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Monday, January 10

Indonesia: "Seam State" Staging Ground For Integration?

If you want to read one book that will unfold the secrets of the Neocon Universe to you, I would reccomend Tomas Barnett's "The Pentagon's Mew Map" which I would argue forms the basis of the Straussian adaptation of Neo-marxist "core vs. periphery" theory. In Straussian fashion, it denounces "non-integrating" countries - nations who have not plugged into the Global Beast Economy- while adopting much of the theory that these nations may have used to avoid doing so. It's a coup d'etat of Straussian methodology - saying one thing and doing another while denouncing the enemy for precisely the acts you commit.

One wonders if recent reports of China sending 150,000 troops to the border with North Korea foretell a puppet war between China and the US over energy sources. As Indybay has pointed out, the US has returned to may of its old South Asian haunts from the Vietnam War such as Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Force Base 90 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Under the guise of providing aid for the Tsunami disaster, the US is taking advantage of this window of opportunity to send military support to Thailand and Indonesia.

Seen within Barnett's framework, however, these states are part of what he calls "Seam States" , or states that serve as a transition zone from rogue states to "core" globalization darlings:

"But just as important as “getting them where they live” is stopping the ability of these terrorist networks to access the Core via the “seam states” that lie along the Gap’s bloody boundaries. It is along this seam that the Core will seek to suppress bad things coming out of the Gap. Which are some of these classic seam states? Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia come readily to mind. But the U.S. will not be the only Core state working this issue. For example, Russia has its own war on terrorism in the Caucasus, China is working its western border with more vigor, and Australia was recently energized (or was it cowed?) by the Bali bombing."

In addition:

"If a country is either losing out to globalization or rejecting much of the content flows associated with its advance, there is a far greater chance that the U.S. will end up sending forces at some point. Conversely, if a country is largely functioning within globalization, we tend not to have to send our forces there to restore order to eradicate threats."

There are various theories behind the reasons why the US is beefing up SE Asia, but if we interpret it within Barnett's framework, money matters. The Asia Times reports that the natives are getting restless and are demanding higher wages in the Philliipines compared to Chinese workers:

"To be sure, Indonesia is not the only country feeling the sting in the reduction of Japanese FDI. The Philippines has been singled out by Japanese companies for its diminishing comparative advantage in labor cost as well. As a result of the daily-minimum-wage increase as approved by the National Capital Region Wages and Productivity Board in Manila, the new minimum daily wage of P300 a day now corresponds to about $133.75 for 25 working days a month. This is higher than the minimum wage provided in Shenzhen, China ($72.49 a month), Shanghai ($68.87 a month), Bangkok ($106 a month), Jakarta ($74.21 a month), and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City ($40.11 a month). "

Japanese investment has been pouring out of the region for some time, and in order to bring the region into the "Functioning Core" it makes sense within Brnett's framework that the US is beefing up security. This should increase expected returns on investments in the region as risk premiums decline from more US presence. This follows Barnett's prescriptions for solving such problems with investment and terrorism by using a three-phase process:

"IF WE STEP BACK for a minute and consider the broader implications of this new global map, then U.S. national-security strategy would seem to be: 1) Increase the Core’s immune system capabilities for responding to September 11-like system perturbations; 2) Work the seam states to firewall the Core from the Gap’s worst exports, such as terror, drugs, and pandemics; and, most important, 3) Shrink the Gap. "

This effectively kills two or three birds with one stone. While Indonesia is not on the top of Barnett's list, it does matter as it is the most populous Muslim Nation on the planet. Having a strong military presence in SE Asia will allow the Americans to have access to North Korea in addition to providing a geostrategic checkmate to China's energy urges vis-a-vis any pipeline proposals it may tender.

"15) NORTH KOREA Marching toward WMD. • Bizarre recent behavior of Pyongyang (admitting kidnappings, breaking promises on nukes, shipping weapons to places we disapprove of and getting caught, signing agreements with Japan that seem to signal new era, talking up new economic zone next to China) suggests it is intent (like some mental patient) on provoking crises. • We live in fear of Kim's Götterdämmerung scenario (he is nuts). • Population deteriorating—how much more can they stand? • After Iraq, may be next.

16) INDONESIA Usual fears about breakup and "world's largest Muslim population." • Casualty of Asian economic crisis (really got wiped out). • Hot spot for terror networks, as we have discovered"

The old dictum "Who benefits?" is not the best prescription for who is at fault. However, asking it always bears some interesting perspective. No matter what, the US will take advantage of any situation it can to maintain its place as #1. What else would we expect? It's a newer version of the Monroe Doctrine, and 2005 looks like it will be a very interesting year because of it.

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