Possible Trump Foreign Policy Options, Socially Conscious Medicine & A Death-Some Links

Adam Garfinkle at the American Interest: ‘Same World, Lonely World, Cold World:

I suppose we’ll see:

Amid this storm, there are nevertheless only three possible generic outcomes for strategy: (1) same world, meaning a basic continuation of the present liberal internationalist American grand strategy and role in the world; (2) lonely world, defined as a neo-isolationist, “fortress America” attended by military unilateralism when deemed necessary, and maximum feasible economic autarky; and (3) cold world, a selectively activist pre-liberal balance-of-power realpolitik strategy.’

As a friend points out:  Many people who can be persuaded to veer neo-conservative (using the American military/hard power to potentially secure secular human rights) are not happy with the return to nationalism, and may be especially suspicious of Trump’s free-wheeling authoritarian and populist impulses.


Dr. Empathy, M.D., to the Operating Theater…:

Yes, but it is Seattle:

‘Goal:  To provide participants the opportunity to generate and rehearse a variety of responses to challenging situations related to inequity, institutional climate, and interpersonal conflicts in classroom and clinical settings.’

As recently posted: Medical Correctness:

‘Medical journals have thus gone over to political correctness—admittedly with the zeal of the late convert—comparatively recently. Such correctness, however, is now deeply entrenched. With The New England Journal of Medicine for July 16, 2016 in hand, I compared it with the first edition I came across in a pile of old editions in my slightly disordered study: that for September 13, 2007, as it happened, which is not a historical epoch ago. What started as mild has become strident and absurd.’


Tzvetan Todorov R.I.P.

As posted a few years ago:

Rescuing The Enlightement From Its Exploiters: A Review.

Tzvetan Todorov was primarily a literary theorist, but it’s often worth highlighting the following:

“Or take the current fetishisation of The Science, or as Todorov calls it, ‘scientism’.”

and

“We experience this most often, although far from exclusively, through environmentalist discourse. Here, science supplants politics. Competing visions of the good are ruled out in favour of that which the science demands, be it reduced energy consumption or a massive wind-power project. This, as Todorov sees it, involves a conflation of two types of reasoning, the moral (or the promotion of the good) and the scientific (or the discovery of truth).”

Russian Hackers, A Link On el-Sisi’s Egypt & A Little Less Mephistopheles For This Kindergarten

This blog believes fundamental conflicts within the West, fermenting within our institutions, foaming-over into our politics, invite the calculated meddling of those who think differently.

In the world of Statecraft, I’d prefer cold-eyed realism and calculated bastardry, when necessary, in the pursuit of American interests (ideally attached to decent human beings with checked, limited powers).  Overreach and hubris is easy.  Humility and good strategy is hard.

It’d be nice if Russia wasn’t being run as a kleptocracy by an ex-KGB agent, incentivizing a lot of bright hackers with little economic opportunity into the service of State propaganda and espionage…but:

C.S. Dickey:  ‘Putin Outfoxes Obama, Lies In Wait For Trump

Populist steam seems to be translating directly into policy these days.  Maybe it’s a kind of passive-aggressive placation of outrage in the service of ‘optics’.

That would be short-sighted and petty.


Link from a reader:  The Deep State in Egypt has been controlled by the military for a long time…’Egypt’s Failed Revolution.’

Many Westerners will probably go ahead and double-down on certain radical/semi-radical Western ideals just as those ideals are failing to translate into effective strategy by an exiting American administration.

Better keep James Taylor handy.

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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Gore Vidal had a line that stuck with me in his review of Italo Calvino.

‘For the last year, Calvino had been looking forward to his fall and winter at Harvard. He even began to bone up on “literary theory.” He knew perfectly well what a mephitic kindergarten our English departments have become.

Well, that might be a little much.

Personally, I like to read people who don’t really think like me, especially when they satirize bureaucratic bloat and puffery as they find them.

I like folks on the outside looking in…tracing the shape of something.

Why do we have so many administrators, regulators, and overseers within our institutions?:

Incentives matter. A vigorous freedom and skeptical citizenry is hard to maintain, but vital nonetheless.

Climb aboard and hang-on, dazzled as you may be by the thrill of the thing.

F-30 Moving Carousel -1

Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

It’s Still A Little Surreal-Progressivism, Trump, Putin & All That

Adam Garfinkle at the American Interest:  ‘The Anti-Cold War:‘ (comments are worth a read).

The Cold War was very dangerous, no doubt about it. We were all lucky to have gotten through it without a global conflagration. The anti-Cold War may be more dangerous still. So how lucky are you feeling?

There are a lot of ideas in the article, some of which may not be founded in bedrock, but which are quite interesting nonetheless.

My two cents (founded in the clay soil found here in my backyard, as I engage in fever dream):

If I’m Putin, I came up in the KGB, and became proficient in the often ruthless and efficient tactics practiced by the KGB up until and after the Soviet collapse.  Intel analysis, deflection, corruption-management and misdirection are second-nature.  Diplomacy is usually just a game of submission, especially with the former satellites.  There are some very hard men around me, and I’m a hard man, too.

My country is wounded, but still has its pride, and I play it up for political gain and to solidify my position and those most loyal to me, making myself very wealthy and powerful in the process.

I’ve got genuine problems: The Baltics joined NATO, and many in Ukraine are trying to do the same. Chechnya is a mess and terrorizing Moscow from time to time. History is still going, oil-prices are down, and birth-rates don’t look so good.

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Two more cents (that makes four) on the progressive/Trump dynamic, and how this might influence foreign policy:

Progressive ideology in America has suddenly lost a lot of influence:

Such ideology is not antithetical to Communism, and usually collectivist, activist, and suspicious of free flows of capital and American business interests coming to the fore in American foreign policy, progressives easily unite against nationalist/conservative/neo-conservative interventionist claims to authority.

One major goal of progressives is to defeat the ‘oppressor,’ and his morally illegitimate claims to rule through use of the American military…sometimes in quite radical fashion.

The greatest leverage can often be had through international institutions, because they are typically the path of least resistance for the ideological/rationalistic goals of Progressivism:   A better world is possible if people with shared progressive ideals can gain political power and influence enough to implement goals which claim liberation and radical liberation towards some knowable endpoint.

Progressives often claim the mantle of (S)cience, (P)eace, (R)eason and Enlightenment authority, but given the stuff of human nature, progressive political ideology tends to traffic in:

-Making sacred the ‘-isms’ (environmentalism, racism, sexism etc.and deploying them, when necessary, against all enemies).

-Cultivating shared moral sentiments and solidarity under shared political ideals, and unsurprisingly, often organizing hatred and re-sentiment against any who would oppose progressive goals…identifying such opponents as potentially ‘evil’).

With the election of Trump, a lot of people who share progressive goals have lost a lot of power/influence rather suddenly.

Trump as I see him:

A guy who’s probably harbored political ambitions for a while, and who has spent a majority of his life in the real estate/NYC real estate game.  That world seems pretty tough, where knowing the right people, leveraging capital, risk, personal, political and business connections is key.  I don’t know if I’d trust doing business with the man (not like I’d ever have the chance).

He’s clearly spent a lot of time on self-promotion and brand management, and seized on the profound populist resentment against D.C. more broadly in speech after speech, especially as it related to immigration. He ran openly against a lot of dominant ‘narratives’ found in the current media landscape (promising to absolve the cloud of racial guilt hanging over many heads), and was openly, refreshingly anti-PC.

A nationalistic, business-minded pragmatist capable of compromise and patience..drastically setting a new course for American interests?

A mildly authoritarian protectionist and absurd showman; a semi-celebrity who really won’t get over his desire for attention and who could really f**k things up?

What to hope for?

What to work towards?

Any thoughts and comments are welcomeas previously posted:

More on the Nemtsov killing: Don’t speak out.

Julia Ioffe at her site: ‘The Bizarre End To Vladimir Putin’s Bizarre Marriage:

‘An odd moment in the announcement came when Putin mentioned his confirmed children, two adult daughters whom we’ve never really seen, though there were reports in 2010 that one of them was marrying the son of a South Korean admiral.’

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close. The way he describes it: Corruption all the way to the top.

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What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America. To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul and its sentimental ties to Moscow:

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Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

Organizing For Action?-Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘What Erdogan’s Pivot To Putin Really Means’

Mead here:

‘The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years.’

Assad is still there…

My long-winded, critical take: Many bad actors claim to honor the rules of the ‘international community’ while continuing to pursue their aims, which often work against any such definition of said ‘community’ many in the West would like to see.  The Moscow/Tehran/Damascus alliance has strengthened considerably, while the Syrian conflict has continued.

Of course, acquiring deliverable nukes doesn’t just potentially conflict with American interests, but against the professed ideals of those claiming to currently speak for the ‘international community’ within American leadership. American interests are still primarily bankrolling (blood and treasure) much of the ‘international community’s’ ability to influence bad actors.

It’s not clear to me current American policy will stop the Iranian regime from trying to get where, quite apparently, it wants to be.  In trading the previous negative constraints (sanctions, threat of force), for such weak affirmative restraints (the current deal), this may have simply deleveraged American advantage for little ‘yield’.

It’d be nice to be wrong.  I’m listening.

A potentially useful analogy: The American military could be analogous to the police in Dallas, or St Louis, or Boston:  They still have to protect and serve American citizens but they’ve been brought to heel under the scrutiny of activist logic.

Such logic incentivizes a lot of people, including bad actors, without much in the way of constraints upon behavior, except in joining the activist’s cause or the activist’s definition of ‘community’ in de-legitimizing current traditions and institutions, and in often dehumanizing ‘others’.  The American military, much like the police in Dallas, St Louis, or Boston, are still responsible for dealing with bad actors who wish to do them (and us) harm, but their risk has gone way up, while their legitimacy has gone way down (and our legitimacy wasn’t great before Obama).

***I suspect anti-American interests will keep doing what they can to maximize advantage in the meantime (Putin is a prime example), while interests that could align with American interests may look around for other strong-horses.  Situational logic applies in decisions that could be a matter of life and death for smaller players (you’ve got to cozy up to someone, maybe just to keep ’em off you). More strongly allied nations will likely wait around and quietly diversify their portfolios.

At home, putting an activist at the helm has tacked American policy/politics Leftward, and may well create more hawkish Democrats, neo-conservatives, and conservatives both angry/disconsolate at this state of affairs, looking to carve out a path forward in reaction and response.

Populist anger and political dysfunction don’t tend to make for great foreign policy.

Let me know what/how much I’ve got wrong.

Via A Reader: Walter Russell Mead On The Steve Paikin Show…

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

Syria And Russia, Michael Totten On Cuba-Some Links

-Rick Francona at Middle East Perspectives: ‘American-Russian Cooperation-What Could Go Wrong?

‘In that case, Russia and Iran will have achieved their foreign policy objective, that being the survival of the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Asad; we will have failed in ours.

That’s what can go wrong.’

-Lilia Shevtskova at the American Interest ‘The Kremlin’s Triad As The Means Of Survival

‘Let me reiterate: We are dealing with the logic of a particular civilization—one whose survival resources are dwindling and whose political class is powerless to transform the system—that will continue to reenergize itself through the enemy search (even as it cooperates with this enemy).’

-Michael Totten ‘Cuba’s Walled Garden:’

‘Cuban citizens, of course, yearn for the Czech model where communism collapsed in spectacular fashion and was replaced all at once with political liberalism and a market economy. It’s what those of us in the free world should hope to see down there, too.

If you want to visit Cuba before it changes, fine. Go. I did. It’s interesting. Just understand that change is a good thing, and the more change the better. Doubt it? Ask yourself if anyone but a political psychopath thinks abolishing communism destroyed Prague.’


As previously posted: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.

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Some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

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The true time-warp and bizzaro-land is likely still North Korea, however:

Denis Dutton, Somewhat Anarchic Tagging, Biography Of Hume-Some Links

-Getting a little snobby around here-Via Kottke: ‘Worst Of The McMansions

-Graffiti, the law, development and Detroit.

-Edward Feser reviews a new biography on that arch-empiricist, David Hume (subscription required).

The Sunni/Shia divide is not one well-bridged by deliverable nukes.

-From a reader -Denis Dutton below:

Hmmmm….

Henry Kissinger’s Remarks Reprinted At The New Criterion-‘The Limits Of Universalism’

Worth a read.

On Burkean Conservatism:

‘The billiard table is a seductive analogy. But in real foreign policy, the billiard balls do not react only to physical impact. They are also guided by their own cultural inheritances: their histories, instincts, ideals, their characteristic national approaches to strategy, in short, their national values. A realist foreign policy needs a strong value system to guide it through the inherent ambiguities of circumstance. Even Bismarck, the supreme realist, emphasized the ultimate moral basis of realist statesmanship: “The best a statesman can do is to listen carefully to the footsteps of God, get ahold of the hem of His cloak and walk with Him a few steps of the way.’

and a partial look at ideas underlying his multipolar vision:

‘The distinction between idealism and realism rejects the experience of history. Idealists do not have a monopoly on moral values; realists must recognize that ideals are also part of reality. We will be less frequently disillusioned if we emphasize a foreign policy designed to accumulate nuance rather than triumph through apocalyptic showdowns, and our values will benefit over the longer term.’

Related On This Site:

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’

Are there dangers of idealism/German idealism that come with a Kantian influence in the political realm?  Are they addressed here?:   From The Internet Encyclopedia Of Knowledge: Immanuel Kant And Utilitarianism.  Kantian Metaphysics and J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism More On Daniel Deudney’s Bounding Power

A quotation from Burke:

‘A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.  Without such means it might even risque the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve.  The two principles of conservation and correction operated strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and Revolution, when England found itself without a king.  At both those periods the nation had lost the bond of union in their antient edifice; they did not however, dissolve the whole fabric.’

Edmund Burke, commenting on the French Revolution, in The Evils Of Revolution, What Is Liberty Without Wisdom And Without Virtue It Is The Greatest Of All Possible Evils, New York, NY. Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008.  Pg 8.