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To Ianus on America and Chaos theory

Reader comment on item: Innocents Abroad Build Foreign Armies
in response to reader comment: Chaos as the new US strategy and "Reflections on the overthrow of communism"

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Feb 20, 2013 at 21:47

Ianus: As a former US Foreign Service Officer, I am a little sceptical about what they say about "Applied Chaos Theory". You seem to believe that my old shop is using it to hatch nefarious plots against a world that is basically peace-loving (and please forgive me if I have misread you); I have a different take.

Most American foreign policy professionals entered their trade as liberal internationalists, believing firmly in human rationality , the possibility of an international rule of law, and the usefulness of strong international institutions. The recent interest in chaos theory, I suspect, stems from people who've been working in international relations for some time coming to see chaos theory as a better explanation of how the world actually works --not as a tool to achieve world domination. The "application" is more reactive than proactive (as the Soviets rightly characterized us during the Cold War), in that it seeks to keep the USA from being burned to badly in a dangerous world that has caught fire, and will continue to be full of flammable material long after the current fire is put out. Talk to any dozen American foreign policy wonks, and they will still want a tidy, orderly world and welcome stability when it is possible--even if they have come to recognize that our species isn't really all that pacific.

I've noticed your tiffs with Kepha Hor myself. Yet, having served in China during the 1990's, I beg to differ that support for an "independent Uighuristan" is part of our foreign policy. Foggy Bottom believes that the guns, money, and demogrpahics are on the side of Beijing, and while we are critical of the human rights record, we do not see one more impoverished Central Asian state as a viable option.

However, to apply a little chaos theory, one does not impose government at gunpoint, engage in occasional massacre, force a Muslim people to raise pigs, and then expect them to remain grateful for a "liberation" which has decreased their numbers and impoverished them when your iron fist yields--either because of genuine liberalization or because it's getting a bit rusty with the vicissitudes of time (yes, I admit that I am skeptical of the Marxist claim to have found the means of predicting and controlling history). Indeed, when Xinjiang's problems fell like a t--d on my doorstep when I was in China, I and my colleagues got the sinking feeling that the Uighur had seen the Soviet collapse and concluded that the regime is mortal, not that they're better off in a growing Chinese economy. Also, in non-Uighur parts of Chinese Islam, there is also dissidence, albeit one that seeks increased religious liberties within the context of a Chinese state rather than separatism. In this, China's Hui Muslims are not unlike other religious believers. If they are also for political changes, it is probably because they see them as more conducive to their cultic concerns.

And, looking at the wider Islamic world, it has long been notorious for poorly grounded institutions, lack of regime legitimacy, and a number of other problems (many of which Dr. Pipes is better qualified to comment on than I). It's likely to be an area of ferment for some time to come, whether outside powers tweak it or not; and American diplomats do not serve their country well if they do not take note of the problems.

Submitting....

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