What happens when America outsources its craziest security assignments to a private contractor, then throws him under the bus? Guess what he's doing there?
Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China's largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Prince wants in. Prince himself is clear about what sent him packing.
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Though the ordeal of falling out with the federal government was intense -- Prince claims he was the top target of IRS auditors -- that's all in the past. It's America's future that has Prince turning to China. But if neoconservatives and neoliberals can ruefully pat themselves on the back for using Prince's semi-defection as proof of the wisdom of enterprise zones, global interventionism, and rivalry with China, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and old-school leftists can see in the private-security kingpin a confirmation of their own biases too.
A big-government military-industrial complex, too clumsy and fearful to take on its own toughest security challenges, can't take the heat when the guy it hires to do so makes a mess -- so it proceeds to clumsily and fearfully flog him out of Washington. What happens?
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Blowback, that favorite word of American foreign-policy critics. But this isn't just a foreign policy story. Whatever your politics, this is a story about the kinds of perils you can best grasp when you set aside a partisan policy lens and pick up the analytical frameworks offered by systems theory.
Consider how the contours of our concern about Prince shift when we think of big government as a systems problem instead of an ideological one. It's a truism that the bigger a system, the harder it falls. But we don't focus enough on the how of it.
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When a system gets so large that its catastrophic threats become as marginal as possible, the nature of those threats becomes difficult to see, understand, and address. The systems-theory approach to catastrophic risk is not, of course, free from strong criticism. One of the biggest names in systems theory, Nassim Taleb, has been drawn into the political controversy surrounding the potential systemic risk created by US monetary and fiscal policy.
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