Sunday, November 29, 2009

Draining the Swamp of Pristine Poverty

Chinese Armed Police

One of the rituals of Sundays past for many Americans was to settle in to a comfortable chair and digest the Sunday paper. Today, that role for me has been eclipsed by the internet where countless news links vie for attention. Usually I begin checking my blogroll, much like a trapper checks his trap line for the latest catch. My first stop today was Tom Barnett's blog where he offers this logic as to why we cannot continue along the path of being both the policeman and the social worker to the world without help.

Barnett begins:

Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant.

So the math is easy: 40k troops for Afghanistan equals $40B.
This number has been around for a while, and I should have used it in all my books to make the point plain: We can play Leviathan given our force structure, but we are inherently limited by the same regarding the follow-on SysAdmin stuff, hence my oft-stated line that "America writes checks with its Leviathan that it can't possibly cash with its SysAdmin forces."
Tom's logic is spot-on, either we expand our tent to include those who have a vested interest or we will eventually retract our efforts until the next horrific incident prompts us to over react like a wounded bear.

Read more: The basic reality of America's limits to do the SysAdmin work

As I read Barnett's post, I was reminded of an article I read in the English language edition of China Daily during my recent visit to China. It was an opinion piece by David Shambaugh, a visiting Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics & Politics on leave from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Shambaugh echoes much of what Tom Barnett has advocated for years that now is the time to enlist China in addressing mutual security matters. Here is a taste of where he sees opportunity for cooperation between China and the United States.

At present, two potential new areas of cooperation are Afghanistan and western Pacific maritime security. The first will require adjustments in thinking in Beijing, while the second will need adjustments in Washington and Tokyo.
China could provide a great deal of useful security, aid, and other humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan - if it decided to and Washington and its NATO partners welcomed it. To date, Washington has not asked and Beijing has been reticent to contribute. But China could allow the People's Armed Police (Wujing) to help train Afghan police (a pressing need), and the People's Liberation Army could perhaps even participate in the multinational military operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaida (also China's enemies).
(my inclusion of link)
Shambaugh's piece was written prior to Obama's visit to China, whether that visit produces the results that both Tom Barnett and David Shambaugh envision, remain to be seen.

Read more: What more can China do to boost ties?

As our new strategy is finally rolled out this week amid the timid behavior of our current allies who have either cut and run or are readying their excuses,resignations-over-kunduz-airstrike. Continuing down the same path will eventually exhaust the patience of the American public. The time is ripe to enlist those who have a vested interest in draining the poverty swamp of creatures that Tom Barnett describes as; "1) the dictators that must maintain it to maintain their power; and 2) the fundamentalists who must detach from this "evil" assimilation process that liberates women, "ruins" kids, and gives people all sorts of "dangerous" ideas."

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