Michael Barone

The world seems aswirl. Where do we stand today?

Let's use the analysis of bestselling author Thomas Barnett, who divides the world into a functioning "Core" (North America, Europe, East Asia, rising China and India) and a nonfunctional "Gap" (the Middle East, most of Africa, part of the Andean chain in South America). Barnett argues that our task is to expand the economically interconnected core and establish what he calls connectivity to shrink the gap.

How are we doing? Actually, not badly. Let's look at the hot spots.

First, the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It looks as if the Israelis are encountering more military resistance than expected, and it's not clear that they can wipe out Hezbollah as an effective force. Nor is it clear that the United States can install some combination of European and Lebanese military force to control southern Lebanon. But if -- a big "if" -- the Israelis succeed and Hezbollah is reduced to impotence, that would amount to a significant shrinking of the gap. If not, we're back where we started.

Second, the collapse last week of the Doha round of trade negotiations. They might be revived later, but in the meantime we've missed a chance to open up North America and Europe to agricultural exports from Third World countries that desperately need dollars and euros. That's a shame. But the zone of free trade continues to expand as the United States, during this administration, negotiates one free-trade agreement after another -- Oman and Jordan, Central America and Australia, Peru and Colombia. All are increasing connectivity and shrinking the gap.

Third, immigration. The bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, with border security and free-market guest-worker provisions, has some small chance of passing the Senate and House. A law that regularizes illegal immigrants would close the internal gap we have with 12 million illegals.

Fourth, Latin America. Venezuela's oil-rich demagogue Hugo Chavez continues to pal around with dictators and tries to stir up trouble. But Latin American voters have been rejecting Chavezism. The victories of anti-Chavez candidates in Peru, Colombia and Mexico in the past few months show that irresponsible demagogy is not popular in the region. Connectivity is increasing, not decreasing, to our south.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM