Admiral Bobby Inman, who has served as Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the CIA, spoke at UT’s Frank Erwin Center last night on geopolitics. His talk was an off-the-cuff analysis of the political situation in most of the world’s potentially troublesome areas. The event was designed for students–a sort of “geopolitics for dummies,” breadth rather than depth. I’ll do the same. If you don’t want to take a world tour before learning what Inman had to say about the war in Iraq–it wasn’t much–scroll down to the end.

Mexico — The losing candidate refused to accept the result of the ’06 election, demonstrations in the streets, fortunately overplayed his hand and lost support. The new president took action against durg cartels, which had corrupted politicians, by bringing in the army. Now the concern is whether the cartels can corrupt the army.

South America — No specific mention of Chavez, but “what stands out is that in every election except in Colombia, every new government is a little to the left of its predecessor.” Inman worries that they might walk away from free trade. Brazil should be the leader. Labor socialist runs the country but is strong for the free market.

Sub-Saharan Africa — Ravaged by aids. Rich in natural resources, poor in government. Nelson Mandela is one of the great figures of the 20th century for bringing peaceful majority control to South Africa.

North Africa — Khadaffi’s son convinced him that they were on the wrong path. Now, no longer supports terrorism, admitted bombing of Pan Am 103 flight, agreed to stop developing nuclear weapons. Khadaffi wants his son to succeed him but not clear that it’s his choice to make.

Egypt — Similar to Libya. Son is more moderate than the father, father wants son to succeed him. Inman is doubtful that the son is capable of running the military.

Europe — Big question about European Union was whether it would aspire to depth (more like a single government) or breadth. Breadth won. Most of Eastern Europe has joined. More countries, less common government.

Turkey — Doesn’t want to join the EU. Great loss. [This is incorrect. Admiral Inman said that Turkey does want to join.]

France — Sarknozy very interesting, bundle of energy, looking to play a role in Iraq to bring Sunnis and Shia together.

Russia — Putin has restored Russia as a superpower, not militarily but economically. Second greatest oil producer, biggest reserves of natural gas. Oligarchs stole government assets, Putin reassembled them. Now Russia wants not only to sell to Europe, China, Japan, but wants to control downstream distribution. Putin rebuilt defense industries, Russa has passed U.S. as world’s leading purveyor of military goods. Dissolved the Duma, called for elections. Won’t run for third term, may decide to run again in four years (still young enough), or may choose a friendly successor as a surrogate.

China — Envy of the world in producing high quality products at competitive prices. Attracts exporters to locate there. Remember awe over Japan from 60s through 80s, then suffered three successive recessions. Signs of troubles are corruption and extremely poor production of state owned industries. No boats are going to be rocked until after 08 Olympics in Beijing. Expect major changes by 2012.

Japan — World’s #2 economy, coming out of third recession. Prime minister (Abe) started well, improved relations with China and S. Korea, then stumbled, corruption, cabinet resignations, major losses in the upper house of the Diet. Had to resign.

South Korea — Six power talks were successful. N. Korea became the first country that actually had nuclear weapons to give them up. Some movement fromf left to the center. Good for U.S., but bad for reunification. S. Korea doesn’t want it, learned from German example that it’s expensive to have to take on rebuilding a laggard economy.

Southeast Asia — Recovered from the currency meltdown. Indonesia lagging, prone to natural disasters.

South Asia — Inman used to worry that the India-Pakistan fight would lead to first usage of tactical nuclear weapons. Tensions have eased. Government in India has opened up to the West. Congress party is back in power.

Pakistan — 3 attempts on Musharraf’s life. Risk that fundamentalist government will succeed him and give access to terrorists.

Middle East — Colin Powell was right: You break it, you own it. We broke the dictatorship that had held together disparite people. We developed a constitution but no willingness of Shia or Sunni leadership to make compromises necessary for the government to work. Some progress in the provinces, but no willingness to join a government. Sunni tribal chiefs broke away from Al Qaeda in Iraq and were “well compensated. Must consider whether it is better to have stronger regional governmental structure and weak central authority. How do we avoid bloodshed when we pull out?

Israel and Palestine — Condition for success is you have to have leaders on both sides who want to make peace and have the capacity to do so. Abbas is a dramatic improvement over Arafat, but Hamas won the election and will not accept the existence of Israel. Israel is moving toward elections. Netanyahu will probably win, but he’s against any settlement.

Iran — The major player in this part of the world. Economy is declining, yet government still subsidizes Hezbollah at $40 million a month, Hamas at $10 million a month. Iran wants to restore the Shia caliphate–Iraq from Baghdad south, eastern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, southern Lebanon–which vanished with the end of the Ottoman Empire. You are better off with a dialogue with your enemies. You always learn something.

Four UT faculty members formed a panel and commented on Inman’s remarks. In the end, Inman made a couple of other observations:

On congressional attempts to direct foreign policy:

“The Founding Fathers did not give the Congress a role in foreign policy, only the power to fund foreign policy. Every time they try to set foreign policy, it’s a disaster.”

“On the Bush administration’s goal of regime change:

“If you have not planned for what is to happen after regime change, that is another disaster. The absence of a plan for rebuilding Iraq was negligence.”