Some Friday Ukraine Links

Fareed Zakaria at The Washington Post: ‘Why (this time) Obama Must Lead:

Obama is still likely leaning on Russia for an exit out of AfPak, and as some kind of East Of Center geopolitical ‘ally’ for leverage in dealing with Damascus and Tehran as part of his global vision (empirical results may vary). He’s probably still aiming for that one-world thing.

I’d call Zakaria’s piece a likely liberal centrist/populist call to action with detailed consideration of the strategic realities:

‘Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled up over the past three decades, this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences. And it involves a great global principle: whether national boundaries can be changed by brute force. If it becomes acceptable to do so, what will happen in Asia, where there are dozens of contested boundaries — and several great powers that want to remake them?

Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans and negotiate with the Russians. In this crisis, the United States truly is the indispensable nation.’

Andrew Wood at The American Interest: ‘Crying ‘Fascist’ On Ukraine

“Fascist” has indeed become a crude political insult, and the term can be used to cover states ranging from Peron’s Argentina to Nazi Germany. But the charge of fascism carries a particular force in the formerly Soviet space. World War II is the one sacral achievement that must not be questioned in Russia. To suggest that there are those in power in Ukraine who attack its accomplishments or indeed seek to reverse them is to plug into anger. Hence its value as a weapon to the Kremlin’

This reminds me of Christopher Hitchens passionately denying the ‘fascism’ charge, while often uncannily sniffing it out and confronting it (Hitchens interviews The Metzger White Nationalists).

Of course, I was hoping we in America could resist having only a bunch of military-right, ethnic-nationalists with fascistic tendencies on one side, and Socialist fascists on the other.  We’re not anywhere near that, I hope.

John Kerry threatens ‘serious steps‘ if Russia makes further movements into Crimea, violating both the sovereignty of Ukraine and international law.  No unified ‘international’ response seems forthcoming.

Fareed Zakaria On Youtube: ‘Stay Out Of Syria’

——————–

Still trying to hear good arguments…

It’s kind of bizzaro-land in our politics right now, flipped upside-down, where political incentive for those usually strong on national defense is not forthcoming for this President’s actions in Syria, even though we could see Syria coming from a mile away.

Adam Garfinkle here:

‘There is something to be learned here, and there is even a chance that some Administration principles may belatedly learn it: The mantra that the use of force, even the indirect use of force via arms provision to allies or would-be clients, should always be a last resort, is just that—a mantra with no relevance to real life. This is like, as I have said before, advising a cancer victim to wait until the very last moment to consider surgery. It epitomizes the Neville Chamberlain school of diplomacy ‘

Charles Hill and Fouad Ajami argue that this century calls for renewed American exceptionalism, and our bold leadership is necessary because if we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values probably will.  Much like we took over many British projects with Truman after WWII, we needed to act in Syria. Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Too late to act with lower risk and higher gain? Ralph Peters At The NY Post: ‘Too Late For Syria’

——————-

More from Rick Francona here.

Zakaria has been arguing that America would no longer get to be the ’director,’ and that we are seeing the rise of the rest, especially Asia.  In the new piece above, he’s now arguing that we may become little more than bit players.

Here are some previous Zakaria articles, for those interested, as I think he is a deeper analyst with a wide ranging mind, who’s hit a slightly more liberal, mass audience, sweet spot:

‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?

-”How To Restore The American Dream

Where he’s coming from, on this site:  Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Policy: ‘Remembering Samuel Huntington’

There was the plagiarism kerfuffle a while back.

Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Affairs: ‘Can America Be Fixed?’

Full piece here.

‘The danger for Western democracies is not death but sclerosis. The daunting challenges they face — budgetary pressures, political paralysis, demographic stress — point to slow growth rather than collapse. Muddling through the crisis will mean that these countries stay rich but slowly and steadily drift to the margins of the world.’

Zakaria has been arguing that America would no longer get to be the ‘director,’ and that we are seeing the rise of the rest, especially Asia.  In the new piece above, he’s now arguing that we may become little more than bit players.

Here are some previous Zakaria articles, for those interested, as I think he is a deeper analyst with a wide ranging mind, who’s hit a slightly more liberal, mass audience, sweet spot:

‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?

-“How To Restore The American Dream

Where he’s coming from, on this site:  Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Policy: ‘Remembering Samuel Huntington’

There was the plagiarism kerfuffle a while back.

——————————————–

If we focus in on just America, the demographics are better than Europe and Japan, but perhaps on a similar arc.  We’ve seen the slow decline of institutionalized religion, traditional marriage, and a rise in delayed decisions by many women to have children.   The boomer generation is retiring en masse and we’re stuck with entitlement programs in drastic need of reform, where some mix of more tax revenue (flat tax?) and less spending will be necessary.

Politically, in the meantime, under two terms of Obama’s leadership, we’re extremely polarized and subjected to an ever-growing sclerotic State.  Many Americans are becoming angry at D.C.  As for my dogs in the hunt, I’d humbly argue that the rise of feminism, post-modernism, environmentalism and multiculturalism have grown in influence in our culture and institutions, and incline toward Statism, and generally point Europeward.  This is accelerated under progressive leadership.

Yet, we’ve also seen a steady rise and growth in the size and scope of government before Obama, stretching back for decades.  Perhaps we’re at the end of the ‘greatness’ model, as technology, globalization, and other forces are pressuring us to change, where we’ve been taking our supremacy and economic prosperity for granted.

See Also On This Site:  Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People..Repost-Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?

America in Decline?: Fukuyama seems to think so, but maybe he’s still reeling from the Iraq war…From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Repost-‘Fareed Zakaria At Time: ‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?’

Full piece here.

Zakaria, of course, notes the current high level of partisanship.  I’ll add that I think it will stay highly divided for at least the next presidential cycle if the past is any indication.  Some libertarians I know believe this current partisanship is due to a failure of liberalism to be classically liberal, and instead has slipped into a more Continental Leftist pattern of excess since the 60’s of protest and identity politics.  To them, the Right’s response (the rise of overtly partisan news agencies, demagoguery) and redefining the founders intent to combat such excess started out on a good foot, but has merely led to a populist resurgence and unthinking political loyalty which furthers the growth of the State.  Perhaps libertarianism rises in opposition to liberal administrations.

Zakaria doesn’t seem to think such a partisan fight is good in the long run.  As he’s noted elsewhere, perhaps America’s staying the same, a victim of our successes and stability of our political structures that now serve the past and keep us from the future, while other countries rise and move ahead:

‘It’s not that our democracy doesn’t work; it’s that it works only too well. American politics is now hyperresponsive to constituents’ interests.’

and, like the British after WWII:

“British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. Labor unions, the welfare state, protectionist policies and massive borrowing all shielded Britain from the new international competition.

In order to break from this potential sclerosis, we have to get away from a kind of insularity, Zakaria suggests, and perhaps looks to copy and innovate (anything, really) from other countries, economies and the strategic necessities (Europe, trade).  These tools that have led others to success can allow us to duck our heads for a while and make some changes..

This is not a question of too much or too little government, too much or too little spending. We need more government and more spending in some places and less in others.’

Point taken.  He finishes with:

“In the past, worrying about decline has helped us avert that very condition. Let’s hope it does so today.”

Addition:  As a reader points out, perhaps just splitting the difference is not enough in the face of the Affordable Care Act, the current administration’s green ambitions, and a fairly left of center immigration policy.  The non-partisan talk is wearing thin.

Also On This Site:  Richard Feynman also made a point about bureaucracies after investigating the Challenger disaster: Repost: Richard Feynman at NASA…Henry Kissinger has a few quotations about the necessity and dangers of bureaucracy:  .Monday Quotations-Henry Kissinger

How do you save egalitarianism from the egalitarians and their own intentions? (the touch math crowd, the-everyone-learns-in-their-own-way pedagogy) if you need a new round of educational excellence and investment in the future?  A Shortage Of Skilled American Workers At Microsoft?

America in Decline?: Fukuyama seems to think so, but maybe he’s still reeling from the Iraq war…From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set..Add to Technorati Favorites

CNN-Fareed Zakaria Via Youtube: ‘Jeff Sachs and Niall Ferguson’

Sent in by a reader.  A bit heated.

I would humbly point out: There does need to be shared sacrifice and there are moral obligations that people have to other people, but defined and led by whom?  What is the social contract?

As Ferguson points out…it’s fair for individuals to be skeptical when they are obliged to enter into a contract with an entity that doesn’t necessarily look out for their interests (a wealth transfer from themselves to others in the name of greater justice).  As Sachs argues, the primary goal for all citizens (led by the State) ought to be providing some people food, shelter, a fair shot at learning, job opportunities, job-retraining at the moment in our post-industrial, globalizing, more and more technology-driven society (can we bring industry back, or will they be cottage industries?).  Perhaps the government has a role to help us get more competitive and maintain some social mobility in the long run.  There’s substance there.

Yet, we are currently promised programs that work for the public good that are often delivered inefficiently, fail regularly to meet the needs they address, fail fiscally to deliver returns, and can become ends for political and ideological gain in themselves.   There sure is a lot of entrenched self-interest involved and reason to be skeptical.

This does not excuse Wall Street of course, nor its obligations to Main Street, but it doesn’t seem to necessarily follow that more redistribution, more regulation and more State are necessarily the answers.

A fair summary?

———————————————

This blog has been a place to remain skeptical of distributive and redistributive definitions of justice (for as many have pointed out, such definitions freeze in place an impossibly high standard of human behavior given how people and groups actually behave, thus limiting the effectiveness of our institutions in addressing the problems they are created and maintained to address…quite possibly making less justice and less freedom in the long run).

The blog has also been a place to remain skeptical of positive definitions of liberty.  Liberty and individual liberties are one of the hallmarks and triumphs of Western, post-Enlightenment thought, but liberty can clearly come with dangers of its own: excessive freedom and no responsibility, Rousseauian radical freedom, totalitarian impulses, group-think, scientism, Statism, fascism, theories of how the individual ought to fit into the whole etc.

I think we’re more likely to be led down the garden path toward more regulated markets, higher-unemployment, less social mobillity, more class-riven, bureaucratic/technocratic Europe (old monarchic Europe?) by such ideas over time.  Of course we’ll be promised the great art, good food, fine literature, justice/social justice, the more fair and equal society…

…but frankly it seems like a total-European package.

Related On This Site:  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set..

The State causes all poverty?  I’m not sure about that. Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Samuel Huntington responded to liberalism and influenced generations from Fukuyama to Fareed Zakaria:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

Statism and art/popular art and NPR?: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Add to Technorati Favorites

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?’

Full piece here.

Zakaria, of course, notes the current high level of partisanship.  I’ll add that I think it will stay highly divided for at least the next presidential cycle if the past is any indication.  More than a few libertarians I know believe this current partisanship is due to a failure of liberalism to be classically liberal, and instead has slipped into a more Continental Leftist pattern of excess since the 60’s of protest and identity politics.  To them, the Right’s response (the rise of overtly partisan news agencies, demagoguery) and redefining the founders intent to combat such excess started out on a good foot, but has merely led to a populist resurgence and unthinking political loyalty  (and I would point out, fairly successful) political platform.  Perhaps libertarianism rises in opposition to liberal administrations.

Zakaria doesn’t seem to think such a partisan fight is good in the long run.  As he’s noted elsewhere, perhaps America’s staying the same, a victim of our successes and stability of our political structures that now serve the past and keep us from the future, while other countries rise and move ahead:

‘It’s not that our democracy doesn’t work; it’s that it works only too well. American politics is now hyperresponsive to constituents’ interests.’

and, like the British after WWII:

“British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. Labor unions, the welfare state, protectionist policies and massive borrowing all shielded Britain from the new international competition.”

In order to break from this potential sclerosis, we have to get away from a kind of insularity, Zakaria suggests, and perhaps looks to copy and innovate (anything, really) from other countries, economies and the strategic necessities (Europe, trade).  These tools that have led others to success can allow us to duck our heads for a while and make some changes..

‘This is not a question of too much or too little government, too much or too little spending. We need more government and more spending in some places and less in others.’

Point taken, we need to get over the current partisanship and meet with broader, more urgent goals and innovate, but you don’t turn a ship on a dime.   He finishes with:

“In the past, worrying about decline has helped us avert that very condition. Let’s hope it does so today.”

Addition:  As a reader points out, perhaps just splitting the difference is not enough in the face of the Affordable Care Act, the current administration’s green ambitions, and a fairly left of center immigration policy.  The non-partisan talk is wearing thin.

Perhaps we just need less government, and Zakaria’s approach keeps him relevant along with a more liberal worldview

Also On This Site:  Richard Feynman also made a point about bureaucracies after investigating the Challenger disaster: Repost: Richard Feynman at NASA…Henry Kissinger has a few quotations about the necessity and dangers of bureaucracy:  .Monday Quotations-Henry Kissinger

How do you save egalitarianism from the egalitarians and their own intentions? (the touch math crowd, the-everyone-learns-in-their-own-way pedagogy) if you need a new round of educational excellence and investment in the future?  Bill Gates has noted this problem for a while: A Shortage Of Skilled American Workers At Microsoft?

America in Decline?: Fukuyama seems to think so, but maybe he’s still reeling from the Iraq war…From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set..

Add to Technorati Favorites

Fareed Zakaria At Time: ‘Why There’s No Turning Back in the Middle East’

Full piece here.

Well, times are changing as Zakaria points out (and I’d offer that Americans are seeing the change through the lens of their ideals and current politics…the Left seeking its abstract ideals of democracy, equality and justice through protest never to be reached but certainly to be pursued…parts of the Right seeing only dangerous, violent unrest that is potentially a security threat):

‘…but there are two fundamental reasons the tensions that have been let loose in the Middle East over the past few weeks are unlikely to disappear, and they encompass two of the most powerful forces changing the world today: youth and technology.’

In Bahrain, one family has had nearly complete control for generations, in Egypt, Mubarak was in power for over 30 years…and how to stay in power?:

‘Those payments are a reminder that in the Middle East, there are two modes of control: mass repression and mass bribery.

A reasonable question to ask is have the conditions that created the autocratic and monarchic rulers within the people themselves been overcome?  Also:  is there a broader raft of what we would regard as individual freedoms in the Muslim world?   Are there sources for such freedoms that stem from Islam?  in law? from the West? in pockets of an educated elite…and cultural exchanges? from somewhere else?

Many in the West are rightly worried that the movement in the Middle-East to recapture a glorious Islam and past seizes power in some locations (we are currently engaging the most extreme examples with our military, which is probably not the best long-term solution).  This vision radicalizes many poor, uneducated youth with little hope of a future into a pan Arab identity of righteous vengeance, guerilla-style fighting and impossible purity.  More moderately, such movements can address the injustice of many Palestinians, say, in the charter of Hamas by refusing the right of Israel to exist (a recipe for potential disaster if they follow such logic to conclusions).  In times of war and suffering, and in sudden change, people will yearn especially for social stability, cultural identity and purpose and….often Islam is the glue.  This raises reasonable skepticism.

Addition:  As a reader points out, quite well-educated folks like Mohammed Atta and the underwear bomber radicalized as well, but I suspect their primary grievance is with their own rulers and their own conditions (the common enemy of American interest, or drive the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, is secondary, however consequential).  For many Afghans, it’s just more war, and as has been reasonably pointed out here, many Afghans are illiterate, very poor, living in tribal bands in often geographically isolated areas.

Just a few thoughts, feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Zakaria finishes with:

‘Warren Buffett once said that when anyone tells him, “This time it’s different,” he reaches for his wallet because he fears he’s going to be swindled. Well, I have a feeling that this time in the Middle East, it’s different. But I have my hand on my wallet anyway.’

Related On This Site:  From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. AutocracyFrom 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’

From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’

Add to Technorati Favorites

Fareed Zakaria At Foreign Policy: ‘Remembering Samuel Huntington’

Full piece here.

Zakaria notes:

‘He was able to take policy debates and frame them in a much broader theoretical context. Sam was able to explain to you what confirms and what falsifies your argument.’

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’

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

Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

Add to Technorati Favorites

Fareed Zakaria At Time: ‘How To Restore The American Dream’

Full piece here.

Are technology and global competition whittling away the ‘middle-class’?:

“Blinder understands the benefits of free trade but worries that the new wave of offshoring is so big and fast that Western societies will have difficulty adjusting. The crucial distinction for the future, he argues, might be not between highly educated and less educated workers but between those jobs that can be done abroad and those — such as nurse or pilot — that cannot.”

Here are a few of Zakaria’s suggestions (click through for more):

1.  Shifting from consumption to investment (this would be part of his making things again argument, but not things that can be made elsewhere with cheaper overhead and labor…global competition)

2.  Training and Education-On this, it seems to me we have a highly politicized, underperforming educational system.  Look for more politicization and inertia.  The internet will be as important as ever.  The spirit of egalitarianism at its best and worst?

3.  Fiscal Sanity (He suggests getting health-care costs in order, but doesn’t necessarily advocate Obamacare)-For my part, this will be difficult because it requires greater political cohesion, as I don’t think we’ve reached the end of extending freedom for every group (growing an idealism much more comfortable with a big State in its pursuit of justice, equality and fairness and potentially dividing the electorate).   I’m not sure how this will play out, but the impetus for fiscal sanity must come from people and how they balance their own checkbooks.   We need to survive without byzantine rules, a bloated state and protectionism.  Keep it out of the political arena as much as possible to stay nimble. See education.

Addition:  Or has the middle class been co-opted by the American Left, who have all sorts of plans for it?

Also On This Site: Part of Zakaria’s larger project and vision: Repost-Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?A Shortage Of Skilled American Workers At Microsoft?…Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India, and it involves much more state involvement here in America:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

Add to Technorati Favorites

Repost-Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?

Not so much America in decline, Zakaria suggests, as an America closing itself off from what made it great and failing to recognize the rise of many other nations.  America may no longer have the ability to “be the director,” as he says.  The close of an era of American exceptionalism?

As a globalist, there may be parts of his thinking and moral depth that don’t coincide with the interests of some parts of our society (perhaps the more militaristic, conservative and Christian conservative, insular and isolationist especially).  I’m not persuaded by all of his ideas, but he’s pretty on point with this.   He’s also a pragmatic, wide-ranging and independent voice and it’s good to have him around.

Related On This Site:  Francis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So FarSo, Is America In Decline?Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set