Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Full piece here.

The gist: Trump’s apparent defining of America’s interests more narrowly and nationally, transactionally even (quid pro quo), will further re-shuffle a deck already being re-shuffled by many forces outside American control (I still think America is uniquely positioned to adapt to many changes afoot).

American relative power has been declining, and we have some serious fractures within our body politic. Arguably, there’s less appetite for the soft and hard power reach of the America experienced during the past few generations.

Trump’s potential withdrawal from the international order the United States has been upholding with blood and treasure will likely signal significant change, and perhaps not always change for the better, Kagan argues.

What to change and what to keep?

What direction might Trump give on what to change and what to keep?

Kagan from his intro:

‘In recent years, the liberal world order that has held sway over international affairs for the past seven decades has been fragmenting under the pressure of systemic economic stresses, growing tribalism and nationalism, and a general loss of confidence in established international and national institutions. The incoming U.S. administration faces a grave challenge in determining whether it wishes to continue to uphold this liberal order, which has helped to maintain a stable international system in the face of challenges from regional powers and other potential threats, or whether it is willing to accept the consequences that may result if it chooses to abandon America’s key role as a guarantor of the system it helped to found and sustain.’

Repost-From Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security Council…Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy…Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Here’s an interview with Trump on Donahue from 1987:  Back then, it was the Japanese who were poised for imminent takeover, buying up New York City real-estate before the 1992 recession (both the Japanese and Chinese are looking at serious demographic challenges).

His appeal to national pride and trade protectionism was apparent then…as well as the self-promotion:


As previously posted:  Some other models to possibly use:

Interesting article here on Samuel Huntington.

It’s likely you won’t agree with all of 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.  Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:

“• 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.”

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.


That train may have already left the station:  Which organizations/allies/partners do we back with our military?  Which alliances do we form to protect and advance trade/security/national/broader interests?

Which ideas are universal, or should be aimed for as universal in the world of practical policy and decision-making?

Which kinds of contracts do we enter into? With whom and for what ends?

I’d like to see how this has held up:

A quote from Hill’s forward to Ajami’s then new book on Syria as discussed in the video:

“[The] greatest strategic challenge of the twenty-first century is involves “reversing Islamic radicalism”‘

Both men wanted to see more leadership out of the Obama administration. They both argued that there needed American led involvement of some sort in Syria. It’s a bad neighborhood, and we’ve got to provide leadership and side with the rebels as best we can.

Hill pushed further to suggest that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either. If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism. If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

I wanted to contrast this vision with Francis Fukuyama’s then new piece, entitled ‘Life In A G-Zero World,‘ where if I’m not mistaken, Fukuyama is ok with such a diminished role for the U.S:

‘It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate.’

and:

‘The regional military balance has already shifted toward China more than many American allies would like to admit. Moreover, while the basic American commitment to Tokyo under the US-Japan Security Agreement remains sound, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk military conflict with China over some uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific is not at all clear.’

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To some degree, I think both analyses are right, in that we either renew our ideals and pursue exceptionalism, confronting and pushing against those who don’t share our ideals and interests as we have in the past (including the threat and potential use of military force), and/or we re-adjust and recognize the roles of others, but also recognize that they don’t necessarily share our ideals and interests and we can’t necessarily trust anyone to look out for our interests.

This requires us to cooperate and rely on international institutions to some extent, but also institutions which have serious design flaws, poor incentives, and can bind us in treaties and obligations for which our interests can be poorly served.

What I don’t want to see is a continued squandering of our leverage and our strength, mainly at the hands of what I see as a rather utopian and naive worldview, held aloft by tempered, but still rather Left-leaning democratic radicals and activists, who claim peace but see many of their own worst enemies in the West itself, and who still must deal with the world and its political base as it is.

What’s the best way forward?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

***Addition: I’d also prefer not to see the continued squandering of American resources that came about with the promise of military action to remove Saddam Hussein.  The promise was democracy in the Middle-East, the results are apparently much less, with many serious consequences likely still to come.  Hubris and overreach is easy. Strategy and good policy is hard.

Right now, I tend to favor ordered liberty at home, a reduced role for the Executive branch, and the aim of strategic re-alignment based on a more realist understanding of alliance-making abroad.  Trade and sovereignty, patriotism tempered with patience, humility, and moral decency would be better than some of what I fear may be in the cards.

Let the math, science, trade, study and friendships form as much as possible without the silly seriousness of politics entering into daily lives, and the issues of potential conflict handled with courage and wisdom.

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Addition: Walter Russell Mead thinks Fukuyama gets Japan right.

Related On This Site: From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Two Foreign Policy Links-Michael McFaul On Russia, George Will On Obama

Michael McFaul at Foreign Policy: ‘How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia Without Selling-Out America:’

After some policy suggestions, there’s this:

‘I continue to believe that it is in the U.S. interest to promote the independence, territorial integrity, and security not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova, and all countries threatened by Russian hegemony. And the United States and its allies must develop new strategies for engaging Russian society and other societies throughout the former Soviet Union, including even in the Donbass region of Ukraine now occupied by Kremlin-supported separatists. We need more student exchanges, more peer-to-peer dialogues, more business internships to increase connections between our societies. We cannot revert to a policy where we only speak to officials in Moscow and attempt to do right by the Kremlin.

A lot of those former Soviet satellites, especially the Baltics, needed courage, hard-work, and luck just to get far enough away from Moscow to recieve NATO protection….:

Not exactly a foregone conclusion…


Moving along: This stuck out in George Will’s piece at the Washington Post: ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Was Error After Error

‘The fact that the world is more disorderly and less lawful than when Obama became president is less his fault than the fault of something about which progressives are skeptical — powerful, unchanging human nature.’

Hmmm….:

Larry Arnhart here.

‘A fundamental claim of my argument for Darwinian conservatism–as combining traditionalist conservatism and classical liberalism–is that Darwinian science supports the constrained or realist view of human nature as fixed that is embraced by conservatism, as opposed to the unconstrained or utopian view of human nature as malleable that is embraced by the Left. ‘

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  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’

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap

Full piece here.

‘Looking back, the Kurds’ experience with proxy wars has been rewarding in the short term but mostly disastrous in the long term. The Kurds have been able to best many opponents and establish a reputation for martial skill, but at the cost of exacerbating internal divisions and serially alarming everyone from their state “hosts” to neighbors. So why do they continue playing this role, what are the lessons they may draw from it now, and will it turn out better for the Kurds this time?’

If I were a Kurd, I would bet on being only a part-time American ally, at great risk to my own interests, while continuing to pursue those interests.

*See the previous post

From The American Interest-Turkish Coup Live Blog

Link here.

Addition: The military will not take back control of the government:

‘Not all of the rebel soldiers have surrendered yet, but the government seems firmly in control. The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours. The Turkish military, it appears, has lost the role of ‘guardian of the nation’ which it assumed in the interest of making Turkey a modern European country. Atatürk’s Turkey marginalized the pious Anatolian peasants; now their grandchildren and great grandchildren are building a new Turkey.’

Via Twitter:

As previously posted on this site:

Michael Totten at World Affairs Journal (majority of the piece behind a registration wall)-‘The Trouble With Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, And The Kurds.

Erdogan’s coalition and political stability look to be in some trouble, recently, as a bomb kills nearly a hundred at a pro-Kurdish peace rally:

‘Turkey fears and loathes Kurdish independence anywhere in the world more than it fears and loathes anything else. Kurdish independence in Syria, from Ankara’s point of view, could at a minimum escalate a three-decades-long conflict and at worst threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity’

Charles Hill on Islamist movements:

‘The answer to the primary question about political Islam’s compatibility with modernity is that political Islam’s purpose is to not only be incompatible with modernity but also to oppose it, demolish it, and replace it in every regard.’

Podcast With Niall Ferguson At The American Interest: ‘Chronicling Kissinger’

Podcast here.

As previously posted:

On Niall Ferguson’s new Biography- ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review. 

The Economist

Ferguson discusses the first volume in D.C.

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A previous Kissinger quote found 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.”

and:

“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.

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

 

Some Sunday Links On China

Tyler Cowen from his blog: ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Chinese Economy

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From a George F Kennan article written in 1948 on China.

My how times have changed!:

‘From the analysis in this paper of demographic and economic factors it is concluded that for years to come China will probably be plagued by (1) an implacable population pressure, which is likely to result in (2) a general standard of living around and below the subsistence level, which in turn will tend to cause (3) popular unrest (4) economic backwardness, (5) cultural lag, and (6) an uncontrolled crude birth rate.

The political alternatives which this vicious cycle will permit for China’s future are chaos or authoritarianism. Democracy cannot take root in so harsh an environment.

Authoritarianism may be able to break the cycle by drastic means, such as forcible “socialization”. At best, such measures could be put into effect only at heavy and long protracted cost to the whole social structure; at worst they could provoke such rebellion as to recreate a state of chaos.’

As previously posted:

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Interview here. (Link will not last)

America’s Metternich (mostly kidding) wrote “On China“.  Interesting quote from the interview (unsurprisingly, Kissinger just wants people to read the book):

‘The remarks hint at what may be Mr. Kissinger’s fundamental view of U.S.-China relations—that they are already so fragile that it could be derailed by some candid remarks by him in a simple newspaper interview. Alternatively, he may simply have in mind his own opportunities for “maintaining influence.”‘

Some thoughts and some round-up on this blog.  Isn’t this what blogs are for?:

1. China is an old civilization which has been around for millennia, and which has a long history of a somewhat meritocratic, bureaucratic government long before anyone else arrived at such a form of government.  It’s currently centered around a Han Chinese core and is generally more authoritarian and conformist than most Americans are comfortable with, but to which many Chinese are loyal enough.  This isn’t necessarily a model that travels as well as Western models due to this Han core, but it has its advantages.

This blog is generally not favorable to what it perceives to be post-ish Communist authoritarian bureaucracy, but hey, there you go.  A highly individualistic and a much more conformist civilization are going to not understand one another on many issues. Americans tend to be idealistic and to assume their model is the default model without necessarily understanding how and why others might think differently.

2. China is undergoing seethingly rapid economic, social, and technological change.  It’s tough for many Chinese people to figure out exactly what’s going on, let alone outsiders, but Chinese leadership needs desperately to keep economic growth high, unemployment lower, and to copy, integrate, and frankly, steal, as much information and intellectual property to industrialize and modernize as quickly as possible.

3. Strategically, China has long borders, many powerful, organized neighbors (Japan, Korea, India, Russia) and many diverse ethnic and religious groups the central government has had to keep under wraps (respect is an important concept). Chinese authority must figure out how to match its political structure with an aging population, increasing wealth, increasing ‘middle-class,’ disposable income and expectations, increasing military strength and how to deal with those often powerfully opposed neighbors and internal struggles.

4. The Chinese are often people we can do business with on many levels, people who can be quite pragmatic and seem to want to get rich as much as they want to spread an opposing worldview to Western models.  They’re surprisingly sensitive to their own strengths and weaknesses and generally play their cards close to their chests.  They are quite thoughtful and strategic in often different ways than Americans. This past century is a sore point and seen as a rather shameful anomaly to their longer heritage of being the dominant power in the region.

Unsurprisingly, there is much, much ignorance on both sides, as is typical in human affairs, and ignorance is generally the default position.

5There are near constant and highly organized State-sponsored cyber-attacks and espionage going on against American interests (and some blowback and counter-espionage, I figure).  Many in higher levels of Chinese government clearly see the West as constraining and antithetical to Chinese interests.  Much logic and rational choice compels this, but also much vanity, pride, and fear and ignorance.    Such human nature can be found all ’round.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

=========================

Interesting piece here.

Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

‘For its part, the government seems to be making efforts to get a grasp on public opinion, though they stem more from its need to buttress its own chances of survival than from any democratic instinct. Attempts at opinion polling have not gone well, mainly because most Chinese are wary about voicing criticism of the government to a stranger on the phone. Nevertheless, there is the sense that the leaders are aware that the ground is shifting. They just don’t know where it is shifting to—and no one else does, either. There is an obsession with establishing the “central melody” of the current culture, but the tune keeps slipping away.’

As previously posted:

—————

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

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

The book comes highly recommended.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

Also On This Site:  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

American Foreign Policy-Somewhere Between Peace Activism & Humanitarian Intervention?

Walter Russell Mead at the American Interest:  ‘Obama, Anti-Semitism, and Iran:’

Mead riffs on Obama statement from this interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg and Mead suspect that the anti-Semitism found in some quarters is not rational, and doesn’t lead to rational decisions.

Mead:

‘The problem here is that the President, ironically enough, doesn’t seem to understand diversity. He thinks diversity is trivial: that people of different religious faiths, ethnic backgrounds and ideological convictions are not all that different in the way they look at the world.’

and:

‘Essentially, Goldberg was asking the President whether his years in the White House have taught him that real diversity exists, and that it matters. He was asking whether the President understands that people from different cultures can sometimes operate on the basis of such radically different presuppositions that their mental world maps are fundamentally incompatible with the norms of reason as the President sees them. He was asking whether the President had considered whether Iranian leaders in particular reason so differently from standard cosmopolitan Washington liberal thinking that they may not, in fact, be approaching these negotiations from what the President, and most Americans, would recognize as a logical point of view’

The ‘rational actor’ model the President relies upon has distanced American interests from many allies, while getting America close enough to try and do business with various non-allies, adversaries, and traditional enemies.  It has done so on the assumption that American threat and use of force is part of the problem.  It has assumed that Vladimir Putin, the post-1979 mullah State in Iran, and the Castros in Cuba are rational enough to have a hand extended to them during this recent change in diplomacy.

This approach comes with the obvious risk that such a model may not be universally shared, but rather one among many concepts shared by a smaller subset of Westerners with a worldview of their own.  It risks trusting that Vladimir Putin and the post-1979 mullah State (the Castros can probably really only hurt the Cubans under their control) will act under the presumption of a certain amount of good faith the ‘rational actor’ model requires.  It presumes we can trust these guys enough to reach deals, even without the threat of force, and that we’re on the same ‘plane.’

Of course, it may be just as rational to guide policy based upon actual behavior, expecting such regimes to continue doing what they’ve been visibly doing.  Both Moscow and Tehran have deep anti-American sentiment and have held loose alliance between themselves.  They are busy maintaining, expanding and exploiting their spheres of influence by means that set themselves and their people against American policy, as well as Western and international laws and much else besides (claiming American policy, international laws and expectations are aggressions and constraints against their interests).

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Some other links:

From The New Yorker: ‘Journey To Jihad:  Why Are Teenagers Joining ISIS?

Informative piece which follows a Belgian jihadi from a Belgian Anjem Choudary wannabe organization to the Syrian desert.

***As to the title, I’m guessing you have to write titles like that at the New Yorker.  For some people, understanding is to Terrorism what PTSD can be to War.  If we just understand and explain terrorism, it might not go away, but it will get better.  If we just have the experts explain why terrorists want to kill us, or why wars happen and how badly people can be affected by them, they might not go away, but it will all get better.

This can be an exercise in reinforcing a set of beliefs about the world rather than what’s going on in the world itself.

This can have political, social and institutional consequences that don’t necessarily make the world any better.

————————

Meanwhile, Iranian backed Hezbollah is still active, of course:

Claudia Rosett:

‘Reports out of southern Lebanon tell us that the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah  continues to expand its network of tunnels along the border with Israel, preparing for another war. That’s not an accusation by Israeli sources, but a boast by Hezbollah, detailed in a series of recent articles in a Hezbollah-linked newspaper, As-Safir.’

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

A Few Links On Iran & Afghanistan-Happy New Year!

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest:

‘So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.’

and:

‘Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?’

I don’t think Obama’s speaking to the region per se, so much as a group of like-minded, internationalist semi-radical democratic peace protestors bending the arc of history towards justice.  I’ve heard the crew meets every third Tuesday at the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public library (kidding, kidding).

As for Iran, we’re still doing business with a bad, generally untrustworthy lot, though the options have never been good (there are many people we could potentially do business with in Iran, but as in Cuba, they’re indisposed at the moment).

At what cost?  Garfinkle:

‘It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.’

Transcript of Obama’s interview with NPR here.

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As for Afghanistan (and Pakistan, the FATA, and Waziristan, and our limited influence there, too), we’re scheduled for troop withdrawal, but not so fast:

From accounts I’ve heard, what doesn’t often reach the American public is how fierce the fighting in Afghanistan has been, how much we’ve asked of our troops in fulfilling such a broad mission, and how we still haven’t reached our objective, which is to prevent further attacks on our soil.

Corruption runs rampant, illiteracy remains high, and decades of war have ruined the infrastructure.  Under such conditions, and with so many different ethnic and linguistic groups, it’s tough to provide basic security and incentivize the good in people, allowing interested local village elders, farmers and decent folks have a shot at stability. Afghanistan was most recently headed by a thuggish gang of religious purists, warlords and opium-traffickers, and will probably soon be again.

Truly brutal people.

Many of these guys, whose ancestors likely fought against the British, and a few elders who fought against the Soviets, are now aiding or abetting the enemy, and/or are fighting our troops. It’s their backyard, after all, but it’d be much better not to have these local and tribal grievances become the fuel for an international fire, and the opening for the Taliban to fill back in. If so, this opens the door to the global ambitions of Islamist franchises.

Which means we could be right back where we started.

Interestingly, the concerns of Western secular humanists and global peace-workers actually line-up pretty well with traditional, conservative, pro-military supporters:  We’ve got to keep thinking about solutions and a larger strategy when it comes to this region.

It’s not really over, even though this is the longest war we’ve ever had:

Vice had some coverage:

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From Walter Russell Mead: ‘Hastily Leaving Afghanistan Won’t Encourage Taliban To Make Concessions:’

‘And there are still lots of countries in the region that don’t want Afghanistan to fall under Taliban rule again: Iran, Russia, China, and India all think this would be a terrible outcome. We shouldn’t assume that Mullah Omar is going to get everything he wants’

Sarah Chayes’ Essay From 03/01/2007:  ‘Days Of Lies & Roses

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘More Good News From The Middle East’

Full piece here.

What good news?:

‘What if the deal goes down in flames despite all we do? What if the Iranian regime is incapable of saying “yes” even to a fawning U.S. proposal—what if it, too, is under-institutionalized, vulnerable to the mystical whim of one sick old man? What if Obama smokes out the mullahs and forces them to admit that, yes, they seek nuclear weapons? What then?

How could this be good news? It will be good news because it will finally clarify what the real choices have always been. It will shut up all the half-brained pundits who have been telling us for years that an Iranian nuclear arsenal is deterrable, so why all the fuss? (To his credit, President Obama has been wise enough to reject this notion.)

With so much good news out there from the Middle East, I can barely wait for tomorrow’s headlines. But patience, patience.’

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-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’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

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

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

Lilia Shevtskova At The American Interest-‘The Putin Doctrine: Myth, Provocation, Blackmail Or The Real Deal?’

Full piece here.

Shevtskova points out some flaws in the current approach:

‘Western tactics can’t compensate lack of the strategic vision and readiness to think about the new world order. Moreover, Walter Russell Mead was right to say, “We are unlikely…to have a sensible Ukraine policy unless we have a serious Russia policy.” The liberal democracies have to admit that their previous Russia policy, based on the three premises “engagement, accommodation, and imitation,” does not work any longer. Their desperate attempts to find a new version of containment that will not obstruct engagement and cooperation have become an object of mockery in the Kremlin and only strengthen the Kremlin’s feeling of both impunity and contempt.’

Time for a reset?

It’d be nice to have a foreign policy that allows us more leverage, can recognize and promote mutual interest, can foster strategic alliances, and can then respond nimbly to threats and problems.  Yet, how much do we hitch our wagons to Europe and current international institutions as they stand?

Do we choose leaders in America guided by more Left-liberal, ‘purely’ democratic ideals of consensus which tend to lead toward the kinds of interational institutions we have now?

Europe seems united by a rather dysfunctional political union. NATO is showing its age. The U.N can be a useful tool but has deep structural flaws.

Putin’s calculated, ethno-nationalist thuggishness is likely just demonstrating the terrain isn’t lining-up with certain maps.

One escape hatch for libertarian and free-market minded Britons has been leaving the political union of the EU for a market-based economic union.  A proposed Anglosphere, rather than the Eurocracy.

Which maps do we make anew here in America which will allow us to best secure our interests?

Addition: And it’s it’s not like America doesn’t have it’s own problems.

Another Addition:  Interesting piece from Tom Nichols posted at the Federalist:

‘Those of us who think Putin is acting emotionally in an insulated, low-information environment (including Angela Merkel, whom Altman tut-tuts for not getting what Putin is about) are not just making it up as we go or randomly picking motives. We’re reaching that conclusion because we’ve been watching this situation for a long time, and in context, Putin’s actions seem reckless and violent’

St Basils domes Red square Moscow Russia

by Ipomoea310

As posted before.

It’s likely you won’t agree with all of Samuel Huntington’s thinking, 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.  Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:

“• 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.”

Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.  Reihan Salam has a short piece here

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

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

Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’