segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2016

Connections, not armies, make countries powerful

During the cold war, military might and economic clout were the measures of power that mattered. Today — in an increasingly interdependent world, among states where use of direct force against one another is all but unthinkable — connections are equally important. The most connected states, wielding influence and controlling information flows, are more useful for making things happen in the world than those that simply possess enormous armies.
Global flows of goods, services, finance, people and data “play an ever-larger role in determining the fate of nations, companies and individuals”, according to the McKinsey consultancy, which measures these factors in its “connectedness” index. “To be unconnected is to fall behind.” Singapore, a small, open economy at the heart of global shipping and finance flows, comes top of the list — the
Energy still plays a big part in determining connectedness. As long as specific Middle Eastern countries are at the centre of the world’s energy flows, they exercise power over other nations vastly disproportionate to their geographical size or military and economic weight. The Opec countries proved this point in the 1970s, when energy production was much more concentrated. Today, Saudi Arabia is refusing to allow a deal to freeze oil production unless its regional rival, Iran, agrees to sign up.
In the next decade, however, influence over global digital flows will grow far more important. We will see the development of sophisticated tools to impose digital sanctions, blocking some commerce, information and communication but allowing the rest.
Meanwhile, the lens of connectedness offers a useful perspective on the debate over British membership of the EU. Brexit advocates want to make Britain an island on the edge of the union once more — close enough to claim the benefits of connectedness but with sufficient autonomy to be truly sovereign. In fact, the connectedness index shows that the status quo provides highly beneficial codependence for both parties.
When the scores of all the member states are combined, the EU as a whole ranks third in the connectedness index, behind Singapore and the US. Without Britain the EU27 ranks fourth; Britain without the EU ranks third.
The reason is that so many of the EU27’s flows are within the union: 45 per cent of goods trade; 52 per cent of services trade; 62 per cent of foreign direct investment flows; 72 per cent of people flows; and 77 per cent of data flows. The UK presents almost the opposite profile: 70 per cent of UK trade flows are with the rest of the world, outside the EU; 86 per cent of services trade; 63 per cent of FDI flows; and 62 per cent of people flows. So membership allows Britain to participate fully in the intra-union flows that create the world’s largest economy; and provides the EU27 with a vital link to the rest of the world.
The picture is much the same in diplomacy. As US President Barack Obama explained in his recent interview with The Atlantic, much of his foreign policy has been aimed at substituting diplomacy for force as the principal tool for getting things done in the world. His engagement, for example, has prevented Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
Diplomacy is social capital; it depends on the density and reach of a nation’s diplomatic contacts. The Global Diplomacy Index, just published by Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, ranks nations by the number of embassies, consulates and missions they have. The US comes first, then France, China and Russia — then the UK, ahead of the other EU states.
As part of Europe, Britain has the benefit of consulates and missions in many cities where it is not now represented. Given that the Foreign Office budget has fallen by almost 20 per cent in the past five years, tapping into this network matters. Once again, however, the EU would suffer from a British exit, losing the benefit of some of the world’s most talented diplomats.
In sum, if connectedness is indeed a critical measure of 21st-century power, Britain and the EU would both lose substantially from Brexit. John Donne knew this 400 years ago. Everyone knows the line, “No man is an island”. Few remember the next words from his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”
If British membership of the EU be washed away, the clod and the continent will both be diminished. Joined together, and connected to the rest of the world, they are mighty.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is president of New America, a think-tank, and professor emerita of politics and international affairs at Princeton