Brazil and Global Leadership

Now my excuse on waiting to blog on the Brazil meeting (November 21st-22nd, “Global Leadership: The Role of Brazil and the US and the Agenda for the 21st Century) referenced in my blog post “Constructing New Leadership“, was in anticipation of the finaling of the meeting’s consensus document. Well the document is now out and you can review it at the Stanley Foundation website.

The Conference in Rio de Janeiro hosted by CEBRI , the Brazilian Center for International Relations,  lasted a day with Brazilian and US experts – yes, your right,  once again I was the interloper in the crowd – in Rio de Janeiro hosted at Cebri offices and focused on global governance leadership questions.  It was both a lesson for me in Brazilian motivations, attitudes and behaviors toward the United States and Brazil’s role in international relations.

Brazil feels highly satisfied by its emergence as a rising power.  Brazilians have always seen themselves as a great power but their domestic political and financial conditions in particular always seemed to get in the road.  But they believe that – finally – they have made it.  As one Brazilian expert pointed out Brazil always saw itself as “Greece upside down”.  The Greeks always look back to a golden age; but Brazilians always look forward.  Brazilians now believe they have gotten their democratic politics right; they have emerged as a multicultural/multiracial society; and their economics and finances have overcome the limitations and manipulations of earlier decades.  They are proud of President  Lula – who leaves on January 1st extraordinarily popular – leaving the presidency  to his PT party successor, Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil was – as one of the Outreach 5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa) and was most vocal in questioning the legitimacy of the G8.  Now, of course, with the emergence of the G20 leaders club it sits at the heart of global governance leadership.  But there is no sense that Brazilian experts feel that it needs to shoulder greater leadership responsibility.  While it is possible, even likely, that President Lula took on an animated role discussing issues in Seoul (he didn’t show up in Toronto), his countrymen seem less inclined to claim a visible leadership role.  Evaluate the following from the Report:

A Brazilian participant helped explain why his foreign policy expert compatriots are hesitant about new global political responsibilities when he noted that Brazil’s basic outlook is to be generally satisfied with its strategic position and lack of immediate threats. Conversely, in other words, the United States has not been totally convincing as it argues for urgent action and the unsustainability of the status quo. Naturally, all participants hope their countries join each other and the rest of the world for enough international cooperation to promote the steady spread of peace and prosperity.

The lack of enthusiasm for seizing leadership was sharpened by the difficulties encountered by Brazil with Turkey when President Lula tried to mediate the proliferation issues between Iran and the P6 (the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany).   The rather harsh public dismissal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the compromise offered by Brazil and Turkey certainly embarrassed President Lula – and did nothing to encourage the President or Brazil to continue his efforts.

But international leadership remains in flux.  The greater diversity of leadership seen most evidently in the G20 suggests a more-concert-like structure for global governance.  But how to move from American hegemony to a diverse concert of powers that may not reflect like-mindedness is not clear at all. As the Report identifies:

The task of integrating newer pivotal powers into the multilateral order and adapting its structure, norms, and policy frameworks involves intertwined challenges. The international system must make room for the new players to assume a bigger role— which calls for traditional powers to welcome political leadership and policy ideas from new quarters, support adjustments to multilateral decision making, and address their own leadership shortfalls. In return, the emerging powers must give tangible content to their new stature by shouldering some of the burden of leadership, bolstering key international norms, and adding their impetus and influence to resolution of major global problems.

Diplomat and Celebrity – Richard Holbrooke Remembered

The tributes to Richard Holbrooke have concentrated on the core components of his career, highlighted by his diplomatic trouble-shooting in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Although his career as a US official dealing with front line conflicts was long and distinguished, Holbrooke had other elements to his personality and professional profile that merit attention.

What should not be missed is his leadership in an area entirely removed from geo-political mediation. This was in the area of global health.

In January 2000, as the US ambassador to the UN, Holbrooke convened a path-breaking meeting of the Security Council to discuss AIDS in Africa. As the Executive Director of UNAIDS reminded us: “Ambassador Holbrooke managed to redefine the AIDS response by identifying AIDS, not only as a public health issue, but as matter of global security. Through his unique actions he has mobilized world leaders and business partners in committing to the AIDS response. The AIDS movement has lost a good friend.”

Moreover, as in his work on geo-political mediation, Holbrooke proved tenacious. After departing from the UN, Holbrooke embraced the leadership of an NGO devoted to the mobilization of businesses and corporations in the fight against AIDS. In a span of six years, Holbrooke turned this organization—the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS —into an organization with a global span. Expanding its mandate to include malaria and TB, it became a key conduit to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

As in the other aspects of his life instrumental purpose was combined with an embrace of a celebrity aura. The work on AIDS brought him into contact with a host of A-Listers. Some of these celebrities, as might be expected from the mandate of the NGO, came from the business world. The Corporate Advisory Board currently includes Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group of Companies; Ratan N. Tata, Chair of the major Tata companies; and David Stern, Commissioner, National Basketball Association (NBA); financial support for the work of the Coalition was provided by Bill Gates, George Soros and Ted Turner.

Other A-Listers that he associated with on the AIDS initiative, however, were bona fides Hollywood stars. Angelina Jolie, notably, participated at the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS’ 2005 Awards for Business Excellence Gala (and has kept up a connection since).

The other link between the worlds of official diplomacy and celebrity activism is the promotion of up and coming talent. As a young diplomat, Holbrooke was mentored by a variety of diplomatic ‘old hands’. In his leadership of the Business Coalition Holbrooke appointed as Executive Director, Trevor Neilson, who had previously served as the served as the Director of Public Affairs and Director of Special Projects for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nielsen has since set up the Global Philanthropy Group, a firm that connects celebrities and causes.

But more on that in another Guest Blogger post.  Meanwhile the United States and this Administration in particular will miss Richard Holbrooke.

The Faces of Celebrity Diplomacy

By Andrew F Cooper – University of Waterloo

[From the Blog Editor: This is the first blog post by Celebrity Blogger.  This post launches a new series within Rising BRICSAM.  Periodically Celebrity Blogger will provide new insights into the intersection between popular culture and global affairs.  Watch for it.]

Celebrity activism continues to garner a huge amount of attention. The popular Guardian newspaper’s Development Blog currently features a Podcast on the role of celebrities in development

William Easterly wrote a typically provocative Op Ed in the Washington Post (December 10) on ‘John Lennon vs. Bono: The death of the celebrity activist And Daniel Drezner added a quick follow-up piece on his Foreign Affairs Blog.

While the Guardian and Drezner are intrigued by the staying power of celebrity activism, Easterly is convinced he knows the answers: Bono’s access oriented, professional approach to activism serves as a wrong-headed approach. Pointing to the way not taken, he bemoans the symbolic demise of John Lennon’s enthusiastic amateur brand of celebrity activism.

From my own work, showcased in my Celebrity Diplomacy book and subsequent articles, I judge Easterly to be wrong on both counts. Through his fixation on Lennon, Easterly demonstrates he is stuck in a time warp with a focus on narrow profile of dissenters. If he cared to take a global look he could find that this rebellious stream among celebrity activists (or what I term, anti-diplomats) is alive and well. Some of these dissenters such as Harry Belafonte go back to the civil rights era in the US. However, in recent years, there has been a marked transnational turn. In 2006, Belafonte along with Danny Glover made headlines by praising Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution. And this list of dissenters can be expanded to include not only other mainstream entertainers (Sean Penn jumps out!) but also a number of vibrant activists in many other parts of the world.  In his preoccupation with musicians from the Anglo-sphere Easterly misses the amplified role of performers/dissenters such as Angelique, Kidjo and Arundhati Roy.

Reinforcing the need to expand the global lens a number of these dissenters are featured in the Guardian Blog, notably Bianca Jagger and Annie Lennox. Among other campaigns, both of these celebrity activists have been outspoken critics of Israel’s offensive against Gaza taking part in major rallies in January 2009.

Turning away from this extended pattern of dissent, Easterly’s portrays Bono as a charming technocrat. Yet, as witnessed by his work in the context of the G8 summit process, what is unique about Bono is his ability to go beyond the common boundaries of celebrity activity by acting both an insider and outsider. Bilaterals with G8 leaders were combined with meetings with representatives of civil society, press conferences and public events (such as the 2007 Raise Your Voice against poverty in Rostock) Bono is also an exemplar mentor for other celebrities across the spectrum from Matt Damon to Alicia Keys. If he is a wonk he combines that element of celebrity diplomacy with a deep reservoir of spirituality. After all, Bono made Jesse Helm’s cry by his depiction of AIDS as the leprosy of our age.

What provides celebrity activism with its legitimacy and selective effectiveness is its essential dualism. Diversifying since the Lennon era, notable dissenters that operate as rebellious advocates persist. Rather than being crowded out they operate in contradistinction to the networked and professionalized celebrity stream, epitomized by Bono through his work at DATA/ONE. Rather than nostalgically bemoaning the decline of the stream of dissent, and dismissing celebrity ‘wonkism’ as a wrong turn, this diversity – both in style and geographical scope – needs to be fully appreciated.

The celebrity streams operate as two faces of the same fascinating and on-going phenomenon.

China Cannot Rise Peacefully

The title in this blog post is the declared bottom line from John Mearsheimer’s recent speech (given in Australia in August 2010) and the article from the China Journal of International Politics, (Vol 3, 2010, “The Gathering Storm: China’s Challenge to US Power in Asia”).  Now I promise to get off this US-China relationship thing soon but I couldn’t leave without evaluating John’s speech and recent article.

For those who don’t know John, he is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.  He is an IR celebrity – a rather hard thing to do.  He is well known for developing what is called, “Offensive Realism,”  an international relations approach that asserts that all states in an anarchic international system seek power and dominance in the international system.  This is not classic realism but realism that sees nations seeking hegemony more from uncertainty than defensive actions.  Offensive realism in contrast is realism on steroids.

So John looks at the current situation and sees US-China relations through this offensive realism lens:

Thus, the core question that any leader has to ask him or herself is this: what is the best way to maximize my country’s security in a world where another state might have significant offensive military capability as well as offensive intentions, and where there is no higher body I can turn to for help if that other state threatens my country?  This question—more than any other—will motivate American as well as Chinese leaders in the years ahead, as it has in the past.  … The best way for any state to ensure its survival is to be much more powerful than all the other states in the system, because the weaker states are unlikely to attack it for fear they will be soundly defeated. No country in the Western Hemisphere, for example, would dare strike the United States because it is so powerful relative to all its neighbors. To be more specific, the ideal situation for any great power is to be the hegemon in the system, because its survival then would almost be guaranteed.

John is a mild-mannered –  and a thoroughly likable colleague (actually I went to graduate school at Cornell with him) – who is seriously committed to international relations. So while I can, and do, disagree with him frequently – I always take him seriously.  But as you can see from the quotes above, offensive realism is anything but mild-mannered.

For John the actions of China will be not unlike the United States.  The emergence of the United States as a great power is defined by the US’s achieving regional hegemony.  It is the only great power, according to John, to have done so, and having done so it has dedicated itself to not facing another hegemon.  In John’s world of great powers – best expressed in: The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (NY: Norton, 2001)  – a rising power like China will imitate a previous great power – the United States.

It is unlikely that China will pursue military superiority so that it can go on the warpath and conquer other countries in the region, although that is always a possibility. Instead, it is more likely that Beijing will want to dictate the boundaries of acceptable behavior to neighboring countries, much the way the United States makes it clear to other states in the Americas that it is the boss. Gaining regional hegemony, I might add, is probably the only way that China will get Taiwan back.

China will seek hegemony in Asia – pushing out the United States as the United States pushed out the Europeans in the Western Hemisphere to establish regional hegemony.  China will then claim regional hegemony in the Asia-Pacific.  The struggle will not be identical to but also not unlike the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

For John the world is a world of great powers, not identical to the past but not that different either.  And the significant differences that describe global relations today fade into insignificance in the face of great power dynamics.  As it was; so will it be. Even the dynamics of globalization so dramatic over the last decades fade away and are assessed as insignificant:

My view is that economic interdependence does not have a significant effect on geopolitics one way or the other. After all, the major European powers were all highly interdependent and prospering in 1914 when First World War broke out.

And though the interdependence that John acknowledges was present in the twentieth century, I think most would recognize as significantly different in scale and influence taking into account financial, trade and investment trends.  These trends describe a tight global economic system far beyond the world understood in 1914.  And China is so much more integrated into the world economy than earlier rising powers.  Is conflict impossible? Of course not.  But the dismissal of the global economic context by John is not realistic.

I remain convinced that US-China relations are best described as “yi di, yi you” ( 亦敌 亦友) – “Both Friend and Foe” (see recent posts including “Jumping to Conclusions“).  China and the United States will have to work through periods of rivalry and periods of partnership. Those periods of rivalry could be quite tense but the periods of partnership in global leadership are likely to be quite restorative.

The picture narrated by John Mearsheimer is tragic –  possible  but not likely.  We do not have to conclude as he does:

Indeed, it is downright depressing. I wish that I could tell a more optimistic story about the prospects for peace in the Asia-Pacific region. But the fact is that international politics is a nasty and dangerous business and no amount of good will canameliorate the intense security competition that sets in when an aspiring hegemon appears in Eurasia. And there is little doubt that there is one on the horizon.

Jumping to Conclusions

I am becoming slightly obsessed, I think, with the views from the commentariat on the US-China relationship.  So I am joining in on examining the ‘horse  race’ slightly after arguing, I think correctly that you need to avoid the kind of analysis that focuses on  – ‘who is ahead, who is behind’ in the US-China relationship – ‘who can dis the other’ – in the ongoing diplomatic discussions. It will yield little in understanding the state of US-China relations.But I will focus on one of these pieces because it underlines the inherent difficulty of analyzing the US-China relationship in trying to read that relationship from the latest diplomatic effort.

The latest article I found was again – surprise, surprise – by David Sanger at the NYT.  In this instance David co-wrote with Michel Wines (see, “North Korea Is a Sign of Chilled US-China Relations“).

Their negative framing comes early:

But in Beijing, both Chinese and America officials and analysts have another explanation: the long silence epitomizes the speed with which relations between Washington and Beijing have plunged into a freeze.  This year has witnessed the longest period of tension between the two capitals in a decade.  And if anything, both sides appear to be hardening their positions.

Then for good measure they quote Bonnie Glaser a China scholar from CSIS Washington and elsewhere with: “I don’t think this is easily repairable, and I think we’re going to have a fairly cold relationship over the next two years, and potentially longer.”

But wait a minute.   Just last spring we were all commenting on the positive turn in relations between the US and China with President Hu’s call to President Obama and then his attendance at the US nuclear security conference in Washington.

Ah but today’s ‘horse race’ is around the Korean Peninsula.  There things have not gone well.  China has been notably absent in condemning the North Koreans – the DPRK- for the attack on the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and a weak Chinese follow up.  Not surprisingly, I think, the Chinese have been reluctant to condemn their ally. For China given the strong PLA (military) support for the DPRK – the short term policy remains to encourage diplomacy and eschew any demarche and public disapproval of DPRK actions.  As the authors note: “…China’s strategy is to reassure the Koreans about their security, not lecture them about diplomatic obligations.” Indeed far down in the article the journalists are more pointed in acknowledging that Chinese leadership is having a difficult time – it always thus where leadership consensus is required – defining a policy direction.  As they say, “… the Chinese leadership is still debating how to balance its interest in propping up North Korea with their interest in preventing more incidents or another nuclear test, …”

But Sanger and Wines are not content to draw out the differences between the two on Korea, and suggest that this tense diplomatic relationship over Korea only reflects a part of the growing chill between the two.  As they argue: “But the lack of cooperation on North Korea only hints at the deterioration in the US-China relationship.” Well maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t.  For Wines and Sanger this unwillingness to condemn DPRK actions is more reflective of a decision – reached at the the time of the global financial crisis in 2008 – to oppose the US where “… Chinese officials have railed loudly and publicly against what they consider to be American efforts to smother their rightful emergence on the global stage.”

While the US has not fully been able to adjust itself to a world without a hegemon, I see nothing in immediate US policy toward China that smacks of ‘hegemonism’ as the Chinese would say.  And while there is a ‘China can Just Say No” school of thought in Beijing there is no indication that this School of foreign policy thinking is now the accepted consensus in Zhongnanhai.

Their analysis of current US-China relations is – “Jumping to Conclusions”.  I have not altered my view that this key leadership relationship is one of, ” yi di, yi you” ( 亦敌 亦友) – “Both Friend and Foe”.  And in that complex relationship there will be rivalry and competition as well as partnership and collaboration. It can get nasty.  But it can be friendly as well.

The Tools of Influence

Again this weekend David Sanger of the NYT has provided some real insight into the ways the US has implemented Barack Obama’s commitment as a candidate to restore “engagement” in US foreign policy.  While I have posed to you – the reader – that a key issue in clarifying the success – or not,  of global governance is an examination of current US leadership.  I am working through – as quickly as I can honestly –  Steven Weber (Berkeley) and Bruce Jentleson’s (Duke University)  recently released, “The End of Arrogance: America and the Global Competition of Ideas”.  I suspect further clues will emerge from that future post on this new book on US leadership.

But back to David Sanger.  Relying on WikiLeaks, David examines Obama Administration behavior and comes away suggesting:

Engage, yes, but wield a club as well – and try to counter the global doubts that he is willing to use. … Mr. Obama’s form of engagement is a complicated mixture of openness to negotiation, constantly escalating pressure and a series of deadlines, some explicit, some vague.

This article then describes the successes but also the failures in applying the Administration’s policy of engagement as just described above.  While successes have occurred – Russia policy most evidently – there are evident limits – Iran, North Korea and China.  The dilemma is that engagement is only part of the equation; another element is influence.  Fortunately, in this week’s “Week in Review”  is just full of insight in of all things United States foreign policy.

And particularly useful – that is in giving us some perspective on “influence” – is  Tom Friedman’s op-ed in his Sunday NYT piece, “The America Big Leak“.  What Tom points to – and to be fair he has been beating on this drum for some time- the US has little leverage – what I define as influence. The reason – oil.  What external trade is to China; oil and oil US consumption is to the United States.  It is all addiction.

For the United States, as described by Friedman:

When we [United States] import $28 billion a month in oil, we can’t say to the Saudis: “We know the guys who would come after you would be be much worse, but why do we have to choose between your misrule and corruption and their brutality and intolerance?” … We also lack leverage with the Chinese on North Korea, or with regard to the values of China’s currency, because we’re addicted to their credit. Geopolitics is all about leverage (emphasis added).  We cannot make ourselves safer abroad unless we change our behavior at home.  But  our politics never connects the two.

While it may not represent the entire picture, leverage or influence – the same are critical to leadership.  And the US needs to change the equation of influence starting currently  with cheap oil.

Less US dependence on oil would have a major impact on global governance leadership.  But it would not be the whole picture.  Beyond “influence” we need a clear behavioral strategy.  Stay tuned.

Posted in US

The Global Declinist Position

Harvard’s Niall – pronounced like Neal –  Ferguson is an absolutely prolific writer and a creator of some of the more colorful contemporary metaphors for the evolving world.  A good friend was kind enough to forward me a piece that Niall had penned in the WSJ – “In China’s Orbit“.  The principal thesis of the article is – as the subtext promotes – “After 500 years of Western predominance the world is tilting back to the East.”

One of the dilemma’s for prolific writers such as Ferguson is that they tend to run right into their own earlier position.  Thus in Niall’s case he and a colleague create “Chimerica” the fusion of the the Chinese and American economies  – one export and surplus, the other consumption and deficit – and then in the midst of the meltdown declare it dead.  The problem is that the declaration may yet remain premature.

In this article, the problem presented by his analysis may be that the facts fail to reflect – at least for the time being – this narrative.  Niall suggests that China’s strategy is what he parodies are the Four “Mores”.  By this Niall means: “consume more, import more, invest abroad more and innovate more”.  And while there are elements of this in current Chinese policy, it is not such a clear cut strategy nor outcome.  And certainly it not yet east versus west  as described by Niall – “What we are living through now is the end of 500 years of Western predominance.  This time the Eastern challenger is for real, both economically and geopolitically.”

First on the 4 Mores there remain questions over each element. The fact is China has not really achieved it’s rise on the back of consuming.  Indeed the problem for China is that it remains addicted (see my recent blog post The ‘Drug’ of External Trade)  to exporting and achieving the shift to domestic consumption will not come easily or quickly.  As for more importing, well there is no question that to fuel the manufacturing machine – owned by the way by a variety of folk including the lao wai (老外)  the foreigners, there is significant importation of resources including energy.  But there is a rising chorus of complaint from a number of these countries – (having just returned from Brazil – it is one) that China is only interested in natural resources.  And such disquiet of course spills over from  resources to investments especially by Chinese State-owned enterprises – owned by the government (so much for privatization) – being made in many of these countries.  As for innovation, the final one of the 4 Mores, there is not yet strong evidence of an innovation society.    I might add – since Niall quotes a Chinese Rear Admiral – that the investment strategy justifies, apparently,  ambitious plans for naval expansion and ties it to recent official statements – not public – that raised the temperature on the South China Sea.  But if we want to look at naval strength there is a very long way to go before others – read that the United States – need to start worrying about naval challenges.

The reality is China has made enormous strides and has drawn a greater number of folk out of poverty than any other country in history.  But the development of newly emerging large market countries is not confined to Asia.  And I’m not prepared to conclude that the current primus inter pares – the United States – is now a spent force.  The reality is Asia is rising but the United States is a part of that rising.  It is present in alliances and the US has committed significant military forces in Asia.  As a power that backs on the Pacific it contends along with others in the emergence of this vast region.  So yes, Niall is right in his conclusion –  China is not the master but is no longer the apprentice. But that’s a far cry from some of the more excited assertions about China.