Military Size, in the Core and the Gap

Does the number of men you train to kill other men predict whether you are a Core state or a Gap state? 

An essential problem, given the tasks that lie ahead (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog)
I see essentially four million-man armies out there: U.S., Russia, India, China. A fifth wheel would be NATO (with the body core really being Turkey).

You put those resources in rough combination (frenemies competing and collaborating economically and security-wise) and there’s no question that there’s enough Core-wide resources to pool against the tasks of shrinking the Gap. You put them largely at odds with each other, then the hedging requirements will gobble up most of the important budget, and in the U.S. that means a Leviathan that continues to grab the lion’s share of acquisition, keeping emerging SysAdmin capabilities as strict lesser-includeds.

So here’s my problem: China buys for Taiwan, India buys for Pakistan (and vice versa), and Russia optimizes to intimidate its near-abroad but may soon–if we play this wrong–redirect for the West. The U.S. already still spends way too much hedging on the past, and with a “league of democracies” mindset, will likely hold onto that strong bias, meaning we inevitably sub-optimize and sub-perform on any SysAdmin jobs in the Gap, thus encouraging more competition (Why trust the U.S. to get it right on stuff you find vital? and/or Why not challenge or compete directly with a tied-down/perceived-as-incompetent U.S. in these venues?). The more that proxy war/quasi-imperialistic competition kicks in, the heightened mistrust makes for even more intra-Core hedging (and spending) by all involved.

Meanwhile, I see essentially five million man armies –  China, the United States, India, Russia, and North Korea.  If the quoted post was serious, we should realign our strategy with a view as North Korea as an ally in helping to shrink the Gap.  Obviously the author of the quoted post opposes this — he advocates war with North Korea.

But of course North Korea is a Gap state.  That Pyongyang trains a lot of men to kill doesn’t make it a Core state.  Likewise, Russia is a Gap state.  That Moscow trains a lot of men to kill doesn’t make it a Core state.

Reading the quoted post, I feel like I’m back in 1990, reading some columnist who says “This is the perfect opportunity!  Saddam Hussein is a New Core political, generating New Rules!  What… are you going to let Kuwait set our foreign policy?

If I’m wrong, tell me why.

Good Signs (for the fight against Russia)

There are good signs in the news today about the world coming to terms with other countries being nuclear powers.  First, India is now able to buy supplies for its nuclear power plants on the open market.

Slashdot | India Joins Nuclear Market
figona brings news that India will be allowed to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A waiver was approved yesterday that provided an exception to the requirements that India sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. This means India will be able to buy nuclear fuel from the world market and purchase reactors from the US, France, and Russia; something it has been unable to do since it began nuclear testing in 1974 (which inspired the creation of the NSG). 

Second, there is news that Shimon Peres (the President if Isreal) opposes strikes against Iran.   Peace with Iran is important if we are serious about responding to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  (This follows earlier news that America and Iran have seriously toned down their rhetoric).

Real grand strategy means prioritizing.  Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a crime against peace more serious than anything since the 9/11 attacks or Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.  Weakening Russia, strengthening the New Core around Russia, and absorbing Seam states on the frontier with Russia, are thus important goals of the United States.  More important than enforcing dead-letter nuclear proliferation treaties, that would deny India and Iran nuclear power… and nuclear weapons.