Abstract: Using a set of scaled indicators (population, water supply, infrastructure, education, technology, economic prosperity, military power) applied to all political territories of the world, and adjustable across time, the variables and inferences based on same are presented, then applied to a 'structural compatibility' model, a filter for a realist, power-maximization minded model of state alliance formation, to predict which states of a given subset would be the most appealing candidates for allliance to a given state or entity, and which would not, based on the model.
Worldwide, the most appealing matches (states that fall within one standard deviation of the United States' scaled scores in the most categories and possess the highest aggregate power ratings within that band) are Japan, Australia Poland, among the strongest proponents of the 2003 American-led Invasion of Iraq.
In the case of the Middle East, the best matches are Turkey, Israel...and Bahrain, and in that order, and cordial ties exist with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as well, though remain more sensitive to concerns about the extant Mideast (non)peace (non)process than Turkey.
The same criteria also predict the greatest risk of misunderstanding and conflict between the United States and Iraq, Libya and Lebanon -- all three of which have been on the receiving end of American military might in the past, and may yet again.
The strongest anomalies are Iran and the West Bank, which per the model are structural compatible with American interests (and have been in the past) and yet most certainly are not treated as such, definitely as regimes, and to some extent as societies, by successive American governments and generations...and this derision is getting worse, and is predicted to get worse in the years to come if nothing is done to amend the trend.
Rating Countries, Rating Potential Allies
I keep a database of (kind of, sort of) current data on population, water supply, technological level, level of education, infrastructure saturation, economic prosperity, and aggressive propensity as a function of the variance between available weapons tech and education (well-armed, ignorant societies = bad), which is then multiplied by overall power to derive an estimator military strength. Since it's a real chore to update this, I've done it exactly twice since I started this little project, once in 1998, then again in 2003, after the Invasion of Iraq.
Since this is so idiosyncratic, I suppose I should give you guys some snapshots, in order to assess the data's credibility to you.
The model makes estimates in no finer than 10-year intervals. Sorry. It's the way the population estimates are set up.
Population - in millions, as of 2010, we're showing the top 10 countries as:
- China 1255.056
- India 1068.199
- United States 300.118
- Indonesia 259.743
- Brazil 186.823
- Pakistan 168.741
- Bangladesh 150.392
- Russia 142.328
- Nigeria 139.877
- Japan 127.252
be the least controversial. It is also the elemental building block of power within and among human societies. Other factors apply, as well, but they require that you actually spend money on your citizens. Some societies aren't with that.
Water supply This is a proxy estimator of carrying capacity -- the maximum population that a given country could support assuming all other considerations can be addressed. Water is the absolute bottleneck on growth. The is no negotiating around it. If you're out of oil, you got options. You can't drink wood or camel dung if there's no water in the well. Water supply is also degraded in the presence of overpopulation (which just makes matters worse and worse over time). The base score (it's logarithmic) is 10 for China, assuming no overpopulation. As that's just not so in our era, here are the top 10 countries by water, and their scores:
- Brazil 9.57 Amazon, Sao Francisco, Paraguay, et cetera
- China 9.17 Hwang He, Yangtze, Liao, Song Koi, Mekong
- India 8.31 Ganges, Brahmaputra, Godavari
- Russia 7.72 Volga, Ob, Dneipr, Yenesei, Amur Darya, Lena, Don, Kura
- United States 7.60 Hudson, Mississippi, Missouri, Saint Lawrence, Rio Grande, Red, Platte, Colorado, Columbia, Yukon, San Joaquin
- Indonesia 6.52 ....
- Bangladesh 6.15 Ganges, Brahmaputra
- Canada 5.96 Saint Lawrence, Mackenzie, Yukon, Nelson, Churchill
- Venezuela 4.11 Orinoco
- Zaire 3.99 Congo
Only one of these countries does not boast at least one world-class river basin, and that's Indonesia, which gets two monsoons a year, I do believe. If I missed a name-brand river system, let me know. :)
Carry Capacity Utilization This, ultimately, is what matters. Are you over or under budget? I've discussed this, and there was a big seminar in Mexico City earlier this year on this topic: water scarcity is a national security issue.
Here are the 25 most water-scarce countries, by this criteria (being over 100% = bad)
- Qatar 173%
- Singapore 161%
- Jordan 142%
- Saudi Arabia 136%
- Oman 131%
- Libya 131%
- Yemen 131%
- Israel 130%
- United Arab Emirates 128%
- Bahrain 126%
- Algeria 126%
- Tunisia 125%
- Cape Verde 124%
- Belgium 120%
- South Africa 119%
- Lebanon 118%
- Egypt 117%
- Morocco 117%
- Peru 116%
- Poland 115%
- Gaza Strip 114%
- Korea, South 114%
- Cyprus 113%
- Nigeria 113%
- Kenya 111%
Some of these countries are more city-states than nation-states (Qatar and Singapore among them), and cities are usually, even comfortably net water-debtors. The problem comes when somebody cuts the tapwater off. It is no accident that most of the countries on this list are among the most restive to be found.
For comparison, let's look at who has it best, and you will see my point:
- Iceland 1%
- Suriname 2%
- Guyana 2%
- Congo 3%
- Papua New Guinea 6%
- Gabon 6%
- Canada 8%
- Norway 8%
- New Zealand 9%
- Solomon Islands 9%
- Liberia 12%
- Equatorial Guinea 14%
- Belize 14%
- Venezuela 14%
- Panama 15%
- Paraguay 15%
- Bhutan 17%
- Laos 17%
- Brazil 18%
- Central African Republic 19%
- Uruguay 19%
- Cambodia 20%
- Bolivia 21%
- Russia 21%
- Nicaragua 22%
Now, there's more than a few names from past wars here, too; human actions, certainly not violent ones, are not determined by whether everyone's getting enough fluids. On the other hand, if I had to live at random in one of the countries on the first list, or on the second, I could do worse than go with the second list.
Technological Level When I first calibrated the scoring, back in the day, I was aiming for a score of 25 for the United States. The scorings have drifted somewhat, but here you have the Top 20, per my estimates:
- Japan 26.58
- United States 26.15
- Canada 25.78
- Sweden 25.57
- Austria 25.22
- Australia 25.17
7.(tie) France 25.08, Taiwan 25.08, Netherlands 25.08, Switzerland 25.08
- (tie) Ireland 25.07, Luxembourg 25.07, New Zealand 25.07
- Norway 25.06
- United Kingdom 24.89
- Hungary 24.67
- Greece 24.60
- Denmark 24.57
- Germany 24.35
- Israel 24.23
Some might raise hell at the last two being so long, chief among them the Germans and the Israelis. Well, Germany's score is diluted by its absorption of the former DDR, which lags behind the former west in development evne still. A similar condition, albeit de facto as opposed to de jure, exists in Israel's case. The gap is far greater, but the relative weight significantly less, and most of both West Bank and Gaza are rated separately.
For comparison, here are the lowest 20 on the list:
- Mozambique 12.26
- Rwanda 12.67
- Eritrea 12.71
- Chad 12.76
- Afghanistan 12.78
- Ethiopia 12.79
- Burundi 12.87
- Sudan 12.96
- Somalia 12.98
- Zaire 13.11
- Central African Republic 13.20
- Mali 13.65
- Burkina Faso 14.13
- Angola 14.27
- Togo 14.42
- Malawi 14.60
- Senegal 14.61
- Kenya 14.62
- Congo 14.63
- Niger 14.65
This is not to say that there is no electricity, or running water, phones or Internet. It's just that such things are on average very rare in comparison to life in the United States...and even fewer such things are manufactured locally. That and in some of the above countries, a sign of an advanced fighting force is possession of battle-trained horses or camels. The Darfur situation in Sudan, for example. Afghanistan, for another.
Infrastructure Saturation At a given level of technology, there is only so much capital you can sink into a given piece of real estate. It's a measure of the intensity of development, the room a domestic economy has to grow, all other things being equal. It's also a sign of how 'developed' a society is, in terms of road, rail, telephone, cell phone towers, fiber-optic cables, Internet access, plumbing, electricity, et cetera.
The top 15:
- France 9.37 (yet another reason to hate 'em, heh heh)
- Austria 8.83
- Netherlands 8.82
- United Kingdom 8.59
- Germany 8.52
- Italy 8.09
- Taiwan 8.08
- Japan 8.08
- Spain 8.01
- Belgium 7.85
- Denmark 7.80
- Bahrain 7.44
- United Arab Emirates 7.35
- Korea, South 7.35
- Israel 7.26
In case you're curious, the United States scores a 4.31.
And for comparison, here's the Lower 15:
- Papua New Guinea 0.51
- Central African Republic 0.71
- Suriname 0.75
- Guyana 0.81
- Angola 0.84
- Zaire 0.85
- Mozambique 0.88
- Congo 0.91
- Niger 0.93
- Mali 0.97
- Rwanda 0.99
- Afghanistan 1.03
- Ethiopia 1.03
- Somalia 1.04
- Chad 1.04
So buy some telecom shares in Papua New Guinea and get in on the bottom floor.
Education - The max for 2003 is 10. Some countries have built on that since then.
- (tie) New Zealand, Iceland, Chile, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Taiwan, Netherlands, France 10.05
- Cuba 10.04
- Italy 9.97
- Spain 9.95
- Denmark 9.88
- United Kingdom 9.82
- Germany 9.80
- Korea, South 9.73
- Belgium 9.61
- Bahrain 9.48
- Israel 9.41
Both the United States and Canada are among 15 countries tied for 21st.
On the other end of the spectrum...
- Rwanda 3.43
- Eritrea 3.45
- Afghanistan 3.46
- Ethiopia 3.46
- Burundi 3.49
- Central African Republic 3.51
- Zaire 3.51
- Mozambique 3.51
- Congo 3.51
- Somalia 3.51
- Sudan 3.51
- Angola 3.98
- Mali 4.44
- Chad 4.44
- Burma 4.44
- Yemen 5.03
- Kenya 5.24
- Uganda 5.35
- Laos 5.38
- Brazil 5.38
Other statistics are derived from the above.
Reason for Sharing All This With You
It is my observation that countries with similarities in one or more of the above characteristics are much more likely to be friends than in cases where significant variances occur. Why? On account it is, time and effort-wise expensive to conduct transactions, peaceful, personal and profitable, between societies that simply do not share priorities. Differences of culture, race, religion and opinion are bad enough without having structural barriers to understanding, negotiation and compromise. And without, that you either have strangers, vassals or enemies, and risk of confusion, resentment and betrayal are always lurking behind the corner.
For other countries, the United States is a difficult country to establish sympatico with. Why? Few countries have the combination of technology, room for population growth, room for internally-driven economic expansion, aggressive predisposition and high average quality of life. Uneven distribution or not (it's not), this is an astonishingly rich, well-developed, well-educated (not the best, but decent and getting better) and (for a while longer) roomy country.
Now, friendships aren't guaranteed... in fact, countries just like individuals who run in the same circles can as often be rivals as pals. Still, it's a place to start. Let's take a lot at what we got.
The closest structural matches we have out there are Japan, Australia, Poland, Colombia, Greece, Czech Republic, Samoa, Brunei, Trinidad and Tobago, where the scores for each are with a standard deviation of those for the USA in four out of five categories (technology, infrastructure, education, aggression, prosperity). Quite a few of these countries participated in the recent unpleasantness in Iraq. The top three were key supporters.
The major European powers all line up on three categories, likewise Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Argentina, Turkey, Ukraine, and quite a few others. These are all countries that enjoy close alignment with the United States on some but not all issues.
China matches up for two full categories, and provisionally on prosperity, and the later is likely to improve in the near future.
There are countries for which there is no significant affinity of any sort with the Americans, and vice-versa. Such states are strangers at best, enemies at worst.
The most powerful of these at present is Brazil, which is in a different place than the United States on all counts, not as rich, or developed, or technology advanced -- or as aggressive toward other countries.
The next most powerful just happens to be Venezuela, which is less developed infrastructurally than the USA, but falls within the compatibility band on this one score, and with which the United States enjoys an ongoing war of words. Venezuela and Brazil happen to be really good friends, so any hypothetical war with Venezuela is very likely to inconvenience and annoy the Brazilians.
The third country on the "structural enemies" list just happens to be Vietnam. That war was long ago, and yet seems to be on everyone's mind lately.
And just so you don't miss it: Iraq is on the same list, with one structural compatibility (infrastructure). Likewise Afghanistan (no compatibilities at all). Likewise Somalia. Likewise Sudan. Likewise Rwanda.
Iran, interestingly enough, is not; neither is Korea (both have three categories). Nor is Pakistan (two matches, somewhat dicier).
Israel, the eventual focus of all this backstory, rates three compatibilities. A tie with Iran which, by the way, was once among America's best allies. A little something we have taught ourselves to forget these past three decades.
Alas, there are no guarantees for good friendships, just good predictors. And human beings make the choices, not their predispositions.
Focusing on the Middle East
On account that was where we were headed with all this.
By classic balance of power theory, you look for the most powerful alliance partners you can hook up with. Using the above criteria as a guide, let's see what the United States would be likely to end up with
We're going to start with the most powerful (per my estimators) and work our way down the list:
Turkey - Infrastructure, education and aggression estimators match up with the Americans'. Overall technology level in society is significantly higher than in India, levels of prosperity far below those in the United States. In conventional forces, more than twice as powerful as Israel. A good friend to have, and via the NATO alliance Turkey has been just that...up to a point. Turkey balked at hosting an invasion of neighbor Iraq.
Iran - Once a close ally, now an explicit enemy of the United States and the feeling goes both ways after almost three decades of animosity. Structurally, a near-twin of Turkey. The two countries -- Iran and Turkey, that is -- have tentative security agreements with one another, highly focused on Kurdish issues, but Turkey has allies it would prefer to keep, over getting cozier with Teheran. Likewise the Iranians. As for the Americans getting along, well, that particular horse has long since left the barn. next...
Egypt - Since the Camp David accords, the United States and Egypt have been official allies, cordially cooperative, but that's about the extent of it. The society at large is like most in the more modern-minded regions of Islam: impressed with what American society offers, unimpressed with what Americans do with their blessings. And yet the alliance has held, and old tensions etween Egypt and Israel have settled such that the prospect of war between the two is highly unlikely. And that, ultimately, was the only reason that war with the Americans was ever likely.
Israel Technologically advanced, highly educated, a touch more aggressive than the Americans but not signficantly so, prosperous so long as one is a citizen, developed to the point of bursting, very overcrowded population-wise, though that problem could be mitigated if only a means of bringing more water to Israel could be found, rather than expansion into the one remaining water-rich area (the West Bank) with room to support more population that remains in the Levant. And unlike the Turks, the Israelis have no qualms about Americans' use of war as a mode of foreign policy in the region, and unlike the Iranians, the Israelis remain fond of Americans.
Which sort of wraps the discussion up for this diarist. Once we had allies of all four of the top four players in the Middle East. Now we're two out of three, in those very countries where we did not interfere in local politics in order to toss aside an elected regime in favor of an imperial one. Had that error not occured, or if Iranians had no memory, we would not be having this conversation. But the Shah happened, therefore the Revolution happened, therefore we are.
Cost-Benefits of Hangin' With Israel: Just Fine, Thanks.
From where I'm sitting, the only way Walt and Mearsheimer could possibly be right about the trade-off, ie. distancing from Israel as a means of making strategic policy gains in the region, would be if Iran was in a highly charitable mood, along with any other Muslim country with which we weren't already on good terms.
But that's just it.
Fifth on our list is Saudi Arabia, with 2 compatibilities (infrastructure and education; for all its oil wealth and education the society at large is technologically unsophisticated and passive, but this could change on a time if the water supply ever failed; the country is dangerously overpopulated. The arrangement with the United States is strictly economic, outside of oil and natural gas, the two societies have very little in common, and perhaps more to dislike of one another, and this is separate from any other consideration. But so long as the oil flows, the Saudis are mostly content, and those who are not have the well-armed Saudi regime to contend with, and that government will need friends someday, as the Shah of Iran once did. Perhaps they will be more fortunate. But then again, what dynasty never fell?
And all of this is independent of whether we are friends with Israel or not.
My thinking of the topic: Don't Change How America Thins About Israel. Change How America Thinks About Palestine.
If there is a key to transforming the Middle East, it's less one of changing the relationship with Israel and more related to changing the one with the Palestinians. Elementally, the West Bank has all the pieces to integrate nicely into federation with Israel. That is, if that were a good idea. I'm not so sure it is.
The problem is obvious: no one who wants to be sovereign in the occupied territories is allowed to be. The ambiguous status of the West Bank is the problem, as there is no shortage of skilled hands and minds in the area, just oppportunities to pursue constructive ends. And that is a formula for mischief and devastation.
I, for one, feel that the choice should be one or the other. Either the so-called Occupied Territories should be quit by Israel completely, or formally annexed. Either way, responsibility for order will fall clearly on either the Palestinian Authority or the government of Israel.
In my opinion, the talk of federation is absurd, as federation is an arrangement among equals, impossible in the absence of sovereignty for both parties.
Which brings us to the other, and riskier option: formally recognizing the de facto control of the entire Holy Land by Israel, and Israel accepting responsibility for the entire population, for better or worse, and making accommodations (or reaping the whirlwind) in regards to citizenship and property rights for the Arab residents.
I would hazard that the latter is never going to happen, as it has never happened before, for the chief reason that it's a bit challenging to have a 'Jewish' state, as many see Israel, including many Israelis, and have what may someday be an Arabic and Islamic majority therein. So, that's a bit of a problem.
Alas, the two societies are inextricable. However, maintaining one as part of global civilization and the other as a threat to same, or at best a nearby, heavily-guarded pool of cheap skilled and unskilled labor with a penchant for lashing out in frustration every so often, is downright dangerous, not only to Israel but to regional and global security.
I don't see any need for Israel to stop being what it is, or for the United States to stop being friends, especially since there are two Islamic allies in the region even more powerful (in conventional forces) than Israel in Turkey and Egypt, and one (Saudi Arabia) that is almost so, with little in the way of advantage farther down the roster toward either appeasement or antagonization.
But Palestine needs to stop being what it is: in Limbo. If federation is the eventual answer, sovereignty must come first, and some compensation paid for confiscated lands (and there are plenty of them) if relocation of settlements just isn't going to happen. If Israel cannot or will not underwrite it, seems to me it's a good time to call Uncle Sam, and/or the many generous oil-producing countries that have professed an interest in the Palestinian cause.
The way I see it, the Iraq War has cost $600 billion so far. The area of the West Bank is 5,860 square kilometers. Were all that Iraq War money spent on buying or paying for land in the West Bank, it would come out to $102 per square meter. That's $9.46 a square foot. For every rock, paving stone, pebble and puddle. So I'm thinking the funds to reach some accommodation are available for pennies on the dollar of what is likely, I would say inevitably, to be one final war if some peace is not obtained.
I have no illusions that this is a decisive argument. I suspect many will seize onto one phrase or the other, perhaps three or four if I am lucky, and castigate me for one reason or another even though the main contention of this piece is that Walt and Mearscheimer, whatever their methodology, whatever their framework, have simply but got the calculus of geopolitics wrong on American national security interests in the Middle East.
Hopefully, nobody missed that. As for commentary on a solution to the interminable Middle East conflict, a euphemism for delaying the final dispensation of land that was taken in war almost forty years ago but never formally annexed, and therefore still in limbo.
There is no path to peace from here without risk: either the risk that Israel can find a way to change in order to keep all of the so-called Occupied Territories, which I see as unlikely and unpopular; or the risk of letting the Palestinians go their way, then setting to the question of federation and the meding of fences.
As for those who doubt any such accommodation is possible: Ask them about Egypt, which post-Camp David is now one of America's top allies in the region. Ditto Jordan.
There's no reason why we cannot go for the hat trick with Palestine, via the same mechanism: negotiation of peace with Israel, through fairness and, yes, cutting a few checks.
Or we can continue building peace and freedom the new way, as in Iraq. Of course the meter's still running on that fare: $600 billion, three years, 100,000+ dead and counting.
Peace, like freedom, cannot be dictated. And as we have seen in Iraq, force is a poor deliverer of peace, and an even worse one for freedom.
There is no reason to expect that circumstances are so different between Iraq and Palestine, that what is obvious in one case is irrelevant in the other, and what fails at terrible cost in one place works to great profit in the other.
But maybe it's just me.
Appendix: Israel's Affinities (or, if Israel could pick its patron powers...
I decided to reverse the polarity of the compatibility model, to identify what countries would be most compatible from Israel's perspective, based on the same analysis.
The answer surprised the heck out of me at first. Why? Because the United States isn't the first choice Israel would make, if Israel were shopping for allies. In other words, the extant relationship is very advantageous for the Americans for its interests in the region, and the reverse is useful but there may be better opportunities elsewhere.
In other words, it might not be the Israelis who are pushing to keep the relationship going. Per my model, it's not.
So who, then?
The closest matches by the 'structral compatibility' model would be the Singapore, Belgium and Denmark. However, Singapore doesn't really have the oomph of a typical world power possesses. Likewise, Belgium and Denmark. So, who's in the next band?
South Korea, Spain and Ukraine.Korea is an awfully long way away. Spain's at the far end of the Med. How about Ukraine? Hmm...maybe. Still...we're looking for an ally with a bit more horsepower.
Which brings us to France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In other words: Europe. and we've seen quite a few other European players on our journey to this level of sponsorship.
And what of the Americans, and the much-vaunted Israeli-American alliance?
For the non-European major powers, the Israelis, per this interpretation, would prefer to go with Japan in its current format. Following that would then be the Americans....who are in the same compatibility bandwidth as the Russians, who are not among the most pro-Semitic societies on record and the Indians, who have their own territorial dispute with the Pakistanis.
Then comes China, which does not strike me as especially concerned with the disposition of claims on land and water in the Holy land, so long as it does not interfere with oil shipments to the Far East.
I am not sure exactly how events in the Levant would transpire, if Europe rather than America assumed the lead sponsorship in the Mideast peace process, or if such as trade-off would be welcome. On the other hand, the last crumb of good news I can recall on the topic came out of a place called Oslo. Something to think about.