Tag Archives: geopolitics

The Future of Power

I think many conflicting, and seemingly incompatible phenomenon can exist – can be true – at the same time. I just read a book that reveals that nominal paradox in great detail. “The world is neither unipolar, multipolar, nor chaotic – it is all three at the same time,” ends the highly compelling The Future of Power.

The Future of Power by Joseph S. Nye, Distinguished Professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, is quite encompassing and packs a punch that is more than it’s relatively short page length (234 pages). This book is an ambitious work. Dissecting the power zeitgeist in a hyper-globalized world is not an easy task. In particular, Nye examines America’s stature and role in the world. In examining the future of power relations between, within, and among states, NGOS, and individuals, Nye paints a complicated and complex picture.

Power is transitioning away from the U.S. but it is not going to one other country or entity; and it certainly isn’t transitioning away rapidly at all. No one country will be more economically powerful than the U.S. for the next 25 years. Further: the next leading power is the EU which is comprised of 28, or so, allies. The U.S. is going to be fine, especially if the U.S. “rediscover[s] how to be a smart power.” What is smart power?

Smart Power

Nye defines and redefines and references many international relations (IR) terms such as hegemony; soft power; and realism. He coins – or effectively brings to the market of ideas at the very least – a new term for power-measuring in the twenty-first century: smart power. Smart power is “liberal realism.” Smart power, for the U.S., is the “understanding of the strength and limits of American power.” Moreover: The U.S. should “develop an integrated grand strategy that combine[s] hard power with soft attractive power.” Finally, we should lead by example and “encourage liberal democracy and human rights at home and abroad where feasible at reasonable levels of cost,” that also “encourage[s] the gradual evolution of democracy but in a manner that accepts the reality of diversity.” Got it?

Nye likened the state of power relations to a 3D chess game. Dimension 1: Interstate military power is highly concentrated in the U.S. Dimension 2: Interstate economic power “is distributed in a multipolar manner among the U.S., the EU, Japan, and the BRICs.” Finally, Dimension 3: “Issues power such as climatic, terror, and pandemics is “highly diffused.”

According to the State Department, smart power is “the intelligent integration and networking of diplomacy, defense, development, and other tools of so-called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power.”

Nye does a great job of highlighting real examples and evidence of arbitrary and circular understandings or ideas. Nye also gives examples of how the world stage is also comprised of other actors, such as corporations and individuals, that now wield power.

Can smaller states utilize smart power?
Look at Singapore engaging in “active sponsorship of diplomatic activities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),” while also becoming a regional military power.

An example of a non-government individual of having and using soft power? Nye’s example: In 2007, film producer Steven Spielberg, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, “sent an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao to use its influence to push Sudan to accept a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.” It worked when “years of diplomacy could not.” Spielberg recognized the position China was in, and succeeded in his attempt at persuasion. That is soft power in an individual.

I think the best part of the book is just how much importance Nye allows to the Information Revolution. I certainly agree with this. Globalization is an information-based creation. A major reason we are seeing this power diffusion is the Internet. A tension exists between privacy and security; and there is a really good chapter regarding the cyberworld contained within this book.

We are just now really beginning to understand the battle we are in regarding the cyber realm. The Internet is Real.

Compare/Contrast – Moon & Sun:

In 2010, one poll found that 61% of poll respondents thought the country was in decline and only 19% trusted the government. …Over the past few decades, public confidence has dropped in half for major institutions.” [Nye Jr., 2011]

Meanwhile…

75% of Americans feel connected to their communities and say the quality of life there is excellent or good. According to a Pew poll, 111 million Americans say they volunteer their time to solve problems in their communities in the previous 12 months, and 60 million volunteered on a regular basis. 40 % said working together with others in their community was the most important thing they could do.” [Nye Jr., 2011]

Conclusion

Nye’s conclusion is an slightly optimistic one for us: “The United States is unlikely to decay like ancient Rome or even to be surpassed by another state, including China.” He continues: This is “not a narrative of decline.” Power is always shifting and evolving (and devolving, perhaps?) and American hegemony may be a thing of the past. Power transition is happening but not as rapid or in one direction as many argue. Perhaps China will be the next Soviet or Japan: the supposed next great power that settles for regional dominance.

As a careful analyst as he is, he knows the future is not predetermined: “There are a range of possible futures, not one.”

Americans might think that America is entering an era of decay but America is still quite the world power; just not quite as powerful as in the past, that is all. I must say that this book holds up remarkable well for being 5 years old. The U.S. dollar is still king. Check out the great Milton Ezrati on the primacy of the economic power of the U.S. in The National Interest. The U.S. dollar “is by far the world’s most traded currency, involved in 87 percent of all global currency exchanges, up from 85 percent in 2010,” in 2015 he writes. “For now the dollar remains supreme, ” exclaims the economist. America is the strongest individual country in the world.

Nye’s book is a must read for students of international affairs; in particular, for those interested in America’s role in the world; for those interested in China’s rise; and last but not least, those interesting in theory. You can’t understand the world, unless you understand power in all of its multifaceted faces.

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France, Europe, and the Future

Some thoughts on #Paris and its implications for the world.

The worst has yet to come, says political analysts and spokesmen for ISIS alike. You can count on the fact that this is true.

The Schengen Agreement in Europe is in jeopardy; reading the words of European leaders after last night’s Paris attack, and you clearly get the feeling that this will be a turning point for geopolitics. Many of our borders will likely become more militarized. War is in the air. “France will be merciless towards these barbarians from ISIL,” remarked French President Hollande last night. Echos of George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11/2001. Orban and Hungary have already acted draconian and nationalistic regarding refugees and this event will surely rally more support for policies based on fear, worst possible outcomes, and xenophobia and intolerance. [Just look at how quickly U.S. politicians, on Twitter, used this event for domestic political purposes.] Now with reports that one of the commandos was from Syria and did migrate recently, expect horribleness all around. With so many places destabilized and on the brink of failing, such as Libya and Syria, there is now an even bigger incentive to make sure that Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, for example, do not become weakened. This means realpolitik and the stifling of any dissent: expect the U.S. to supply Saudi Arabia and Egypt with all of the weapons, intel, and support they need because the alternatives are unthinkable. In fact, if Saudi Arabia starts seeing signs of civil war, then we can start being scared about World War III. I’m serious: you do not want that country to have a power vacuum.

Political scientist Benjamin Barber wrote a prescient and gloomy book called Jihad vs McWorld released just prior to 9/11 actually, that rings in my mind after a night like last night. As observers have pointed out, these attackers targeted dense population cities rimmed with 21st century highlights and activities – globalized and cosmopolitan. There is a war against modernity and ISIS is proud of that war. France will remain a key target; especially factoring in Frances’ involvement in Mali, recently, and historically as a colonizing force as well. Jihad experts expect Italy to also be a likely target in the near future. Many people see ISIS as a new phenomenon when it’s been in the making for a long time. There is a war on modernity and its adherents are True Believers who welcome the apocalypse. (This is also a war on women; other Muslims; children; the West; each other; sex; lust; humanity; etc.)

This will likely go down as “the 9/11 of France” which has all kinds of implications. Observers thought the Charlie Hebdo attacks would be the spark that changed France; it was only the beginning. This time it feels different because…it is. One thing is certain: this event will have a geopolitical impact in a time of overwhelming crisis and in a time when leadership is desperately needed. Our institutions are not suited and built for the challenges of the 21st century. Until they are, expect chaos, anarchy, and contingent actions without strategy. Fear changes people, countries, and policies, to be sure. The War on Terror has entered a dangerous and potentially catastrophic period. Keep to this space for more frequent updates, analysis, and insights from someone who reads way to much about all of this for his own good. I’ll be more frequent – perhaps weekly – with these updates to flesh out what I have said here and to illuminate the bigger picture for folks who don’t stay abreast in all things national security and war.

US-Pakistan: Magnificent Delusions: Part 1

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, The United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding
by Husain Haggani. PublicAffairs. 413 pp.
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Learning about geopolitics, international affairs, and U.S. – and other countries – foreign policy has had a dramatic impact on how I think about politics; policy; propaganda; history; human beings; democracy; war; and so forth. The Pakistani-U.S relationship is one that I am drawn to particularly. It also has been one of the prime examples of what I just described because this relationship reveals so much. Learning about Pakistan-U.S. relations has colored how I think about 21st century life; and not just in strictly the political realm.

Former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, released Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding in 2013. There is a quote from Aesop’s Fables that begins the book that is worth reprinting here too because it distills this dynamic in a colorful way:

A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him. Aesop, Aesop’s Fables.

As with many U.S. contemporary relationships, the US-Pakistan relationship is one that developed during the Cold War; oh yes, the time period of the Bay of Pigs; Iran-Contra; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the failed coup in Chile, then the successful coup in Chile in 1973, for example. Another common theme: “The United States initially poured money and arms into Pakistan in the hope of building a major fighting force that could assist in defending Asia against communism,” writes Haqqani. Pakistan has also assisted the U.S. in its “war against terrorism” since 2001; albeit in a “half-hearted” way. The author, and former political prisoner of the Sharif government (1997-1999), writes that “radical Islam, Pakistan’s military, and US-Pakistan relations” have thoroughly transformed Pakistan’s trajectory. US-Pakistan are allies but “not friends” and he says both countries have divergent and separate interests. Also: This relationship “is a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises, and disastrous misunderstandings.”

The Nation-State of Pakistan is Only 70 Years Old: From 1947-onward
I intend to focus on the 21st century in my studies but Haqqani provides interesting details about the creation – a partition of British India into a Hindu state and a Muslim state – and evolution of the state of Pakistan. After the Indian partition of 1947, the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent were divided into thirds with one-third remaining in India; another third becoming Pakistan; and the last third which would eventually live in what is now Bangladesh, created in 1971. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, “expect[ed]” that the US would “build its economy and military in return for Pakistan mobilizing Muslim nations against the Soviet Union.” After WWII, American officials supported Indian independence from Britain but thought that dividing the subcontinent more by separating the Muslims and Hindus “opened the doors for perennial conflict.” American had no appetite for “conjuring a new Asian country based on religion,” observed historian Stanley Wolpert, writes Haqqani. Jinnah was persistent and he didn’t trust that 100 million Muslims would be adequately protected in India. “The original demand was for multiple independent state of Muslim-majority provinces of India,” reveals Haqqani.

Although Jinnah envisioned  a separate state for Muslims in South East Asia, including in his vision was a secular state: “In course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, in the political sense as citizens of the State,” he said in a speech. However, after Jinnah’s death in September 1948 from tuberculosis, in a reprint of this speech “the government republished [it] but excised” the aforementioned part of his secular state dreams. The Muslim populace now had dreams of their own for this state, for this state to be an Islamic one.

Partition was rough. Unlike what became India, Pakistan had no institutional infrastructure and “virtually no industry.” Pakistan received 30% of British India’s army, 40% of its navy, and 20% of its air force. Borders were not drawn in a way that Pakistan found fair. This led to war and conflict; conflict that – to this day – has been basically permanent. This also led to the orientation of the military as the dominant political player in Pakistan. A superpower ally was needed. Who would come to the rescue? Jinnah believed it would be England but he also had admiration for the United States.

Two Remain
Post-WWII saw two super powers emerge: the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Washington did not want to alienate India and they also were occupied with reconstruction and containing Soviet expansion. Jinnah made statements that made it clear he preferred U.S. aid and allyship; he had unkind words for communism and went on a charm offensive, sending envoys to the U.S. Pakistan sought a $2 billion loan for refugee help; the U.S. ended only providing 0.5% percent of that. Moreover, Pakistan also had a huge list of military needs. President Harry Truman was not taking the bait and an informal arms embargo, to both India and Pakistan, was enacted.

Internal Divide
Liberals in Pakistan wanted to shrink the military and hoped for industrial and technical help from Eastern Europe; leftists in Pakistan were skeptical of relying too much on the U.S. as it could “lead to ‘economic subjugation’ and ‘political tutelage to America’.” Government elites in Pakistan petitioned America for help in every imaginable way. There was even a campaign of fear, in a sense, designed to push Washington in the Pakistani direction. Therefore, U.S. diplomats were eager to listen. Fears of anti-Americanism due to its perceived support of Israel and of a “single remark in a news report” interpreted as American misunderstanding of what Pakistan was trying to create has precipitated “many US clarifications, explanations, and apologies,” that are continuing to this day. America early on was worried about increased fanaticism following the death of the founder. Succinctly put by Haqqni: “Pakistani public opinion was being shaped against the United States long before US foreign policy provided Pakistanis a reason for anti-Americanism.” The US felt, and it seemed to be true, more or less, that Pakistani elites leaned toward “the West” while leftists and populist movements “still considered western nations imperialistic.”

Quid pro Quo
Pakistan insisted to the Americans that they would seek the help of the Russians. One problem: the Soviet Union wasn’t all that interested. However, eventually through an Iranian mediator, Pakistan and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations. The US was also playing with different decks of cards. Publically, US officials made it clear that Pakistan was important. Simultaneously, a State Department memo to the White House argued that, perhaps, the most valuable asset of Pakistan is one of a parking lot for US aircraft. The memo warned to keep this on the down low “since it negates our oft-expressed interest in helping the region for economic reasons.” Remember: this was the beginnings of the Cold War where any- and everything goes.

New Delhi and Karachi met – a year apart – for meetings with US leaders. Pakistani media painted Liaquat’s, who would be the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, visit in nationalistic ways; Liaquat was there for business and fighting for arms, for ex., to bolster Pakistani integrity and security. The media painted him as an emerging nationalistic hero. Locals didn’t know that Liaquat drinked liked Westernerss – drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam. I learened from reading this excellent book that Liaquat promised to have no military at all if they could rely on American protection. This is huge. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was not about to make that promise. The Korean War was beginning and Pakistan promised support if, again, America would make a “unlimited” promise to them. America could not do this and insisted that they didn’t need Pakistani help. Besides, the U.S. argued, Pakistan should help under the responsibility of the UN Charter anyways. In the end, the U.S. did have the upper hand here and was not going to alienate India or Afghanistan. The Truman Adiminstration said that Washington was not “pro-Indian, pro-Israel nor anti-Muslim.” This is realpolitik, folks.

In the end of this beginning era of geopolitics that we now understand as the Cold War, the US State Department was finding India difficult to work with. Moreover, in 1951 Liaquat was assassinated by a local who found him un-Islamic. Liaquat was seen as the successor of Jinnah. Now: the future of Pakistan was in the air; with no charismatic leader emerging, things were about to get even messier.

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This was a review/summary of the beginnings of the historic creation of Pakistan and the partition of the Indian-Pakistani subcontinent parts of Magnificent Delusions. The years discussed were 1947-1951. Part 2 is now published. *If you see any mistakes, typos, plagiarism, etc., let me know. I’m writing this simply for self-understanding.*