Category Archives: Thomas Barnett

I Told You So

Me, November 18, 2008

The best justification for keeping a large Leviathan is to end conventional war. Essentially, the US can use its military power to make the cost of waging aggressive war against another sovereign state unacceptable. This provides the global public good of security, because when states do not have to defend themselves, or spend funds appeasing dangerous neighbors, they can concentrate on economic growth.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a great (perhaps fatal) challenge to America’s role in keeping the peace. By allowing that Saddam Hussein with a slavic name to occupy Georgian territory, we make every state think twice about the “peace” that the world loans us so many billions to uphold

Tom Barnett, November 13, 2009

For some American economists and politicians, a weak dollar signals a weak American economy. “Duh,” you say? Well, their larger argument is worth considering: By acting like just any weak economy (deficit spending plus currency devaluation), we speed up the world’s movement toward a post-dollar era that, once reached, will never be reversed. Take away America’s ability to float debt cheaply, and you take away much of our ability to play globalization’s Leviathan, both kinetically and diplomatically.

The counterview, of course, is to insist that America has taken that role about as far as it can go historically, meaning we can’t get any more over-leveraged as an economy or more over-stretched as a military power. So while, yes, it would be nice if Obama could correct all our excesses of the past couple of decades while preserving our preeminence, it’s just not going to happen. The sad truth is that America is finally acquiring the financial discipline that we’ve sorely lacked in the post-Cold War era, in large part because our enormous success in spreading globalization — especially to our new banker China — made our loss of self-control all the more feasible.

2008 was one of the worst years in American history. The one-two punch of Russia’s Invasion of Georgia and Wall Street’s Raid on the Treasury may have permanently ended America’s ability to keep the peace in the world of globalization. While some bloggers called such a view “hysterical” last year, now they repeat it as if it is an original idea.

The Choice of Accelerating our Decline

Charles Krauthammer says decline is a choice. Tom Barnett calls this the most pathetic thing Krauthammer has ever written. Ginny talks about Obama’s “reflexive anti-Americanism and supports Krauthammer. What’s going on?

America is declining in relative influence.
The systemic causes of this decline is our success.
Our decline has been needlessly accelerated in the last two years.

First, it is obvious that America is declining in relative influence. If you live in some awful place like south-side Chicago or Detroit, having a relatively modest amount of money — and guns — can make you a big player. If you get a professional job and move to a nice neighborhood, you will have less relative influence over your neighbors. You’ll also be much happier and safer. Similarly, the world is no longer politically shattered as it was in 1945, or 1989. Instead, much of the world’s population live in large, growth-oriented blocs (the most vital of which are the America Free Trade Areas, the European Union, China, and India)

Second, our long-term relative decline is in our interests. It is better to live in a safer world than a dangerous one, even if that means its less likely that you get to use your weapons to get your way. Likewise, it is better to live in a richer world than a poorer one. We want to prevent war, and the best way to do this is to create a trade-based, integrated world where war is unthinkable.

Third, it is obvious that our decline is accelerating because of our recent actions. This is bad. America has run large budget deficits for years, and the world has funded these deficits because America has been (a) a fiscally responsible country that (b) uses its power to protect small countries from big ones. George W. Bush ended both patterns. Within two months, America allowed Russia to occupy Georgia and transferred trillions of dollars to politically-powerful friends of the Administrations. Obama has encouraged and reinforced these disastrous decisions.

America’s decline is accelerating because of decisions made by President Bush and President Obama.

The acceleration of decline is a choice… and one that we have already made.

Seriously, Tom

During Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Tom insisted that he had a “Secret source” on the ground, highly credible, tell him things that were being suppressed by every major media outlet. In spite of this conspiracy, because of Tom’s inside connections, he knew the truth: Vladimir Putin was a world leader on par with Hu Jintao or George Bush, intervening in the lawless frontier to spread connectivity and establish modern rulesets.

When everything died out, the “Secret source” was revealed to be a thoroughly average reporter, whose reports (completely consistent with what everyone else had written) detailed the obvious: Russia invaded Georgia after a time of rising tension, which included the Russians violating Georgian airspace, and the Georgians shelling separatists who had been given Russian passports.

Let’s see some apologies
ARTICLE: Georgia Set Off War, Probe Finds, By Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, October 1, 2009
Ah, I can’t wait to hear all the bloggers’ mea culpas regarding the EU report on the start of the Russian-Georgian war.

Turns out we shouldn’t have all become Georgians then.

Once again, Tom is reporting news that everyone knew since August 9th, 2008. Catholicgauze reported it then. Duck of Minerva recapitulates it now.

When it comes to those who criticize Putin, Tom prefers terms like hysterics and freak-out. And indeed, there is a hysterical crowd that engages in cold-war thinking.

Such freak-outs seem limited to those in the oil services sector, though.

There’s more to life (and Russia) than Gazprom.

As I said, Russia is a Central Asian State

Russis is an economically unfree state in Central Asia

Putinism by stages: 1 is through Khordokovsky’s arrest the oil baron in late 2003, and involves Putin as determined technocrat; 2 is the Bonapartist elevation of Putin to czar; and now stage 3 sees Putin morph into a Chavez-like figure where the chief piranha now turns on the plutocrats–a sad return to Soviet-era logic on economic control.Will it work economically? God no, as The Economist points out. Putin will survive for quite a while, as oil inches back up, but in terms of demographics and innovation and an economy beyond natural resources, Russia will become a bigger but less interesting version of Kazakhstan. Actually, Kazakhstan is starting to look a lot better.

via Wither Russia? Back to its historical comfort zone Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog.

To anyone reading this blog, this is old news.

Russia: neither powerful nor important

I agree with Tom on this:

Russia, as I pointed out in the last column, simply isn’t that powerful or important.

via No es problemo with Russia (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog).

This is the line I’ve been advocating since August. Of course, the purpose of the spin is still the same – support Gazprom’s interests — but at least there is less Cold War thinking here than before.

Interesting Take on Russia

Certainly, this piece is more balanced than the self-contradictory Cold War thinking we got during the Georgia War.

Much of the advice comes down to just trust Gazprom. Should we provide security for pro-European states in Europe? Not if we can trust Gazprom instead. Should we try prevent more energy cut-offs when democracies anger Putin? Not if we can trust Gazprom instead.

The take on Russia is a bit deceptive — it sounds so much more reasonable than the hysterics we got last August I want to agree with it, but ultimately cannot. The piece is to transparently the work of an employee for an energy services provider on behalf of another large energy company.

It’s hard to give up on a once promising analyst, but over the last few years the feeling of reading press releases has grown stronger and stronger.

Tom is on Fire with Iran posts

No complaints here. All are worth reading.

I especially liked Tom’s comparison of the 2009 Islamic Republic with the 1820 United States.

The combination of speed and depth afforded by blogs is one reason that is beets Twitter as a serious commentary source.

Guess not

It seems the analysis, pushed by Tom Barnett and others, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been building a powerbase separate from and hostile to the mullahs is incorrect. Indeed, Iran’s Supreme Leader appears to be Ahmadinejad’s only visible ally at this time.

This follows on the prediction that the dismissal of Admiral Fox Fallen signaled an inevitable Bush-Cheney airstrike on Iran.

However, I still think there is hope for the earlier prediction that the mullahs will not be ruling Iran in 2020 the way they were in 2001.

The common theme here? I think analysis done in the absence of corporate entanglements is sturdier than analysis done with them. While the military-industrial-complex may keep our posture overall on an even keel, the benefits on an individual level are more monetary than intellectual.