Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Of History and Counterinsurgency

Nothing much has been going on as of late (even the Onion seems to agree). More of the same has been coming from: Iraq's challenged security situation; the troubles with Iran; the costs of China's growth; the continuity with Kadima in Israel; Russia's increasing bad boy behavior and the tepid US response; Republican weakness and Democrat ineptitude; generalized Euro-sclerosis (the moldy Lisbon agenda and 70ish pipedreams in France); and finally as mentioned here back in december: Denmark's anti-terror laws as proxy for the carelessness with which the Western democracies adminstrate their hard-gained freedoms. Unless they get nukes or bioweapons, the terrorists can kill only in the hundreds, maybe thousands: this, horrific as it is and will be when the next attack comes, will not destroy our way of life. Only our own reactions to it can. But that is an aside: Iraq is still the place where most is at stake.

The discomforting signs emanating from the rubbles of the Golden Mosque were accompagnied by some rather different signals, which together serves to underscore not only some of the practical challenges ahead, but also the conditions for thinking about them and politics in general. The Washington Post published a fine column by the ubiquituous Michael O'Hanlon on "How to Stop a Civil War" while columnist David Ignatius had gone down there and come to some tentatively different conclusions about "Fighting Smarter in Iraq".

O'Hanlon wants to use the coalition forces much more actively in order to quell the violence: This would be a change in policy from the last year and a half where the foreign troops have increasingly been disengaged and withdrawn to barracks. Ignatius is cautiously optimistic when it comes to the general ability of the local Iraqi forces and especially their likelihood of sticking with the state rather than the factions. As already mentioned, the degree of factionality of the local forces is probably the single most important factor in the equation. Another element is the coalition forces' ability to truly learn counter-insurgency: Ignatius quotes one Colonel's whose step up in reflexivity...

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," [Col.] Pasquarette says of the new rules of counterinsurgency. "In the old days, it was black and white -- see a guy and shoot him. But counterinsurgency is a thinking man's sport. Every decision you make, you have to step back and say, 'What's the next thing that's going to happen?' " He says he drills his troops to remember the "three P's" of the new Iraqi battlefield: "be polite, be professional, be prepared to kill."

...had better be matched by something fundamentally more far-reaching in terms of effetcs-based thinking at the strategic level and echelons immediately above the Colonel. Otherwise there will simply not be enough iterations for the thinking to become adequately sophisticated. Effects-based thinking is like chess where there's a hell of a difference between thinking 1, 3 or 5 moves in advance: it is necessarily about politics, and cannot be reduced to a simple friend-foe dichotomy.

Counter-insurgency (COIN) doesn't make a nice fit with regular military processes and outlooks. This incongruity stems from the fact that military thinking and values during and since its slow and incremental professionalization from the Renaissance onwards has been an important part of and influenced by the utilitarian engineer-worldview. As such the military in many ways incarnate the modern organization's emphasis on rationality (calculability as opposed to fatalism or trust in divine providence) and impersonal administration (Weber). In this sense, there is absolutely nothing wrong with engineerism. But when applied to "populations" who are an ontologically fickle bunch, the implicit belief in manipulability of the world, a faith in social engineering becomes problematic. And this is exactly the move called for by the QDR: from a focus on kinetics to a focus on effects.

In COIN the enemy center of gravity is the "population": the goal is a stable, non-challenged regime. Such a "state" consists in both a legitimate and functioning state apparatus, and the active accept of the legitimacy among the populace of the same institutions. In effect, an opting in which makes citizens out of inhabitants. It seems the unidirectional engineer outlook is not well suited to multidimensional (stability and/or reconstruction of security, politics, economics, institutions, including the cultural dimensions) and iterative systems of challenges (the fact that everything we do or don't do play back into the over all system like ripples in a pond). But the nature of such a situation -- which is basically akin to any political system, just with added physical violence -- also points to an important lesson for anyone outside trying to understand.

The discrepancy between O'Hanlon and Ignatius, and between the Pentagon's emphasis on progress and the press' on its absence points -- even discounting for spin -- to the huge element of uncertainty. Nobody really knows whether Iraqi forces will stay or grow more loyal to the state or the factions; nobody knows whether the gamble on the Iraqi responsibility by staying relatively put will provoke unity and an effective cabinet. They don't know at Centcom, and they don't know in Iraq either. This is not the proverbial fog of war: it is the nature of history, the uncertainties with which we must live, as Raymond Aron brillantly showed in his doctoral dissertation,
Introduction the the Philosophy of History.

This absence of an ending foretold is a necessary but not sufficient requirement to let us be set free from determinism and religious leftovers -- and it gives us the responsibility of our own time, to act and to attempt justice.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Honey, I Forgot to Remember: DoD Second Order Transformation With RFID Tags

A central element in Rumsfeld's "transformation" process at the Pentagon is immediately recognizable to anyone outside the security politics circuit as management professionalization. And Pentagon undoubtedly spends copius amounts on well-deserved consultant fees (see, that sounded almost non-jalous) who take good looks at the "business processes" of the Big Machine. A huge chunk of the QDR was dedicated to the organizational trimming perspective. From a viewpoint of "organization philosophy" Rumsfeld tries to enable "second order management", i.e. achieve control of the elements that controls the controls; organize the organization of the organization, etc.

In that sense, "Transformation" is a wholly common sense project, because it basically tries to institutionalize modernization and organizational renewal instead of having to reinvent it with every coming crisis. It is very appropriate that DoD, with its extensive responsibilities, attempts to implement the "learning organization". This general -- and positively inclined -- reflection goes to underscore the astonishment produced by the incompetence with which the whole thing is sometimes implemented. Take this UPI story, which is not only illustrative, but also nerdishly hilarious: "DOD not reusing $100 cargo tracking tags":
The Defense Department may be wasting more than $100 million by failing to reuse electronic shipping tags on cargo which are designed for multiple uses. A new Government Accountability Office report says the Pentagon has spent more than $110 million on radio-frequency identification tags since 1997. Of those, more than 514,000 have been used only once or twice between 2002 and 2005. Just over 100,000 tags have been reused more than twice. The active electronic tags -- which allow cargo to be tracked in transit -- cost about $100 each, and are designed for reuse. RFID systems employ a microchip and an antenna, which transmits and receives radio waves from government receiving systems. (...)

Despite the tag's cost and design for reuse, the Defense Department's policy issued July 30, 2004, does not require components to return active RFID tags, or demand their reuse. The official policy only "encourages" the services to reuse the tags. Ironically, there is no mechanism for tracking the tags -- used for tracking cargo -- once they are used. "Officials from the Army and DLA -- the largest purchasers of active RFID tags -- informed us that they are unaware of the status or location of the majority of previously used tags," the GAO reported.

A part from being funny, the fact of not knowing what is known is exactly an example of a lack of second order management. The RFIDs are the perfect carrier of its philosophy in both primary practice (as tracking devices) and in secondary practice (as producers of centralized, productive knowledge) -- see e.g. this 2003 Economist coverage.

Not knowing where the instruments of empowerment-through-locational-knowledge-production are is not only
an organizational semiotic brainteaser -- it is also more moronic than ironic.

Later UPDATE: Wired Magazine runs a fine piece on security issues related to the more and more widespread use of RFID tags; see: "The RFID Hacking Underground" by Annalee Newitz.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Income Gap Might Shrink: White Collar, OECD Coping Strategies

What if, at the same time: 1) the real wage gap had clearly and for the first time in 30 years started to diminish in the country where megatrends originate; and 2) offshoring had come to the point where those who lose out the most are not only in the service sector, but wham-bam in the middle of the knowledge economy we're supposed to creating our future wealth from? No, the former is not a cuddly bedtime story read by Uncle Kennedy. And the latter isn't a scary one read by Uncle Edwards or Uncle Buchanan, sauced up with romantic sprinkles of local produce, gallic style. Geoffrey Colvin's superbly interesting article "The Poor Get Richer: Blue-collar workers are making salary gains -- but don't cheer yet" is from Fortune Magazine, courtesy of
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that income inequality in the U.S. -- after 30-plus years of steadily increasing -- may be decreasing. The bad news is why that trend is reversing. It looks like another lesson in how profoundly a globalizing economy is upending what we thought we knew. Rising income inequality has settled comfortably into America's big economic picture as a reliable--and much lamented--megatrend. Starting around the late 1960s, U.S. incomes started to become more disparate. The trend was remarkably steady. Recessions might slow it down or briefly reverse it, but mostly it just marched on.

While such a large tendency has many causes, the chief explanation centered on education and skills. The late 1960s were arguably high summer of the era in which a man with 12 years of schooling could work in a unionized factory or trade and earn a solid middle-class or even upper-middle-class income. Then began the age of the info-based economy in which higher education really started to pay. The "skill premium" began growing dramatically. The college graduate's income started beating the high school graduate's income by a wider margin every year--and income inequality began to swell. That explanation makes sense, and the data support it. But now it appears just possible--based on the latest research available--that the whole chain of causation is falling apart. (...)

What could that trend reversal mean? The most obvious explanation seems highly counterintuitive: The skill premium, the extra value of higher education, must have declined after three decades of growing. (...) The (...) possibility is that something unexpected and fundamental is changing in the way the U.S. economy rewards education. We don't yet have complete data, but anyone with his eyes open can see obvious possibilities. Just maybe the jobs most threatened by outsourcing are no longer those of factory workers with a high school education, as they have been for decades, but those of college-educated desk workers. Perhaps so many lower-skilled jobs have now left the U.S.--or have been created elsewhere to begin with--that today's high school grads are left doing jobs that cannot be easily outsourced--driving trucks, stocking shelves, building houses, and the like. So their pay is holding up.

College graduates, by contrast, look more outsourceable by the day. New studies from the Kauffman Foundation and Duke University show companies massively shifting high-skilled work--research, development, engineering, even corporate finance--from the U.S. to low-cost countries like India and China. That trend sits like an anvil on the pay of many U.S. college grads. We need more evidence before concluding that we're at a major turning point in the value of education to American workers. But it certainly feels like one, based on what we can observe.

More than just a micro-level white-collar nightmare, this change, if true, represents a strategic challenge to the basic strategy of survival for most of the OECD countries, and especially the richest.

Of course, most of t
he Europeans believe to have some sort of ace up their sleeves: entertainment & experience economy, tourism, conferences; design, music, bottled creativity. There are more Aqua's in the pipeline, according to their minister's plans. These plans are a) filled with references to Ricard Florida, and b) all paid for by pretty straight out of business school-looking high-end whitecollar guys and gals working "regular" private sector stuff.

In terms of off-shoring-as-strategic-threat, it seems to me the crucial distinction would be on two dimensions.

, there are the culturally dependent jobs, all the really creative ones, where you either serve an audience, directly or indirectly, including commercials, newspapers, even to some extent music; but also just literally culturally dependent ones like anything related to law (national law systems being the epitomy of cultural code incarnate). Finally, and more boringly and importantly, these comprise anything that requires local know-how in terms of negotiation, relation management, empathy, etc. The latter are then either those elements of the service sector that cannot physically be moved like truck drivers, receptionists, nurses, teachers, social workers, priests, etc. Their common trait is not so much a very high degree of professional specialization, but rather their "inscribedness" into a given cultural setting, which constitutes a basic language that they use all the time. (This implicit requirement is also a reason why integration of "ethnic immigrants" into higher level jobs is very, very difficult, especially in cultures with a lot of implicit cultural stuff going on -- see this post on integration as a culturally bound phenomenon).

The second element is the job's degree of abstraction. In principle, "white collar" implies the shift from blue collar manufacturing to white collar service jobs. Yet the distinction between manufacturing and service has been too crude for a long time: the classic example is the question of whether serving and flipping burgers is a service or a manufacturing job. White collar jobs are many things. As illustrated by the influence of Richard Florida much differentiation exist within the concept. In this sense, the "new white collar" should also imply a higher level of abstraction. From doing to thinking about doing: from reproducing symbols to manipulating symbols.

When these kinds of jobs are at their highest level -- consultancies (political, management, strategic), research and development, lawmaking, financial services, policy development/civil service, etc -- they are part of a very competitive international environment. Here, restraining the best will only make them leave the faster. But let their international "thing" come to them, to your country, and they will flourish.

Finding a combination of the two -- culturally embedded and abstract -- would then make the best national strategy: bringing the best of globalization inside, while creating wealth and retaining high-end jobs thanks to the only thing that cannot be had anywhere else: the local mindset. On the flipside, that combination already exists in organizational terms with high cost in most of the senior civil service -- where the absence of competition tends to make for a bland, incestuous organizational culture. The private sector is where its at.

Even if Colvin's numbers do hold up trends still take 10-15 years to migrate across the Atlantic, so there'll be plenty of time to read Richard Florida and hope for the best.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Divisions Within Divisions: The Politics of Iraqi Metrics

Are the American and coalition training programmes for Iraqi security forces exacerbating Iraq's sectarian divisions? Creating Iraqi security forces from police to regular and counterinsurgency capable army units has been the overriding concern and objective for the last couple of years in Iraq now. The Pentagon's assesments on progress have been widely critized for being too optimistic in terms of both numbers and the quality of the graduated force members.

As the scary scenario of a civil war breaking out along sectarian lines has come hauntingly close to reality, two questions concerning our own effort become very uncomfortable: does the education and construction of Iraqi forces happen in a balanced way which brings together different ethnic and religious profiles within the same units; and are the forces representative of the population in terms of those same divisions? We don't really know that, Vance Serchuk of the American Enterprise Institute argues in a fine analysis in the Weekly Standard which is a reaction to the Pentagon's recent Quarterly Report on the situation in Iraq:
An Iraqi brigade, for instance, that is overwhelmingly composed of Kurdish peshmerga or Shiite militiamen would seem significantly more likely to place its loyalties with political factions in Erbil or Najaf, rather than the official power ministries in Baghdad. Indeed, if we see overt sectarian purges of the army, it is a clear sign that Iraq is slipping into civil war. The establishment of non-sectarian units, on the other hand, would offer some of the most tangible, visible evidence that Iraq really can function as a unitary state. More than just an economy-of-force substitute for withdrawing American troops, an integrated Iraqi army could help bind together the country's fissiparous communities in a genuinely national, representative institution.

Given the significance of the army's ethnic and sectarian makeup, why then has the Pentagon been uninterested in collecting and analyzing data about it? (...) Interestingly, the new Pentagon report does acknowledge concerns about sectarian tensions inside the Iraqi army, noting the importance of "a professional force representative of the diverse ethnic and religious fabric of Iraq" and stressing efforts on the part of the coalition "to recruit personnel from across the spectrum of Iraqi society." It also cautions, however, that "this does not mean all units are fully representative" and that "uniform balance across all ten divisions at this time" is impractical. Fair enough. But in the absence of data--the very metrics that Congress has been demanding for months now--it's all but impossible for policymakers and the public to evaluate the administration's claims of progress. Just how unbalanced are Iraq's 10 divisions? What kind of movement in bringing Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish soldiers together has been made since the last report was issued in October 2005? Is the problem getting better or worse?

The Pentagon's reluctance to engineer the ethnic and sectarian composition of the Iraqi security forces is made all the more bizarre by the fact that it has displayed no such reticence when it comes to parallel efforts in Afghanistan. There, the indigenous army that Washington began building in 2002 was initially dominated by a single group--the Panjshiri Tajiks who had led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and then seized control of Kabul. It was against Panjshiri objections that the United States insisted on imposing rough ethnic quotas, creating carefully mixed units of Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazara, Turkmen, and Uzbeks. The result is arguably Afghanistan's first real national institution--a strong, multiethnic army clearly distinguishable from the parochial militias the country is accustomed to seeing. This has meant that the Afghan army is not just an instrument in the military campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda; it is also a rallying point for national pride--proof the country can transcend the dueling fiefdoms that have, until recently, divided it.

It would seem reasonable that the responsible organization do have these numbers and that they sit on them because they look grim. Two years ago the need for Iraqi security forces was the most obvious challenge and the pressure on the coalition forces to do something about it was enormous -- and any element that could help forge units must have been welcomed. But they just may not exist, exactly because they are and have for a long time been obviously politically sensitive data. This would be a negative but not surprising dynamic within the fact-based, metrics and formal evaluation-driven New Public Management, which is one of the many meanings of "transformation" at the Pentagon.

Policy decision-making should always be fact-based. Yet NPM, as all new things, brings with it its own set of related challenges. The most obvious, pressing and not always acknowledged problem is the measuring itself. What is measured, how, why, and what repercussions do the metrics obsession have on the ground? The political need for metrics makes it necessary to get some data: IEDs, "actionable tips", security force members, etc. This in itself can cause a bad quality feedback in a system if operations become obsessed with fulfilling abstract targets instead of reacting organically to their situation. Drowning political decision makers in information is of course one of the oldest ways for any civil servant to get them of your back, but this case could be an example of the opposite.

Because data collection is such a powerful instrument as it produces handy actionable policy input, the upstream frameworking choice of what is measured becomes so much more important. And the decision not to include tracking of potentially problematic data is the safe choice for any career civil servant living in a culture that doesn't tolerate error well. Politicians and decision-makers can thus add to question, demand insight into and influence on those seemingly bureaucratic choices to their ever longer to-do lists.

Later UPDATE: Stephen Biddle seems to agree with the basic proposition in this Washington Post article.

Even later UPDATE: More tales of counterinsurgency in practice from the Washington Post (April 19, '06): "Mystery Hangs over Bagdad Battle", and "Mission of Frustration in Afghan Villages". Both go to show the strategic necessity of empathy in COIN ops: mere technical linguistic fluency isn't enough; and both contain the element of nationalization through the local army (as stateliness inducing institution and functional tool), and concomitant problems of factionalization of the same. See the link below for more on conditions for COIN.

Completely later UPDATE: Rumsfeld's and Rice's Baghdad-visit in
late April had exactly sectarianism in security forces as a headline, see e.g. this NYTimes article:
Administration officials said that in his private meeting with Ms. Rice, Mr. Malaki spoke specifically of rooting out the influence of militias in Iraq's police forces, which number about 135,000 nationwide. Americans and Iraqis say that thousands of these are actually members of Shiite militias that carry out extra-judicial killings of Sunnis.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oscars: Implausible Crash

Crash deserved to win, but it was really about something else than it seemed. It was great Crash got the Oscar for Best Movie: the movie was a good one, even well-intentioned ... and the winning makes for an excellent excuse for pointing out why it was a pretty weak film in terms of analysis. The trailer presents Crash as a movie about racism -- and really it isn't.

The intention of Crash was highly likeable. Crash sought to present racism as it is -- pervasive and inculcated -- but also as something that just may be brought out into the light of day. So, xenophobia is not a necessarily stable trait, but can be de-learnt when we reflect on our initial assumptions. As such the function of the film is highly likeable too, as it might provoke such reflection. But there was a big, big problem with the fil
m at the script level. Somehow it is not surprising that Ebert's great review would miss this, with his slight preference for the visual and the colorful over the systematic and logical. Just take his emphasis on the element of chance:
The result is a movie of intense fascination; we understand quickly enough who the characters are and what their lives are like, but we have no idea how they will behave, because so much depends on accident. Most movies enact rituals; we know the form and watch for variations. "Crash" is a movie with free will, and anything can happen. Because we care about the characters, the movie is uncanny in its ability to rope us in and get us involved. (...) It connects stories based on coincidence, serendipity, and luck, as the lives of the characters crash against one another other like pinballs. The movie presumes that most people feel prejudice and resentment against members of other groups, and observes the consequences of those feelings.
It is more surprising that director and co-writer Paul Haggis, who ca
me from a position as a script writer on nothing less than Million Dollar Baby, should accept the problem. His overall, complicated patchwork story-arch does stick together -- albeit with the help of the usual deus ex machina of the traffic accident, that is sheepishly camouflaged as a title in order to "mean" someting more than the mere tying up of the knot.

But the problem is on the scene level: the means of resolution, how the writer gets the persons, and us, from one scene to the next. And most of the characters, or at least those who prompt the scene climaxes are all exaggerating. Everyone's freaking out. Rambling, exploding, being childishly unreasonable. This isn't about chance: this a structural condition for all of the plot-effective characters in Crash. And that structure just isn't credible -- at least from a Scandinavian point of view. Nobody behaves like that in real life. And they don't do that because short and stubborn tempers applied in important situations make you lose control of that situation and the ends you want to achieve. Simply not grown up behavior. But maybe that reflection applies only to the Scandinavian crowd where silence is the norm and conflicts are either resolved instinctively through consensus or buried illiberally under a cloak of yet more silence? In the end, most conflicts in Crash would have been resolved by grown ups; and those that couldn't be would not have turned even more sour due to absence of restraint.

The resulting misstep in Crash is this: if racism is presented as an incidental flavor to pathological flaring up then the movie is not about racism. Racism just becomes an underlying theme. What's really cooking is the problematic absence of a civilian approach and tone -- the one that grew from that weird mix of liberalism and European courtlife> the one we call progress. And so, basically Crash is not about racism. It deals with the juvenile condition; and society's need for effective schooling systems and labor markets to inculcate in the inexperienced values and abilities equivalent to those of the old liberal education -- tolerance and the ability to ask questions about one's own assumptions.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kaplan, Stability, Marmite and the Lurking Cold Worriers

Robert D. Kaplan is really smart and has this piece in the Washington Post to show for it -- but he is, of course, also wrong in the end. His basic claim is that democracy doesn't mean stability, and that stable, undemocratic states are a) better for us, and b) can still be legitimate regimes in both the eyes of their citizens and from an olympian point of view. The legitimacy argument is very clever and true to a degree. But the choice of stability over "democracy" risks including a dangerous return to rigid realism.

To support his argument, Kaplan presents us with an ultrabrief version of an academic discussion of regime legitimacy, which might easily have extended for weeks without getting any clearer than he is here. To Kaplan, legitimacy is the connector between the two elements that are pursued with regard to the Middle East in particular, and the Rest of the world in general. These are first stability and second that other element which might be "the magnanimous use of power", "squaring state functions with the people's aggregate sense of equity", as such "representativity" and, in a way, "democracy as outcome", not just formal decision-making mechanics.

Kaplan's initial analysis of the American Experience With Democracy hits bulls eye:
President Bush has posited that the American experience with democracy is urgently useful to the wider world. True, but there is another side of the coin: that America basically inherited its institutions from the Anglo-Saxon tradition and thus its experience over 230 years has been about limiting despotic power rather than creating power from scratch. Because order is something we've taken for granted, anarchy is not something we've feared. But in many parts of the world, the experience has been the opposite, and so is the challenge: how to create legitimate, functioning institutions in utterly barren landscapes.

"[B]efore the names of Just and Unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power," Thomas Hobbes wrote in "Leviathan." Without something or somebody to monopolize the use of force and decide right from wrong, no man is safe from another and there can be no freedom for anyone. Physical security remains the primary human freedom. And so the fact that a state is despotic does not necessarily make it immoral. That is the essential fact of the Middle East that those intent on enforcing democracy abroad forget. (...) Monarchy was the preferred political ideal for centuries, writes the late University of Chicago scholar Marshall Hodgson, precisely because the monarch's legitimacy -- coming as it did from God -- was seen as so beyond reproach that he could afford to be benevolent, while still monopolizing the use of force. To wit, the most moderate and enlightened states in the Middle East in recent decades have tended to be those ruled by royal families whose longevity has conferred legitimacy (...)

The lesson to take away is that where it involves other despotic regimes in the region -- none of which is nearly as despotic as Hussein's -- the last thing we should do is actively precipitate their demise. The more organically they evolve and dissolve, the less likely it is that blood will flow. That goes especially for Syria and Pakistan, both of which could be Muslim Yugoslavias in the making, with regionally based ethnic groups that have a history of dislike for each other. The neoconservative yearning to topple Bashar al-Assad, and the liberal one to undermine Pervez Musharraf, are equally adventurous. (...) Globalization and other dynamic forces will continue to rid the world of dictatorships. Political change is nothing we need to force upon people; it's something that will happen anyway. What we have to work toward -- for which peoples with historical experiences different from ours will be grateful -- is not democracy but normality. Stabilizing newly democratic regimes, and easing the development path of undemocratic ones, should be the goal for our military and diplomatic establishments. The more cautious we are in a world already in the throes of tumultuous upheaval, the more we'll achieve."
Kaplan is right about patiently prodding and supporting rather than (attempted) quickie solutions, and that nothing good will come of change if it doesn't somehow take into account the historical experience of the population in question. This means not ascribing to them those elements of our creed that are not universal, but rather particular to our own experience. Concerning the Brits e.g.:

* Exporting Magna Carta: OK
* Exporting Marmite: Not OK.

But behind all this apparent (battle over a possible) fine-tuning of the present
course there is one thing those afraid of too much change must remember. Behind the push for focusing more on stability and less on transformation are a mixed choir of moderates and isolationists who want to either slow down or get off the fast-moving world entirely, and the defense-oriented realists -- whom Tom Barnett christened the "Cold Worriers" -- who have the same inclination, because they wish to return to more well-known Cold War antics of waiting for brewing trouble with China over Taiwan. And they like their security old fashioned just like Strategic Command: big, deadly and flying -- as opposed to the gritty reality of having boots on the ground, whether in uniform or not.

It might well be to everyone's advantage with foreign policy banners a bit less brazen. Yet accepting the stability-over-democracy argument wholesale is wasting a great opportunity to make security work for development, and dangerous too, because development already works to the benefit of security: if we let go of this and return to worrying about China it will come back and bite us. Which is why the Long War will be far more political than Pentagon envisions (and probably far more military than State wants, but that is another story).

Later UPDATE: The Washington Post seems to agree with the analysis.