Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Full piece here.

Sandall reviews Robin Fox’s new book “Tribal Imagination: Civilization And the Savage Mind”.

‘New political understandings are being launched each day, it seems. From one quarter comes what we might call Praetorian Realism, an acknowledgment of Samuel Huntington’s scenario for the military disciplining of civil chaos in modernizing lands. From another comes Matrix Realism, emphasizing the army’s role in the institutional order of the Arab countries. In this expansive intellectual climate, with its growing range of options, perhaps there’s room for one more entrant. Let’s call it Tribal Realism, the aim being to bring anthropological insights to bear on our political prospects abroad.’

Sandall argues Fox’s new book can point out quite how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon it:

‘Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’

Fox puts his thinking into a framework of evolutionary theory (as opposed to, say, religious doctrines).

Fox sees the European habit of viewing society as a loose aggregate of autonomous individuals as a barrier to understanding. It prevents us from seeing the truth of Ernest Gellner’s argument in Muslim Society that, under Islam, “the individual acts toward the state essentially through the mediation of his kin group.” It equally prevents us from seeing that in ancient Greece (meaning the Greece of legend that long preceded the reforms of Cleisthenes and the rationalistic speculations of Plato and Aristotle), both autonomous individuals and the state itself were problematic.”

Food for thought, as I always think it’s important to point out that secular post-Enlightenment ideals can suffer many of the same problems as religion when sailing into contact, conflict and engagement with other parts of the world…as that world can be a dangerous place.

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Romantic primitivism in Australia: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Some Friday Links-How Will The West Hang Together?

A podcast from Via Media on the importance of Ukraine: ‘Sochi, Putin and Russia’s Ambitions

A brief summary:  Ukraine is caught between a domineering old lover and the warmth of his embrace, and a somewhat feckless new EU dating-circuit offering great membership benefits and opportunities.  Perhaps content to play both sides off one another, and deeply divided herself, Ukraine could use some U.S. diplomacy to help her lock-in longer-term commitments to the West while keeping her pride intact.

The game is afoot.

From Foreign Affairs: ‘After Disowning ISIS, al Qaeda is Back On Top:

‘In early February, al Qaeda’s central leadership announced that it had severed ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an affiliate in Iraq and Syria. This step came at some cost of reputation for al Qaeda, but it will serve al Qaeda’s interests far better than maintaining a relationship with an affiliate that subverted al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and damaged the terrorist group’s image. Now that ISIS is disowned, its own reputation is in peril, with potentially devastating consequences. In the weeks and months to come, the United States would be wise to use the rift between al Qaeda and ISIS to promote its own interests in Syria and Iraq.’

And are we undergoing a serious recalibration of American public sentiment towards its political leaders and institutions, including the military?

Is the military sacrosanct, and/or will there always be a kind of moderate liberal-Left suspicion of all things military even when it’s discharged to fulfill moderate liberal-Left goals like human-rights and democracy promotion above all else?

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy: ‘Where Is The Tipping Point For America’s Trust In The Military, And Are We Near It?’

The implication appears to be that no one blames the military for failing to achieve distinct victory. It leads one to wonder just what the American people will blame the military for. 

There’s a lot of ‘greatness’ bloat all throughout our government, and which we all have a hand in.

Peace Is Next In The Middle-East-Two Sunday Links

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on John Kerry as Secretary Of State: ‘Overselling And (So Far) Underdelivering

‘So, back to the point, Secretary Kerry thinks he can depend on the Russians, who are cheating on one arms control agreement, to get the Syrians to stop cheating on another one, and also make life-threatening concessions to the rebel opposition at the same time. And the Russians are going to do this for us even as Kerry is fecklessly berating them over an issue (Ukraine) against which we have close to zero leverage, but they have, in their own view, vital national interests’

For some of the Left-liberal base I’ve talked to (I live in Seattle, mind you), Hillary Clinton is a bit of a sellout.  Kerry has street-cred because of his alignment with the Vietnam protest movement, but there can never be enough peace.  Amongst such a crowd, Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney’s warmongering shall never be forgiven.

On that note, the peace crowd can exhibit some quite un-peaceful behaviors, naturally.  Many true-believers can turn out to be the last to know.  As more of a skeptic, I mainly see a rather naive Left-Of-Center idealism at work, often just as sure of what it is against (the reality of conflict, the U.S. military, the establishment, the Right etc).

Let’s not forget that base in the abstractions of foreign policy discussions.

David Rohde At The Atlantic: ‘Is Syria Now A Direct Threat To The United States?’

How’s that Syria policy coming along?:

‘Over the last two weeks, Obama administration officials have signaled—sometimes intentionally, sometimes not—that a worst-case scenario is emerging in Syria.’

I suppose we’ll see.  What’s our strategy to best protect and secure our interests and freedoms?

Even some folks at NPR may be pining for the days of Clintonesque humanitarian intervention, as they bring in some analysts to compare the mess in Syria to the former Yugoslavia.

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Foreign Affairs: ‘How China Is Ruled’

Full post here. (subscription required)

‘Of course, the revolution that began with Deng has not been revolutionary in one important sense: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained its monopoly on political power. Yet the cliché that China has experienced economic reform but not political reform in the years since 1977 obscures an important truth: that political reform, as one Chinese politician told me confidentially in 2002, has “taken place quietly and out of view.”

I wanted to pair that with some traveling on the ground.


(Q & A starts at about minute 6:20)

This blog is still trying to better understand China.  J. MaartenTroost traveled for months around the country, went with the flow, and wrote about his experiences.

The book comes highly recommended.

Some takeaways:  China’s undergoing rapid, almost seething, sociological, economic, and some political change.  It’s got over a billion people, a huge landmass, and a long history.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

Walter Russell Mead back when Hu Jintao was still in power:.

‘Americans, contemplating our policies in Asia and our ideological approach to Chinese communism, see us as promoting a stable status quo that ought to appeal to the Chinese.  President Hu and many Chinese leaders see things very differently: the status quo is a dagger aimed at China’s heart. Our very moderation is a sophisticated form of aggression.’

This is a relationship of mutual economic dependence, potential conflict and strategic complexity.  Keep an eye on Asia.

Related On This Site: Kissinger says our relations with China are incredibly fragile, and that due to its own past, it may not fit as easily into the Western models of statecraft as some would think: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’

Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’…A Kantian raft?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

From The WSJ-Exclusive: ‘Eric Schmidt Unloads On China In New Book’

From The China Daily Mail: ‘The Cultures Of North Korea And China: Conflict Escalation Explained’

Over a billion people and a culturally homogenous Han core.  Rapid industrialization atop an ancient civilization.  There is state-sponsored hacking and espionage, a good bit of corruption and a lot of young men floating around fast-growing cities.   There are people fighting for their freedoms, better laws, and making their way forward.  There is an often lawless, ruthless capitalism (and hefty State involvement and cronyism) and it will take smart leadership to maintain steady growth. Can they do it?  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

The Weather At Home & Journalists In Egypt-Two Tuesday Links

Alexis Madrigal At The Atlantic-Talking About The Weather: The Next Level:’

Some good weather links and a nod to climate science, but also climate science as a defining and organizing worldview for a healthy percentage of the readership, I imagine:

‘There are three general types of resources here. First, there are people and institutions that analyze the weather and tell us about them. The second category is unfiltered public weather data and imagery. And the last tranche of resources deliver forecasts or computer models on which forecasts are based.’

Joshua Hersh at the New Yorker: ‘Journalism Becomes A Crime In Egypt:’

‘For foreign journalists, who were tolerated under the Brotherhood but have never been viewed with great affection in Cairo, the steep decline in working conditions hit bottom in December, when the police busted down the door of an upscale hotel suite that served as the offices for Al Jazeera’s English-language channel and dragged away the staff.’

The democratically-elected/peaceful uprising vision of the Arab Spring would have been nice (inside every Egyptian is a freedom-desiring human waiting to get out and possibly build democratic institutions), but we’ve gone from Mubarrak to Al-Sisi most likely, and a deep-State still controlled by the military.

At what cost our current committments?  How are we best able to secure and advance our interests?

What’s our strategy?

Quote by Jeanne Kirkpatrick:

In his essay Representative Government, John Stuart Mill identified three fundamental conditions which the Carter administration would do well to ponder.  These are: “One, that the people should be willing to receive it [representative government]; two, that they should be willing and able to do what is necessary for its preservation; three, that they should be willing and able to fulfill the duties and discharge the functions which it imposes on them.”

-From Dictatorship And Double Standards.

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Via Media: ‘Turkey Signs Three Trade Deals with Iran’

Full post here.

‘Is this the product of an ongoing drift in U.S.-Turkey relations? Or are these the wages of what is widely perceived as a rudderless U.S. policy in the Middle East? Probably a healthy dose of both.’

That’s putting our current ruddering mildly.

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ What About Foreign Policy (R)ealism?-From The Center For Islamic Pluralism: ‘Turkey Rises Against Islamist Rule’

From The New Criterion: ‘The Special Relationship: Past, Present, & Future’

Full piece here.

What are some goals the American and British governments share beyond the gamesmanship of diplomacy and pursuit of their respective national interests on the world stage?


‘One of the great acts of statesmanship is Churchill’s decision, or the recognition, during the war that Britain could no longer be a world power by itself. For the country that had been the dominant nation for a century, whose sacrifices had made it possible to win two wars, and whose endurance in 1940 saved the future of freedom, that was a very difficult recognition’

and we took over a lot of British interests after WWII:

‘I used to joke that the French try to deal with us by making us feel foolish, to prove to us that we didn’t have the brain power to follow them; the British dealt with us by making us feel guilty that we had let them down. They built themselves into our decision-making process in a manner that made them in many ways indispensable’

After some discussion of our objective in Iran as he sees them (will Iran get rid of its fissile material or not?), he argues for a return to a Reagan/Thatcheresque vision of the relationship:

But I don’t want to go so much into the details as to stress the fact that it’s absolutely imperative for the West to develop a common approach; and that this makes a Special Relationship at this moment more important even than it was historically. And on the American side, this makes it necessary that our foreign policy reflect an understanding of the history and of the national purposes of our friends, and again, very much, of Britain.’

Or at least he’s arguing for a more commonly shared Western strategy with more realism involved, if I’m not mistaken. Whether or not you think peace is a worthwhile long-term goal, more shrewdness and effective strategy probably couldn’t hurt at the moment.

Definitely worth a read.

George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Thursday Quotations: Henry Kissinger

Where Do We Go?-Via The Washington Post: ‘Al-Qaeda-Linked Force Captures Fallujah Amid Rise In Violence In Iraq’

Full piece here.

Our current strategy is seriously lacking, the Islamic and Islamist revival isn’t over, the Syrian conflict is helping to cause serious instability, and our Iraq strategy under both Bush and Obama’s leadership isn’t working out as advertised.

We could use some fresh thinking:

‘A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago’

We’re being guided by more liberal internationalist and further progressive Left ideas at the moment, but more conservative and neo-conservative ideas face similar challenges, and as a nation we’ve got a lot of work to do given the state of our politics.

Addition:  Eli Lake at the Daily Beast notes that the Sunni Sheiks aren’t too happy with the situation in Fallujah.

Perhaps you won’t agree with all of Samuel Huntington’s ideas, but he maintained a deeply learned understanding of the animating ideas behind Western/American political organization with keen observation of what was happening on the ground in foreign countries.

Robert Kaplan’s brief summation of Huntington’s ideas here:

“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”

Worth thinking about.  His Political Order In Changing Societies challenged modernization theory.

From Erik Kauffman’s article:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”


“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity.”

Samuel P. Huntington - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2004 by World Economic Forum

from The World Economic Forum’s photostream.

9:26 min on Huntington here.

Click here if you’re interested in some of the backstory of Al Qaeda (The Egyptian government’s brutality, its socialism and the extremely rigid Islamic backlash that’s formed in the Arab world) Lawrence Wright’s article has insight.

Did Bush over-simplify both the depths of the neocons and the American left?

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’

Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’Seth Jones At Foreign Affairs: ‘The Mirage Of The Arab Spring’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

How do we deal with the rise of Islamism: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Of Photo-Opportunism and Hazmat Garbage Collection’

Full piece here.

Grafinkle offers a Middle-East roundup from country to country:

‘As long as our elite press censors itself in this manner, an objective socio-political description of these (and other) countries will remain impossible, and a distorted understanding will inevitably feed misbegotten policy adventures like the Libya war. I would like to be able to assure you that what ails the academy and the press does not afflict the clear-eyed professionals at the CIA and the State Department and USAID and the NSC and the officer corps of the uniformed military. Yes, I would like to… but a lot of these guys went to those same universities.’

Related On This Site:  A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Some Wednesday Links-Health Care & Foreign Policy

Health Care- From the Federalist ‘How To Opt Out Of Obamacare,’ or things to think about involving your health and legal obligations to purchase health-insurance, despite the mess.  Avik Roy at Forbes discusses the political challenges for Republicans and the likelihood of Obamacare sticking around.  Wonkblog acts as though the Act is fine and gives you a nice online brochure.

Libertarian law/economics thinker Richard Epstein still makes sense to this blog, even if it’s wishful:

‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.

Are you just waiting to see what happens?

Addition: Who knows what’s happening exactly….anyone….anyone out there?  Ross Douthat:

‘Presumably we should continue to expect the unexpected, and be prepared for developments that don’t just fall somewhere in between “ringing success” and “death spiral,” but surprise us with where exactly they fall, and how their consequences play out.’

Foreign Policy-Walter Russell Mead on Russia, China & Iran (whatever happened to Brazil? addition: that’s economic, along with India that make up the BRICs ).  The End Of History Ends:

‘If the Central Powers continue to work together and to make joint progress across Eurasia, however, either this administration or its successor is going to have to take another look at world politics. For the first time since the Cold War, the United States is going to have to adopt a coherent Eurasian strategy that integrates European, Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian policy into a comprehensive design. We shall have to think about “issues” like non-proliferation and democracy promotion in a geopolitical context and we shall have to prioritize the repair and defense of alliances in ways that no post Cold War presidents have done.’

I could be on-board with a more comprehensive Western strategy, perhaps even a return to realism at home with some compromise to be made with our European allies.  This focus on very narrow, possibly poorly-negotiated peace-deals with non-allies and foes is unnerving.  Telegraphing our ‘peaceful’ intentions, and working just towards human rights and Western liberal-Left democracy promotion through a liberal internationalist order can ignore just as many moving parts, if not more, than other schools of thought.

This is risky business.

See this blog’s post and comments on Fukuyama’s new ‘The Origins Of Political Order‘ for some of the Hegelian intellectual foundations on which Fukuyama built The End Of History, and how he defined human freedom and its manifestation in political order.  If you stop to think how influential Marxism has been in one form or another around the globe, and Fukuyama’s response to it, this makes some practical sense even if grand theory isn’t your thing.

Related On This SiteUpdate And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’


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