James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

How global capitalism (and the U.S. military) is defeating Al Qaeda

Aug 6, 2009 21:29 UTC

A lengthy post from Thomas PM Barnett always makes it a great day. Here he talks about the video truce offer from Zawahiri, and why it is another sign of Al Qaeda strategic weakness and failure:

Radical Islam has overplayed its hand again, creating popular resentment escalating to political backlash. … Why? Because the penetrating embrace of globalization is doing the truly profound damage to Al Qaeda, and we are globalization’s bodyguard. The flow of proliferating networks that offer ideas and conversations and products and expressions of individualistic ambition — especially with regard to women — offer radical Islamic groups no hope of gaining permanent political control. … The Middle East currently suffers from a destabilizing youth bulge around people between the ages of 15 and 30. In two decades time, the region’s demographic center of gravity will have shifted upward commensurately, meaning the Middle East will hit “middle age.” What do we know from this shift in other parts of the world? That criminal behavior wanes, meaning bin Laden and Al Qaeda do not have time on their side. … Globalization is not some elite conspiracy hatched in Manhattan or Davos; it’s now largely fueled by the ravenous demand for a decent lifestyle by an emerging — and huge — global middle class located overwhelmingly beyond our shores. That world-spanning force demands the Islamic world’s progressive integration into globalization’s vast universe.

Me: Another reason why American needs to stay open to the world, especially in terms of trade. But all the cross-border flows count: goods, services, ideas, capital, people.


Capitalism has always been the answer. That’s what the Reagan-wing of the party kept trying to say: you can’t spread liberty with guns.

Welcome to reality.

Why globalization is winning over militancy

Jul 20, 2009 14:58 UTC

This analysis by the great Thomas PM Barnett really places the recent troubles in Iran in a geopolitical context.  It also explains why Iraq is, in the end, a win for America and the West:

The collapse of legitimacy in Iran comes after a string of similar setbacks to the movement: Morocco 2007, Jordan 2007, Pakistan 2008, Indonesia this year, Kuwait this year, and then Lebanon. In each instance the more radical groups, which had done better previously or were perceived to be on an upswing, have suffered surprisingly bad outcomes–when votes were actually counted. Why the broad reversal? The brutality of the radicals. This is why I’ve always maintained that Iraq would have its desired effect either way: if we had succeeded from the start, the Big Bang could have been unstoppable (remember all the positive tumult back in 2005 across the region); but done badly, the outcome works just as well and in some ways better. Why? One, the U.S. military is forced to evolve as it should, making it far more ready for the tougher slog in Af-Pak (which, as I argue, is of far lesser strategic value–thus the need to have our ducks in a row thanks to the far more important battlefield called Iraq). But two, any temporary al Qaeda “victory” or “cause célèbre” just allows their brutality to emerge, and that works in our favor nicely. In the end, history will judge Bush-Cheney kindly on the choice to go in, even if the execution sucked.

Iran election, America and globalization

Jun 15, 2009 14:27 UTC

Geopolitical strategist Tom Barnett weighs in on the Iran “election” (note, especially, his final point):

That is an impressive first-round win that means: 1) the nuke program goes ahead; and 2) the Supreme Leader is nowhere near ready to reform the economy, so no desire to deal externally. My hope had always been that this was a regime far enough along in understanding how screwed-up its economy is (USSR circa 84-86), but we are clearly still in the early 1980s/Brezhnevian clueless phase when belief in external enlargement of influence is held to be a strong counterweight to internal decline. I would expect Tehran to offer more of the same. Ahmadnejad, I don’t think, was promoted by the SL for any Nixon-like opening. Hence, Israel is highly incentivized to attack this year.


Good excerpt. It does seem to be likely, that if there isn’t a significant political moderation in Iran, Israel (with their newly crowned conservative gov) has every excuse to attack. Any sympathy or goodwill the Iranian leadership may have acquired recently, will certainly evaporate with the confirmation of the election of Ahmadinijad.

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