Tag Archives: peaceful rise

GlobalWonk’s Video Introduction

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Jim Miller, GlobalWonk

Jim Miller has posted the GlobalWonk Introduction video at YouTube. Please click on the following link to view the video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtCwQopjgxQ

Please comment on the content of the video here, or at YouTube. More video to come soon, hopefully hosted from this site.

Diplomacy. One Mind at a Time.

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U.S. Pacific Commander Optimistic

Indispensible Presence

Indispensible Presence

 

GlobalWonk recently had the great fortune to meet Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander, United States Pacific Command. CINCPAC for us old timers. He gave a briefing on security in his area of responsibility for the President’s Council at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

First, he is a very engaging speaker. Being a naval aviator, and forty plus years in the service gives you quite a bit of experience to draw upon when public speaking. He is due to retire in October. He will do well on the speaking circuit. I hope to have him attend a future GlobalWonk event and participate in the discussion.

He made a comment that gave me, as a veteran of the Army, goosebumps. He said that since he entered the Naval Academy all those years ago, all he has worn during his professional life was this, and he gestures to the immaculate uniform he is wearing, “the cloth of our nation”.

Admiral Keating ran down the thirty-six countries in his area of responsibility. Providing a SITREP on each. Japan, China, North Korea. He stated that in all the official visits he has made to heads-of-state, ministers, and military chiefs in the region; he receives one consistent message. The United States is an “indispensable presence” in maintaining stability in the region.

On North Korea he is confident the U.S. military has the capacity to prevent missiles from reaching U.S. territories, or harming allies in the region. He said that there is no planning currently underway for a military option in the nuclear standoff with the DPRK. I communicated to him my belief, from my visit to North Korea in September 2008, that occupying North Korea would make Afghanistan, or Iraq, look like a picnic in comparison. The people of North Korea live a life Americans can hardly imagine, and are raised from childhood to revile us. As I had recently spent five days in-country, he was interested in my perspective. I think we both agreed that a military option in North Korea should be one of last resort.

He is impressed with the strength of the U.S./Japan alliance. He mentioned that it would have been unimaginable just ten years ago to think that a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. George Washington, would be stationed in Japanese waters.

His most interesting comments regarded China. He feels that the United States military does not see China as a threat. He says that they welcome, and encourage China to take a more active role in the security, and stability of the region. He made it clear that we do this at a pace they are comfortable with. He thought it would be many years before China would be capable of projecting military force beyond their immediate shores. He stated that he did not believe that was their intentions at this point.

I thought it was refreshing to hear these comments from a military commander of his stature. When I left the military in 1992 all I remember hearing was that the Soviets were gone, and China was the next near peer to worry about.

I hope for all of us, and our children, that this is true. As we know, the relationship between the United States and China, or Chimerica, as Niall Ferguson has dubbed it, can go either way.

Complex and Beautiful

Complex an Beautiful

Complex and Beautiful

 GlobalWonk came upon this tree in the Emperor’s Garden in the Forbidden City. It’s gnarled branches analogous to the complex relationship between the United States and China. There will be twists and turns. It will not always be pretty. But, if the roots are solid, and it is nurtured properly, it will live on for generations to come.

As China’s wealth and influence grow, our interests will collide. Now is the time to nurture, and strengthen the roots of our relationship. To accomplish this we must promote understanding and exchange between our people.

What will you do to make this happen in your community? Reach out to your local members of Congress. Tell them your thoughts on these issues. Get with the school board. Does a local university have a China program you can tap into for content, or volunteers, for developing a cultural awareness program in your primary schools?

In a decade it could be your child manning battle stations on a warship. Loading armaments onto fighter planes, or aligning the sites of their rifle center mass on the silhouette of a counterpart from China. If we choose to do nothing, ten years hence we will wonder what could have been.

Phenom Obama

America's New First Family

America's New First Family

When I first became aware of Barack Obama he reminded me of Bobby Kennedy. Young, energetic, very bright. More than that, they both seem to me to have been men supremely suited to their times. The assassination of RFK robbed us of the man with the best opportunity to bridge the racial divide in 1968. His impassioned speech to the crowd in Indianapolis on the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated cemented his singular ability to bring us together. He shared the pain of losing a brother to a white assassin’s bullet. He urged the crowd not to give in to revenge and hatred. In just two months, he himself would lie mortally wounded in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. His life’s blood flowing from a gun shot wound to the head.

President-Elect Barack Obama is a man suited for his time. He has always superbly handled opportunity. When given one he has consistently knocked it out of the park. He has done so at Harvard, in the race for the Senate, his 2004 convention speech, the presidential election, and as a father (his daughters are by all accounts little gems).

It would be a tragedy of incomprehensible proportions for the United States were something to happen to this man before he has the chance to apply his many talents to the troubles we face domestically and abroad. Knowing the training and professionalism of the United States Secret Service personnel charged with his safety; I rest easier, knowing how hard they will work to ensure he has the opportunity to do so.

I began to think about the 2008 election. How historic it was. Hillary, Barack, and Sarah. All firsts of one sort or another. How in the hell did a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama not only obtain his party’s nomination, but actually get elected to the highest office in the land? Some say the most powerful office in the world.

Now, I don’t profess to have insider information. There will be books written for years on this election. On Obama’s campaign. I would like to point out my thoughts on why, in 2008, Barack Obama was deemed electable by a majority of American voters.

First some background. I was born on the South Side of Chicago. The “South Side Irish” from a neighborhood called Roseland. It lies more than one hundred city blocks south of The Loop, or downtown Chicago. In 1970, when black people began moving into Roseland, my parents, and their parents, moved from the city to the south suburbs of Chicago.

Blacks brought crime and drugs, we were told. Black kids beat up my brother and stole his bicycle, I was told. Blacks meant our home would sell for less if we waited too long, we were told.

The N-word was not something we thought about much. It was used all the time. From my earliest memories that is how people in my life described black people to me. That N-word at work. The N-word on the corner. Those N-words on welfare…. I truly believed all black people were on welfare when I was a child.

These migrations, or emigrations from the city to the suburbs became known as “White Flight”. When the first black family bought a home in the neighborhood the stampede began. You didn’t want to be the last person to sell your house. It was kind of like being the one left without a chair when the music stopped. My parents would take flight again just thirteen years later. Relocating from the South Suburbs to the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago.

This is the background in which I developed. When I went to high school black kids were bussed from other towns into our school. White kids from our school were sent out of town to their school. Neither wanted to be relocated. Being at the sharp end of a social experiment created friction. Friction led to fighting. These situations played out across many suburbs of America in the late seventies and early eighties.

I graduated High School and joined the United States Army. I was immediately thrown into a world where black and white blurred. You didn’t care what color the guy was that had your back, as long as he was Army green. I was led by black soldiers, and I was given the opportunity to lead. In short, I was freed from the ignorance of the environment I was brought up in.

I had children very young. I consciously brought them up not to see color. They lived in multi-cultural environments with military families of all types. They had white friends, black friends, and Hispanic friends. The N-word was not used in our home.

How did Barack become electable? He became electable because people in America changed their mindset. Over a period of a generation or so, Gen X’ers became educated and rejected the institutional racism of previous generations. They also raised their children, who became of voting age in the 2008 election, not to see color first. We did not indoctrinate our children into a culture of racial distrust or hatred.

So the question becomes; How in the hell does this apply to China? Well, I believe it does in a very big way. I believe we need to change the mindset of the American public on their views on China. I believe we need to do this quickly before the United States and China get themselves on a collision course with destiny.

So how do we change this mindset? We do it in the same way we did it on race. Expose your children to Chinese people and culture. Replace stereotypes with positive experiences. Teach your children not to distrust. GlobalWonk will be focusing on opportunities to educate Chinese and American people, particularly our youth, on the many positive aspects of our respective cultures.

You can start today with your own family. Read your child a book about China. Take them on a trip to Chinatown in a city near you. Introduce them to Chinese friends and associates. Get involved with their school and get culture on the curriculum. Talk to your local representatives of government and share your concerns with them.

The opportunity to prevent these same children, our children, from fighting a war with the Chinese twenty years from now, presents itself now. What are you going to do to make a difference?

To the Beat of a Different Drummer…

Drum Circle

I approached from the north. It squatted low on the horizon as it came into view, nearly disappearing against the gray November sky. It is not a friendly looking building. Lots of concrete, very few windows.

I parked in an adjacent multi-level concrete parking garage and walked across the street into the hardened facility. After walking through a metal detector, and presenting my identification, I was introduced to my host. He was a tall, thin man. Aged about forty-five years. He greeted me with a broad smile and a firm handshake. We began our journey by navigating through a man-trap. Two secured doors monitored by armed men. You pass through one at a time. The first door fully secures behind you before the second is opened.

As the second door opened a strong odor of industrial strength ammonia invaded my sinuses. The familiar military-issue looking green tile, florescent lighting, and white concrete block walls screamed; INSTITUTION. You could practically feel the bureaucracy choking you. Things did not happen fast in here.

We walked through the empty corridors. Not passing another soul. We entered what looked like a public school classroom. There were about twenty-five classroom chairs arranged in a circle. Large drums, and other percussion instruments were stacked in the middle of the circle. We took our seats spaced evenly around the circle.

We started to hear a commotion in the hallway. It grew louder as it came closer to our room. It sounded similar to troops marching around an Army base in formation. They entered our room quickly. I was taken aback by how young they looked. These were kids! I immediately noticed something else. They were all Hispanic or African-American. There was not a white face among them.

They were horsing around with each other, as boys will do, as they took their chairs. They kept their heads down. Careful not to make eye contact with us. They were clearly familiar with, and very respectful of, our host. Each had a hardened look on their face. A shield used to help them survive their ordeal here.

Our host introduced us to the young men. They in turn told us their names. If you’ve never been in a drumming circle, or a circle of any type, there are rules you must follow. There is traditionally a talking stick, or rock, or something the speaker holds while it is their turn to talk. You can only talk when you have the talking stick. You must listen intently when it is not your turn to talk. You speak your mind, then pass the talking stick to the next person.

After introductions, our host asked us to each respond to a serious question. We went around the room taking turns answering it. These were deep questions. About love, fear, and death. Pride, loyalty, respect, and family. What it meant to be a man.

We would go around the circle to share our feelings about the question asked. Then our leader asked everyone to pick up a drum, or other percussion instrument. We began to play our drums. We started softly at first. Feeling each other out a bit. As we became more comfortable and our guard came down, the noise grew louder.

As we pounded the taught skins of the drums harder you could see the kid coming out in these guys. Big, broad smiles broke out. We laughed. You could feel the entire room synching into a rhythm. One person would lead the group in a beat, then someone across the room would pick up the tempo and lead for a period of time. We went back and forth like that for some time. We soaked up the fellowship of the music. It was very uplifting.

We went back and forth. Talking and sharing, then drumming. It was quite an experience. I was surprised how emotional they got so quickly. Almost as if they yearned for any emotional intimacy with another human being. We told each other things I haven’t shared with the closest of friends or family members. There was a sense of urgency in our communications. I had a strange feeling of wanting to impart whatever wisdom I could in this small window of opportunity. I wanted to give them another chance at their childhood. I wanted to tell them not to give up on life. They could be redeemed. Life was not over for them….

They shared a perspective on life that most Americans can not understand. These kids thought about their mortality every single day. When you were nine, or ten years old, how often did you think about your own death? These kids lived with death every day. Close friends gunned down on the street. Brothers murdered. They knew where to go in their neighborhood to find a drop gun to take care of business if someone threatened them.

This is going to sound like a stereotype, but it what these young men communicated to me. Nearly to a man, they did not know their fathers. Most of their mothers were addicts or had checked out of their lives. They had no good roles models. These boys, as early as eight years old, and sometimes younger, felt they needed to turn to street crime to provide for their families. They had to be the man of the house.

While your average American pre-teen was having a sleep over with his buddies, these kids were deciding what to steal so they had something to bring home to their siblings to eat for the night. This breakdown in our society was breeding a class of young predators.

By now you have to be asking yourself; what the hell does this have to do with foreign policy? When is he going to bring this around to China? Well, we ended our evening with these kids and said our goodbyes. I had spent several hours at the juvenile detention center in a major American city. I spent that time with twenty-one boys between the ages of nine and sixteen. Half of them were murderers. The remainder had attempted murder.

This was a paradigm shift for me. I am certainly not some kumbaya singing, hemp clothing enthusiast that always sees the glass half-full. I am a realist. But seeing these young kids locked up for the rest of their lives really affected me. I immediately asked myself; how do we fix this? Should a child groomed for failure not be given a second chance? The average American only sees the crime side of this equation. The simple answer is to “lock them up and throw away the key”. This experience made me question some of my fundamental beliefs.

I tell this story here because I think it is analogous to the misunderstandings between the people of China and the United States. We think very differently about some things. We approach issues from different directions, and from different perspectives, and experiences than each other. We have vastly different histories. China is one of the oldest, greatest civilizations on earth. We are relative upstarts, that came into greatness at a very early age.

China is a great nation where many of her citizens have lived in abject poverty for over a century. It would be foolish for us not to believe that some Chinese might be jealous of our standard of living, and wish for the same for their family. Why should we not want that for them as well? Do we have to live life as a zero sum game?

At the same time there are aspects of our society that probably offend, or frighten the hell out of an average Chinese citizen. There are certainly parts of their culture we would find unusual. However, we all need to reach out and try to understand each others perspective and appreciate each others culture. Knowing, or thinking you know, only one side of an issue is a very dangerous thing. It makes it supremely easy to influence you. To make you think a certain way.

Now I’m not suggesting we all fly to Beijing with a snare drum and a set of bongos. But I do think we need to look for ways to break down the barriers that make it easy to misunderstand true intentions or motivations. As China continues to grow over the next ten years, it will become increasingly likely that our strategic interests will collide. How well we understand each other, how adept we are at reading each others signals, could be crucial. Most importantly, it is my hope, that by looking for these opportunities to communicate cross-culturally we will prevent these collisions from happening in the first place.

So let’s begin the discussion on how we can break down these barriers. Please click on the ‘Comment’ button below this post and let GlobalWonk know what your thoughts and ideas are.

China’s Peaceful Rise?

Chinese Military

Peaceful rise. We hear that term a lot nowadays to describe China’s economic development ambitions. What does it mean? Is this possible? How will the world be different in thirty years? Twenty? Ten? Will it be more, or less peaceful? Will our children and grandchildren enjoy the freedoms many now take for granted. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Free to live where you want. To pursue happiness.

Deng Xiaoping understood what the communists in the Soviet Union did not. He believed the best way to move his country forward was to encourage economic growth. He knew that continuing a state controlled economy would keep his people impoverished for many generations. In 1978 Deng gambled when he opened up the Chinese economy and allowed the provinces relative economic autonomy. His gamble has certainly paid off handsomely. Foreign direct investment combined with an indigenious economy that has been exposed to, and is competing with, the fiercest of global competition has built an economic juggernaut of historic proportions.

As China grows stronger economically, it is natural that it will want to protect its interests, as we do. To do this, the Chinese military will have to become larger, and increasingly forward deployed. It will require a blue water Navy to secure trade routes. It may garrison forces in places like Africa, the Middle East, perhaps even South America, to protect strategic relationships with suppliers of key energy resources and raw materials.

How will America respond to this? These are steps nations, such as ourselves, took in the early, rapidly developing stages of our development. Will we welcome a new near peer, and potentially (eventually?) peer power? Or will we be fearful and self-fulfill the doomsday prophecy of a New Cold War, or worse?

Here is what today’s thought leaders think about the topic;

  • In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Thomas Barnett’s 2004 book The Pentagon’s New Map became an extremely popular read. He divides the world’s countries into the Functioning Core, and The Non-Integrating Gap. Barnett tells the story of making the rounds at the Pentagon presenting what he began to call “The Brief'”, to ever more senior levels of military and political leadership. Barnett theorizes that nation states no longer need to wage war with one another. As members of the ‘functioning core’, they are too economically integrated to consider attacking one another. Everybody loses when the apple cart is upset. War is relegated to Functioning Corers cleaning up zealots in the Non-Integrating Gap. 
  •  Dr. John J. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, on the other hand believes the U.S. and China are destined for conflict as an ever more powerful China attempts to establish regional hegemony and push the United States out of Asia.
  • Dr. Susan Shirk, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Professor, University of California, San Diego wrote a book in 2007 titled China; Fragile Superpower. In it she claims the U.S. has more to fear from a weak China.

Although China looks like a powerhouse from the outside, to its leaders it looks fragile, poor, and overwhelmed by internal problems. But China’s massive problems, instead of reassuring us, should worry us. It is China’s internal fragility, not its growing strength that presents the greatest danger. The weak legitimacy of the Communist Party and its leaders’ sense of vulnerability could cause China to behave rashly in a crisis involving Japan or Taiwan, and bring it into a military conflict with the United States.

If economic growth slows and problems multiply, there is a possibility that China’s leaders could be tempted to “Wag the Dog” – mobilize domestic support by creating an international crisis. More likely, however, is that when confronted with a crisis, the leaders make threats they can’t back away from because of their fear of appearing weak to the domestic audience. Only by understanding the dangers of China’s domestic tranquility and incorporating this understanding into their policies can Chinese and American decision makers avoid a catastrophic war

  • Dr. Suisheng “Sam” Zhao, Professor and Executive Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at the University of Denver, is concerned that domestic chaos could cause China’s Communist Party (CCP) leadership to pursue an aggressive foreign policy to stir nationalistic enthusiasm and deflect attention from the CCP. Further, Dr. Zhao believes these domestic forces could begin to fester if economic growth slows below 6% – 7% per year. American’s can only dream of that pace of growth today. If China slows to this level, Dr. Zhao believes their economy will no longer be able to absorb the historic migration of population from farms to cities. This will cause large numbers of young, unemployed people, to begin to question the CCP’s decisions that brought their country to this point. Aggressive foreign policy could take the form of flexing their newly enhanced military muscle to further intimidate Taiwan, clash with the Japanese over oil drilling rights in the East China Sea, or challenge U.S. dominance in their backyard.

I highly respect each of the scholars I’ve mentioned above. With these, and many other disparate voices out there; what are we to believe? How do we prevent ourselves from being acted upon? What can we do to influence positive outcomes? I do not profess to have the answers to these big questions. I have many, many more questions than I do answers.

 GlobalWonk intends to convene a “No New Cold War” conference within the next eighteen months. We will bring together today’s thought leaders to discuss key issues in the U.S./China relationship. We’ll work together to develop meaningful steps that individuals and communities can take to have a positive impact on this most important of relationships.