“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Davos - The Shifting Power Equation

During the State of the Union Address last night, this little paragraph seemed to garner some of the most enthusiastic and bi-partisan applause.
We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.
The Democrats felt that this was a statement by the President that they could heartily applaud. And why not? Platitudes require no commitment, no troops, no blood and toil. To be fair to the Democrats though, this is attitude shared by the left throughout a world where words suffice and feelings mean more than actions especially when those actions are seen as too unilateralist.

This week in Davos, Switzerland, 2,400 global leaders including more than 800 CEOs, are once again gathered at the World Economic Forum's annual event. This years theme, "The Shifting Power Equation" will address a host of issues with the underlying premise that in an increasingly global world, power is shifting away from the traditional western institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Fund, the UN Security Council and the United States.

Perceiving that the world's lone superpower has been humbled by its defeat in Iraq, the new players (at least in their own eyes) are the global corporations, China, India, Brazil and a host of non-governmental organizations such as the self appointed moral authority, Human Rights Watch. With the US humiliated, the world is leaderless and a race is on to fill the power vacuum in the New World Disorder.

This will be "the greenest year ever" at Davos and seventeen sessions will be devoted to saving humanity. The idea is that American and Global businesses can adopt climate friendly, carbon neutral policies ala the Kyoto Protocol even if recalcitrant leaders like George W. Bush refuse to. But lest you worry about US interests not being represented, John McCain will be a panelist on a session entitled ‘Climate Change: A Call to Action.’

Other sessions will be devoted to the challenges posed by globalization, shifting capital, and the future needs, requirements and demands of the emerging market labor forces. Also of interest is:

  • The rise of a newly multipolar world and which influential nations are constraining US dominance.
  • Energy security as a driver of international alliances and foreign policies.
  • The diffusion of threats from rogue states and non-state actors.
  • The discussions of one panel, meeting in a session entitled "Update 2007: The Regional Agenda - Middle East" were summarized as:

    The Middle East has been experiencing a period of great conflict – from increased violence in Iraq and Iran’s controversial nuclear program to the current situation in Lebanon.

    "Where are we in the Middle East?" asked moderator Vali Nasr, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, USA. "Are we on track or off track?"

    It is very off track, suggested one seasoned Arab diplomat, referring to the situation in Iraq and unresolved conflicts in other parts of the region. He also expressed concern at the growing sectarian violence, not just in Iraq but in Lebanon as well. Others agreed that a political, not a military, solution is needed for Iraq, referring to US President George W. Bush’s recent decision to send more than 21,000 additional soldiers to Iraq. One panelist said guidelines are needed to improve the situation in Iraq, including ones that ensure that the country is not partitioned and that conciliation between factions is reached.

    A potential US-Iran conflict also dominated the discussion. Most panelists agreed that the Middle East could not afford another war. One Arab business leader noted that, from an economic perspective, a US-Iran conflict is worrying. He pointed out that if there is war between the US and Iran, countries in the region will have major problems.

    Many agreed that it is better for Arab countries and Iran to get into a dialogue to address regional issues, although some were not convinced that Iran is ready to "put everything" on the negotiating table and believed sectarian strife could serve hegemonic tendencies.

    But even with the numerous conflicts, there has also been positive economic growth in some parts of the Middle East, Nasr noted. Can growth continue despite the conflicts? he asked panelists.

    The solution for the region is economic, stressed one panelist, but countries must make reforming their economies a priority, including the need for further diversification and privatization. Citing the need to create millions of jobs in the region in the next decade, one panelist said that human resource development and education are among the biggest challenges to a growing population.

    Other challenges discussed during the session were reform and democracy for the region.

    Many participating in the session agreed that democracy is the best system, but it has to be home-grown, not imported. One pointed out it should be kept in mind that democracy and reform have started and that there can be no U-turn, and noted that more and more political parties are being formed and elections are being held in numerous Middle East countries.

    It was agreed that democracy is something to build upon, but that it is not only about elections – it’s also about economic freedom, social rights, governance and other factors. Others agreed that the private sector has an important role to play in the process and strong leadership is needed to define a vision for the Middle East.
    The problem with the middle east isn't democracy but not a word was written about the threat of radical Islam, radical Islamists or Darfur. How could that be? 2400 of the world's best and brightest gather at Davos to solve the world's problems and can't see the elephant in the room? Well, it is an economic forum; its not about security. But if there is one lesson to be learned from Iraq, it is that there is no economy without security. They should have extended invitations to the patrons of the Elephant Bar. Maybe next year.

    With apologies to John Lennon, "You say you want a devolution, well, you don't know who's going to rule the world..."


    1. Hey, I found a reference to terrorism:

      Update 2007: Addressing Global Fault Lines

      As the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Network concluded in its latest report Global Risks 2007, there is a disconnect between a visible and growing level of risks to international economic and political stability and the mechanisms in place to mitigate them. The Report proposed two institutional innovations to tackle this problem: the establishment by governments of Country Risk Officers and the creation of "Coalitions of the Willing" to tackle problems when the international community is not ready to address them jointly or reach a universal accord.

      There was general agreement at the session that greater international cooperation is vital in identifying risks, analysing their potential for disruption, and in reducing risks and their effects. The private sector, governments, global organizations and civil society have to be involved. Cooperation among all residents in an apartment building to ensure they all install sprinkler systems provides an analogy of how the issue should be approached. One panellist noted that many companies have developed risk management systems in recent years, for example through the creation of Risk Officers. Companies that handle this best are among the most successful at all levels. However, around the world there is a serious problem of complacency – an unwillingness to recognize the danger signals in areas such as climate change and the emergence of new diseases like bird flu that could develop into devastating pandemics. Both could lead to widespread disruption at the economic and social levels and huge loss of life across all continents.

      Another panellist noted that many of the risks facing the world have a quantum nature – they tend to divide and sub-divide when tackled at the source. Terrorism is an example: it cannot be handled simply by hitting its operation centres since this leads to cells breaking off and gaining a life of their own. Knee-jerk reactions to an event sparking political or popular demands for an immediate response should be avoided, as their consequences can be even harder to predict than the threat they are intended to address, and can often intensify its effects. Having a long-term process in place to handle as many perceivable threats as possible is a more effective way of minimizing their effects when they become real.

    2. Here's an interesting CentCom press release on Operation Turki Bowl.

    3. Yes, that's all very nice and good, what if we had "greater international cooperation", what if we had "Coalitions of the Willing" as contingency plans.

      re: Islam / radical Islam

      The latter is simply an excuse for the former. Taqqiya allows them to adopt the rhetoric of the former while espousing the latter. The "Dispatches" version clearly illuminated that for us to see.

    4. Great Link on Turki Bowl, Whit.

      I guess I missed the Big Story when the MSM ran it.

    5. We've found our bonanza. Now, all we have to do is get on the gravy train and become "experts" on Climate Change and Terror.

      I think there's big money in it.

      Ruf: I had the same thought about the MSM when I read about Turki Bowl.

    6. There must be a conspiracy, that Turki Bowl won't load.

    7. Whit, Deuce, you need to go over to This Site, and sign up the Elephant Bar.

      It'll be good for "Traffic."

      And, Your Soul :)

    8. HUGH HEWITT is listing the participating bloggers at His Blog.

    9. Osama Bin Laden - Climate Change Warrior


    10. EMail from Michael Yon. We need to kill Sadr!

      h/t instapundit

    11. Or come home, he said.

      So there you have it, rufus.
      If al-Sadr's organization does not die, the effort is wasted.

      Same as seen in regardsh Hezzbollah, Israel and Lebanon.
      The Israel wasted 34 days.
      The US wasted 34 months.

      Just a matter of scale.
      But the same systematic post modern errors were made in both

    12. So John Kerry isn't gonna run for Pres.....I guess he can't convince "BIG KETCHUP" to give him any more money......

    13. No, the big secret is out, that Kerry got lower grades than even George Dubya.

    14. He can't get that Mess Hall Scene Picture out of his warped mind.

    15. Trish:
      How 'bout
      "Islamic Terrorism"
      I liked
      but there's sposed to be something wrong w/that too.

      I figure getting the word Islam in there is better than leaving it out completely.

    16. trish, maybe we could start with "Fascist-Islamist". Apologists and sympathisers usually hear the frist two syllables of "Islam..." and start crying "racism" and "religion of peace".

    17. Just so all know, I have copy rights on the term Islamocysts©.