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Gallimaufry II

July 11, 2006


Gallimaufry is a hash made from leftovers. Over the years the term has also come to mean a hodgepodge, hence the title of this post. This is the second of such posts.


Good Pipelines Make Good Neighbors


When Tom Barnett first started looking at globalization’s flows of people, capital, and resources, he was particularly interested in the flow of natural gas and came to the conclusion that good pipelines make good neighbors. What did he mean? Natural gas moves either in a liquified state (LNG) or as a gas through pressurized pipelines. The explosive potential of natural gas was dramatically demonstrated yesterday when an apparently depressed doctor turned on the natural gas in his Manhattan brownstone and sparked an explosion that leveled the entire building. Such demonstrations and the threat of terrorists attacks against LNG tankers or terminals have stirred controversy about new LNG terminals such as those being proposed in New England. The fact is, however, that major natural gas reserves are found far from where that energy source is needed; hence, it must be transported. When Tom looked at proposed pipelines for transporting natural gas, it was clear that they could only be built and maintained if current adversaries had a change in heart. For example, India is poised to be a major energy consumer and its closest natural gas supplier is Iran. A pipeline between Iran and India makes a great deal of sense, but such a pipeline would have to pass through Pakistan. Pakistan could use the revenue such a pipeline could supply, but such a pipeline remains problematic as long as India-Pakistan tensions remain high. Japan is a major consumer of natural gas and gets all of via LNG tankers. Russia, which has the world’s largest natural gas reserves in Siberia, would seem to be the natural supplier for the Far East. A pipeline between Russia and Japan, however, would naturally flow through North Korea (who could also use revenue from such a pipeline).


Good relations are a sine qua non for making such pipeline arrangements work. In January 2006, you recall, Russia threatened to cut off natural gas to the Ukraine creating a potentially dangerous international crisis. Establishing a reliance on an energy source that could be easily disrupted by an adversary isn’t good security policy. Today’s New York Times highlights the fact that pipelines can also cause friction between neighbors. In an article entitled “Politics Of the Pipelines: U.S. Seeks Ways to Route Natural Gas Around Russia,” Paul Mufson examines the tension being created as Russia and the U.S. pursue competing pipeline policies. The U.S. is trying to persuade “governments and energy companies to build natural gas pipelines that skirt Russia” insisting that such an arrangement would “make the market function better.” As the article notes:

Russia doesn’t share that vision. The Kremlin has been conducting its own campaign to lock producing countries in Central Asia and consumer countries in Europe more tightly into Russia’s pipeline network.

Russia, despite its treatment of the Ukraine, is trying to convince the international community that it is a good energy neighbor. In fact, Russia’s ex-communist leader, Vladimir Putin, has apparently found religion over the issue. “The country [Russia] which is definitely a leader in the world market is ordained by God to deal with this issue,” he said after last July’s G-8 summit. The West is concerned because Putin has taken several steps away from democracy and has returned the Russia’s energy market back to state control. Russia wants strong ties to Europe since it sells about 80 percent of its natural there and is worried because Europe is looking to increase its supply from Libya, Algeria, and Qatar. The U.S. worries that reliance on Russian natural gas could make Europe susceptible to Russian political blackmail. About 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia.



What does all this mean about Tom’s assertion that good pipelines make good neighbors? If you look at the United States, which is a large consumer of natural gas, you find that it imports about 15 percent of its requirement. Of that, 95 percent comes from Canada. You don’t hear anyone lamenting that the U.S. could be politically blackmailed by Canada. Perhaps Tom would have been more correct to assert that good neighbors make good pipelines. The bottom line is that one sure sign of good (or improved) relations is an increase in cross-border pipelines because they represent an economic win-win situation. It also means that the security situation in countries through which pipelines cross are stable. That is a good thing for the global economy as well as for the indigenous population.


Reactor Cooperation Easier Than Pipeline Cooperation?


Even as the U.S. is vigorously pursuing a pipeline policy that adversely affects Russia, it is apparently going to increase cooperative ventures with Russia in the civilian nuclear sector. According to a Washington Post article [“U.S. and Russia to Enter Civilian Nuclear Pact,” by Peter Baker, 8 July 2006]:

President Bush has decided to permit extensive U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia for the first time, administration officials said yesterday, reversing decades of bipartisan policy in a move that would be worth billions of dollars to Moscow but could provoke an uproar in Congress. Bush resisted such a move for years, insisting that Russia first stop building a nuclear power station for Iran near the Persian Gulf. But U.S. officials have shifted their view of Russia’s collaboration with Iran and concluded that President Vladimir Putin has become a more constructive partner in trying to pressure Tehran to give up any aspirations for nuclear weapons. … In the administration’s view, both sides would benefit. A nuclear cooperation agreement would clear the way for Russia to import and store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied reactors around the world, a lucrative business so far blocked by Washington. It could be used as an incentive to win more Russian cooperation on Iran. And it would be critical to Bush’s plan to spread civilian nuclear energy to power-hungry countries because Russia would provide a place to send the used radioactive material. At the same time, it could draw significant opposition from across the ideological spectrum, according to analysts who follow the issue. Critics wary of Putin’s authoritarian course view it as rewarding Russia even though Moscow refuses to support sanctions against Iran. Others fearful of Russia’s record of handling nuclear material see it as a reckless move that endangers the environment.

The article points out that this agreement will draw the ire of the conservative right (which still can’t forgive Russia for the Cold War, worry about Putin’s authoritarianism, and fear nuclear material held by Russia will eventually find its way into the hands of terrorists) as well as the ire of the liberal left (which worries about Russia’s environmental record and about nuclear waste in general). The debate about whether continued reliance on carbon-based fuels to power the globe will be worse for the environment than dealing with nuclear waste has yet to joined by all sides. If true cooperation, including research and development in the areas of safety and waste disposal, actually occurs under this agreement, it should probably be supported.


Building Indigenous Capacity


In my previous discussions about Development-in-a-Box™, I’ve made it clear that the approach can only be considered successful if it leads to self-reliance. The development community has been promoting the idea of “capacity building” for years. In an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, Andrew Krepinevich, a well-known Washington, DC, security analyst, discusses why the most important group of U.S. military personnel in Iraq is the group helping Iraqi security forces meet the standard necessary to take over security of the country for themselves [“Send in the Advisers”]. According to Krepinevich “success or failure in this war does not rest solely, or even primarily, on the efforts of American combat troops. Rather, it lies in the hands of some 4,000 soldiers — the American officers and sergeants embedded as combat advisers in the new Iraqi security forces.”


Krepinevich is concerned that these advisers are poorly selected, inadequately trained, and too burdened with administrivia to be as effective as they could be.

The advisory effort is too important not to succeed. Advisers coach their Iraqi counterparts on how to plan, conduct and sustain counterinsurgency operations involving dozens and eventually hundreds of soldiers. They also work to identify and report the corruption in the Iraqi government that can make it difficult to get adequate supplies to Iraqi troops. Unlike the soldiers in American units, who retreat to fortified bases with air-conditioned barracks and other amenities, the advisers live, train, eat and fight with their Iraqi counterparts. … Living and working day in, day out with the Iraqis, advisers are also an invaluable source of intelligence. They know which Iraqi military leaders are the most talented and worthy of promotion and which are incompetent and need to be relieved. They can help us identify which officers are loyal and which have sectarian sympathies, which are honest and which corrupt. The advisers can best tell us what equipment the Iraqis need to be most effective, rather than what equipment we think they should have. … The Iraqi Army’s ability to stem the violence will depend, as much as anything, on how well its American advisers perform. It is vital that we put our best people into this effort, in sufficient numbers and with sufficient resources to succeed. This means doubling or, better still, tripling the number of advisers per battalion. To attract our best soldiers to serve as advisers, Army promotion boards must be instructed to give preference to those officers and sergeants who serve capably in this position.

Krepinevich is simply applying rules for success that the development community has developed over years of trial and error in dealing with populations in crisis. The principles concerning and reasons for building indigeneous capacities can be widely applied across most sectors of society. It generates a win-win situation, which is critical for operations in Iraq over the next few months.


More Wireless Connectivity


The term “digital divide” arose with the wide acceptance of IT technology, especially the spread of the World-Wide Web. It really applies, however, across the spectrum of technology. For those interested in helping the developing leap the digital divide, there are always lessons to be learned when we see individuals in developing nations leap frog technologies. I have blogged before about how Africa has basically bypassed development of a landline telephone system to jump straight into the cell phone age. Analysts who believed that Africans weren’t interested in telephone technology were astounded when that continent became one of the fastest growing areas for cell phone adoption. An article in Sunday’s Washington Post provided another example of how desperate people embrace technology when they have the opportunity [“In War-Torn Congo, Going Wireless to Reach Home,” by Kevin Sullivan, 09 July 2006].


Sullivan begins his article with the story of Zadhe Iyombe, who lives and work far from where his mother lives. Iyombe worried about his mother’s safety, but had few ways of checking on her until he purchased a cell phone.

Now he talks to his mother every day. And once a week, with a simple new feature in African cellphones, he uses a text message to transfer five minutes of airtime to her phone to make sure she can always call him. “Now I know immediately how she is doing,” said Iyombe, who lives here in the capital, 400 miles southwest of his mother’s home. “These phones make everything easier. It has totally changed life in Congo.”

While people could be tempted to accuse of Iyombe of hyberbole, according to Sullivan they would be wrong if they did.

As surely as the light bulb and the automobile before them, the cellphone and text messaging are radically changing the way people live in the developing world. In widespread use for about five years in much of Africa, technology long taken for granted by the world’s rich has made life easier, safer and more prosperous for the world’s poor. For the first time, millions of Africans are able to communicate easily with people who are beyond shouting distance. Farmers and fishermen, for example, use text messaging to check market prices, eliminating middlemen and increasing profits — and preventing long trips to the market on days it is canceled. In cities, cellphones are becoming a basic tool of electronic commerce, allowing consumers to transfer money to merchants with a few presses on the keypad. Restaurant owners now can advertise by sending bulk texts to their customers, promising something delicious for lunch. People call a doctor, mechanic or police officer instead of walking miles to find one. News of births, deaths and illnesses instantly reaches the farthest corners of the jungle, where mothers like Iyombe’s struggle with the concept of their children’s voices emerging from a little plastic box with buttons.

The rest of Sullivan’s article is fascinating as he discusses how people can now barter cell phone minutes or sell them for cash and other changes cell phones have made in peoples’ lives.


One of the purposes of Development-in-a-Box is to help developing nations identify technologies that will help them leapfrog steps that were once considered critical for development. Such leaps not only benefit developing countries, but the environment as well. With global warming already capturing daily headlines, few would argue that helping developing countries avoid damaging industrial age practices is not in everyone’s best interests. It is impossible, of course, for any single individual or group to understand challenges across every sector or to know solutions that might be appropriately applied to those challenges. That is why I promote communities of practice and encourage a broad discussion among people interested in a future worth creating.

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