On June 12, 1987 standing at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin U.S. President Ronald Reagan taunted Mikhail Gorbachev to, "Tear down this wall." Just over two years later and 25 years ago this night - on the anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht in 1938 - East Germany ended the travel restrictions across the arbitrary ideological barrier and Germans invaded Germany in a jubilant celebration aided with sledge hammers, cables and ropes. Few of us remember 25 years ago. Far fewer of us remember 76 years ago. And on this night, it is important to reflect on both of these events and the implications that their forgetting portends.
Nazi Party Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels' anti-Semitic pogrom was designed to unleash "spontaneous" violence against Jewish communities throughout Germany and Austria in purported retribution for the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris. vom Rath was shot by Hershel Grynszpan - a Polish Jew - two days earlier after Grynszpan received the news that his family were being expelled from Germany. An estimated 91 Jews perished on this night 76 years ago with untold scores reportedly raped and abused. Around 260 synagogues across Germany and Austria were desecrated, burned or razed and nearly 7,500 Jewish businesses were pillaged.
So on this silver anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall and on the well-past diamond anniversary of Kristallnacht we find ourselves with relatively similar actors perpetrating relatively similar atrocities setting in motion relatively similar consequences. Ideology pushes Russia and China ever closer as they reinforce their interdependence with a natural gas deal valued at over $400 billion signaling an eastward shift of allegiance as the West continues to pressure Putin in the wake of Ukraine and Middle Eastern conflicts. Linking energy and currency dependency, Russia and China are building a micro-economic dynamic that renders Reagan's boisterous challenge a faint echo on the collapsed wall. When announcing the deal, President Putin told General Secretary Xi that this cooperation would, "keep the world within the limits of international law, to make it more stable, more predictable."
The economics of ideological separation - be they derivatives of religious or political orthodoxy - are equally flawed. They lead to inefficiency, inhumanity, and ultimately, the animation of tyranny.
The following is a transcript of a speech I gave at the University of Notre Dame in February of 2007. Read it carefully and think about the fact that this was written for a speech entitled Ten Years Hence:
So then what?
Road is coming back. For
over two thousand years, stretching from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Sea
of Japan, southward through the Indian Ocean, the Silk Road was the nexus for
the emergence of knowledge transfer and international trade networks which
rival, in diversity and value, modern conventions. While the U.S.
and Western Europe prosecute military campaigns in Iraq
and Afghanistan, the Silk Road is emerging as a literal and figurative power
reminiscent of its earlier glory. It was
after all, on this network, that one of the most compelling technology
transfers was facilitated. Between C.E. 300
and 1168, Chinese and Muslims developed and applied the core technology for
potassium nitrate, arguably one of the most explosive technologies that has
shaped two millennia of human endeavors.
To set the context, it is helpful to picture the Silk Road Economic Block in the following way. Starting in
Egypt and terminating in ,
draw your latitude line angling from N30° to N40°. Then look south of that line to the
Equator. This region holds close to ½ of
the world’s population; is home to most of the world’s religious and cultural
progenitors; enjoys unprecedented GDP growth forecast to represent over 20% of
the world’s GDP in the next ten years; and, is actively building cross-border
economic cooperation at the corporate and national level. The strength of the Silk Road Economic Block
poses a number of compelling arguments for a global shift in power within 10
years hence. Beijing, China
First, the U.S. dollar. In 2006, 47% of the U.S. Treasury securities were held by foreign interests while the U.S. Monetary Authority retained 17.8%. The Federal Reserve estimates that two thirds of
currency is held outside the
country amounting to over $700 billion. While
the U.S. dollar represents 47% of the world’s official foreign exchange
reserves, it is helpful to consider that with that exposure comes certain risks. In June 2005, the Bank for International
Settlements warned that countries would need to act “together” to deal with the
burgeoning U.S. trade deficit and went so far as to suggest that the U.S.
should consider cutting expenditures and raising taxes. Failure to address this issue could lead,
they suggested, to disorderly decline of the dollar and trigger significant
global market perturbations. As we all
know, the appetite for this medicine has not yet created the impetus for
As we see our country slip in its influence on the foreign policy front, we cannot ignore a maelstrom of our own creation. While we’ve leveraged our nation in our pursuit of energy consumption, insatiable material acquisition, and protection of our way of living, we’ve actually mortgaged our economic fulcrum in shaping global policy. When
China elects to
build energy alliances with ,
paid for in U.S. dollars and financed on U.S. Treasuries, precisely what leverage
have we retained. Given the fact that Iran U.S. consumption has provided vast wealth to
those in the Middle East and Asia who now are
cast as “emerging threats” to our national security and “sponsors” of terror,
what incentive have we provided to engage in constructive dialogue?
Increasingly, innovations of global consequence are emerging from the Silk Road Economic Block. In
Malaysia and , biofuel
technology is being funded and deployed.
In China ,
near-zero emission transportation and municipal systems are being
developed. In China , low-fire glass ceramics are
being developed to safely dispose of highly radioactive nuclear waste. In Iran India
transgenic tomato plants are being developed to produce vaccines for biological
warfare agents. In Iran , a
global surprise anticipation center is being built to fundamentally change
national and international policy from reactionary to proactive and
anticipatory. In Singapore Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,
and the United Arab Emirates,
novel energy and water municipal systems are years, if not decades, more
advanced than the municipal systems in much of the U.S.
Islamic financial products – based on fundamental ethical requirements
for transparency and risk-sharing – are attracting capital market participation
for funds that have never been liquid in the global economy. National treasuries are adopting policies for
foreign direct investment within the Block realizing that economic gain is
inextricably linked to domestic and regional security. In short, the region is emerging the “Fusion
Why Fusion? First, because it accurately describes at the physical sciences level the imperative driving the emerging reality. In the fusion reaction, the application of an external nuclear force overcomes the naked repulsive electrostatic force that keeps nuclei repelled. When one nucleon is added to a nucleus, it attracts others and, by doing so, adds mass while emitting energy. What’s coming? The Fusion Economy.
Highly divergent, one could argue polar, forces exist in the cultures of the Silk Road Economic Block. Nowhere are the divides between wealth and poverty; progress vs. preservation; theism and modernism more brightly illuminated. Nowhere is there a more concentrated aggregation of wealth denominated in U.S. dollars. Nowhere are markets so entirely dependent on the consumption of energy, goods, and services demanded by, but out-sourced from, the West. However, in spite of these conditions, a single catalyzing event (triggered by war on an economic or corporeal level) could serve to unite those who appear so woefully segregated. Who would have imagined that Chinese restaurants would become commonplace in
Who could imagine that Tehran
could evolve an intellectual property regime that would actually begin
successfully invalidating presumptive monopolies that other nations feared to
challenge? Could it be possible that ½
the world could create a self-sustaining resiliency that would be denominated
on a non-U.S. treasury / currency platform?
Could a new paradigm integrating compulsory, ethical innovation
licensing be paid for in “virtual value units” that entitle the bearer to water
or energy rather than a call option on a Central Bank? Is it possible that we’ve actually placed in
motion sufficient antipathy to forge Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim alliances
that embrace more common values than the Anglo-Saxon values we seek to
Ten years hence, Chinese won’t be buying IBM computer businesses – they will be engineering nanotechnology autonomous appliances. While we debate how to deal with global warming in the
U.S., New Delhi
very well fund emission free public transport.
While our aging population finds itself under increasing financial
burden to pay for medicine, Abu Dhabi Organics may be feeding the Cairo Gulf States medicament plants engineered at that
for Genetics and Bioengineering. And,
yes, my dear friends in the National Research Center Kashmir may
finally have the traditional herb compound that grows back my hair.
Today, we can choose the path that allows us to participate with those for whom we’ve had exclusionary practices for years. We can begin to unwind the pejorative archetypes defining those like us as developed and those unlike us as aspirants. We can participate in the financial accountability of ethical investing. We can enter into dialogue with those we’re sure seek to do us harm. Can we sit and objectively listen to former President Khatami quote the great Persian poet Sa’di’s words, “With devotion I will take that poison as the cure has been created by the Almighty,” and understand that this riddle contains not only the key to understanding those we find so foreign but a gentle echo of the admonition from the very Bank for International Settlements with whom no Silk Road voice conferred? We have before us the paradox left by our Greek progenitors – to choose an Odyessian or Orphean destiny for the sirens are singing. I choose the sweeter sound.