Sunday, December 31, 2006

Americas new allies

The Cold War is dead. Long live the Cold War. The new Cold War, that is. The world's powers are aligning themselves along a new axis, and it isn't just about Israel.

In central and southern Asia China is courting favor with Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other states that are not close alliesof the US. This isn't just to counter American influence, but to contain and limit the growth of their nearest continental rival, India. Daniel Twining explains it all in his excellent article "The New Great Game":
Three recent events illuminate the contours and fault lines of Asia's emerging strategic landscape, amid the lengthening shadows cast by China's growing power.

First, the United States and India consolidated a wide-ranging military, economic, and diplomatic partnership on December 9, when Congress passed legislation enabling U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation. Then, at a summit in Tokyo on December 15, the leaders of India and Japan declared their ambition for a strategic and economic entente between Asia's leading democracies. This stands in sharp contrast to the intensifying rivalry between India and China: Tensions over territory and Tibet simmered at a summit on November 21, where Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's assertion that "there is enough [geopolitical] space for the two countries to develop together" sounded more like hope than conviction.

As its relationships with the United States, Japan, and China show, India has reemerged as a geopolitical swing state after decades of marginalization as a consequence of the Cold War, its own crippling underdevelopment, and regional conflict in South Asia. Although its status as a heavyweight in the globalized world of the 21st century is new, India's identity as a great power is not: It was for centuries one of the world's largest economies and, under British rule, a preeminent power in Asia. Today, a rising India flush with self-confidence from its growing prosperity is determined not to be left behind by China's economic and military ascent. "The [Indian] elephant," says an admiring Japanese official, "is about to gallop."

The United States has an enormous stake in the success of a rich, confident, democratic India that shares American ambitions to manage Chinese power, protect Indian Ocean sea lanes, safeguard an open international economy, stabilize a volatile region encompassing the heartland of jihadist extremism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and prove to all those enamored of the Chinese model of authoritarian development that democracy is the firmest foundation for the achievement of humankind's most basic aspirations.

India is the world's biggest democracy, a nuclear power with the world's largest volunteer armed forces, and the world's second-fastest-growing major economy. Few countries will be more important to American security interests and American prosperity in the coming decades, as five centuries of Western management of the international system give way to a new economic and security order centered in the rimlands of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

India has been a factor in the global balance of power since at least 1510, when the establishment of a Portuguese trading colony at Goa broke a seven-century monopoly on the Indian Ocean spice trade by Muslim empires, unlocking the wealth of the East to European maritime states, which used it to build global empires. Possession of India propelled Britain to the peak of world power in the 19th century. "[T]he master of India," argued Britain's Lord Curzon, "must, under modern conditions, be the greatest power in the Asiatic Continent, and therefore . . . in the world."

With the penetration of radical Islamist influence into East Africa, that continent will gain strategic status in the War on Terror, and there are opportunities for the US to make new friends. The recent, surprising success of the Ethiopian army in evicting the Islamic government of Somalia from Mogadishu should cheer us all. The press likes to paint the world's poorer nations as universally resentful of US power, influence and affluence and the Islamist movement as some inevitable populist uprising against American hegemony, but many of these nations fear and hate the Islamic revolutionaries more than they do us, if they even hate us at all.

We need to read the tea-leaves of the new century right and make the right allies. "Allies" that need to be given the boot or the cold shoulder: Saudi Arabia, France & Germany, and Russia. New allies on which we should lavish our attention and aid, or existing allies to restrengthen our relationship with: India, Ethiopia, Japan, Iraq (if they survive).

Allies to keep on a short leash: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Either of these could go tribal on us. They are weak, almost failed states, and we can't put too many eggs in their basket.

Wild cards - states that are overlooked but that can provide the US with valuable leverage: Vietnam, Algeria. Vietnam was invaded by China after their victory over the US backed government in 1975, and does not want to see China become an Asian hegemon. There is a surprising amount of goodwill and admiration for America in Vietnam in spite of the war, and a shrewd President would look to strengthen ties there. Algeria survived a civil war against an Islamic dictatorship and should be willing to play a role in containing Islamic terror in Africa, especially in its own neighborhood of West Africa.


Blogger Hey Skipper said...

The recent, surprising success of the Ethiopian army in evicting the Islamic government of Somalia from Mogadishu should cheer us all

Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you.

Unfortunately, slapping on the "Abrahamic Religion" brand inverts the obvious.

January 01, 2007 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not because of "Abrahamic", that's because of "Shi'a." If they were Sunni, he'd be all for exterminating them.

January 01, 2007 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently I'm wrong and the Somali Islamicists are AQ affiliated, Wahabi sponsored Sunnis. So, basically, OJ's just gone over to the enemy.

January 02, 2007 2:00 PM  

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