandhi” & “India Unbound”, both exceptional reads)

    In a business and investment sense though, the Indian Communists in power are now far more capitalist than anything resembling communism. The social & political programs remain somewhat of a Communist bent.

  4. Eddie:

    the people designing the reforms were not “accidental”. They knew what they were doing. The politicians adopting their proposals may not have wanted to move into a market system, but everyone agreed the previous “permit raj” was broken. Go talk to Manmohan Singh or Montek Ahluwalia for the real backstory.

  5. Great coments!


    Russia is a gap state, so while it causes real dangers of regime collapse for some New Core states, and of course imperils the Seam, there is no chance of it exporting a ruleset to the Core — except of course in the sense of destroying the institutions of some systems, and dragging them down into the Gap.


    I disagree with 1980s Cold War thinking, and agree with Tom’s Core-Seam-Gap model.

    Eddie + Charlie,

    It sounds to me like you are agreeing, both emphasizing the heroic efforts of Singh and those like him in reforming India, while both noting that much of the political class did not realize what was happening at the time.

    That said, India had been doing far more than applying “basic economic principles” to the system.. it had been running the country on advanced socialist and Keynesian principles for many decades. The 1980s showed the collapse of one socialist or Keynesian economy after the other, and gave both a way out (market reforms) and a way further into the ground (doing nothing, or less than nothing).

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