Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Freedom: It may be given, but much more is needed

Saudi Arabia had quite a bit of wealth in the 1970s. They squandered it through poor management.

You can have alot of something and not really know what else is required to ensure things continue advancing.

So too is Iraq in this predicament. Not that having too much freedom is a problem.

Iraq isn't free. It's still occupied.

Iraq's real problem is that there is no plan of "what do we do now".

The US can't even get funds allocated for relief and rebuilding. It's all fine and good to argue over whethere someone was for or against funding. If there's no plan to actually use that money [as currently is the case], whether funds are available, approved, or in waiting is irrelevant.

President Kerry did the right thing. He voted as Senator to "not approve" the funds for reconstruction as there was no credible plan.

Today Iraq suffers in that there is not plan to ensure that the fruits of freedom are actually allowed to germinate; nor are the necessary "other things" [corporate governance, planning] that Saudi Arabia proved wanting evident in Iraq.

Iraq has been given something that cannot manage, nor does it have the requistite physical and systemic infrastructure in place to adequately manage either freedom or the necessary "other things" to advance a standard of living.

Iraq's immediate problem is that the economy is growing far slower than it's population growth rate precipitating the rapid fall in income, wages and wealth.

If this country truly wanted to "bring Iraq into the 21st Century" we'd ensure the plans were in place to "effectively manage that freedom." Yet, we need not be surprised why this "needed plan" [as was the post-invasion plan] no where to be seen.

The same "leadership" in the White House continues to ignore the advisors and feedabck that plans are needed. One may not credibly stand before either the Congress or the American people and say, "We've done the right thing" by simply pointing to appropriation bills.

There need to be specific plans. Something the current failed leadership avoids, and something the iraqis are ill-equipped to develop on their own.

Senator Kennedy got it right. The invasion and occuption of Iraq have precipitated the very terrorism we might have hoped to fight in Afghanistan.

Yet, to be fair to the Iraqis, they are not terrorists. They are entitled under International law to oppose, fight, and engage in combat operations against invaders.

The United States is giving only the name of freedom. It has not brought what General Marshall brought to Europe in the post WWII era.

A plan.

Thus, when I read, "When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization..." I'm not persuaded.

The leadership knows "what is required and what the goals are," but its execution of these plans is abysmal.

Further, the underlying premise of Barnett's book is that those who are not adequately connected are more likely to engage in unfavorable behavior.

This misses several points. First, if one were adequately connected [putting the defintion of "connected" aside], we are not necessarily more or less inclined to engage in adverse behavior.

Rather, using the Saudi model, we could argue that the very "lines of connection" [through the flow of capital, via oil revenues] has been the very crutch to avoid adequate planning.

Second, in those cases where there is a connection to the capital market, one is not necessarily more secure. Asia showed us in the 1996-8 timeframe that capital flows can severely undermine economies. When the financial crisis precipitates social instaiblity, we are no longer able to argue that "eliminating the disconnectedness" will necessarily eliminate social instaiblity or military threats.

Rather, it is the connection to capital markets without adequatley management that may precipitate a financial crisis. Moreover, being connected doesn't insualate these countries from problems; nor does it ensure the US is not affected by military instaiblity in these so-connected regions.

Indeed, it is the very connectedness to capital flows and poor mangement of those flows that may precipitat long-term social disparity, and thereby increase social instaiblity; these are conditions at odds with Barnett's hypothesis.

We've seen the results in Saudi Arabia: High connectedness in terms of capital flows, but poor management of the capital in terms of investment, sustainable growth, and social progress as measured by a rising wage. Simplisticly, Saudi Arabia, because its economic growth rates are far lower that its population growth rates, has a net reduction in income per capita.

Barnett's premise is founded on the notion that "what should be possible is possible because it is possible," without regard to the financial costs. Indeed, the US won the Cold War because many were with us; yet, it remains unclear how a "self-evident good outcome" could possibly be achieved when the United States is so good at alienationg nations who might otherwise rally to our cause.

Self-evidently good outcomes are at risk when the means to achieve those desirable outcomes are at odds with the principles we routinely ignore at home: Self dignity, respect for civil rights, and meaningful compliance with statutes.

The author argues that disconnected is bad; yet what option do nations have when the primary "stick weilder" compels connection to that which is antithetical to freedom to choose one's own destiny. The United States is winning few points when its notion of "connectedness in Iraq" is to impose a democracy, assign leadership roles, and continue to occupy a nation whose residents increasinly look at the US not just as an occupier, but a bonafide enemy to rout.

The perpetual war can only be sustained so long as there is the commitment to rally the resources and personnel to that end. The current troop deployments in 2004 have exhausted all reserves; should the United States seek to further expand the "level of connectedness through wars of liberation," this can only be accomplished through a draft. These have become wars by choice, not of necessity; and we choose these fights and rapidly deplete our resources not out of national survival, but because we choose to do so. Yet, the cost is high, putting the US budget surplus at risk.

The theory of national wars of liberation are fine, but when there is a high price and poor plan to implement that vision, we do not realize the "expected benefits of connectedness," and do more to create cynicism to the United States' vision.

Take note of those comments with "less than 5-stars -- they provide some excellent cautionary notes.

Thoughts in light of the reader's comments

If economic relationships are more important in the "interconnectedness-schema", why must the US rely on military power to achieve these ends; why are the military plans in place to achieve these goals at odds with reql requirements; and why are the economic-related-outcomes not higher on the list "actual tangible results" we see in Iraq? If we credibly are going to apply the "economic goal of connecteness in Iraq" to achieve the objectives of peace and stability, one would have planned to employ Iraqis, not simply hire outside contractors who will spend little money in Iraq.

The gap is only one way to look at the problem; indeed, "what the problem is" is in intself unclear. [I grant myself license to ask everyone to "appeal to ignoreance and uncertainty" as the basis to conclude "there are other views"; what those are, I have yet to write. Patience.]

Also need to consider the logistics tail of supporting this ever-expanding world of military-economic relationships. It's far more complicated than a simple dollars here and there; the deeper we drive into these countries, the more costly those operations occur. Napoleon and Hitler relearned the hardway when they drove deep into a continent, as Barnett would, by default, have us do when economic relationships fail despite the connectendess. The Roman Empire was defeated by a few elephants.

The current notion of "economic security" in Afghanistan is to let the Afghanis run heroine; we are achieving security goals, all the while allowing the "bad aspects of the gap" to spread. End-means are not only at odds, but we're engaging in adverse behavior and doing nothing about the adverse results.

Arguing from unproven presmises got the United States involved in Iraq in the first place. Finding new reasons to fight wars doesn't bring peace, but simply creates new excuses to do what would otherwise not be supportable. The United States took a similar approach to the American Indian; Hitler derived his "model reservation" from the US-British approach to the Native Americans.

The author's premise-argument-conclusions suffer from many faulty-logic-errors; rather than crediby argue based on ideas, he's using volume. [My volume is related to my failure to edit repetitive ideas, and organize arguments from high to lower priority; and to stop writing after the ponits been made. No can has too many dents that it cannot be kicked.]

Combining military and econmmic objectives under one umbrella is fascism. The soldiers of the Cold War look for excuses to be a bully, and attract government contracts.

Barnett has yet to explain how this plan can be implemented in a manner consistent with the military's oath of office: To protect the constitution. This perma-war isn't protecting anything, it's imposing it. What one believes is not the same as what one is actually doing. One's moral foundation is not secured by the grandness of ideas; the end does not justify the means.

Barnett's background is military-theory; he doesn't know anything about the 1996-8 financial crisis, nor the social instaibility associated with financial collapses. The very economic solutions to "close the gap" can be overdone and precipitate the very conditions we hope to avert.

Why should we pay for things other nations do not want?

"Disconnected from the core means they're dangerous" -- dangerous to whom; would the US not be similarly labled as "disconnected" by other nations? [Cultural relativism; thereby fueling hatred of principles not practiced at home]

From the perspective of "the people in the gap," the United States and Israel are exporting violence as well; it is not simply the "the gap" that is exporting violence to the West. The argument isn't founded on the idea of "what must be done," but "which side [the Core or the Gap] who can rally the most to beleive that their export of violence is to be backed over the other.

Envisioning a plan is just a start; need a plan that actually implements that vision. We have great ideas, but the methods are at odds with our principles.

There is another option besides "choosing bwteen gap or core" -- that option is to take oneself out of the debate.

Found this quote, "An optimistic belief in the future is quite frightening for most people." Ref and thought, "Hitler said the same thing; and people had a valid reason to be concerned." Bold visions deserve debate, especially when the concerns are dismissed so quickly, as did the White House lawyers in re the laws of war at the detention centers in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib.

Having bold ideas does not insualte one from debate; nor do the valid concerns nor the "presence of concerns and critique" prove the points; the author simply relies on "the opposition of history" to justify belief in a theory that is at odds with isolationism. We may have resources, but will we use them for ourselves, or squander them? We are squandering them.

BARNETT article.

May 2004 revisit -- has Iraq been explained, or is the book explaining away Iraq?

Others who dared challenge the merits of the Iraq war continue to challenge the books assertions.