Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

The ‘International Community’ Requests Your Presience-Two Links

From Walter Russell Mead:

‘Those are classic gangster euphemisms coming out of Don Putin’s mouth. And Russia’s capo should be feeling confident: he has triumphed in Ukraine, and is now pushing his advantage in yet another area. In Moldova, Russia has the all-important lever of a frozen conflict that could conceivably be thawed should the need arise’

Putin’s ethno-nationalist, thuggish plan to isolate and freeze former satellites, foment and support conflict and strong-arm them into submission is continuing apace.  From Georgia to Ukraine to possibly Moldova…

Meanwhile, Xi’s cohort in Beijing is drawing Hong Kong further into its orbit, as Hong Kong still fights to maintain many of its political and economic freedoms…realizing how easy it is to see them whittled away…as though they were never there.

On that note, Michael Totten has been visiting the still Communist regimes:

‘Vietnam’s middle class travels on motorbikes for the most part rather than in cars, but in the 1970s almost everyone got around on a bicycle. Cuba hasn’t even reached the bicycle stage yet. Its streets and highways are more bereft of traffic than anywhere in the world except North Korea.’

That economic liberalization and rapid change away from a Communist regime is partly what’s going on in China:  Copy the patents and ideas while building basic infrastructure, as Peter Thiel pointed out, and get up to speed over the next few decades.  Keep the economy blistering ahead by hook or by crook.

This is creating all sorts of other contingencies.

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’

Al Qaeda Is Still Out There, And It’s Complicated

Andrew McCarthy at the National Review:

Whatever your thoughts on our foreign policy, it’s important to recognize an important aim of any administration is to set goals and appear to have met them.

The whole ‘ISIL’ moniker instead of ‘IS’ or ‘ISIS’, and ‘Khorasan,’ rather than any focus on Al Qaeda serves the current President’s claims that his policies have worked.  There isn’t much evidence for this.


‘You can’t pick up a carpet by all four corners at once. Some al-Qaeda units are assigned to one or more of these objectives at different times; but all al-Qaeda units support and work toward the comprehensive, hegemonic program. It is highly unlikely that the so-called Khorasan Group is working on a mission completely distinct from al-Nusra’s mission; but even if there were such a division of labor, they are still one organization with one ideology and one ultimate goal.’

It’s a little more complicated than that. Eli Lake’s original piece:

‘The attack on the Khorasan Group, which consists of senior al Qaeda operatives loyal to the group’s central leadership, presents an unusual dilemma for Obama’s own war planners.’


‘An easing of tensions between al Qaeda and ISIS presents dangers for America in its military campaign in the Levant. It could persuade hardline Islamist brigades, the largest of the insurgent militias among the Syrian rebels, to oppose the West and to halt their own war against ISIS.’

Here’s Adam Garfinkle, from a while ago, as (I think) the goal is to have policies that work, that can maintain American security and form functional alliances to meet our interests. Full piece here.

‘It is all well and good to point out that the President is largely to blame for his paucity of decent options—and it happens also to be true. It is true that, had he acted with a judicious use of U.S. power in the early stages in the Syrian civil war, he very well might have avoided the mess that he, and the nation with him, are in now. Plenty of people urged him, and plenty of people warned him—both inside his own Administration and out—that passivity would exact the highest price of all. He ignored them all.’

There’s a real mess out there.

Related On This Site:  From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

A Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key

Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,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

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Najat Fawzy Alsaeid At The Center For Islamic Pluralism: ‘The War Of Ideologies In The Arab World’

Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Some Thursday Links-Musical Ability, IS & The Minimum Wage

Via David Thompson:

Tests for your musical ability at Tonometric.

From The Future Of Capitalism:

‘Mayor de Blasio’s executive order raising to $13.13 the minimum wage for workers at sites that receive some city subsidies is the topic of a news article in today’s New York Times. Via the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry comes a reminder of a 1987 New York Times editorial that appeared under the headline: “The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00.” The two articles go well together.’

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest:

‘Will the President proceed to Option Worse? We cannot know because he does not yet know. Chances are, however, that if he does, he will do so reluctantly. That suggests that he will wait and temporize as long as possible while Option Bad fails, the result of which will be to produce the worst possible political optic, that of an America that is uncertain, deadly but still timid, uninspired and uninspiring, and above all unable to use its power to achieve its stated aims.

I do not envy our airmen, sailors and soldiers who must and will do their best under such circumstances. My heavy heart goes out to each and every one of them.’

IS & Trade Speculation-Some Links

Michael Totten links to Jonathan Spyer: ‘The Guns Of August: Inside The Kurdish-IS War

‘I left Erbil for Amman in the early hours of the morning. The streets were deserted but the refugees’ tents were still visible at the side of the road. Iraq and Syria, it appears, have become geographical expressions only. Political Islam in its various versions is fighting over much of what remains. The Kurds are standing for a radically different politics along a long line to the north. What is to come, and how all this – which may be just beginning – will end, remains hidden beyond the horizon.’

So, if and when we roll back IS, what next?

From Blackfive:

‘In a posting from last week, I mentioned what it will take to mount an airstrike campaign against targets in Syria. Given that we’re going to do this using every available air asset possible, we are looking at a combined force of about 15,000 strong. Navy, Marine, USAF, Army will all be posted to supporting this effort, at least initially.

Wait, Marines? Yep- look at some of their assets based on Navy ships; we’ll use a few of them during the campaign. I’m not sure we’ve established the Erbil base yet, so most of these will be flying from Qatar, Kuwait, and ships throughout CENTCOM and EUCOM areas (the Med being a EUCOM responsibility)’

I suppose we’ll see.


Tyler Cowen appears at a talk about Thomas Piketty’s book (1 hr 16 min long):

Also from his site, interesting speculation about trade and the growth of water/harbor cities such as Venice, and comment speculation about what makes a good port:

‘The greater the anonymity of exchange, and the greater the distance involved, the stronger is the role of a formal port as a centralized supplier of trust and also buyer-seller coordination. That will imply a small number of water nodes, all the more so as globalization and specialization proceed .’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The President Pushes Back’

Full piece here.

From 09/14/2014

‘The real criticism of the President isn’t that his foreign policy is too deliberative, it is that his deliberations don’t seem to end with policies that, well, work.’

From The Claremont Institute Via YouTube: Charles Kesler In Conversation With Walter Russell Mead The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘The Coalition That Isn’t’

Full piece here.

The options were never good in Syria, they were bad and protracted Civil War worse. Now that IS has sprung-up from that protracted Civil War worse, and spilled over into Iraq, we’ve got a national security threat similar, or greater to, that in Afpak.  Most recently, after withdrawing our leadership, and having severely lowered our profile in the region and fumbled around incoherently, it’s unlikely we can field a coalition of willing partners.

Would you join a U.S. coalition in an act of war under such leadership, given past redlines, even if your national interests were at stake, and even if you happened to ally with many U.S. interests on this issue?

The logic of the threat compels us forward, dragging, apparently, this President along.


‘If we have no Sunni state allies willing to do the military scut work, and if we are not willing to attack Assad regime and Hizballah targets in Syria to show that we are not acting as a regional Shi‘a air force, then we have not acquired the means to accomplish the end: the extirpation of ISIS.’

For my part, hopefully it’s clearer now that the wages of community activism include having a President who constantly thinks in terms of politics, the base, and well, activism and ideology, even in matters of national security.  Some of this is political and has to do with the midterms and ‘optics.’

‘It is all well and good to point out that the President is largely to blame for his paucity of decent options—and it happens also to be true. It is true that, had he acted with a judicious use of U.S. power in the early stages in the Syrian civil war, he very well might have avoided the mess that he, and the nation with him, are in now. Plenty of people urged him, and plenty of people warned him—both inside his own Administration and out—that passivity would exact the highest price of all. He ignored them all.’

So, here we are.  Deja vu.

I keep putting this Kissinger quote up:

Book here.

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.


When does reality enter into it?

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Keeping An Eye On Syria-From Vice: ‘Rojava-Syria’s Unknown War’

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’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

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

Two Links On The President’s IS Speech 09/10/2014

Here are some links on the President’s IS speech, all written before the speech, because I suppose we’ll see how much has really changed in the last few hours.

It’s tough to see how one degrades and destroys IS without ground-action, as well as coalitions of people who trust our leadership and strategy enough with their interests, as we pursue our interests in the manner laid out in the above link.

From Blackfive:

First, let us bring in four brief (not all encompassing) but important lessons learned from the last foray into Iraq (and Afghanistan).

  1. We didn’t pressure Turkey enough to allow use of their territory/airspace.
  2. We didn’t go after Iran for killing our troops and Iraqi civilians.
  3. We didn’t surge soon enough.
  4. We needed more troops during almost every major initiative.

So, questions for the President about our defense would start with:

Click through for more.

Michael Totten: Iraq’s Kurdish Firewall:

‘I doubt the Kurds will get sucked into a war with Iraq’s Shia population, but it’s possible. What’s more striking about this and other recent developments is that Iraq’s Kurds are frequently fighting outside their autonomous region in the northern three provinces.

They’re doing it defensively—they have no interest in conquering and annexing Arab parts of the country—but they’re doing it nevertheless.’

The Kurds have a thankless task, and given the giant mess the Shia coalitions have made of the government and military (also with plenty of Iranian control), the disenfranchised Sunnis which have been supporting IS in some cases and don’t appear ready to have another Anbar awakening and surge, and given the continued Civil War between IS as part of rebel groups against the Assad regime in Syria, I’m not sure Iraq and Syria have anything resembling viable governments and the will to form, fight and die for anything resembling viable governments under current borders and conditions.

Can anyone defeat IS at the moment?

The Saudis, UAE, and even European partners must see a larger strategy for their own interests in order to buy-in, having been given many reasons to doubt Obama’s words, commitments and leadership.

At the moment, I choose to see a humanitarian idealist President, reluctantly dragged to this point, and generally not committed to any overarching strategy using force because the use of force and boots on the ground don’t line up with his own ideological commitments and worldview, despite much evidence to the contrary.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

Addition:  I’m profoundly not looking forward to the prospect of war, and IS is more of an upgraded Al Qaeda threat at the moment rather than some looming titan.  This means thousands of jihadis flocking to the area, as well as some from our shores with American passports.  They have a large platform now.

To the libertarian folks interested in peace, I’d suggest to think of all the State security apparatus like the Department Of Homeland Security that have grown up since 9/11, and the possibility of what would happen should another attack occur on our soil.  It looks as though attacking and containing IS now is a good deal better than a possibly neurotic ever-expanding bureuacracy hamstrung by silly rules and the low probabilities but high consequences of another terrorist attack.

Ally yourselves with the more pro-peace Left and you tend to get all the impulses Statism and progressive utopianism create, but you’ll still have to go to war at times, but not even have politicians be able to tell much truth about why.  This will be defending a lot you don’t believe in (like legalized pot leads to State revenue and more bureaucracy and questionable incentives).  A big, rotting hulk of a thing.  An indebted, illiberal mess with horrible incentives.

Ally yourselves with those who are more pro-war on the Right and you tend to get a strong defense but many incentives leading to more Statism and supporting institutions that also interfere with individual liberty, like the Department Of Homeland Security and a lot of the waste in military procurement and constant defense build-up, sometimes without much direction.   Many incentives are off right-now, but the actual common defense logic compels much of this forward.  There are genuine threats, and freedom costs lives and sacrifice, whether for trade-routes, for limited government etc.

These are hard choices.

Battling against Islamism and such militants is going to take awhile, whatever form it takes.

I’m all ears to alternatives in order to do so, and logic to explain those possible alternatives that shows a pretty good understanding of our challenges.


Walter Russell Mead on the logic that has led Obama to this point:

‘So America’s Middle East policy is in a mess, and the last thing President Obama wanted to do was to launch a new war in the Middle East on the anniversary of 9/11. He didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t need to: it’s clear to everyone that we are where we are because his chosen policies did not work. His diagnosis was off, and his prescriptions failed. The patient got sicker under his care, and the problem is going to be harder, more painful, more expensive to treat than it could have been.’

It seems our President might be happier amongst a group of assorted pro-peace activists and sometime radicals in about 1968 or 1972 or so…somewhere between a meeting hall scattered with leaflets and the faculty lounge.

IS, The Middle-East & Some Political Philosophy-A Few Links

From The New Republic:

‘Other Muslims have romanticized the time of the early caliphs—but by occupying a large area and ruling it for more than a year, the Islamic State can claim to be their heirs more plausibly than any recent jihadist movement. It has created a blood-soaked paradise that groups like Al Qaeda contemplated only as a distant daydream.’

And IS is creating a very dangerous security threat, as they’re operationally and tactically smart, tend to learn from their mistakes in battle, and are quite aware of their message enough to recruit thousands of fighters from the West, possibly sending them back here.


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


Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest:

‘Muddled though the region is, the basics are fairly simple. Iranian influence through Assad and his thugs in Syria, through Hizballah in Lebanon, and through the hopefully retiring Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, has widened and radicalized sectarian conflict in the region, and the growing weakness of most of the Arab states in the face of this multi-year offensive has led to rogue groups like ISIS taking up the slack.’

And a grand bargain with the Iranian regime is presumably what Obama is still betting on, as well as withdrawing our influence from the region on the idea that we can no longer lead as we have in the past.


Francis Fukuyama at the American Interest: ‘Political Order And Political Decay

Are you on board for a grand tour of the historical development of the Western State via Fukuyama’s intellectual conception of that State?:

‘There is one critical point of continuity between Huntington’s analysis and my own, however, which many recent development theorists seem to have forgotten. The bottom line of Political Order in Changing Societies could be summarized as follows: all good things do not go together.’

Fukuyama has a considerable investment over the years in a Hegelian Statism I’m not comfortable with.  One can find there a belief in the betterment of man towards some teleological end-point through the perfection of the State and those who work for their own self-interest in it.

What might Fukuyama have right about the development of the State in the rest of the world, and Western influence upon that development?

Related On This Site:  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’

Francis Fukuyama has started a center for Public Administration at Stanford…it’d be interesting to imagine a conversation between Eric Hoffer and Fukuyama: Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’…Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin?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?’

You Can Be Anything You Want-A Few Sunday Links

From this piece here as previously posted, lots of food for thought, including mention of Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama:

‘ And isn’t the great foreign-policy debate of our time—whether America should continue its post–Cold War policy of interventionism in the name of American exceptionalism and Western universalism; or whether it should abandon that mission in favor of a more measured exercise of its military and economic power—fundamentally a debate over whether Spengler had it right?’

Well worth a read.

How active is American exceptionalism when it comes to American foreign policy, and will the propensity for American idealism and exuberance find channels other than exceptionalism?

Is it merely dormant?

Robert Kaplan’s brief summation of Samuel 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.

The baby-boomers are still talking about themselves, and perhaps it’s still important.

A line by O’Rourke which stirs  libertarian sympathies:

We’re creating a political system upon which everybody is dependent.’


Did the 60’s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?

Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below, including the sexual revolution:


Things Are Heating Up In Ukraine

Lilia Shevtsova At The American Interest ‘Putin Ends The Interregnum:’

‘What a mess Putin has gotten us all into! But let’s also give him his due: He has paved the way for the emergence of new trends—or at least he’s called the existing ones into serious question. He has also facilitated the formation of Ukrainian national identity, ensuring that the country will never again become a mere extension of Russia. He has thus undermined his own dream—that of creating the Eurasian Union. He has precipitated a crisis in his own country, making its future path completely unpredictable. And finally, he has reminded NATO of its mission and prompted the liberal democracies to reflect on their own principles.’

It seems there’s a Russian ethno-nationalist core Putin’s playing to aside from the clear interest in Crimea and a corridor that means splitting Ukraine in two.  Just how Putin defines that core in order to play-up to Russian pride, nostalgia and national security via his own power via a cagey ex-KGB, authoritarian, petro-Czar ruling-style is up for debate.

Over at the New Republic, they’re going to have to work harder to figure out how to maintain humanist, Left-liberal ideals in the face of such meddling and aggression (they might have to think about rebuilding the Peretz wall separating a kind of liberalism from full-on Lefty activism that new ownership has since removed):

Putin Will Never, Ever Admit That Russia Has Invaded Ukraine

‘The Kremlin will continue to deny its involvement in Ukraine, and the U.S. and E.U. will take their time calling this an outright invasion. Russia has made its objectives in Ukraine clear, and has signalled its resolute unwillingness to participate in military negotiations while its political concerns go unresolved.’

It’s pretty clear the Georgia model is in play, to some extent.  Ukraine’s economy is weak, and its civil institutions very corrupt, but Putin’s aims are pretty clear.

An interesting interview with an American volunteer with Army experience and Ukrainian roots who’s joined the fight.  A surprisingly reasonable-sounding guy via VICE:


Via a reader: George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’ back to Washington in 1946.

From Vlad’s pen to NY Times readers’ eyes.

Also On This Site: Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine…Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

James Baker At The NY Times: ‘3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin’

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!


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