Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thomas Barnett on the U.S. and China--Again

This was too good to pass up. Let me provide my executive summary of his key points (i.e., points that I find persuasive):
1. We act in a passive-aggressive manner toward China and many nations. Get off it.
2. We have over-lapping interests with the Chinese, and, Oh, yea!, the rest of the world. We have to work those. As someone who deals with negotiations and conflicting interests on a regular basis, this is elementary. The problem, of course, is the audience (client, voters), but you have to get on with it. It's called leadership.
3. We have to accept some "satisfycing" (Herbert Simon). This is, we have to except less than perfect outcomes. That's life as we know it. The enemy of the good is the best (or something like that).
4. The idea at this time of a nuke-free world, as attractive as it is as a thought, probably is nutty. We need to move to a nuclear-limited world. (See my prior entry for some sanity on that topic.)
5. Real politics rarely involves "consensus building", but it certainly involves deal-making. Sometimes you have to make deals with the devil (e.g., FDR & Churchill dealt with Stalin to defeat Hitler; Clinton cut deals with Newt Gingrich).
6. Strategic thinking involves a lot more than thinking about war. Indeed, I suggest that it's all about energy. Not just oil, but money (fungible energy) and attention (human energy), but that's a whole different post.

Anyway, I think that Barnett has made some very important points here.

Walt: Too Secure? A Message to the Senate

I may just send this link to my U.S. senators, especially Senator Grassley, whom I fear may be playing the anything-to-defeat-Obama tune that many, if not most, Senate Republicans seem willing to play. How sad!

The Republican attitude here gives us an understanding of what "playing politics" means. First, it means trying to gain electoral advantage and ignoring the real work of political decision-making. Because most voters can be fooled by posturing, or really believe in the posture taken, Republicans can claim the need for a "strong defense", when in fact, as Walt argues, it goes the other way. Second, the "playing" in "playing politics" demonstrates a childishness in the actions taken. Of course, both sides do it on occasion, but we expect--or should expect--most to rise above it.* I don't have a problem with genuine differences of opinion and perception, but many instances we're seeing either intentional cynincism or group delusion at work.

*Play can be a good thing for adults, I should add. I play--volleyball, basketball, etc.--all the time. I go to "plays", but this is different.)