Archive for the ‘Long Cycle Theory’ Category

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Coalitioning

December 3, 2013

Without realizing it, Walter Russell Mead describes the ongoing Coalitioning phase of the current hegemonic cycle:

Sometime in 2013, we reached a new stage in world history. A coalition of great powers has long sought to overturn the post Cold War Eurasian settlement that the United States and its allies imposed after 1990; in the second half of 2013 that coalition began to gain ground. The revisionist coalition hasn’t achieved its objectives, and the Eurasian status is still quo, but from this point on we will have to speak of that situation as contested, and American policymakers will increasingly have to respond to a challenge that, until recently, most chose to ignore.

It’s a long piece; read the whole thing.

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

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Creating a fifth Service Branch . . . and other thoughts on US Defense Reform

October 15, 2013

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, argues that the US must create a separate Cyber Force to prepare for conflicts in the near future.

I think we need a complete reform of the services.  I’ve just been playing with it in my head and haven’t done any detailed work on it, but something along the lines of:

  • Drastically shrinking the Army and closing all foreign Army bases.  Turn the reduced force into a territorial service with a much larger (and more active) reserve component.  Combine this Army with the Coast Guard (and perhaps even Air National Guard) to form the Territorial Service.
  • Combine the Air Force and Navy (with a larger Marine Corp as their ground component) into the Strategic Service, dedicated to all projection of force beyond national territory.  Offshore Balancing becomes the national strategic model.
  • Create separate Space and Cyber Services, as these are the realms where the next major war will be won or lost.

Streamlining the services, reducing our global footprint, and focusing on Offshore Balancing should allow a significant reduction in defense spending while at the same time creating a defense infrastructure better suited to likely future conflicts.  The reductions in size and spending would be offset by increases in capabilities.

This would be tough medicine for traditional hawks – and of course the Army – to swallow, but the purpose is to maximize capabilities and to better prepare for a likely major conflict with China (I write “likely” because I write from the perspective of Long Cycle Theory, which predicts it in the not too distant future).  If foreign policy and defense conservatives can sell the vision to the GOP as a whole, then major Defense Reform would be a big carrot to offer the Democrats in return for major Entitlement Reform and allow the nation to get its financial house in order, as well (something that is also needed as the conflict approaches).

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

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Is China’s Pacific Strategy actually “fake it till you make it?”

September 27, 2013

On one side are those who think China is simply using its full diplomatic arsenal to reassert legitimate and historic claims.  On the other are those who see analogies to German and Japanese imperialism just prior to World War Two.    But retired US admiral Mike McDevitt, currently a senior analyst at the private sector Center for Naval Analysis, thinks both positions are misapprehensions.  As reported by Sydney Freedberg at Breaking Defense, McDevitt believes that “I’m increasingly coming to the view that China’s reputation as a brilliant strategist is misplaced,  They’re very tactical [and] focused on whatever is in the inbox…. Their reactions in many places seem designed to shoot themselves in the foot.”  McDevitt also believes that China has far too many internal issues to allow itself to be sucked into a serious international conflict, so that the views of the hawks are as wrong as those of the doves.

I think that McDevitt is correct, but only in the short term.  Long term, the logic of Long Cycle Theory combined with China’s rapid ascent, the relative decline of the US, and the multi-nation Indo-Pacific naval arms race taken together indicate that just such a serious conflict is within the realm of possibility (if not, in fact, highly likely) within the next quarter century or so.

We are in the coalitioning phase

We are in the coalitioning phase

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The Grand Geo-economic Coalition

August 15, 2013

The US is currently negotiating two massive free trade agreements – the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.   If completed, the rules and regulations of the two will eventually be rationalized with each other and with existing trade groups such as NAFTA.   As these rules will define trade with the most developed nations on the planet, it will result in a much-streamlined alternative to the often sclerotic World Trade Organization.   Some see this as simply an attempt to re-invigorate the Washington Consensus against rising alternatives, but in the logic of Long Cycle Theory, it is a natural consequence of the Coalitioning sequence, and is easily recognized as an attempt by the US to organize the maritime world against the rising continental power of China.

Centrality

Centrality

We are in the coalitioning phase

We are in the coalitioning phase

 

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Turkey reshuffles the Eurasian coalitioning deck

April 29, 2013

In Modelski’s version of Long Cycle Theory, coalitioning is the final phase before the final conflict between the existing hegemonic order and its challengers.  The coalitioning phase sees shifts in alliance structures, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic.  EnerGeoPolitics has been watching the coalitioning efforts of the United States, Russia and China in Eurasia from its inception.  Early in this century, the US tried (and failed) to form an alliance of Caspian Sea states under the name of the Caspian Guard.  It has has better – though limited – success in expanding NATO to Eurasian states through its Partnership for Peace program.   China and Russia came together to create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with several Central Asian nations.  Russia has organized several of the former Soviet Republics into the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has been the most successful effort – success which has led Russia to de-emphasize its participation in the SCO.

Late last week, there was an upheaval in the coalitioning field as charter NATO member – a lynchpin of US efforts in Eurasia – officially became a “dialogue partner” of the SCO.  This is not full membership, and Turkey has not left NATO, but it has been drifting away from the Atlantic alliance and toward the Heartland for a decade.  Atlanticism, it seems, is in retreat, and Eurasianism is on the march.  The good news (from this American’s perspective) is that the competing versions of Eurasianism (Russian, Chinese and don’t forget pan-Islamic) will have to settle things out among themselves before they can look outward.

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The Geopolitics of International Finance

February 11, 2013

Long Cycle Theory divides modern (post 1500) history into six cycles of roughly a century apiece.  Each cycle has a leading power, or hegemon.  There are many qualities that each hegemon has had in common – they have all been maritime powers, they have all had relatively open societies, and they have all dominated international finance.  As these qualities fade, the alternate powers who wish to challenge the hegemon’s rule setting power begin to make their move (new readers can find a discussion of Long Cycle Theory and how it influences energy geopolitics  in this piece). The United States is the reigning hegemon, and remains  by far the world’s leading naval power.  Although it still has an open society, it is not the most open in the world.  It’s hold on international finance has been gradually slipping for decades, but that process has begun to speed up in recent years.  Bloomberg has an analysis today that graphically demonstrates how much the US banking presence has slipped in several key regional markets:

regional banking shares

Correlation, of course, is not causation, and this decay is not an indication that a global contest for hegemony is imminent, but it is a canary in the coal mine that policy makers should not ignore.

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Another proposed “new grand strategy” for the US

January 16, 2013

Patrick Doherty is the director of the “Smart Strategy Initative” at the New America Foundation, a left leaning US think tank.  Doherty takes to the pages of Foreign Policy this week to lay out his proposal for a new American grand strategy for the 21st century.  Doherty’s grand strategy is really a set of domestic policies dressed up as foreign policy – a grab bag of center-left policy preferences ranging from urban densification to sustainable (read, non-carbon) energy.

Now, the US does need to recognize its role in a changing world and to craft a grand strategy accordingly, and some of Doherty’s more broadly stated goals (e.g., to create a more widely shared global prosperity) are indeed critical to sustaining US hegemony, but I don’t believe that his specifics can get it done.   The key to economic prosperity is using energy to convert raw materials into goods and services.   The more potent and efficient the energy source, the greater the prosperity.  This is called biophysical economics.   Unless there is a completely unforeseen technological revolution, the roster of sustainable energy choices on Doherty’s menu will not be capable of the increased productivity and prosperity that he sees as necessary.  The only two foreseeable technological options are (1) nuclear and (2) enhanced efficiencies in fossil fuels.  I happen to think that the latter, in the form of a methanol economy that captures the CO2 waste product and converts it to an additional energy source is the more logical choice, and that the nation that succeeds in doing so will be the next global leader.