I reread Barnett's piece. Simply brilliant. He says that the war against Iraq marks an important tipping point in geopolitics.
When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.
That is why the public debate about this war has been so important: It forces Americans to come to terms with I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger. Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured dependence.

He makes two major delineations, those nations and people who are in line with the goals, methods, and relative successes of what's loosely labeled globalization, and those who are not. The "Core States" (e.g. North America, the EU, Russia, Japan) vs. "The Gap" (e.g.Most of Africa, Middle East, Central Asia). The level of disconnectedness with the ideals of liberal democracy and globalization connectivity is directly tied to the threat presented to the Core Nations.

When coupled with insightful essays like Jeffrey Goldberg's The Unknown you realize that made for TV moments may not be the best way to decide our collective futures. "Super-Empowered Individuals" don't always leave "smoking guns" and perhaps we may finally be getting the sort of analysis that leave simplistic and outdated thinking behind.
Great heads up (via Ryze) from Tim Taylor who just completed a three year stint running the Department of Defense's press office in the Pentagon. He brought to my attention Thomas P.M. Barnett's article, "The Pentagon's New Map," which is in the March issue of Esquire. Its an amazing read that goes a long way toward explaining the where’s and whys we'll be in battle in the coming months.
Neal Pollack, considered by many to be the "Greastest Living American Writer" (this week) has a funny and timely piece about all the would be pundits writing on the war. Essentially, pro or con who wants everyone to Shut the Hell Up! As most of you know, Pollack contributes to McSweeney's and is generally a funny and engaging read.

My annoyance has been stewing for a while. It peaked with the emergence of Poets Against the War, an overhyped coalition of usual suspects...my first tought...., "Oh, no. The poets are against the war. Whatever are we going to do?" He even goes after one of my favorites, Andrew Sullivan: Day after day, post after post, Sullivan jousts with his enemies, both real and imagined, sneering and smearing in the most obnoxious manner possible. It's a combat to the death that occurs only in the hellbroth of his mind.
When Samuel P. Huntington wrote about the coming "Clash of Civilizations" he said that the conflict would be fought on cultural battle lines. However as the discord over Iraq makes clear the schism doesn't appear to be playing out exactly as anticipated. The growing rift between the United States and "Old" Europe is garnering more attention these days. Thomas Friedman writes of his experience at last month’s World Economic Forum claiming that Europe has been corrupted by its weakness and growing sense of impotence. This, he claims, explains the lack of thoughtfulness to coincide with the amount opposition to America's foreign policy designs. "Europe's cynicism and insecurity, masquerading as moral superiority, is insufferable".

How deep is this rift and what does it bode for the future of world affairs? The potshots seem to be fired almost daily from both sides of the Atlantic.

The current stereotype of Europeans is easily summarized. Europeans are wimps. They are weak, petulant, hypocritical, disunited, duplicitous, sometimes anti-Semitic and often anti-American appeasers. In a word: "Euroweenies." Their values and their spines have dissolved in a lukewarm bath of multilateral, transnational, secular, and postmodern fudge... they jeer from the sidelines while the United States does the hard and dirty business of keeping the world safe for Europeans. Americans, by contrast, are strong, principled defenders of freedom, standing tall in the patriotic service of the world's last truly sovereign nation-state.

opines Timothy Garton Ash in "Anti-Europeanism in America " recently published in the NY Review of Books.

In a piece outlining France's almost reflexive anti-Americanism the Economist claims they assume their contrarian stance in order to “punch above its weight” desperately attempting to maintain its relevance in world affairs.

The New Republic claims the animus towards the U.S. is the result of Europe struggling in vain to define itself within the confines of the fledgling EU.

The further along the Europeans get in their project of integration, the more apparent the differences among European countries become, and the more they struggle to decide what a united Europe will actually mean. Increasingly, most Europeans, usually led by France and Germany, can agree only on what they're not, which inevitably brings them to facile denunciations of American policy

Robert Kagan's well thought out new book Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order claims that "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus". He believes that while Europe views the world through a relatively gentile Kantian lens, Americans adhere to a more brutish, realist, Hobbesian perspective. And perhaps most importantly that Europe has been able to strive towards a Kantian paradise only because of the protection afforded them by the Americans. This has deeply stung some Europeans because they feel that Kagan has stated publicly what the Bush Administration believes privately.

It will be interesting to see how this war of words and ideas plays out. What can be done to mend the rift? What should be done? Does the American perspective and exercise of power need to be modified to adhere to the sensibilities of others? Does this conflict distract from the task at hand or clarify the manner in which we move forward? As always, can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

A few years back, University of Maryland sociologist George Ritzer authored a book that bemoaned The McDonaldization of Society. His thesis is that a mass homogenization of food and product, most typified by McDonald's, is becoming the dominant cultural dynamic in America and the world. This idea became conventional wisdom for many of a certain perspective. Now this idea is coming under fire.

Not only is the McDonald's company showing signs of financial distress there are larger cultural implications for America's food industry and the world's culture in general that shed doubt on his theories. In a new Boston Globe article the idea is presented that fast-food chains may actually help preserve regional identity. In the words of Donna Gabaccia, a professor of American history at the University of North Carolina, "Production standardizes but consumption diversifies," and local culture will be supported and embraced, even as its spread throughout the globe.

Perhaps our role as consumers isn't simply to prop up the economy, some might argue that we drive innovation from the demand side as well.
"The library of war writing is so vast as to be beyond the comprehension of any single reader, critic or scholar, but the amount of it that can be called literature is astonishingly small" writes the Washington Posts Jonathan Yardley. As we move towards war we are offered the opportunity to readdress the impact it has on art.

The Vintage Book of War Fiction edited by Sebastian Faulks and Jorg Hensgen compiles some of the surprisingly rare, quality works of war-related fiction. The article discusses why there are so few works of any importance that come from the cauldron of battle. Tim O'Brien , one of the writers included, offers a possible explanation
"A true war story is never moral," he says. "It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue."

Why is this the case? Is it because of the reluctance of those who have experienced combat to share it? Perhaps the challenge of offering a humanistic view of the most grotesque acts of Man is too much a challenge for all but the greatest of artists. Or maybe war fiction operates beneath the weight of its own darkness. As Yardley writes, "war literature tends to be antiwar literature. People who have seen combat, whether as participants or as observers, rarely seem inclined to get romantic about it. That's strictly for armchair warriors."
It was widely reported that Annika Sorenstam, one of the most dominant female golfers in recent history, has accepted an invite to play in a men's event . Once again the law of unintended consequences rears its head. Brian Kontak, a journeyman Canadian touring pro, is exploring the possibility of playing in the U.S. Women's Open tournament.

Perhaps this is the answer to the conundrum many universities find themselves in regarding Title IX. Or maybe its just a cheap publicity stunt. Either way, ESPN.com advocates removing gender discrimination from all sports leagues. This way Shawn Kemp can play in the WNBA and wear his sports-bra "without shame", The Williams sisters might finally get some real competition, and if nothing else, locker-room reporting will get the kick in the ass it needs.
Hind sight is 20/20, however its clear that by most estimates the Telecom Reform Bill of 1996 hasn't opened up a consumer's paradise of unfettered competition and declining rates. The FCC, Congress, and the telecoms have been debating how best to address the changing realities facing telcos in the seven long years since. After a long, ugly, expensive, and complex battle the FCC recently handed down important rulings.

A deeply divided committee voted 3-2 in favour of a plan that upholds most of the state's rights to regulate access rights to local lines. This is considered a major setback to FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell and the local phone companies. Powell has long been a deregulation advocate, caliming that the rules mandating that local carriers (the Baby Bells) lease their lines at discounted rates to their competitors (i.e. AT&T, Covad, Sprint) are unfair and ultimately hinder competition. His opponents claim that the Bells have an unfair advantage since they purchased the lines at deep discounts when Ma Bell was broken up and it would be prohibitavely expensive to install new lines, which ultimately hinders competition.

The FCC also handed down a decision about sharing fiber-optics and broadband networks. Today's decision ruled with the Powell camp regarding interenet access. They hope to open internet access by removing regulations forcing the Bells to lease their existing broadband network to DSL competitors at deeply discounted rates.

Wall St. reacted to the news by punishing the Baby Bell's stocks. However, the last time the Chairman of the FCC lost a major decision the ruling was later overturned by the courts. With billions of dollars in play, this ruling will be closely scrutinized by consumers, the media, and the courts.
The University of California and Stanford University have a long and storied rivalry. Two of America's top universities, they have long battled on the field of athletics for bragging rights and regional pride. Today one facet of the tradition resumes . Two years ago Stanford's rugby team forfeited rather than play the vastly superior Cal Bear's team. This embarrassing surrender brought nation-wide headlines in a sport that is almost entirely ignored by the American press.

Rugby is considered a gentleman's game, brimming with sportmanship, valor, and good natured but tough, play. The Cal team is by the far the dominant U.S. men's college program and the rivalry had gotten extremely one sided there were also concerns about injury. But it certainly didn't sit well with many of the Stanford alum.

"I was very disappointed when the game was canceled," said San Francisco attorney Dave Yancey, a postgraduate rugby player at Stanford in 1971 and a member of the Stanford Rugby Foundation. "It was devastating from the top to bottom of the university. I disagreed with it strongly"

"It's the old college try. You go out and do the best you can. Stanford has played much better teams than that before and not canceled. It doesn't show the kind of character I'd like to see on our side. It was embarrassing."

The Stanford coach informed Cal Coach Jack Clark of the forfeit by email, to which Coach Clark responded "I am in awe of your ability to continually lower the setting of the bar for Stanford rugby, without being challenged." This is Franck Boivert's final season as Stanford's head coach.

It does bring up some important questions about the role of college athletics in shaping student athletes lives. Perhaps coach Boivert was showing discretion for the safety of the young men in his charge. Perhaps part of the development of young student/athletes is the lesson that courage can be developed like a muscle. Sports have long been used to instruct youngsters that winning and losing are a part of life and how to react gracefully to both. Today Stanford and Cal will once again simultaneously give and receive these lessons.