The Internet won't solve the U.S. government's "synergy crisis." However, the State Department's innovative Economic Empowerment in Strategic Regions (EESR), which leverages Internet connectivity, may well help Third World entrepreneurs in hard corners like Afghanistan make business contacts, get MBA-level advice and attract financing.
It is an example of the type of "connecting, communicating and profiting" economic and political initiative it takes to win the Global War on Terror.
What's the synergy crisis? It is a soundbite for a complex, long-term problem involving bureaucratic turf battles and lack of focused leadership that costs America lives, time and money. America has trouble synchronizing its "tools of national power" -- synergizing its diplomatic, information, military and economic power to achieve a policy goal, like winning a war.
This isn't a new affliction. Arguably, the "interagency process" that the White House uses to coordinate and synergize the Pentagon, State, Treasury, and every other department and agency hasn't worked well since the Eisenhower administration. Not only does the government fail to bring "unified" governmental power to bear, but America's private sector strengths are -- at best -- applied haphazardly, if at all.
No strategist disputes the fact America's systemic power, the global tsunami of its $14 trillion economy, the nonstop avalanche of cultural and technological creativity, gives the United States an awesome though unfocused advantage in any conflict, be it diplomatic, economic or military. It takes time, however, and the sustained application of American political will and its other "power tools" for the systemic edge to defeat an opponent. Time in war is measured in loss of lives.
I guarantee EESR isn't a magic bullet, but it is precisely the kind of experimental, inter-agency initiative that eludes rigid hierarchies and finesses turf debates by leveraging the Internet's democratic capacities for lateral communication.
The program also recognizes that the Global War on Terror is a long struggle, a fight over the terms of 21st century modernity, where winning the economic and political battles will ultimately be decisive.
"I can't tell you how many times I've spoken with people from Afghanistan and Pakistan who say to me all of this (complex war) is economics," Steve Kaplitt, director of EESR, told me. "Solve the economics, and all of this will melt away."
Neither Kaplitt nor I think it's quite that simple. But terrorist and tyrant elites certainly leverage grievances magnified by systemic poverty and corruption.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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