Toward a Geopolitics of Hope


William H. Thornton & Songok Han Thornton

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    List of Abbreviations

    ABFSUAll Burma Federation of Student Unions
    ABSDFAll Burma Students' Democratic Front
    AFSPAArmed Forces (Special Powers) Act
    AIPACAmerican Israel Public Affairs Committee
    APECAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
    ASBMAnti-Ship Ballistic Missiles
    ASEANAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations
    BGBilderberg Group
    BJPBharatiya Janata Party
    BSPBahujan Samaj Party
    BSPPBurma Socialist Programme Party
    BRICBrazil, Russia, India, and China
    CCPChinese Communist Party
    CECCCongressional-Executive Commission on China
    CFRCouncil on Foreign Relations
    CIACentral Intelligence Agency
    CICChina Investment Cooperation
    CISCommonwealth of Independent States
    CLSCritical Legal Studies (Movement)
    CMASChasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh
    CPI(M)Communist Party of India (Marxist)
    CRCConvention on the Rights of the Child
    CTBTComprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    DPPDemocratic Progressive Party
    DRCDemocratic Republic of the Congo
    EATOEuro-Atlantic Treaty Organization
    FARRwandan Armed Forces
    FDIForeign Direct Investment
    FERForeign Exchange Reserves
    FSBFederal Security Service
    GAILGas Authority of India Limited
    GCCGulf Cooperation Council
    GEGeneral Electric
    GNPGross National Product
    GPAGlobal Political Agreement
    ILGIInformal Local Governance Institutions
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    IOCInternational Olympic Committee
    KIAKachin Independence Army
    KNUKaren National Union
    LDFLeft Democratic Front
    LSELondon School of Economics
    MCAMillennium Challenge Account
    MCCMaoist Communist Centre
    MENAMiddle East and North Africa
    MFNMost Favored Nation
    MITIMinistry of International Trade and Industry
    NAMNon-Aligned Movement
    NEDBNational Economic Development Board
    NGONon-Governmental Organization
    NLDNational League for Democracy
    NPTNon-Proliferation Treaty
    NREGSNational Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
    NSGNuclear Suppliers Group
    NTCNational Transitional Council
    OSCEOrganization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
    PAPPeople's Action Party
    PLAPeople's Liberation Army
    PPPPurchasing Power Parity
    PRPublic Relations
    PRCPeople's Republic of China
    PSPCPoststructural and Postcolonial Theory
    PWGPeople's War Group
    R2PResponsibility to Protect
    RBIReserve Bank of India
    RDFRapid Deployment Force
    RILReliance Industries Limited
    ROCRussian Orthodox Church
    RPFRwandan Patriotic Front
    SAARCSouth Asian Association for Regional Co-operation
    SADCSouthern African Development Community
    SAPStructural Adjustment Programs
    SCOShanghai Cooperation Organization
    SEZSpecial Economic Zone
    SLORCState Law and Order Restoration Council
    SOEState-Owned Enterprises
    SPDCState Peace and Development Council
    SWFSovereign Wealth Fund
    TARTibet Autonomous Region
    TCTrilateral Commission
    TCCTransnational Capitalist Class
    TNCTransnational Corporation
    TVETownship and Village Enterprise
    UMNOUnited Malays National Organisation
    UNOCALUnion Oil Company of California
    UPAUnited Progressive Alliance
    VHPVishwa Hindu Parishad


    The authors wish to thank the Journal of Developing Societies and World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues for allowing us to use parts of articles previously published with them.

  • Conclusion: The Search for a Post-Globalist Third Way

    The Contest of Rival Capitalisms

    For thirty years neoliberalism has lorded over American economic thought, promoting “reform” that amounts to regulatory anarchy. Recognizing no boundaries, this mode of globalization has reached out with missionary zeal to every corner of the earth, pumping billions of largely speculative capital into developing countries that draw no effective line between politics and commerce. This is the sphere of crony capitalism, and for those on its receiving end it has worked wonders. Some of the most reactionary regimes in the world have been enriched, enabling them to fortify themselves against domestic reform and to drive a wedge between economic and political development.1

    Globalization on such terms has consistently betrayed developing countries that looked to Washington for democratic support. It is hard to say, however, which has been hurt most by neoliberalism, the Third World or the First. As of 2008 it seemed that recession would be the major US export for years to come. Some of America's most productive economic sectors have already been gutted and outsourced, but the worst damage has probably been to the very idea of what modern liberalism entails. Under the “neo” prefix, liberalism's egalitarian essence has been expunged. Financial safeguards put in place during the 1930s, such as the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, were jettisoned by the late 1990s, leaving Americans at the mercy of market forces beyond even Wall Street's control. The idea that this system, cut loose from government oversight, could somehow regulate itself requires a leap of faith bordering on religious conviction. From the days of Richard Cobden's battle against the Corn Laws in the 1840s to the present fight for “free trade” globalism, “liberal” economics has shrouded itself in faith-based assumptions that could never be refuted by mere empirical argument.2

    This sacred house of cards came tumbling down in 2008. Neoliberal institutions will survive the Great Recession, but their legitimacy is mortally wounded. Thus the current financial crisis marks the real end of the 20th century, ideologically speaking. Not despite the ongoing recession, but because of it, US corporate politics is emerging stronger than ever, no longer needing the liberal prop it has leaned on since the Great Depression. More than ever, Wall Street is “coming out:” openly applying the kind of political extortion that used to be a covert operation. The corporate mantra of “too big to fail” pays no heed to moral hazard and turns neoliberal preachment on its head by fusing American government and business more tightly than ever.

    The result is not just another capitalist contradiction, but the greatest democratic setback since the McCarthy years. Whereas 20th century progressivism set government against monopolistic gigantism, present bailouts have put taxpayers so conspicuously in the service of mega-capital that government is reduced to a Wall Street entitlement. Thus the countervailing powers of John Kenneth Galbraith's triad—the optimal balance of government, business, and labor—have been replaced by a streamlined corporate state. It is hard to imagine how, in a democratic country, the corporate welfare packages of recent years could have met so little resistance at a time when vital social programs were being gutted. In this respect the 21st century seems to be reverting to 19th century political mores, closer to the world of Marx and Engels than to that of Keynes and Galbraith.

    Where is the democratic brake that 20th century liberalism applied to unrestrained capitalism? If the task of modern liberalism has been to reduce (or at least camouflage) the inequality and surplus repression of capitalism, it clearly has forfeited its mission. The question is whether capitalism and democracy can coexist without this liberal buffer. Whereas Marx and even revisionists like Eduard Bernstein sought to transcend the contradictions of capitalism through socialism, liberalism after Franklin D. Roosevelt took the path of palliative reform, aimed mainly at saving capitalism from itself.

    Nonetheless many paleo-liberals were deeply concerned about inequality. Keynes, for example, acknowledged in his General Theory that Western economic society had failed to provide anything like a fair distribution of wealth and income. Apropos of our present crisis, he advocated the complete dissolution of the rentier sector. Nothing less than that deserves the name “Keynesianism.” Today that same rentier establishment, having won the “too big to fail” sweepstakes, is turning the focus of Western capitalism from production to finance. Worse still, it is financing chosen politicians in an effort to shut down the regulatory functions of government.

    At this point something must give. The explosive incongruity of finance capitalism and broad-spectrum democracy cannot remain on public display without radical consequences, be they progressive or reactionary. After the Great Depression the system's liberal buffer had to vastly expand, with enough real concessions thrown in to keep the voting public mollified. By the 1960s this liberal construct was wearing out, and by the 1970s it was utterly dysfunctional. A major overhaul was going to be necessary. Given the political decline of labor, there would be no New Deal on offer this time. Instead the myth was propagated that capitalism, stripped of its regulatory incubus, could be rendered so productive that nearly everyone would benefit through the miracle of “trickle down” economics. By this logic no sane person could begrudge the inequality that the system presumably required.

    The general public took the bait, democratically opting for its own economic and political subordination. This retreat from liberal egalitarianism is every bit as baffling as the refusal of the German proletariat to dodge the draft in World War I, not to mention its gleeful surrender to Nazism in the 1930s. How is it possible, in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, for America's working classes to vote en masse against their own manifest interests? To understand this curious lemming effect, we would be well advised to revisit Erich Fromm's Escape From Freedom, aptly updated by Carl Bogg's The End of Politics and John Kampfner's Freedom for Sale.3

    What we are witnessing is the final chapter of a depoliticizing process that began in the 1970s when market fundamentalism made its full political debut, moving quickly from the status of a rearguard economic theory to that of an almost unquestioned bipartisan ideology: “TINA,” to borrow Thatcher's jargon. More was involved here than an oil crisis and a protracted recession. There was a broad feeling, in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, and chronic stagflation, that America and the West in general was in steep decline and that liberalism was largely to blame.4

    In the name of tossing out liberal elitism, this supposedly grassroots “conservatism” implanted Wall Street in the heart of American politics, where it has held sway ever since. It accomplished this feat not so much by arguing its case objectively as by closing off discussion of all alternatives.5 TINAism holds that market fundamentalism is the only trustworthy agent of progress. The very word “liberalism” was stigmatized in the 1980s, just as “socialism” had been in the 1950s. By gradations the working classes were disempowered, albeit by democratic means.6 Meanwhile, being a universal faith, neoliberalism cast off the national focus of Keynesianism. Neoliberalism and globalism would become almost interchangeable terms for an ideology that has no borders and allows no exceptions.

    By its own anti-nationalistic and anti-geopolitical criteria, globalism was a fraud from the first, but it was only after 9/11 that this hoax became so glaringly obvious that a major ideological adjustment was necessary. Even inner circle globalists then pushed for military solutions to the disorder that globalization itself had wrought.7 Thus in the early Bush years there was a melding of neoliberal economism and neoconservative militarism—Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney, so to speak. This post-9/11 synthesis, which we have elsewhere termed neoglobalism,8 now stands tête-à-tête with other armed globalisms—most notably those of China and Russia—in a competition that comes down to a contest of rival capitalisms.

    After three devastating decades, neoliberal globalization has worse than failed. In the process of failing it has played midwife to an authoritarian network that will be even harder to contain than the economically enervated order that the West confronted during the Cold War. The new authoritarianism combines the political repression of the erstwhile Second World with the most dynamic processes of global capitalism. This formidable hybrid could prove to be the real “new world order,” eclipsing the neoliberal version that declared itself “the end of history” and for two decades has passed itself off as “globalization” per se.

    Already the revitalized Second World, led by China, is leaving First World globalization in the dust. One of its main selling points is the odious record of the Washington Consensus—the devil the Third World knows too well. Its “TINA” doctrine is read by the developing world as a declaration of cold indifference. This gives the new Second World a dark horse advantage over the justly vilified competition. By the time the Third World awakens to what Second World hegemony will mean, the new power structure will be deeply entrenched.

    Meanwhile globalist discourse allows the Third World just two developmental options: the neoliberal first way or the neoauthoritarian second way. The search for a global “third way” must go beyond the call for a wider distribution of globalization's spoils, in the manner of the G20. To provide a real developmental alternative it must redefine development in liberatory terms that have no place in standard globalist discourse. From this vantage the current contest of rival capitalisms is more like a mafia turf war than a clash of civilizational values.

    The China Model Comes of Age

    It is little wonder that on a broad range of issues Washington and Beijing have worked in tandem, forging a functional symbiosis that has lead many in the West to imagine that global harmony is right around the corner. On that happy assumption, and in hot pursuit of exponential profits, neoliberals have made every effort to facilitate the Second World's economic growth, often to the detriment of Third World development.9 Without this unprecedented capital injection the China model could not have survived even its gestation period. Had that capital been injected into other Asia Pacific nations, they would have fared much better in the aftermath of the 1997–98 Asian crisis, and by the same token the whole Third World has been bled by China's developmental dominance.

    Lately there has been a distinct role reversal, as China has assisted a flagging US economy by investing heavily in American debt instruments. By September 2009 the PRC held nearly 800 billion in US treasury securities, making it America's largest creditor. Significantly it increased these holdings by over 8 percent in that year of world recession, despite woefully low interest and a sharply falling dollar.10 It may seem contradictory that a politically contrarian China would do anything to rescue its foremost geopolitical competitor, but the mystery is solved once it is recognized that global finance in the 21st century is a weapon of war, and there is huge strategic advantage in having the world's major superpower in your pocket. The Chinese understand that their $2.27 trillion in foreign exchange reserves (FERs) is geopolitical currency, whereas Americans tend to believe that economic interdependence, even in the form of stupendous debt, precludes serious conflict.

    This naïveté traces in part to a classic American delusion about China's capitalistic transformation. It is still widely believed that Deng Xiaoping effectively joined the Western world system when he jettisoned Maoism and installed a market economy in China. There are several things wrong with this conventional telling of the tale. First, Deng and his supporters did not, as legend has it, wheel in a capitalist reform program when Deng came to power at the Third Plenum of the Eighth Party Congress. Reform of that kind was not on the Party agenda, and was not even discussed. Agricultural reforms that were credited to Deng had already begun in the countryside, and would simply be condoned by the Party,11 more out of weakness than by willful design.

    Deng's celebrated gradualism is often praised in contrast to Gorbachev's feckless impatience, but this feature of Dengism can best be explained by a lack of enthusiasm for changes that had to be accepted. Nonetheless Deng was prescient in recognizing fairly fast that some of these accidental reforms could buttress his party's power. He saw capitalism's rescue potential early enough to revivify the most repressive political machine of them all: the CPP, which makes even Singapore's PAP look progressive. While Singapore does at least give its policies a rule-of-law varnish, and has managed to get a “partly free” rating from Freedom House, China does not bother with such liberal formalities.

    That did not matter in the least to neoliberal globalists in their prime. Their development credo all but guaranteed that China and other capitalist police states would eventually liberalize their politics along with their economies. The question is how the world will respond to China's intensified repression after the Olympics. Will there be a reassessment of the bargain that was struck with post-Tiananmen China, on the assumption that capitalism and despotism were like oil and water? Under cover of this colossal neoliberal fallacy, the Beijing Consensus (as it was fondly labeled by Joshua Cooper Ramo, who in 2005 became the managing director of the flagrantly pro-China Kissinger Associates)12 was able to integrate some of the worst elements of First and Second World governance.

    That reactionary hybrid dwarfs the performance of democratic capitalism in sheer growth terms. Like Putinist Russia, but with much less bombast, China has been converting its economic capital into military and geopolitical might. Increasingly it is dropping its soft-power guise and rekindling the kind of nationalist fervor that was supposed to wither away through globalization. Robert Kagan sums it up in the first line of The Return of History and the End of Dreams: “The world has become normal again.”13

    In this “normalized” world the spread of democracy and human rights can no longer be taken for granted. Rein Müllerson is right to see these intangibles as a matter of history, not destiny.14 More to our point, they are a matter of agency. Michael Bérubé, in The Left at War,15 holds that active and sometimes invasive strategies will be necessary when the alternative is genocide, ethnocide, or world-scale ecocide. The problem is that progressive action, no matter how just and pressing the cause, runs against the current political grain on both sides of the Atlantic. America's occupation of Iraq has not only given a bad name to forceful liberal intervention, but even to hard diplomatic pressure for the democratic cause. At the worst possible time the Bush administration tarnished the image of democratic social justice by endorsing a neoconservative version of democracy promotion. The foreign policy disaster that followed will be even more difficult to repair than that other Bush legacy, a crippled economy.

    If the twin goals of human rights and democratic reform are to recover from their global retreat (witness Freedom House's very understated 2007 report that one-fifth of the world's countries have experienced a deterioration in basic freedoms, and its 2008 report confirming a third straight year of this trend),16 we must get beyond neoliberalism's democratic credulity. That artifact of the Washington Consensus ends up on the side of the power elite in nearly every country it touches. The needed corrective, however, is not a magic wand to eradicate all the world's ills. Its effectiveness rests with a recognition of stark practical limits. Like James Traub's democratic realism,17 the moral realism we posit involves a pragmatic reform agenda.18 This affords an ethical compass for foreign affairs yet avoids the kind of quixotic idealism that would keep America permanently at war, and mostly on the losing side.

    The lesson of eight years under a swaggering George W. Bush was that geopolitical success in the 21st century has more to do with earning legitimacy than with “shock and awe” military might. The Princeton Project on National Security, conceived as an “X article” for our times, grounds global security in the spread of liberal democracy as opposed to mere order, which was the leitmotif of Cold War realism. Positively stated, the idea is to help developing countries come up to “PAR:” Popular, Accountable, Rights-based governance.19 Negatively stated—or at least negatively implied—this project mandates the rejection of amoral, Kissingeresque realism as well as the nominally democratic but equally odious neoconservatism that the Bush administration embraced. What made Bushism so injurious to the cause of social democratization was its appropriation of progressive language without substance. Words like freedom and democracy were cheapened, while American credibility was pulverized.

    For all its good intentions, however, the Princeton Project ends up doing damage of a similar kind. By spreading its invitational net too widely, it loses the oppositional edge that social democratization requires. It is no accident that both of the project's coeditors have been soft on China, the world's most successfully anti-democratic regime. China poses the double hazard of being not only a renascent Asian empire but also a global archetype for development without freedom. Even United Russia, Putin's party, has increasingly looked toward the CCP as its model for one-party rule within the globalist system.20 Putin's recent call for trans-party unity in the face of national crisis is understood by his opponents as an attempt to recharge his flagging political base by re-Sovieting Russian politics.21 His actual goal is to “CCPize” Russia by ridding it of opposition parties and putting crony capitalism in its proper place: his own Kremlin pockets.

    Oddly, neoliberal institutionalists like Anne-Marie Slaughter tend to take Russia's anti-democratic turn more seriously than China's. To her credit, she holds that the Russian invasion of Georgia warranted a more potent response than the EU was ready to muster, yet she does not press the issue. It says a great deal about today's “liberal” policy discourse that the flaccid measures Slaughter recommends earn her the reputation of being “tough on Russia.”22 We are not giving up on her, however. After her tour with the Obama administration, she did in fact take a tough stand on the need for more forceful support of Libya's freedom fighters.

    It says much about the real priorities of today's globalism that Gaddafi could, with no visible change on his part, be adopted as the pet dictator of globalists on both sides of the Atlantic. Like the Georgia crisis, the Libyan civil war could be a blessing of sorts if it alerted Western leaders to the futility of most engagement policies and to the utter incommensurability of liberal and authoritarian capitalisms. Likewise we should thank Putin for helping us see the new Second World for what it is. By no means is his brand of Kremlin capitalism the most nefarious player in this new “great game.” China's geopolitical agenda is all the more dangerous for being less overt. That is what makes the new Cold War—the contest of rival capitalisms—so perilous. To most Westerners it is still invisible.

    The Cold Peace

    One reason for that invisibility is the idea that the old Cold War was mainly about capitalism versus socialism, rather than democracy versus authoritarianism. To most, a Cold War between capitalisms is simply inconceivable. Since capitalism now has no enemies among the major powers, the Cold War concept has been laid to rest. Peaceful coexistence between world powers is taken for granted, with universal democracy waiting just over the horizon. This neoliberal augury hits a snag, however, for the corporate world that sponsors it has a dark secret: democratization has not only stalled in much of the world,23 but is not even on the wish list of most TNCs.

    It is no accident that global investors have shown a strong preference for engagement with dictatorial China rather than democratic India. This is despite the fact that India offers far better opportunities in terms of normal investment criteria. A recent study put the average price-to-earnings ratio of Chinese companies at 40.7, whereas India registered a vastly superior 14.6. The China bias makes no business sense, unless dictatorial fiat is registered as a positive variable. Investors claim to be leary of India's supposed lack of “stability” relative to a very “orderly” and hence “well-governed” China. However, a Legatum Institute study ranked China's governance at a lowly 93, as compared to India's 41, and also rated India above China in terms of general prosperity, which foregrounds human welfare rather than raw economic growth.24 “Order” in the rule-of-law sense is not the issue here, for Chinese courts answer more to CCP dictates than to law.

    What, then, lures foreign investors in droves to authoritarian China? The standard answer—cheap labor—does not suffice, for India also provides that. Two of the main draws are China's dearth of human rights, including labor rights, and its astonishing environmental laxity. However, since India also has a dismal environmental record, the deciding factors are clearly China's lack of democracy and human rights. Global capitalism claims to favor both, but if that were true, harmonious relations between Chinese authoritarianism and American neoliberalism would be impossible.

    Neoliberals cling to the faith-based notion that China will eventually yield to friendly liberal persuasion—the kind that President Obama lamely applied on his November 2009 China trip and the subsequent Copenhagen fiasco. The idea was to convert China into a responsible stakeholder in a dependably neoliberal world order. For this Obama put human rights on hold, shoved the Dalai Lama aside, and courted China as a full partner in “G-2” globalization.25 His China visit marked the farthest reach of globalism's halcyonic vision. Within two months the tide had begun to turn. However reluctantly, the White House issued a statement supporting Google's decision to refuse further Chinese censorship of its internet operations.26 An arms sale to Taiwan and a belated presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama left no doubt that a more realistic agenda was in the making. For Washington this was a tacit admission that the Asian “partner” it had done most to promote for two decades was no ally.

    As America loses its economic supremacy, it will increasingly be forced to retrieve its one remaining comparative advantage: its tattered but still reparable image as the world's indispensable democratic nation. At that point Washington will have no choice but to invoke the values-based geopolitics that we call moral realism. The point is to meet the security threats of our times without the sacrifice of democratic and humanitarian commitments. This moral injection into world affairs is not as radically new as it may seem. It has its roots in many of the same principles that inspired the formation of the UN and the original Bretton Woods institutions. These values were largely aborted as the Cold War intensified, but that was exactly when America most needed to be on the moral side of history.

    In terms of his career, the architect of Cold War containment, George Kennan, was on the losing side of that policy shift. More dove than hawk, Kennan was in fact a moral realist. That made him an endangered species in policy circles. Having opposed the H-bomb and then the war in Vietnam, he increasingly found it necessary to withdraw from strategic affairs that were molded by hawks like his friend Paul Nitze. Needless to say he contested the even more heinous strategies of amoral realists like Henry Kissinger.27 His alienation within the strategic community provides a window on what went wrong with American foreign policy in the shadow of the Truman Doctrine.

    Logically it might have been expected that the end of the Cold War would have brought Kennan's style of realism in from the cold, affording a “peace dividend” and a moral upgrade in foreign affairs. That logic did not prevail. Indeed, as far as the developing world is concerned, the new era could better be termed the Cold Peace. The end of Cold War bipolarity retired the realist mandate for (highly selective) development assistance and relegated issues like social justice and human rights to the whims of the market. Neoliberal globalism, cut free from pressing geopolitical imperatives, went even beyond classical economics in its reduction of all spheres of life to raw commercialism.28

    Riding this wave, the US Treasury and Commerce Departments gained an unprecedented voice in foreign affairs. This meant that relations with the global South would more than ever be decided by corporate needs. Where profit was not an issue, the underdeveloped world would be ignored. Too late it was realized that abandoning the South encouraged both its turn toward the resurgent Second World and toward clandestine income sources such as drug dealing, money laundering, illegal arms peddling, and a host of local enterprises such as “blood diamonds.” This anarchic climate would also prove an ideal incubator for terrorism. Prior to September 11, 2001, however, any thought of a concerted response to this danger was bound to collide with the presumed lesson of Clinton's foray into Somalia: the exorbitant cost of any corrective action. The even higher cost of blanket inaction took years to process.29

    By the mid-1990s, when security mavens were just starting to sense the danger of the world's “coming anarchy,”30 the question of how to deal with global recalcitrants came down to a stark carrot and stick choice: one either had to reconnect with the underdeveloped world by way of material commitments or to wield a much bigger stick. This amounted to a contest between preventive assistance and preemptive action. Since much of the world would interpret the latter as rank imperialism,31 it should have been obvious that assistance was the far better option. 9/11 buried that option, along with any hope of a post-Cold War “peace dividend.”

    Like a wounded animal, Washington struck at a series of largely superfluous targets that had just one thing in common with the 9/11 assailants: they all happened to be Muslim. The Islamic world could not fail to notice the cultural prejudice this reflected. Thus the “war on terrorism” accomplished exactly what Al Qaeda hoped it would. Nearly a fourth of the world's population would now be prone to distrust or even despise the already overstretched superpower. That did not deter the Bush administration, which projected a militance unseen since the early Cold War. To put it mildly, these were not the country's best and brightest strategists. They were oblivious to the fact that America had neither the economic nor the soft-power means to afford such unilateral adventures.

    It still has not dawned on most Americans that the current economic crisis is matched by an even greater geopolitical recession. Already America's loss has been China's gain. Despite its talk of a “peaceful rise,” Beijing is going far beyond commercial motives in the anti-Western tilt of its foreign affairs. Clearly it makes the support of authoritarian regimes an end in itself, as does Moscow in its “Near Abroad.” Suffice it to say that Muslim terrorism is not the foremost security threat of our times. That honor goes to the capitalist authoritarianism of the reemerging Second World.

    If liberal-minded globalists do not flinch at these developments, it is because they are confident that powers like China and Russia will gradually be converted to liberal–democratic ways. While corporate-oriented neoliberals seek to pacify authoritarian regimes by enmeshing them in global trade, their liberal institutional cousins would do the same by embedding them in international organizations. Both strategies assume that global capitalism contains a moral dynamic that reduces the need for geopolitical vigilance.

    It is only necessary to look at the maritime geopolitics of the South China Sea to realize how badly needed that vigilance is. What should be avoided is a return to pure power politics. Our moral realism has one thing in common with neoconservatism: it takes geopolitics out of retirement. It differs, however, in both its means and ends. So far as possible it favors soft power, and power that is directed toward global welfare, not just national interests. But in this age of globalization, national interests are so deeply enmeshed in global welfare that a highly exploitative or even isolationist foreign policy would be self-defeating.

    Moral realism does its best to reconcile security needs with humanitarian objectives. In that sense it shares much with liberal institutionalism. Both prefer non-military solutions to world conflict. Moral realism, however, is better equipped to deal with an incorrigibly illiberal world. Its hope, as in the détente years of the Cold War, is a relatively peaceful coexistence within a geopolitical standoff. Giving equal attention to Kantian and Hobbesian imperatives, moral realism confronts the hard facts of “Cold War II” without recourse to the catastrophic excesses of Cold War I. The bad news is that authoritarian capitalism cannot be pacified by way of commercial engagement, as neoliberals imagine. The good news is that it is not always necessary to fight fire with fire. We need not resort to the nefarious tactics associated with the names Kissinger and Cheney. Indeed, as Andrew Bacevich suggests, we might even rediscover our better selves in the troubled times ahead.

    The essence of moral realism is the application of realist means toward liberal and egalitarian ends. This will not get us out of history, but it could help to bridge the growing chasm between global haves and have-nots. America's greatest strategic blunder of Cold War I was to give up on goals like social justice and equitable economic distribution, thereby yielding the moral high ground of development to the “communist” Second World. The new Cold War ushers in a power politics that requires not just military might but soft-power legitimacy. That gives moral realism the geopolitical edge, putting it not only on the right side of history, but potentially on the winning side as well.

    Why India Matters

    Being on the winning side of history in a multipolar world means connecting with democratic forces emanating from the Third World. The case of India, the most solidly democratic country in Asia, is especially germane since it points the way toward a very different set of “Asian values” from the ones we associate with authoritarian states like Singapore and China. The problem is that too many Indian leaders and intellectuals have shelved these endemic values in favor of imported ones that they see as essential for rapid growth. That complicity in the present globalist horror story fuels the world's most virulent anti-globalism: Maoist Naxalism and its more diplomatic affiliates, such as the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS).32

    Delhi's brutal response to this call for social justice has thrown many parts of rural India into virtual civil war. At first glance it would seem that both sides bear responsibility for militarizing the conflict. In the name of peoples' democracy, Naxalism rejects all existing democratic processes and resorts to violence almost as a matter of principle. Closer analysis, however, leaves no doubt that the prime mover in this vicious cycle of terror is the government, which consistently takes the side of propertied elites against the rural poor. The worst victims by far are the tribal Adivasis, who are the poorest of India's poor. Even the storied untouchables, the Dalits, fare better than this rural underclass.

    The Adivasis are largely illiterate and severely discriminated against in the modern labor market. The only things standing between them and literal starvation are their ancestral resources—jal, jangal, and jameen (water, forest, and land)—which are being ripped away from them with little or no compensation by local landlords and corporations, both Indian and multinational. Their attempts to hold or take back their land through legal means almost invariably fail, at which point they feel compelled to join the Naxalites in armed resistance.33

    India's new elites have adopted the neoliberal faith in economic “shock therapy,” an especially baneful version of Schumpeter's creative destruction. Though the World Bank has dropped India from its list of low-income countries,34 the failure of this imported growth formula should be obvious to anyone who looks past the inner circle of Bangalore (India's Silicon Valley, and the capital of Karnataka) and Hyderabad (aka “Cyberabad”) to the indescribable suffering of the country's most underprivileged members. The inevitable rebound effect has taken two main forms, Hindutva (Hindu fascism) and Naxalism, both of which are prone to extreme violence.

    The BJP has mastered the trick of diverting social outrage away from its economic source by fanning the flames of Hindutva wrath against religious and ethnic minorities. Bangalore itself has had a rash of brutal attacks on Christians. In just one week in August 2008 there were 20 church destructions in Karnataka, which not incidentally came under BJP rule early in 2008. At least Naxalism strikes at real social injustice. If its violence could be reined in, and its implicit environmental message expanded, Naxal social dynamics might offer third-way possibilities. The question is whether it can reconcile itself with India's extant democracy, hopefully with better results than Nepal's Naxalites have had in their recent democratic rapprochement.

    Unfortunately India's rural masses are starting to lose their faith in democratic solutions. Their dejection will make for an increasingly violent recoil, either by way of Hindutva, as propounded by Lal Krishna Advani and Narendra Modi, or of the equally heinous tactics of Naxalites like Charu Mazumdar. So long as there is no “third” option available, the grotesque failure of current globalist developmentalism will work against democracy. Throughout the developing world the economic prescriptions of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Lawrence Summers, et al. have had their day in court, or rather their several decades. Now, even the World Bank reports that India, despite its rise in average incomes during its globalist period, has seen a pronounced decline in actual poverty reduction.35

    Such statistics hardly convey the trauma that spills from the country's rising class gap. The one silver lining on this social crisis is that it encourages a search for radically different alternatives. This is the message of Pankaj Mishra's An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World,36 which notes that Buddha's home base, Bihar, is now India's poorest state. A friend once told Mishra that Buddha was a luxury “India could not afford,” but he reverses that verdict: what India cannot afford is its present neoliberal maldevelopment. An economy that pillages its environment and casts over 450 million citizens into hopeless destitution is a factory for civil unrest at home and rank opportunism abroad.

    This is the India that Arundhati Roy vilifies in her new book, Broken Republic,37 which gives no quarter to India's democratic claims. For her India is a moral failure, whereas for Parag Khanna it is a geoeconomic sideshow: “big but not yet important.”38 That is to say that India is not in a league with China. Khanna's judgment says a great deal more about his development criteria than about either India or China. Not only is India the geopolitical epicenter of South Asia, but on a global scale it is the major testing ground for what Amartya Sen calls “development as freedom.”39 To call it unimportant is to downgrade political development relative to pure GNPism. Both Khanna and Fareed Zakaria fall into this economistic trap, very much as modernist development theory did during the Cold War and globalist theory has ever since. The world we now have—under the throes of environmental decay, financial collapse, and mounting geopolitical strife—bears ample testimony to the cost of these warped priorities.

    For Khanna India's problems are exacerbated by its democracy. Sadly this lets the real culprit off the hook. It is not democracy that is breeding India's social disorder, but rather the rapacious capitalism that India has imported in the name of globalization. Like Russia's before, India's neoliberal revolution is generating so much social trauma that it is fast approaching a tipping point. If this disaster is not averted, nothing short of authoritarian rule, or at least a highly “controlled democracy,” will be able to keep the system running. India will then become a political “Chindia,” while Indo-globalization mimics Sino-globalization.

    A graphic mark of these priorities is India's warming toward authoritarian regimes. Having once thrown its weight behind Burma's ousted president Aung San Suu Kyi, Delhi now supports her persecutors. There are of course practical reasons for this political apostasy. For India and China alike, Burma is not only a crucial resource hub but also a gateway into Southeast Asia. The fear is that a pro-democratic policy on India's part would make China all the more attractive to the Burmese junta. But is this concern worth the surrender of everything that distinguishes Indo-globalization from Sino-globalization? India can be a role model for 21st century development, or it can be a camp follower in thrall to the Beijing Consensus.

    That question hangs over India's relations with other neighbors like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Morgan Stanley's China strategist, Jerry Lou, notes that China is not just a major player on this regional stage, but a literal “game-changer.”40 Delhi has revised its domestic as well as foreign policy to fit this China model. The result is so much rural misery that the mystery is why the Naxal rebellions have not been even more extensive and explosive.

    Khanna is right, then, about India's developmental plight, but he wrongly lays the blame on the country's democratic priorities. In his view China “has order and may one day have democracy,” whereas “India has democracy, but … is chaotic.”41 In fact, China has more than its share of chaos, with estimates of local protests reaching 230,000 in 2009.42 China simply manages its bad news better. Even in purely economic terms, without considering the intrinsic value of democracy, India holds the better cards. Right now it is not playing its hand very well, but that could change as the defects of prevailing globalist models become more glaring.

    Zakaria (who in many respects could pass as Khanna's ideological twin) gets closer to the heart of the matter when he writes that the “Indian state is often maligned, but on one front it has been a roaring success. India's democracy … makes for populism, pandering, and delays. But it also makes for long-term stability.”43 We certainly agree, but with the caveat that stability is not the central issue. Rather, it is the paramount concern of corporate interests that view substantive democracy as a source of commercial risk. India offers living proof that economic and political development can be equal partners, and from our vantage—which we term the “concurrency model”44—economic growth without concurrent political reform is not development at all.

    Nonetheless India remains a great developmental question mark. Global as well as Asian democratization is on trial here as nowhere else in the world. Though Western leaders and commentators are still in denial, the global demand for their ideological wares is plunging. The ongoing “Asian miracle,” with Beijing as its new “lead goose,” offers an alluring alternative to Western development teleologies such as Huntington's “third wave,” Fukuyama's “end of history,” and the democratic gradualism that Thomas Carothers has dubbed the “transition paradigm.”45

    Burma's False Dawn

    One of the most critical fault lines in this contest of rival globalisms is today's Burma. There is no place on earth where ethics and power politics merge more decisively than here. This volatile mix harbingers a coming contest over the very idea of development in the 21st century. Under the throes of ecological meltdown and resource depletion, development can no longer mean simple economic growth. A long list of intangibles comes into play, along with a host of hard political factors. But for the victims of Burma's September 2007 crackdown, and the largely unrecognized victims of the junta's long minority wars,46 these complex issues boil down to the simple question of where one stands with regard to the Burmese dictatorship.

    For now, despite the progressive posturing of its new charter, ASEAN stands solidly with the junta, while the U.N. stands for nothing at all. In April 2006, hopes for U.N. action had been raised when the Security Council reaffirmed the responsibility of the international community to protect innocent civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This put Burma front and center, because Bishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech President Vaclav Havel had recently commissioned a report documenting Burma's crimes against humanity.47 Help, it seemed, was on the way. But in the September 27, 2007 meeting of the Security Council, one day after the Burmese crackdown, China and Russia stonewalled any possible UN action by declaring the whole Burma crisis an internal affair.48

    As of mid-November 2007, the UN envoys Ibrahim Gambari and Paulo Sergio Pinheiro had nothing to offer Burma but another plea for dialogue. Even as Pinheiro noted that torture is routine in Burmese prisons,49 praise was lavished on the junta for allowing a few interviews with political prisoners.50 A writer in the Burmese opposition journal, The New Era, pointed out that by allowing China and Russia to block action on Burma, the UN threw itself into the same position of irrelevance that the League of Nations once occupied under the shadow of rising fascism. When Germany, Italy and Japan betrayed the League, Britain did nothing. Now, likewise, America chose to do nothing about the authoritarian globalism of China and Russia.51

    Notwithstanding their pro-junta reversal at the November 2007 Singapore Summit, ASEAN members were hedging their bets, waiting to see if America would eventually wake up from its post-Vietnam stupor. Could it marshal the will to stand its ground in Southeast Asia against anything more threatful than a few ragtag Al Qaeda cells? Washington's so-called “second front” in its vaunted “war on terrorism” was not, to put it mildly, a cutting-edge geopolitical issue. Burma was that and more. To let it go the way of Tibet would be a grievous geopolitical blunder as well as a moral atrocity.

    In the name of engagement, the First World is giving up on Burma, and the timing of this abandonment is perplexing. Under pressure from the Arab Spring, the EU is just starting to give belated attention to democracy and human rights in its dealings with neighboring countries, both Arab and East European.52 Hopefully this will conduce to a return to the spirit of the 1995 Barcelona Process, which underwrote a broader development agenda than the narrow security concerns that have held sway since that time.53 The present trend is toward sanctions and tougher aid criteria for oppressive regimes. Why then would the EU choose this of all times to relax sanctions on the Burmese junta?54

    The standard excuse is that sanctions never worked. Beijing could be depended upon to make sure of that, and no pressure was ever put on China to do otherwise. Meanwhile ASEAN and India are playing their own version of the China card, further eroding any hope for effective sanctions. Nor has the West expended any political capital to alter these lucrative “engagement” schemes. In sum, the sanctions amounted to little more than “feel good” exercises that nobody ever expected to impact junta policies. As of this writing ASEAN is planning to make Burma its chair in 2014, contingent upon what it calls the junta's “steady progress and political developments.”55

    Except for a mock election and the very guarded release of Aung San Suu Ky (while over 2000 other political prisoners rot in Burma's gulags)56 it is hard to imagine what “progress and political development” ASEAN has in mind. The junta's oppression of minorities continues unabated. 70,000 more Kayin (formerly Karen) state residents were rendered homeless last year, as the military demolished 113 more villages. India, which fears spillover from Burma's ethnic insurgency into its own war-torn Northeast, is deeply concerned about the collapse in June 2011 of a 17-year ceasefire between the ethnic Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the junta. Other ethnic armies are likewise aborting their ceasefire agreements of recent years.57 The supreme irony is that this could be happening while ASEAN is heaping praise on the new “civilian” junta for its social and political progress. NGOs working with Burma's refugees across the Thai border fear that the new international accommodation, fed by Burma's ersatz reform, could lead to the forced repatriation of thousands of hapless outcasts.58 This could precipitate a slaughter comparable to Rwanda's, but with even more “free world” culpability.

    If Burmese dissidents are at risk, so is the West's claim to being on the democratic side of history. After years in the neoliberal wasteland, the concept of development that Washington pitches is a moral as well as geopolitical disaster. Neoconservatism was hardly the answer. By pasting democratic platitudes over the crudest power politics, the neocons discredited liberal responsibility, not to mention liberal intervention. This all but buried the dream of a new world order that would incorporate the Third World as a full member rather than an economic or strategic appendage. What the “free world” sorely needed, after the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires, was a geo-humanitarian issue that was worthy of full support.

    Burma's democratic movement could have provided that missing link. In that sense, and in geopolitical terms as well, America and its democratic allies needed Burma as much as it needed them. However, apart from a few toothless sanctions, which are now being lifted, the West has never given much support to Burma's democratic movement. The purely vocal encouragement it did give was highly deceptive, leading dissidents to believe that the international community was on their side. This was the same disastrous misconception the Tiananmen demonstrators got in 1989, with equally dire consequences.

    Hope from the Arab Street

    The big question is whether the Arab Spring will shock the West out of its geo-ethical hibernation, putting issues like Burmese democracy and Tibetan autonomy back on the geopolitical map. During the Cold War, support was lavished on friendly authoritarians in the name of fighting communism. Later the same was done in the name of fighting terrorism. There is no longer any excuse for playing these anti-democratic games. Al Qaeda's popularity was already receding in the Arab Street when the Arab Spring voided it entirely.59 In Europe, too, the revolts stunned anti-Islamists into silence. Their basic tenet—the complete incongruity of Islamism and democratic values—had been pulverized.60

    Globalism was struck just as hard, and with more pivotal consequences, since it was at the helm of world affairs. In the entire Arab world and much of the Third World, globalists had put all their bets on anti-democratic powers. They labeled this “engagement,” and tacitly concluded that reform in Arab countries would have to be the top-down variety. The Arab Spring shredded that assumption in a few short weeks, leaving globalists like Anthony Giddens and his LSE colleagues with the task of explaining how they had let themselves become paid advisers to figures like Gaddafi. It would be an understatement to say they had mud on their faces. More to the point, they had blood on their hands.

    Few globalists are willing to admit the scope of their authoritarian complicity. One of those few, who can at least be credited with candor, is William Ratliff of Stanford's Hoover Institute. As a staunch defender of old-school economism, he resists the political restoration that the Arab Spring mandates within development discourse. This is not to say that hardcore globalists like Ratliff oppose political development as such, but simply that they believe such wonders as democracy and the rule of law flow primarily from economic development, not vice-versa.

    It is telling that Ratliff builds his entire development model around (in our view) ghastly examples of the Asian Tigers. This model not only embraces some of the most illiberal “Asian values,” but promotes their export to the whole developing world. Ratliff flatly states that South Korea and Taiwan benefited enormously from the developmental advantage of “wise authoritarian leadership.”61 The tragedy of the Arab Spring, then, is that it forfeits the sage guidance of dictators.

    We can at least appreciate Ratliff's candor, in contrast to those who court authoritarians through the back door of “engagement.” The difference is more in the globalist package than its content. Either way, globalism has been so radically “economized” that democracy and human rights are rendered superfluous. Indeed, they are often treated as developmental obstacles. That helps to explain the shameless Western adulation for Chinese development, even in the midst of the most relentless crackdown since 1989. Some will argue that the CCP's seemingly phobic response to the Arab revolts belies the solidity of its power structure. However, it is precisely that solidity which allows the Party to behave this way, making no attempt to cover its draconian tracks.

    It is the First World, rather, that has been shaken most by the Arab Spring. Some Western progressives think Arab demands for freedom and democracy will remind the West of the ideals it has jettisoned, and we certainly hope they are right. It may not be wise, however, for liberal reformists to put all their bets on an Arab Spring that could easily turn to winter. Not surprisingly Henry Kissinger describes these risings as “populist” in nature rather than democratic.62 Little as we want to agree with this war criminal on anything, he could be right on this point. The Arabs have amply proved their ability to deconstruct authoritarian regimes, but their reconstructive ability remains to be shown. Only time will tell.

    Meanwhile it is more prudent to build a post-Western development model on the foundation of a time-tested democracy. Six decades after its independence, India is uniquely positioned to tip the global balance in favor of social democratization, if only Delhi can rediscover its liberal heritage. That tradition is all but lost in the globalized agendas of the Congress Party and BJP, but is still a powerful force on the political periphery—for example, in Kerala's Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Uttar Pradesh's lower-caste-oriented Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However, if there is to be an Indian Spring, it will probably require the egalitarian auspices of Naxalism, assuming the movement can somehow be reconciled with mainstream politics.

    Once India's political life was thought to come at the price of global insularity and a “Hindu” rate of growth. Now a globalized, “shining” India has shattered that myth. Much depends on the kind of globalization that India adopts in coming years. Books like Amy Chua's World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability and Humphrey Hawksley's Democracy Kills: What's So Good about the Vote? warn of the destabilizing social impact of democratization in the Third World.63 We would reverse those admonitions by charging that the main culprit behind today's social meltdown, in India as surely as in Russia, has been the anti-democratic effect of globalist development. Democracy may often look like the villain, but on closer inspection this usually turns out to be a co-opted democracy that answers to an elite and socially effete power structure.

    Globalization works through these elites and in turn buttresses their power, rendering them immune to democratic resistance. Any remedy will have to include a radical regeneration of People Power, which is the real gift of the Arab Spring. Instead of a controlled democracy, such as Russia's or Singapore's, what is needed is a humanely regulated globalization. It boils down to a choice between development for capital or for people. The underlying lesson of the Arab Spring is that development without People Power is a house of cards. Similarly, Minxin Pei's searing thesis in China's Trapped Transition is that Chinese economic development, in the absence of political development, is a transitory mirage.64

    For us, the cardinal question is whether the Chinese, and especially the burgeoning Chinese middle classes, are really so politically inert as they seem to be. Does the yearning for human rights and social justice that motivates the Arab Spring not apply to the Chinese in their moment of economic triumph? Relative to Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, and other Arab recalcitrants, most Chinese appear to be political robots. The grand exceptions, such as the courageous signers of Charter 08, would appear to be such a small and insignificant minority that CCPism, contra Pei, must be taken as a secure and highly successful power structure. This solid Beijing Consensus, which amounts to 21st century fascism, differs from Singapore's Asian values in that it makes no democratic claims whatsoever. It is disturbing to see the Third World looking to this reactionary system as an alluring development model. That could spell the end of the liberal democratic era that came to fruition with the American Revolution and reached its pentacle at the end of the Cold War.

    Nothing challenges that democratic ethos so much as Sino-globalization. The question is whether CCPism is a stable authoritarian system or a fleeting aberration. At the November 2009 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit, when a caustic comment was made about China's lack of democracy, Singapore's minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew fired back that the Chinese people are not worried about such paltry issues. What they want, he insisted, is the lifestyle of Singaporeans. Perhaps he is right, but if he is so sure that the Chinese want nothing more than this pig heaven, why should he worry about giving them the chance to say so for themselves? Why would he deny them even the pro forma democracy that Singapore grants its subjects? Lee counters that China has a better system for choosing its leaders: “It's not a random choice depending on the whims of the electorate. It's careful scrutiny by what they call the Central Organization for Discipline. It's an impressive system.”65

    What makes this disciplinary ant farm so “impressive” to Lee and his ideological kin is its economic growth, which in turn has depended upon an astonishing degree of Western indifference to Chinese repression. The First World has done its very best not to notice human rights violations that it would never dream of tolerating at home. Presently the Third World also participates in this blackout, but that could change as there is more exposure to China and the new Second World.66 First World globalism has already had so much overexposure that the very word “globalization” is embedded in a colonial narrative reaching back to the Conquistadors.

    This would be a fair and accurate assessment, except that the West has no monopoly on globalist exploitation. The neocolonial torch has long since passed to China and the Second World. Eventually Sino-globalization will face the kind of opprobrium that the First World has justly earned. In fact this is already happening at friction points like Burma and some parts of Africa, but only in the court of public opinion. That scarcely matters so long as China meets approval from like-minded authoritarians who are only too pleased to join China's recolonization project. What most Africans think is irrelevant.

    Likewise, the majority of the world's population has not been asked its opinion on what it wants in the name of development. If the Arab Spring is any indication, most underprivileged people want basic dignity and human rights as well as a fair slice of GDP growth. Real development requires, therefore, much more than economic progress. Nor is this postmaterial imperative an exclusively Western product. A new direction is already suggested by Buddhist economics, with its stress on well-being rather than GDPism. And now Muslim reformism, as reflected in the Arab Spring, demands fairness as well as mere growth. These intangibles are emerging as the brick and mortar of 21st century development. The day we cast off the incubus of both First and Second World economism will be the first day of the post-globalist era.

    1 For more on this balanced or “concurrent” development model, see Songok Han Thornton and William H. Thornton, Development Without Freedom: The Politics of Asian Globalization (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008), passim.

    2 John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World (Woodstock and New York: The Overlook Press, 2005), 40.

    3 Carl Boggs, The End of Politics: Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere (New York: The Guilford Press, 2000); John Kampfner, Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009).

    4 Part of this liberal self-doubt and defensiveness may be explained by the natural tendency of liberalism toward ideological entropy and a failure of morale. Modern liberalism's inherent pessimism was diagnosed as early as 1947 in a classic study that contrasted it with the aggressive self-confidence of communism and fascism. See Fredrich M. Watkins, “Proudhon and the Theory of Modern Liberalism,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 13 (August 1947): 429 (429–35).

    5 Likewise, as John Ralston Saul points out, globalism enforces the petrification of debate. See Saul, op. cit., 8.

    6 David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 39.

    7 Saul, op. cit.

    8 William H. Thornton, New World Empire: Civil Islam, Terrorism, and the Making of Neoglobalism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), 48.

    9 Keith Bradsher, “Recession Elsewhere, but it's Booming in China,” The New York Times (December 10, 2009),

    10 This brought China's percentage of US treasuries to its foreign exchange reserves to over 35 percent. See David Hunkar, “China Remains the Largest Foreign Holder of U.S. Treasuries,” Seeking Alpha (November 23, 2009),

    11 Paul R. Gregory and Kate Zhou, “How China Won and Russia Lost,” Policy Review (December 2009–January 2010),

    12 See Joshua Cooper Ramo, The Beijing Consensus (London: Foreign Policy Centre, 2004).

    13 Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 3.

    14 Rein Müllerson, “Democracy: History not Destiny,” Open Democracy (November 27, 2008),

    15 Michael Bérubé, The Left at War (New York: New York University Press, 2009).

    16 This understatement owes to Freedom House's criteria for its rating of “free,” which allows a country to get a top freedom ranking simply for holding “free” elections, despite rampant corruption, media control, and general anti-democratic conditions. These defects are overcome by the massive Human Rights Watch World Reports 2010, which treats rights issues more inclusively and paints an even darker picture of the global crackdown on freedom. It documents, for example, the secret “black jails” that China uses to incarcerate those who petition the government concerning public problems such as corruption and police torture. See “Rights-Respecting Governments Should Speak Up to Protect defenders,” Human Rights Watch (January 20, 2010), and on the limitations of Freedom House studies see Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, “How Development Leads to Democracy: What We Know about Modernization,” Foreign Affairs 88, no. 2 (March/April 2009): 44 (33–47).

    17 See James Traub, The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did) (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).

    18 See William H. Thornton, Fire on the Rim: The Cultural Dynamics of East/West Power Politics (Lanham, M.D: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), Chapter 8.

    19 G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Forging A World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century,” Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security, The Princeton Project Papers (September 27, 2006), 6–7 (1–91).

    20 Clifford J. Levy, “Russia's Leaders See China as Template for Ruling,” The New York Times (October 18, 2009),

    21 “What's Behind Putin's Drive for a ‘United Civil Front’ in Russia,” The Christian Science Monitor (May 10, 2011),

    22 Due to this “tough” image, Slaughter was paired against Dmitri V. Trenin in a debate over the proper response to Russian aggression in Georgia. Her position was so bland, however, that she ended up agreeing with Trenin on most points. Her alleged toughness consisted mainly of saying that something should be done to let Moscow know that its actions will have consequences, but when it came to the question of what exactly must be done, she deferred to Europe, knowing full well that Europe would do nothing. See The Economist debate on “Assertive Russia” (September and October 2008).

    23 Joshua Kurlantzick, “The Great Democracy Meltdown,” The New Republic (May 19, 2011),

    24 Tim Hanson, “The Price of Democracy,” The Motley Fool (November 16, 2009), and Will Inboden, “India and the West: The Future Geopolitical Landscape,” Legatum Perspectives (January 6, 2010).

    25 See Roger Cohen, “The Dragon's Swagger,” The New York Times (January 12, 2010),

    26 Geoff Dyer, “Shadow Cast over hopes for US-China ‘G2’,” Financial Times (January 14, 2010),

    27 On Kennan and Nitze, see Nicholas Thompson, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War (New York: Henry Holt, 2009).

    28 Saul, op. cit., 17–18.

    29 A recent Oxford study estimated the global cost of civil wars and other domestic strife at a conservative $270 billion a year. The startling postscript is that 80 percent of that price is born by the neighbors of failed states. Kenya, for example, is currently saddled with 300,000 Somali refugees, and the whole region must contend with Somalian piracy and terrorism. In 1998 the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up by a Somalia-based cell of Al Qaeda, but by then the earlier “lesson of Somalia” was so deeply ingrained that the counter-lesson of 1998 was hardly registered until 2001. To the extent that the Somalia crisis was confronted at all, the goal was containment rather than correction, for the country had no oil or other commercial enticements. It marked a significant departure, therefore, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on her infamously undiplomatic safari to Africa, saw fit to bestow a large amount of money, training, and equipment on Somalia's President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. See Jason McLure, “Black Hawk's Shadow: Why We Don't Care about Somalia Anymore,” Newsweek (September 16, 2009), and Barrett Sheridan, “Somalia Illustrates the High Cost of Failed States,” Newsweek (August 20, 2009),

    30 This term was first used in Robert Kaplan, “The Coming Anarchy,” The Atlantic (February 1994),

    31 Thornton, New World Empire, op. cit., 25.

    32 Sudha Ramachandran, “India Drives Tribals into Maoist Arms,” Asia Times (January 16, 2010),

    33 Ibid.

    34 The World Bank, “Data & Statistics: Country Groups”,,,contentMDK:20421402~pagePK:6413

    35 Raghav Gaiha, “Poverty of Statistics,” Outlook India (September 15, 2008),

    36 Pankaj Mishra, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).

    37 Arundhati Roy, Broken Republic: Three Essays (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2011).

    38 Parag Khanna, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (New York: Random House, 2008), 276.

    39 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

    40 India's trade with war-torn Sri Lanka was roughly equal to China's up through the 1990s, but is now falling behind, owing in large part to Beijing's no-questions-asked development support. Already China is thought to be involved in a total of about $6 billion in projects here, and its port development at Hambantota will make Sri Lanka one of the most strategic points in the “string of pearls” that Beijing is counting on to encircle India both geopolitically and geoeconomically. See Vikas Bajaj, “India Worries as China Builds Ports in South Asia,” The New York Times (February 16, 2010),

    41 Khanna, op. cit., 277.

    42 Perry Link, “Waiting for WikiLeaks: Beijing's Seven Secrets,” The New York Review of Books (August 19, 2010),

    43 Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008), 140.

    44 Thornton and Thornton, Development Without Freedom, op. cit., passim.

    45 Thomas Carothers, “The End of the Transition Paradigm,” Journal of Democracy 13, no. 1 (January 2002): 5–21.

    46 Like the Saffron demonstrators, the Shan resistance has a strong Buddhistic component. Nearly all Shan boys will serve as monks at some point in their lives, and many of the grassroots democratic impulses that surfaced in the September marches are prominent features in the revolutionary Shan state. See Antonio Graceffo, “In Shanland: Behind Enemy Lines in Burma,” Indymedia (December 20, 2007),

    47 “Drum Beats Louder for UN Action on Burma,” The Nation from Thailand (May 10, 2006),

    48 “Destructive Engagement,” The Economist (September 27, 2007),

    49 “UN Rights Envoy Says Torture Routine in Burma,” ABC News (November 17, 2007),

    50 “Myanmar Sends Mixed Messages on Reform,” The New York Times (November 18, 2007),

    51 Kanbawza Win, “Will Sergio Paulo Pinheiro be another Ibrahim Gambari?” The New Era Journal (January 6, 2008),

    52 “EU Plans Extra €1.2bn for Fledgling Arab Democracies,” The National (May 26, 2011),

    53 Ana Palacio, “The Arab Spring and Europe's Turn,” Project Syndicate (June 1, 2011),

    54 As of April 2011, sanctions had been partially suspended for one year, with a full review of the issue scheduled by the end of the year. See Sean Hamilton, “Burma Sanctions Debated After Change in Government,” Censorship in America (April 19, 2011),

    55 “Myanmar's Refugees: Bordering on Despair,” The Economist (May 19, 2011),

    56 Most of these prisoners suffer from horrendous health problems, such as TB, with little or no medical attention. The new “civilian” regime is not only perpetuating these injustices, but expanding arrests under the Elections Act that targets communications media such as email. One outlawed word or phrase in one's computer can result in arrest, torture, and death by inhumane health conditions. See the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma),

    57 Nicholas Farrelly, “Kachin State: The War Between China and India,” The Interpreter (July 20, 2011),

    58 Ibid.

    59 Daniel Byman, “Al Qaeda's Terrible Spring,” Foreign Affairs (May 24, 2011),

    60 Benjamin Dürr, “Farewell to a World of Blank and White,” The European Magazine (March 1, 2011),

    61 William Ratliff, “Cultural Values, Not Dictators like Libya's Gaddafi, are Chief Obstacle to Arab Progress,” The Christian Science Monitor (March 18, 2011),

    62 Bret Stephens, “Henry Kissinger on China. Or not.,” The Wall Street Journal (May 21, 2011),

    63 Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (New York: Doubleday, 2003) and Humphrey Hawksley, Democracy Kills: What's So Good about the Vote? (London: Macmillion, 2009).

    64 Minxin Pei, China's Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

    65 Jeremy Au Yong, “Chinese want better lives, not votes: MM,” The Straits Times (November 14, 2009),

    66 Regretfully we must largely agree with Joshua Kurlantzick that democracy, despite the Arab Spring, is currently in a state of global meltdown. Where we perhaps differ with him is in the degree of hope we have that exposure to the Second World will have a self-corrective effect on authoritarianism's Third World attraction. Our greatest fear is that by the time this painful lesson is learned, the cultural and ecological damage will be beyond repair. It took almost half a century for the so-called “free world” to win the first Cold War. In ecological terms alone, we do not have the luxury of taking all those decades to win the emerging Cold War with the new capitalist Second World. Regarding today's democratic erosion, see Joshua Kurlantzick, op. cit.

    About the Authors

    William H. Thornton is a professor of cultural studies and globalization at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. His previous books include Development Without Freedom: The Politics of Asian Globalization (co-authored with Songok Thornton, 2008), New World Empire: Civil Islam, Terrorism, and the Making of Neoglobalism (2005), Fire on the Rim: The Cultural Dynamics of East/West Power Politics (2002), and Cultural Prosaics: The Second Postmodern Turn (1998). He is the Editor for Asia at The Journal of Developing Societies.

    Songok Han Thornton is an adjunct assistant professor teaching global studies at the Language Center of National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. Her research specialties are International Relations and globalization/International Political Economy. She is the co-author of Development Without Freedom: The Politics of Asian Globalization (2008). Her other publications include articles in journals such as the Journal of Third World Studies, The Journal of Developing Societies (three times), World Affairs (twice), New Political Science (twice), Development and Society (twice), Znet, Dissident Voice, CTheory, American Studies, and Mosaic. She is on the editorial boards of The Journal of Developing Societies and Asia Journal of Global Studies.

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