Insights Into Equality Of Opportunity

As I see it, one major purpose of institutions is to to not interfere too much with genius, to get the best people working on specific problems and challenges, and to try and give talented others on down (the rest of us, per IQ tests and abilities) opportunities to succeed.

Once you start demanding equality of outcome, you’ve gone too far, in my estimation.

There seems a lot of going too far in many parts of our institutions lately, demanding utopian ideals be their guides and that nature/human nature/reality submit to these utopian, post-Enlightenment ideals guiding these institutions.

Henry Kissinger 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.”

In the world of politics and the political economy, there is endless competition over limited resources and their allocation, hence the bloodsport and all the fighting.

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Here’s another take, the entirety of which can be found here.

“[Thomas] Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  “innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

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With Larry Summers being pushed out by members of the Democratic party for his nomination as chairman of the Federal Reserve, it reminds of when he was pushed out of the role of President at Harvard.  For the many reasons that may be involved, I suspect the notion of a faint, scarlet ‘S’ for ‘sexist’ marked on his chest is one.  You don’t need much logic or reason to make that charge.

I keep putting this post up, because, one hopes we’ll arrive at a little sanity in pursuit of truth.

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He may have been fired for many reasons, but Summers off-the-cuff Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce had a lot to do with it:

1.  The first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis-Summers notes that high positions demand high commitment.  Science could be analogous to other professions like law.   He appeals to a longitudinal study that suggests that fewer women may agree to, or be willing to, devote such time and energy to their jobs over their careers as do men.  Changing the nature of these professions to higher female ratios may change some of the fundamental ways we arrange our society:

“…is our society right to expect that level of effort from people who hold the most prominent jobs?”

Perhaps…though the subtext might be:  are some members of our society right to expect that the guiding ideas of diversity and equality won’t come with a host of other problems…?

What about biology?

***Charles Murray takes it a few steps further, asserting that our social sciences are leading us to become more like Europe (less dynamic and less idealistic in our pursuit of Aristotelian happiness)  He also argues that there is a sea-change going on in the social science that will come to support his thinking. This last part could be a few steps too far…but it’d be nice.

2.  The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end-The bell curve argument that there are more genius and idiot men.  When you get to MIT, 3 and more standard deviations above the mean…means a lot.

3.  The third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search-If discrimination is such an important factor in there being a lack of women scientists, then economic theory holds that there are going to be:

“…very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating.”

So if the theory holds…where are the science departments scooping up all women scientists at low cost…who’ve been rejected elsewhere due to discrimination?

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I believe there is quite arguably discrimination against women in the sciences, and they have a harder road to reach success.  But there is also substance here…and clearly politics was a factor in Summers’ firing as well;  the women’s groups who viewed his ideas as an attack on their belief appealed to public sentiment in the worst kind of way.

Will social science ever be enough to address such an issue…or is it possibly changing to adapt to the demands people require of it?

On This Site:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Addition:  I always get an email or two that suggests I’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t fully understand the problem and seek to oppress women.  I don’t think I’ve done such a thing, and if women are going broaden and deepen feminism, they may well have to answer to arguments like these.

It’s not like there aren’t women in the sciences either, Vera RubinLisa Randall and Lise Meitner come to mind, but this debate is clearly not just about science.  It’s also about feminism, the social sciences, money, politics, public opinion etc…

Larry Summers - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007 by World Economic Forum

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.

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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:

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(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’

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

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed:  Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition:  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.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

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

Some Wednesday Links-P5 + 1, ISIS & Ticking Clocks

It might be worth revisiting this piece by George Schultz and Henry Kissinger now that the p5 + 1 preliminary negotiations have been extended for another seven months.

No deal is probably better than a bad deal, and perhaps this kind of dealing:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.’

Historic evolution?

I’m guessing it’s certainly true that some people in Iran (the Green Revolution) would like to be out from under the mullah-controlled, Basij supported deep state.  The ruling cadre has plenty of political enemies within Iran (across broader groups, from religious minorities to the politically and economically oppressed).

Yet, for our sakes, it’s tough to deal with shady bunch of fiercely nationalistic, former Revolutionary guard types in charge: Perfectly happy to get nukes, become the big dogs in the region, keep funding Hizbollah and doing all the shady, destablilizing things they’ve been doing, just now with nukes.

This would continue to be really bad for the Sunnis in Iraq, the Saudis, and the Israelis, among others, as well as pretty much all American interests.

Whether it’s aggressive, untrustworthy terrorist-funding types, to more moderate calculating, wheeling-dealing types buying time and maximum advantage, this was always a longer shot which required serious diplomacy.

I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect this approach always required experience, timing, testicular fortitude, and enough realist leadership that seems sorely lacking in this White House.

The clock keeps ticking.

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

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Over at the nearly completely erased Syrian/Iraq border and to the Kurds left to fight for their survival.

The Turks really can’t afford an independent Kurdistan, but they probably really can’t afford an ISIS-controlled Islamo-thunderdome next door, either.  Erdogan has to keep his opposition down, and still ride the Islamically resurgent wave rolling throughout the region.

From VICE:

From this NY Times piece on the state whatever’s left of the Iraqi Army:

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“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army — not even one piece — because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it,” said Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi of the internal security forces, also a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar Province. “Our people will steal it.”

Robert Kaplan At Real Clear World-‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Record: TBD’

Full piece here.

Kaplan as to claims of Obama’s foreign policy realism:

‘This leads to Obama’s fundamental problem. Actually he is not a realist, at least not in the vein of a Henry Kissinger, James Baker or Brent Scowcroft. Yes, Obama understands restraint. He rushes in with drones and advisers rather than with ground troops. But that is only the beginning of realism, not its culmination. Realism, when it works well, requires patriotism. It requires a profound loyalty to the patria — a specific geographical ground and its storied history, which the realist feels deeply in his bones — and whose basic interest is then pursued by the realist, often very aggressively. Baker and Scowcroft had this, and Kissinger, while an immigrant, had it as well. They all probably would have negotiated with Iran rather than pursue a military strike — but they also would have applied brinksmanship and other means to prevent being taken to the cleaners by the Iranians.’

Well, I suspect Obama is loyal, but to Civil Rights activism and various forms of progressive and Left-liberal ideals first and foremost…

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

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

Naive foreign policy is naive foreign policy.

I don’t believe that we can appease Islamic extremists, which is the whole premise of this administration’s approach…blunt American power and incentivize Muslim societies to drive the extreme elements out through international cooperation: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

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

Two Tuesday Quotes

“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.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

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

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

Full piece here.

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

Kissinger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely worth a read.

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

Thursday Quotations: Henry Kissinger

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

Full piece here.

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

We need to make sure they’re not just buying time on our dime:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

The next six months of diplomacy will be decisive in determining whether the Geneva agreement opens the door to a potential diplomatic breakthrough or to ratifying a major strategic setback. We should be open to the possibility of pursing an agenda of long-term cooperation. But not without Iran dismantling or mothballing a strategically significant portion of its nuclear infrastructure.’

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Previously on this site:

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On June 15th, 2007, Charlie Rose sat down with Henry KissingerZbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy and geo-strategy.  That’s over six years ago!

I was surprised to find that Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, described very nearly what the Obama administration’s current Iran policy seems to be.  Runs from 32:52 to 35:10 (Sorry I couldn’t embed with the exact time-stamp).

A few minutes can explain a lot.  Well worth your time.

Addition:  Here’s a brief summary of that argument:

1.  The Iranians and the Iranian regime, despite what their intentions may be, have a right to enrich uranium up to 5% according to international law.   They’re doing this.

2. We’re asking them to abandon this right as a precondition to any negotiations, creating an asymmetry.  We should offer to lift sanctions first in return just to get them to swallow their pride and sit down for talks.  This pride may extend beyond the mullahs and regime, and go into the cultural and national psyche of Iranians.

3.  Whatever their intentions may be, unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime isn’t out and proud about nuclear enrichment and weaponization.  They’re at least claiming to follow international law which gives us some leverage.

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Addition: The synopsis above makes a lot of claims, and on reflection, the more they look as expedient as they do true, as does this comments upon them.

Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran?

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On June 15th, 2007, Charlie Rose sat down with Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy and geo-strategy.  That’s over six years ago!

I was surprised to find that Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, described very nearly what the Obama administration’s current Iran policy seems to be.  Runs from 32:52 to 35:10 (Sorry I couldn’t embed with the exact time-stamp).

A few minutes can explain a lot.  Well worth your time.

Addition:  Here’s a brief summary of that argument:

1.  The Iranians and the Iranian regime, despite what their intentions may be, have a right to enrich uranium up to 5% according to international law.   They’re doing this.

2. We’re asking them to abandon this right as a precondition to any negotiations, creating an asymmetry.  We should offer to lift sanctions first in return just to get them to swallow their pride and sit down for talks.  This pride may extend beyond the mullahs and regime, and go into the cultural and national psyche of Iranians.

3.  Whatever their intentions may be, unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime isn’t out and proud about nuclear enrichment and weaponization.  They’re at least claiming to follow international law which gives us some leverage.

As Kissinger points out, if we pursue this track we also need to be thinking that it all may be a time-buying exercise by the regime, we’ll have to use back channels and other means to at least get a sense that we’re getting SOMETHING for our troubles.

***After Syria and the Assad/Putin affair, and watching this administration’s leadership and strategy, I can say I’m highly sketical, to put it mildly.

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I can see Obama straining for some kind of legacy here, to lay himself down and bring some sort of Egypt/Israel peace accord home after seizing the Rohani window, but it’s clearly a longer shot.  Even if your aim is some kind of peace treaty, the price is high, and Obama’s typically been longer on ideals & speeches and shorter on delivery.

He’s also got the pro-peace, activist base to appeal to at home.  Domestically, Obamacare is crumbling and his poll numbers are sinking, which may create some daylight between the liberal/Left activist base and the realpolitik of the liberal internationalist policy-makers and elite.

Looking at the current state of Egypt, the continuing civil-war in Syria spilling over its borders, the Kurdish uprisings, the restless Turks and the spurned Saudis, it’s reasonable to wonder if Obama’s attuning himself to the costs associated both domestically and abroad for pursuing such a deal.

So, who’s running our foreign policy?

Well, people like Susan Rice and John Kerry, apparently working according to plans very similar to those Brzezinski laid-out above, under the ultimate direction of Obama.

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You do diplomacy with leaders you have.

The President has said that a nuclear Iran isn’t an option.

So, what other, other options do we have?

Addition: Over Egypt, John Kerry’s doing things his way, against the wishes of the administration and Susan Rice’s aggressive, disjointed, democracy  promotion.

Related On This SiteIsrael, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments.

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, went the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’

From HenryKissinger.Com, Published In The WaPo August 5th, 2012: ‘Idealism and Pragmatism in the Middle East’

Full piece here.

‘On all sides of the Syrian conflict, the commitment of the belligerents to democratic values and alignment with Western interests is, at best, untested. Al-Qaeda has now entered the conflict, effectively on the side that the United States is being asked to join. In such circumstances, U.S. policymakers encounter a choice not between a “realistic” and an “idealistic” outcome but between competing imperfections, between considerations of strategy and of governance. We are stymied on Syria because we have a strategic interest in breaking the Assad clan’s alliance with Iran, which we are reluctant to avow, and the moral objective of saving human lives, which we are unable to implement through the U.N. Security Council.’

Kissinger’s 90th birthday celebration is taking place in NYC.  It’s worth roaming around his site.

From my limited understanding, Kissinger had an amazing grasp of the ideology of the Soviet Union, the philosophical backstory, and the practical politics of the Cold War.  His essays on American political structure and the culture that produced it are a thing of beauty to read.  For decades he pushed for detente, and beat a path away from nuclear brinksmanship and the polarity we’d drifted into.  There are always compromises to be made in the chess game, and to recall and realize why you’re playing, what’s at stake and what’s possible.

I’m not always convinced we’re heading towards an ideal point, or the ideal bundle of universal values and institutions which have sprung from European philosophical idealism, but despite this deep and fruitful debate, Kissinger’s realpolitik always recognized the need for alliances, shared interests, treaties, and strategic common cause.  It’s rare to find such a serious intellect as well as a practical, nuanced, thinker with so much experience in war, peace, politics and diplomacy.

Here’s a conversation with Kissinger at Harvard (complete with the brief protest of a more idealistic, rigidly ideological, shouter of the ‘war criminal’ epithet):

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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.’

A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

From Newsweek: Henry Kissinger ‘Deployments And Diplomacy’