Russia and Germany, two nations that fought two genocidal wars against each other within a time-span of just one generation, maybe actually be heading towards a genuine partnership. While the political system in Germany had been held hostage by the Amglo-American-Zionist global establishment for several decades, it is no secret that German Chancellors Schroeder and Merkel have made great strides in German politics by independently pursuing better relations with Russia during the past several years. Schroeder and Merkel have both enjoyed exceptionally warm relations with Vladimir Putin. Germany has recently struck long-term energy deals with Moscow. Bilateral trade between Germany and Russia continues to grow. Merkel was seen sitting next to Putin during the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow.
Washington may be slowly losing its iron grip over Berlin. As German and American officials are increasingly finding themselves on opposing sides of political and financial matters, Berlin and Moscow are finding themselves agreeing on an increasing number of issues. Although Germany was systematically defanged after its defeat by the Bolsheviks and the Anglo-American-Zionist empire during the mid-twentieth century, it nevertheless continues to be an economic superpower. Moreover, Germany, along with France, has been, is and will continue to be, the heart and soul of modern Europe. Thus, there is great cause for concern in Washington.
The historic hate that certain circles in the West feel towards Germany is beginning to reveal itself once again. New York Times editors could not contain their virulent anti-German rhetoric in one of their recent editorials curiously titled "Germany vs. Europe" (piece posted below). According to this New York Times commentary, "Germany is turning to nationalist illusions" simply because Berlin no longer wants to play ball with the bloodthirsty criminals in suits on Wall Street and in Washington. Chancellor Merkel has also made some candid comments about the West's financial system as of late. According to The Telegraph, a major British news agency, Chancellor Merkel is reported to have made the following comment recently:
"First the banks failed, forcing states to carry out rescue operations. They plunged the global economy over the precipice and we had to launch recovery packages, which increased our debts, and now they are speculating against these debts. That is very treacherous."- German Chancellor Angela Merkel
During the past several years we have seen the merging of interests between the top three nations of Eurasia: Germany, Russia and China. Had it not been for their pathetic president, France could have been a part of this Eurasian equation as well. In my opinion, there is still hope for France, but first they need to get rid of their Sarkozy clown. Nevertheless, regardless of what happens between Germany and Russia and China, the writing is clearly on the wall: the global order which was put in place during the second half of the twentieth century is gradually crumbling. A new political/financial order will eventually evolve into existence. The Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9 may have actually heralded the emerging new face of the new political order. The most fascinating aspect of watching the impressive military display on hand in Moscow, the heart of Eurasia, was watching the leaders of Germany, Russia and China sitting side-by-side.
Discussions about Europe currently are focused on the Greek financial crisis and its potential effect on the future of the European Union. Discussions these days involving military matters and Europe appear insignificant and even anachronistic. Certainly, we would agree that the future of the European Union towers over all other considerations at the moment, but we would argue that scenarios for the future of the European Union exist in which military matters are far from archaic.
Russia and the Polish Patriots
For example, the Polish government recently announced that the United States would deploy a battery of Patriot missiles to Poland. The missiles arrived this week. When the United States canceled its land-based ballistic missile defense system under intense Russian pressure, the Obama administration appeared surprised at Poland’s intense displeasure with the decision. Washington responded by promising the Patriots instead, the technology the Poles had wanted all along. While the Patriot does not enhance America’s ability to protect itself against long-range ballistic missiles from, for example, Iran, it does give Poland some defense against shorter-ranged ballistic missiles and substantial defense against conventional air attack.
Russia is the only country capable of such attacks on Poland with even the most distant potential interest in doing so, and at this point, this is truly an abstract threat. In removing a system that was really not a threat to Russian interests — U.S. ballistic missile defense at most can handle only a score of missiles, meaning it would have a negligible impact on the Russian nuclear deterrent — the United States ironically has installed a system that could affect Russia. Under the current circumstances, this is not really significant. While much is being made of having a few U.S. boots on the ground east of Germany within 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) of the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, a few hundred technicians and guards are simply not an offensive threat.
Still, the Russians — with a long history of seeing improbable threats turning into very real ones — tend to take hypothetical limits on their power seriously. They also tend to take gestures seriously, knowing that gestures often germinate into strategic intent. The Russians obviously oppose this deployment, as the Patriots would allow Poland in league with NATO — and perhaps even by itself — to achieve local air superiority. There are many crosscurrents in Russian policy, however.
For the moment, the Russians are interested in encouraging better economic relations with the West, as they could use technology and investment that would make them more than a commodity exporter. Moreover, with the Europeans preoccupied with their economic crisis and the United States still bogged down in the Middle East and needing Russian support on Iran, Moscow has found little outside resistance to its efforts to increase its influence in the former Soviet Union. Moscow is not unhappy about the European crisis and wouldn’t want to do anything that might engender greater European solidarity. After all, a solid economic bloc turning into an increasingly powerful and integrated state would pose challenges to Russia in the long run that Moscow is happy to do without. The Patriot deployment is a current irritation and a hypothetical military problem, but the Russians are not inclined to create a crisis with Europe over it — though this doesn’t mean Moscow won’t make countermoves on the margins when it senses opportunities.
For its part, the Obama administration is not focused on Poland at present. It is obsessed with internal matters, South Asia and the Middle East. The Patriots were shipped based on a promise made months ago to calm Central European nerves over the Obama administration’s perceived lack of commitment to the region. In the U.S. State and Defense department sections charged with shipping Patriots to Poland, the delivery process was almost an afterthought; repeated delays in deploying the system highlighted Washington’s lack of strategic intent. It is therefore tempting to dismiss the Patriots as of little importance, as merely the combination of a hangover from a Cold War mentality and a minor Obama administration misstep. Indeed, even a sophisticated observer of the international system might barely note it. But we would argue that it is more important than it appears precisely because of everything else going on.
Existential Crisis in the EU
The European Union is experiencing an existential crisis. This crisis is not about Greece, but rather, what it is that members of the European Union owe each other and what controls the European Union has over its members. The European Union did well during a generation of prosperity. As financial crisis struck, better-off members were called on to help worse-off members. Again, this is not just about Greece — the 2008 credit crisis in Central Europe was about the same thing. The wealthier countries, Germany in particular, are not happy at the prospect of spending taxpayer money to assist countries dealing with popped credit bubbles. They really don’t want to do that, and if they do, they really want to have controls over the ways these other countries spend their money so this circumstance doesn’t arise again. Needless to say, Greece — and countries that might wind up like Greece — do not want foreign control over their finances.
If there are no mutual obligations among EU member nations, and the German and Greek publics don’t want to bail out or submit, respectively, then the profound question is raised of what Europe is going to be — beyond a mere free trade zone — after this crisis. This is not simply a question of the euro surviving, although that is no trivial matter. The euro and the European Union will probably survive this crisis — although their mutual failure is not nearly as unthinkable as the Europeans would have thought even a few months ago — but this is not the only crisis Europe will experience. Something always will be going wrong, and Europe does not have institutions that could handle these problems.
Events in the past few weeks indicate that European countries are not inclined to create such institutions, and that public opinion will limit European governments’ ability to create or participate in these institutions. Remember, building a super state requires one of two things: a war to determine who is in charge or political unanimity to forge a treaty. Europe is — vividly — demonstrating the limitations on the second strategy. Whatever happens in the short run, it is difficult to envision any further integration of European institutions. And it is very easy to see how the European Union will devolve from its ambitious vision into an alliance of convenience built around economic benefits negotiated and renegotiated among the partners. It would thus devolve from a union to a treaty, with no interest beyond self-interest.
The German Question Revisited
We return to the question that has defined Europe since 1871, namely, the status of Germany in Europe. As we have seen during the current crisis, Germany is clearly the economic center of gravity in Europe, and this crisis has shown that the economic and the political issues are very much one and the same. Unless Germany agrees, nothing can be done, and if Germany so wishes, something will be done. Germany has tremendous power in Europe, even if it is confined largely to economic matters. But just as Germany is the blocker and enabler of Europe, over time that makes Germany the central problem of Europe.
If Germany is the key decision maker in Europe, then Germany defines whatever policies Europe as a whole undertakes. If Europe fragments, then Germany is the only country in Europe with the ability to create alternative coalitions that are both powerful and cohesive. That means that if the European Union weakens, Germany will have the greatest say in what Europe will become. Right now, the Germans are working assiduously to reformulate the European Union and the eurozone in a manner more to their liking. But as this requires many partners to offer sovereignty to German control — sovereignty they have jealously guarded throughout the European project — it is worth exploring alternatives to Germany in the European Union.
For that we first must understand Germany’s limits. The German problem is the same problem it has had since unification: It is enormously powerful, but it is far from omnipotent. Its very power makes it the focus of other powers, and together, these other powers can cripple Germany. Thus, Germany is indispensable for any decision within the European Union at present, and it will be the single center of power in Europe in the future — but Germany can’t just go it alone. Germany needs a coalition, meaning the long-term question is this: If the EU were to weaken or even fail, what alternative coalition would Germany seek?
The casual answer is France, as the two economies are somewhat similar and the countries are next-door neighbors. But historically, this similarity in structure and location has been a source not of collaboration and fondness but of competition and friction. Within the European Union, with its broad diversity, Germany and France have been able to put aside their frictions, finding a common interest in managing Europe to their mutual advantage. That co-management, of course, helped bring us to this current crisis. Moreover, the biggest thing that France has that Germany wants is its market; an ideal partner for Germany would offer more. By itself at least, France is not a foundation for long-term German economic strategy. The historic alternative for Germany has been Russia.
The Russian Option
A great deal of potential synergy exists between the German and Russian economies. Germany imports large amounts of energy and other resources from Russia. As mentioned, Russia needs sources of technology and capital to move it beyond its current position of mere resource exporter. Germany has a shrinking population and needs a source of labor — preferably a source that doesn’t actually want to move to Germany. Russia’s Soviet-era economy continues to de-industrialize, and while that has a plethora of negative impacts, there is one often-overlooked positive: Russia now has more labor than it can effectively metabolize in its economy given its capital structure. Germany doesn’t want more immigrants but needs access to labor. Russia wants factories in Russia to employ its surplus work force, and it wants technology. The logic of the German-Russian economic relationship is more obvious than the German-Greek or German-Spanish relationship. As for France, it can participate or not (and incidentally, the French are joining in on a number of ongoing German-Russian projects).
Therefore, if we simply focus on economics, and we assume that the European Union cannot survive as an integrated system (a logical but not yet proven outcome), and we further assume that Germany is both the leading power of Europe and incapable of operating outside of a coalition, then we would argue that a German coalition with Russia is the most logical outcome of an EU decline.
This would leave many countries extremely uneasy. The first is Poland, caught as it is between Russia and Germany. The second is the United States, since Washington would see a Russo-German economic bloc as a more significant challenger than the European Union ever was for two reasons. First, it would be a more coherent relationship — forging common policies among two states with broadly parallel interests is far simpler and faster than doing so among 27. Second, and more important, where the European Union could not develop a military dimension due to internal dissensions, the emergence of a politico-military dimension to a Russo-German economic bloc is far less difficult to imagine. It would be built around the fact that both Germans and Russians resent and fear American power and assertiveness, and that the Americans have for years been courting allies who lie between the two powers. Germany and Russia would both view themselves defending against American pressure.
And this brings us back to the Patriot missiles. Regardless of the bureaucratic backwater this transfer might have emerged out of, or the political disinterest that generated the plan, the Patriot stationing fits neatly into a slowly maturing military relationship between Poland and the United States. A few months ago, the Poles and Americans conducted military exercises in the Baltic states, an incredibly sensitive region for the Russians. The Polish air force now flies some of the most modern U.S.-built F-16s in the world; this, plus Patriots, could seriously challenge the Russians. A Polish general commands a sector in Afghanistan, something not lost upon the Russians. By a host of processes, a close U.S.-Polish relationship is emerging.
The current economic problems may lead to a fundamental weakening of the European Union. Germany is economically powerful but needs economic coalition partners that contribute to German well-being rather than merely draw on it. A Russian-German relationship could logically emerge from this. If it did, the Americans and Poles would logically have their own relationship. The former would begin as economic and edge toward military. The latter begins as military, and with the weakening of the European Union, edges toward economics. The Russian-German bloc would attempt to bring others into its coalition, as would the Polish-U.S. bloc. Both would compete in Central Europe — and for France. During this process, the politics of NATO would shift from humdrum to absolutely riveting.
And thus, the Greek crisis and the Patriots might intersect, or in our view, will certainly in due course intersect. Though neither is of lasting importance in and of themselves, the two together point to a new logic in Europe. What appears impossible now in Europe might not be unthinkable in a few years. With Greece symbolizing the weakening of the European Union and the Patriots representing the remilitarization of at least part of Europe, ostensibly unconnected tendencies might well intersect.
Gimme Fuel: $11 billion pipeline launched, EU to get gas directly via Nord Stream: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT0XdKsBnPU&feature=player_embedded
The gas will be supplied via two parallel steel pipelines of 27.5 bcm/year capacity each. The length of this under sea pipeline is 1220 km. It will begin at Vyborg in Russia near St. Petersburg, cut across the Baltic Sea (maximum depth 210 metres) and reach Greifswald in Germany. It will cost about US $12 billion to build and will be ready to deliver gas by 2012. It will be the largest underwater gas pipeline system when built. The pipeline will pass through the territorial waters and/or economic zones of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Several side pipelines will be built in different countries to connect with the main pipeline.
The pipeline, discussions about which began in 1997, is an outcome of the strong commitment from former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Vladmir Putin, the former President and current Prime Minister of Russia. Schroeder is presently the chairperson of the Shareholders’ Committee. The strongest objection for the pipeline has come from Poland. In 2006, the Polish defence minister compared the agreement between Russia and Germany with the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact. There have also been apprehensions that the pipeline may be misused by Russia for spying purposes. Russia has dismissed these allegations as unfounded. Countries like Ukraine, Poland and Belarus stand to lose US $1 billion per year in transit fees when the pipeline is constructed.
Thirty per cent of the funding for the project will be provided from the equity holdings while the rest will be raised by various banks. Several European banks have joined the project to raise funds. Nord Stream is a truly pan-European project in which a large number of companies are joining hands. Russia’s Gazprom holds 51 per cent of shares in Nord Stream AG, Germany’s Wintershall and E.ON Ruhrgas hold 20 per cent each, and the Netherlands’ Gasunie holds 9 per cent. These companies have wide experience in building and operating natural gas pipeline projects around the world. Some other companies are expected to join the project. The equity holding pattern will change in future as more companies join the project. Already funding to the tune of US $4 billion has been raised from 22 banks.
The project will supply Russian gas to Germany, France, Denmank, Belgium and the Netherlands. Eventually a pipeline may be built to connect the United Kingdom also. The pipeline will help Russia diversify its routes and Russia’s dependence upon Ukraine for supply of gas to Europe will reduce. The recipient countries will be freed from supply disruptions caused by Russian-Ukrainian spats in the last few years. This factor alone has compelled Germany to back the pipeline project. Nord Stream will get its gas supples from Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field which has an proven gas reserves of 700 bcm and estimated reserves of one trillion bcm. The fields in the Yamal peninsula, Ob-Taz bay and Shtokman gas fields will also be added. These are some of Russia’s largest gas fields.
The project will change the nature of Russian-European relations. It is hoped that energy interdependence will forge better ties between the EU and Russia. Nord Stream is crucial for Europe’s energy security. Europe currently needs about 543 bcm of gas annually. This will go up to 629 bcm by 2025. Eighty one percent of this will have to be imported. Nord Stream will meet about 25 per cent of the projected growth in Europe’s gas imports. No wonder the project is listed as a priority project in EU’s Trans-Europe Energy Network (TEN - E).
Despite the beginning of the construction of the pipeline environmental concerns remain. The Baltic Sea is considered to be one of the most polluted seas in the world. Chemical and conventional munitions were dumped into the Baltic Sea after the two world wars. Several surveys have been carried out in the past to map the sites where such munitions may be lying. The pipeline route seeks to avoid sensitive sites. The concern is that construction activities in the sea may stir up the toxic waste in the Baltic Sea. Russia has said that the environmental impact studies done for the Nord Stream show that the pipeline is safe. Finland would not allow any construction ships to anchor in its economic zone. The pipeline project has obtained safety and environmental clearances from the concerned countries and agencies but environmental NGOs like WWF have criticised the environmental impact clearances obtained as inadequate.
Doubts have also been expressed about the economic viability of the project. Will it deliver Russian gas to European customers at an affordable price? Despite these apprehensions, Nord Stream should come as a great relief to energy starved Europe. Europe is looking for alternative non-Russian sources of energy supply as well. The Nabucco project is one such project aimed at delivering gas from Central Asia to Europe. Russia’s counter to Nabucco project is the South Stream project through the Black Sea into Southern Europe. It may be noted that together Nord Stream and South Stream gas pipelines will equal the gas pipeline capacity of the Russia-Ukraine-Europe system.
Russia is no doubt an energy super power. The dependence of individual European countries on Russian gas varies from 21 per cent in the case of France and 43 per cent for Germany to 74 per cent for Austria, 79 per cent for Poland and 100 per cent in the case of Finland. This dependence is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The Nord Stream Project will further strengthen Prime Minister Putin’s vision of positioning Russia as a major power in the world.
Germany’s commitment to the European Union has been central to its postwar rehabilitation and its economic success. For years, Germany played the role in Europe that America so frequently plays globally — the locomotive whose dynamism and demand helps turn around recessions before they deepen into depressions. Now, at the worst possible moment, Germany is turning to nationalist illusions. Europe’s past economic successes are now viewed as German successes. Europe’s current deep problems are everyone else’s except Germany’s. That is neither realistic nor sustainable. But German politicians and commentators are callously and self-destructively feeding these ideas.
Earlier this year, when Germany was still refusing to participate in a bailout, the country’s largest newspaper by circulation, Bild, suggested Greece should sell the Acropolis to pay off its bond market creditors. (It estimated the monument could bring in $140 billion.) A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party suggested auctioning off some of Greece’s Aegean islands. Meanwhile, a Bild poll showed a majority of Germans in favor of expelling Greece from the euro. After a rough stretch following reunification, Germany took the tough decisions necessary to restore its competitiveness and revive growth. As a result, it is doing far better than the rest of Europe, with a low fiscal deficit and strong export surpluses. But its export-dependent economy would sputter if European consumers — its main customers — could no longer afford to buy its goods. German banks lent billions to Greece and other troubled European countries. If things don’t turn around quickly, those loans may have to be written down.
Germany also has contributed less than its fair share to the global stimulus, preferring to free ride on American and Chinese stimulus spending. And the euro’s underlying problem — the lack of an enforceable common fiscal policy, which allowed Greece and the others to rack up deficits they could not afford — is the responsibility of all the euro’s creators, Germany prominent among them. Germans have not been eager to hear those less-flattering parts of the story, and their leaders haven’t been eager to tell them. For months, Mrs. Merkel resisted all appeals — by other European leaders and Washington — to, well, be a European leader. When Germany finally agreed to contribute to a bailout fund — under threat of a Continentwide crash — Europe’s economic problems were far worse, and Germany and others had to ante up a lot more cash.
Europe’s most-troubled economies today — Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy — bear plenty of responsibility for this mess. They spent lavishly during the bubble. They failed to reform their rigid and inefficient labor markets and to contain their increasingly uncompetitive wage costs. The rest of Europe, including Germany, should have demanded adjustments earlier, but didn’t. With devaluation not an option for euro members, Europe’s high-deficit countries have been forced into steep tax increases and deep spending cuts to bring their soaring deficits under control and calm the bond markets. Necessary as they are, these cuts also run a very high risk of plunging the Continent into deep recession this year unless Germany offsets them with aggressive stimulus of its own. We hope Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will remind German officials of that on his visit to Berlin on Thursday.
Instead of committing to more spending, Germany is now preparing a multiyear program of deep spending cuts. Given its troubled history, we can understand its fear of deficit spending and inflation. But right now more German austerity will likely cripple Europe’s nascent recovery and Germany’s own prosperity. That is another hard truth that Mrs. Merkel needs to tell her party and her country.
The End of the World as We know it?
For the past 500 years or so, world politics has mostly been driven by the actions and priorities of the transatlantic powers (aka "the West"). This era began with the development of European colonial empires, which eventually carved up most of the globe, spread ideas like Christianity, nationalism and democracy, and created many of the state boundaries that still exist today. (They also screwed a lot of things up in the process). Although other actors (e.g., Japan) played significant roles too, especially after 1945, the transatlantic community (broadly defined) had been the most important set of players for centuries.
Europe's decline after World War II was immediately followed the era of American liberal internationalism. With NATO and Japan as junior partners, the United States underwrote a variety of global institutions (mostly of its own making), maintained a vast array of military bases, waged and won a Cold War, and sought-with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success-to spread core "Western" values and institutions to different parts of the world. I don't want to go all Spenglerian on you (or even Kennedy-esque) -- but I'm beginning to think this era is essentially over, and that we are on the cusp of a major shift in the landscape of world power.
Asia's share of world GDP already exceeds that of the United States or Europe, and a recent IMF study suggests it will be greater than the United States and Europe combined by 2030. Europe has already become a rather hollow military power, and the current economic crisis is going to force European states-and especially the United Kingdom -- to cut those capabilities even more. Needless to say, hopes that the euro might one day supplant the dollar look rather hollow today. Politics within many European countries is likely to get nasty as austerity kicks in, and there will inevitably be less money and less support for Europe's various philanthropic projects in Africa, Central Asia, or the Middle East. Such activities won't disappear entirely, but it's hard to see how they can continue at anywhere near their current levels.
America's situation is more favorable for several reasons (greater growth potential, a younger and still-growing population, more flexible labor markets, greater capacity to borrow abroad, etc.), but it will face analogous pressures of its own. We've piled up some serious debt due to the Iraq war and the 2008 financial crisis, unemployment remains uncomfortably high, the health care bill won't cut costs fast enough to make up for all those aging (and demanding) baby boomers, state and local governments are facing major fiscal problems of their own, resistance to taxation remains endemic, and we've got a lot of deferred maintenance in our national infrastructure. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged in a major speech last week, the Department of Defense won't be immune from these realities and it is going to have to make some serious cuts in the next few years too. And I'm betting that once the dust settles, the combined experience of Iraq and Afghanistan is going to cool U.S. enthusiasm for more open-ended and ill-conceived efforts at "nation-building," "regional transformation" or whatever other label you want to place on our mucking about in areas we don't understand and where we mostly don't belong.
Taken together, this means that the countries that have done the most to try to manage global politics over the past several centuries are going to be doing a lot less of that sort of activity in the decades to come. In some ways, this could be a good thing, because some Western meddling was misguided and harmful and it would be better if other countries started taking more responsibility for their own affairs. But it also means that some areas of the world are going to get messier, and in ways that could still affect us all directly. And it also means that a new set of players will be increasingly involved in shaping the global agenda, and in some unfamiliar ways.
Of course, to some extent the shifts I am describing merely reflect the fact some parts of the world are now developing rapidly, and shifting the global balance of power largely through their own efforts. China is the poster child for this trend, and its rapid rise is mostly due to Beijing have finally cast off the failed policies of the past century or so. Similar trends are evident in India, albeit more slowly, and in other Asian countries too.
But the impending end of the Atlantic Era also reflects the self-inflicted wounds that Europe and America have each suffered over the past decade. In the European case, it was the misguided attempt to float a common currency on an inadequate institutional foundation, combined with irresponsible budgetary practices (the Labor era in England), fiscal chicanery (Greece) or a speculative bubbles (Spain and Ireland). In the American case, it was simple hubris: somehow we convinced ourselves that markets would always go up, that debts did not need to be paid, that whole regions could be transformed in liberal democracies at a point of a rifle barrel, and that we really could run the world on the cheap and without raising taxes. In simple terms, we can now see that the United States and much of Europe were like happy drunks enjoying a pleasant if prolonged pub-crawl. But eventually the party has to ends, sobriety returns, and the hangover must be faced. Welcome to 2010.
If this analysis is even partly correct, then we are going to need some serious rethinking of grand strategy in both Europe and the United States. Hard choices will have to be made, and traditional world-views and familiar platitudes won't help us very much. Experience is valuable trait for policymakers in normal times, but it can also blind them when new circumstances arise and the conventional wisdom is no longer relevant. One doesn't see a lot of bold foreign policy thinking on either side of the Atlantic these days, and one could argue that lengthy service inside-the-Beltway (or even worse, at NATO headquarters) is one of the best ways to stamp the life out of any kernels of imagination that might arise.
Call me fanciful, but I'd still like to see Obama (or Cameron, or Merkel) create a "Team B" to inject some new thinking more directly into the policy process. Or why not create several? Why not a Team B on the future of NATO, another on the Middle East peace process, a third on how to deal with Iran, a fourth on how to rebuild global institutions, and yet another on future relations with China? Don't give these groups any formal authority, but tell them to take a zero-based look at our current strategy and populate them with at least a few people who might not pass a Senate confirmation hearing and who haven't spent their whole lives repeating what everyone else has said before. And then listen to what they have to say. Who knows? They might actually come up with something useful.Source: http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/05/13/the_end_of_the_world_as_we_know_it