Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Path as Slippery as One Sixty Years Ago

North Korean shell landing on Yeonpyeong Island

Marines at Chosin, November 1950

Thanksgiving week gave us pause to consider events that first rose up sixty years ago this past week to remind us of another war without end. The Korean Conflict as it is formally known, but at the time a major war for those involved began in earnest when The Chinese intervened on the side of North Korea and drove the United Nations forces back from the Yalu River. One post over at The Small Wars Journal reminds us of that time, 60 Years ago: Task Force Kingston.

 The North Koreans in their shelling of Yeonpyeong island has picked away the scab that has festered without end for sixty years. There has been much written and the MSM has in their news cycle lust, done what it could to stir the pot and keep the world on edge. I for one will look to cooler heads to try and keep the pot from boiling over. What can be done to defuse this issue and try and place other hot spots on a side track so that the main express train of global trade and peaceful cooperation can move the planet ahead to face the truly daunting tasks of climate change, food shortages, and the friction that comes from those areas where human progress remains locked in a time warp of chauvinistic ways.

Turning to get an update on the response that President Obama ordered, is this review by Galhran of Information Dissemination who lends an unvarnished eye to report the facts sans the politics of the right or left. We begin with this post where Galhran sees the President channeling the type of diplomacy we have used in the past when the level of response needs to fall short of going kinetic.
The President of the United States, no matter who it is, never gets to make easy choices in foreign policy. The recent clash between North and South Korea presents nothing but very tough choices. While the Army is fighting two wars on land, the Navy is being called to the northwest Pacific ocean to keep the peace. Naval power has been doing exactly this for nations going back thousands of years, but that doesn't make the task any easier this time.

First, let me state up front that I am concerned things are more serious than our nations political leaders want to admit. We may be on the brink of renewed hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, but neither the administration nor the media are projecting that level of concern. That is likely part of the political calculation that came with the decision for this specific action, but not warning the public of the gravity of the situation may not have been a good decision. Likely driven by a down economy and with the intent not to spook the market, it seems pretty clear to me the administration is attempting to portrait a mood of calm in this situation. That is probably wise, but if things do not go as planned over the next week or so the result will be a political catastrophe for the United States.
Read more:
The President Responds with Modern Gunboat Diplomacy

And this addition.
The Latest Events on the Korean Peninsula

Galhran is well within his view to see the situation more serious than the national leadership wants to admit. This post from the United States Naval Institute blog echos those fears.

The words today from China regarding North Korea’s act of war should come as a surprise to nobody.  Anyone watching with an objective eye could see the direction in which appeals for condemnation from The People’s Republic of China were heading.
Sure, there was some speculation on the “delicate” position China was put in by North Korea’s actions.   How North Korea threatened “regional stability” and “economic prosperity”, both of which were China’s REAL interests.  How China could not “read the Pyongyang tea leaves”, and was as in the dark as the West regarding Kim Jong-Il’s intentions, or that of his designated successor, Kim Jong -Un. How the threat of “masses of North Korean refugees” streaming across the North Korea-China border would spur China to action.
Believe none of it.
Red China is a master of power politics, a game most of the West, America included, seems not only to have lost any taste for, but of late all but refuses to admit exists in the international realm.  President Obama yesterday used strong words to condemn the actions of the North Koreans, and pledged US support for South Korea against any aggression from the North.  He also appealed strongly to China to keep their renegade neighbors to the south reigned in.  So far, as in each and every other instance of the last decade, including the sinking of a ROK Navy frigate this past Spring (with the loss of 46 sailors), China’s response has not substantively altered.  Once again, intransigence regarding their North Korean allies.
Read more:
Red China The Master Behind the Curtain of the Hermit Kingdom

Much of this is true, but China instead of being interested in turning the globe into a communist "We are the World," could be better viewed as a nation now bent on beating the rest of the world at it's own game of capitalism, by using the same formula that we used to jump start our own 19th century move from an agrarian society to an industrial and consumer oriented society. The model was used several times in the past half century to bring Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea to be economic powers and see their citizens gain middle class status before becoming multi-party majority democracies. There are voices in China that want to teach the world a lesson for the century of humiliation that preceded the revolution of 1949. And then there are those who realize that the path to global domination is strewn with the bones of fallen empires who tried to bludgeon their way to the top, and view cooperation as the best way to co-exist and prosper. I was drawn to an article at Yale Global Online where Kishore Mahbubani makes an analogy about today's world that makes sense if you take the time to consider it.
The world has changed fundamentally. Humanity hasn’t. Or, to put it more accurately, humanity has not changed its organizing principles to deal with a changed world. A simple metaphor demonstrates how fundamentally our world has changed. Before the contemporary era of rapid globalization, when humanity lived in 192 separate countries, it was like living in 192 separate boats. Hence, all the world needed was rules to prevent collisions. The 1945 rules-based order did just this, while also allowing for some cooperation. Today, as a result of a shrunken world, humanity no longer lives on 192 separate boats. Instead, all 7 billion of us live in 192 separate cabins on the same boat.
And though we live on the same boat, we have no captain or crew to manage the boat.
None of us would dream of sailing out to sea on a boat without captain or crew. Yet, this is precisely what humanity is doing with Earth as we sail into the 21st century. Global problems require coordinated global actions to solve them: from financial crises to global warming, from pandemics to global terrorism. Yet, despite this, we shy from creating institutions and processes of global governance. Note, global governance is not global government. Despite this crucial distinction, no national government dares to espouse greater global governance.
If a boat catches fire on the high seas, it’s sheer folly to lock ourselves inside our cabins to protect ourselves. We must step out of our cabins, cooperate with other passengers from other cabins and extinguish the fire. And we did do this once recently. At the height of the recent global financial crisis, the G-20 leaders stepped out of their cabins, and at the April 2009 G-20 meeting in London delivered a strong coordinated response, quelling the financial fires about to engulf the global boat.

Read more:
The World Adrift, Nations Skirmish

And in the same vein, is this companion post about China confronting the world after finding economic success.

Can China Afford to Confront the World?

In a few days author grand strategist and blog friend Thomas PM Barnett will be traveling to China where he will team up with The Center for America China Partnership, to meet with Chinese government and business leaders to explore what Barnett and his Chinese counterparts have described as:
 A new  package of arrangements in a new China-U.S. grand strategy implementing essential bilateral and multilateral breakthroughs, which current policies, proposals and ad hoc arrangements cannot create
Read more:
New China-U.S. Grand Strategy Proposal

Fellow blog friend Mark at Zenpundit weighed in with these thoughtful comments.
Tom Barnett’s Communique to the Barbarians

Before everyone starts choosing sides and sharpening the swords of national self-interest, I would like all to take a look at a series of slides that Barnett posted, that one commenter noted was in the vein of KISS.
The analysis and presentation has that smack of "simplicity" that I "felt" in The Pentagons New Map. If an average educated person can get it, maybe elite political thinkers can too.
I think the message lays out each sides view of the other, that with Tom's permission, I will re-post them below. Read them over and look for simple truth.

Background Slides re: Grand Bargin Proposal

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