The World Gets Its Curve Back

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David Smick, Wilkerson tells us, says that Tom Friedman is looking at the world through other than economic and financial eyes. "Tom says, look out there at all the wonderful things." Smick says, "Through financial and economic eyes, the world is curved, I can’t see a thing. There’s no transparency."

Commenting about a recent presentation by Smick, who authored The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy, Wilkerson told the gathering in Williamsburg, this is especially true if you start passing toxic waste, "securitized and wrapped up in things like CEOs and whatever" out to the rest of the world and there’s no visibility until one day you turn over the salad leaf and you say “Wow, look at that worm!" And then all of a sudden that worm panic spreads throughout the global economy and that’s in essence what has happened. And largely the United States passed most of that bad commercial paper out. And this may eventually create as much anger at us out there in the world as our "War on Terror."

Nobody can tell him, Wilkerson says, what we are going to look like when we come out at the other end of this period. Are we going to be primus inter pares with a lot more emphasis on the pares or are we going to be pares period with a lot of people fighting over everything, period, from trade to dwindling water, to dwindling petroleum; forming trade blocks to fight with one another, or will we be able to restart globalization? Because globalization has died. It died with the great credit crisis of 2007 and 2008. Globalization lifted hundreds of millions of people, unprecedented in human history, in absolute terms certainly, but in relative terms too, out of poverty. This using the World Bank measure of a dollar a day, a little low he thinks, but the World Bank measure nevertheless. Those people now are slipping and sliding back into poverty. Globalization as it ended in 1914 (interesting year), 1870 to 1914 was the last really intense period of globalization, has ended in 2008. What will replace it, no one really knows.

Praising the first steps taken by Obama’s Secretary of State, he could not name a change he would have made step by step, country by country, move by move to her first initiatives. She is going and appreciating other people’s cultures. She is doing things like saying to the Japanese against all the advice of the pundocracy and all the experts in Washington I want to talk about abductees, I want to talk about your principle issue with the North Koreans. That’s wonderful because the Japanese may be a part of this restarting of globalization. In fact they almost have to be if we are going to be successful.

(Hillary) is emphasizing in this time of great peril: reality, pragmatism, what it will take for all of us to pull together and start again.

Looking at the national security team with General Jim Jones at the head if the NSC, he continued his praise. Jones will be collegial, trusted; he will do things to bring the best possible advice to the President. More like Brent Scowcroft. Jones announced in Munich that he is going to expand the writ of the NSC. This is not unlike the first Clinton administration when the real power rested with the economic team headed by Robert Rubin, because the economy had primacy. Then Somalia happened. Is Larry Summers a Bob Rubin; you bet; is Tim Geitner an acolyte; you bet. So where is the real power going to be during this administration? Wilkerson argues it will be in the National Economic Council headed by Summers in league with the Secretary of the Treasury. Keep the international scene as calm as possible while these men concentrate on the greatest challenge we face: our financial and economic well-being.

How do we deal with the most unique and profound economic and financial crisis we have yet produced with our model of capitalism in our, albeit short, history? And, at the same time, deal with two wars, deal with a country that sits in the Persian Gulf that might be the true hegemon in that region, Iran, that might go nuclear, and deal with another country at the other end of the world, the DPRK, that is already nuclear? And all the rest of the problems of the world including Putin and Medvedev who seem like they want to do everything they can to stick their fingers in our eyes with some reason: eight years of the Bush administration. And a Japan that seems both demographically from an excitement, passion level, sort of done, and yet is the second largest economy in the world? And how do you deal with 1.3 billion Chinese, which constitutes about 300 million middle class with a billion poor people on their backs? A billion poor people who right now are about to give Hu Jintao, Win Jiabao and the rest of the leadership in China some significant, serious, problems.

A very astute move that violated everything we stood for when I was at the State Department…Colin Powell would no sooner appoint a special envoy than he would ask Mickey Mouse to go represent him in London.

Special envoys dilute power; they take power away from the Secretary of State; they cause another layer of problems especially when there is someone like the bulldozer Dick Holbrook . Remember that the problems are with Geitner and Summers so you put someone out there to act as your first shield. And you put someone as tough and irascible as Dick Holbrook in one of the toughest parts of the world and you appoint someone with a proven track record and a solid negotiator in probably the most intractable problem: George Mitchell. I think we have selected a superb guy Steve Bosworth for Korea, but if I had something to say, we should look for someone with a little more gravitas there because there is something called "face" we have to deal with with North Korea.

If you had someone like Bill Clinton as your special envoy. Think about what appointing Bill Clinton might have done for Hillary, your country…Kim Jung Il because Kim would have had a hard time getting his jaw up off the floor. Steve is a great guy, but I was hoping for someone with a little more gravitas.

But that doesn’t detract from the fact that they have done this; that they have put these heat shields out there. And these heat shields are going to absorb some of these problems in Western Asia and the Middle East. It's going to give Secretary Clinton some distance from these problems while at the same time she is trying to repair relations around the world and to work on these specific problems. And, there is a little bit of harmony, and a little bit of collegiality, and a little bit of trust, and this appears to be where the President comes in and he seems to be a master at this sort of thing. This could work. This means that the real power, the real energy in the oval office can be pointed at the financial and economic crisis which ultimately is the foundation of everyone’s national security. You can’t run tanks without oil. And, we are going to find out real, real quickly if we don’t do something swiftly and effectively that Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer question marks; they are going to be troops home because we can’t afford these wars; we can’t afford this overextension of empire.

How do you feel about the prospect of creating a Cabinet level Department of Peace?

I always thought we had one. I always thought it was the Department of Defense. I know that when it was under James Forrestal and under Eisenhower’s Presidency, it was a Department of Peace. Eisenhower, if anything, turned too much to covert operations because he was so scarred by his experience in World War II and the casualties, the blood and treasure he’d seen expended. He didn’t want that to happen again. So he thought a CIA operation gone afoul and costs a million bucks and caused three or four Americans to dies was much preferable to military operations gone afoul. So, he aided and abetted this covert operation process and if he did anything this is one I would look back and criticize.

I always thought that that was what the Department of Defense was…peace is our mission, not war. You are right, though. Increasingly it has become war. We have used the military instrument more since the end of the Cold War than we did during the entire Cold War. And your military is out there today, representing you as Battlestar Gallactica warriors in a 170, 171…2 countries on any given day. And the real influence in the world is the senior military officer in the region, the four star general or admiral, and not the diplomat That needs to change. If you call it a Department of Peace, that would be fine with me. It certainly would give it a new motif anyway.

You haven’t mentioned much about India, how do you see that fitting into the whole puzzle?

If India were to fit into the puzzle the way it should, and the way it was gravitating toward just before the Mumbai incident, and I think its back on track to do again, if someone in Islamabad doesn’t derail it. If we could effect any kind of rapprochement between Islamabad and Delhi, particularly one focused on Kashmir, it would take a lot of the ammunition out of the problems we have in that region., Let’s take just one. Right now the reason the Pakistani military is focused on F-16s, both new ones and upgrades, and other things like that, and we are going to have to concede at least half of our aid package to be for that just because of India. But that money should be spent focused on the Fatah and Baluchistan and other places where the Taliban and al Qaida are resident.

But, they won’t do that and we can’t go along with that because they won’t accept it if we do because of India. And at the same time and probably ultimately even worse, Pakistan feels like it needs an Afghanistan in turmoil to give it strategic depth against its principle enemy, India. So you are never going to get Pakistan to sign up to a stable, functioning Kabul and Afghanistan as long as that exists. Plus you are probably never going to get Pakistan and India to cooperate to bring that stability. So, if we could effect some kind of rapprochement between India and Pakistan, it would be a real move in the right way. Therefore, India is integral.

Wilkerson complained that we have "one of the most ignorant international relations speaking media in the world." They are not asking the right questions. Increasingly because we have consolidated our media under four or five big "dudes" who are interested in entertainment and not in news. They are not even doing foreign policy. They are not even doing international relations. One problem is that you don’t even get the questions. Another is that (the administration) would prefer the focus be on the domestic issues right now and not on the international. That’s one of the reasons for the deployment of special envoys: keep it calm. Keep it calm; we’ll fix it later.

If we can fix it now, fine, come back, I’ll put a Medal of Freedom on you. Keep it calm and don't let it get in the news because right now we don't need the psychology of a crisis to impact this already huge crisis financially and in the economy.

It's getting increasingly more difficult for Presidents to ignore the military instrument, Wilkerson intoned at one point. They seem to like the military instrument in direct proportion to the rest of the instruments of government atrophying. We seem to not be able to do things on the ground in countries around the world in a concerted, effective way we used to, post World War II. We're trying to redevelop that capability; State's trying to do it; DoD is trying to do it. It's really building a Civil Service that is able to do these kinds of things in an inter-agency environment effectively. We've let that atrophy since the end of the Cold War. But it could be a silver lining. It's a silver lining those of us who talk about it all the time in Washington try to burnish and polish; especially for those of us who believe diplomacy is more important than military power. Or, I should say those of us who believe that they go together and that diplomacy should almost always lead.

Fredrick the Great once said that "Diplomacy without military power is like an orchestra without instruments."

This is a continuation of an earlier post from a presentation by the former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell. More of Lawrence Wilkerson's Williamsburg Observations:

Our Kenyan Born, Muslim, Marxist President

The World Gets Its Curve Back (This post)

What Do You Do About The Terrorists?

Military-Industrial-Congressional Corruption

What Happens Now?

Cross posted at - Blogging our way to Democratic wins in Virginia Beach!