A Few Passing Thoughts On Conceptions Of Liberty Potentially Woven Into Current U.S. Foreign Policy Decisions

Let’s say within Western civilization there are many operational conceptions of liberty, woven into doctrines and movements, internalized into minds and informing various personal decisions (join this group or that-accept this boss’s instructions or not-date this guy/girl over that).

Such conceptions often come into conflict with religious beliefs, self-interest, duties and loyalties to family, to tradition and promises kept as citizens to other citizens.  They also come into conflict with competing factions and rival political interests.

Let’s also say, that, exhausted or not, overextended or not, ’empire’ or not, the United States has serious internal and structural conflicts over operational conceptions of liberty, woven into recent institutional, political and policy decisions.

How such conceptions might be affecting foreign policy is probably worth thinking about.  This blog believes that Barack Obama was a serious shift Leftwards politically, towards a kind of cooled liberation theology, peace idealism and identitarianism with many collectivist elements.  There may be many valid historical reasons for this turn of events (specific and institutional injustices, among others), though I think such a turn came with familiar disagreements over the interests of activist elements butting-heads with a more pragmatic, humanitarian, liberal internationalism.

I believe this has also led to the further disenfranchisement of many Tea-Party Republicans, limited-government supporters, and has helped hasten the profound populist movements within both parties profoundly unhappy with the status quo.

Despite and because of such shifts, it’s interesting to think in terms of what might be staying relatively the same, or at least, more slowly changing within ‘corridors of power.’

There are many legal constraints and similar logistical challenges placed in the lap of any sitting President.  There are unique unforeseen events which come to define any term.

Robert Kagan on American foreign policy similarities moving through time from Bush–>Obama–>Trump.

‘All this began to change as Putin came to worry about his own hold on power in Moscow. He was alarmed by the democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004. But as McFaul notes, it was the disastrous Russian parliamentary elections of 2011 that had the greatest impact. The widespread protests against election irregularities and against Putin’s planned return to the presidency for a third term led him to revive the “old Soviet-era argument as his new source of legitimacy — defense of the motherland against the evil West, and especially the imperial, conniving, threatening United States.”

It seems U.S. foreign policy may be lacking a deeper, strategic vision for our place in the world and our stance towards Russia, in particular, with no end in sight to a divided political and civil debate.

In fact, I don’t know how bad it will get.  Here’s to hoping for the best, and expecting a pretty bad run, and meanwhile, for others in the world to act as they see fit.

What do you know?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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

Another favorite of this blog, Kenneth Minogue, tried to identify the connective tissue common to ideology: ‘Alien Powers; The Pure Theory Of Ideology‘.

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.

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’

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

The Same Old Quote From Samuel Huntington While Watching Current Events In Syria

Perhaps now, after eight years, we’ve returned towards some semblance of what came before, but now with many changes in the American cultural/political landscape duly reflected in foreign policy.

The more liberal internationalist and humanitarian discontents (neo-neo-conservatives?) seem ok using American military force to draw clear lines against the use of chemical weapons.

Or perhaps better said: Some liberal internationalists are ok using American military force and patriotism right now for these aims if the international institutional authority to which they are predisposed isn’t forthcoming.

While Donald Trump has triggered many into foaming domestic mistrust, weirdly, he may end-up uniting many humanitarian realpolitikers and pro-military, anti-terrorist, anti-Islamist types with this strike.

Subject to change.

Syria, you’ll recall, was teetering early-on during Obama’s tenure (when Libya involvement was chosen instead), and soon devolved into the horrendous civil conflict we see today:

Many in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are paying pretty close attention and strategizing accordingly.

In other words, we’ve gone from Peace-Activist-In-Chief back towards the center with a more pro-union, pro-military and socially liberal New York excutive-in-chief making strange bedfellows while also shaping and seeking public sentiment.

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.”

Are we back here again or someplace like it?

My two cents, dear reader.

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure…Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Ukraine, Redlines And Deadlines-Two Foreign Policy Links

The situation in Ukraine is ramping-up, and we could be looking at potential engagement between Russian and Ukranian forces. Putin is still leveraging his position with alternately militant and vaguely conciliatory language.

It’s true that as in Georgia, our likelihood of going to war on this far Eastern front of Western interests was small to begin with, and not necessarily in our best interests, any more than playing Putin’s Cold War gamesmanship is in our best interests.

Putin and the Geneva Conventions?

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Something needs to be done and we need some kind of Russia policy, but which kind exactly?

This is not particularly reassuring:

The current diplomatic team still seems to be telegraphing its intentions and aims too easily, with a particularly naive use of social media while setting deadlines it often can’t meet.  This can undermine our credibility.

Many folks like the idea of Western interests banding together, rowing in the same direction to promote liberal democracy by enticing those with divergent and opposing interests to join or face consequences. Human rights, democracy promotion, and tough-as-nails diplomacy through international law and institutions are presumed to be the best foundations for the kind of world we’d like to live in (better than the consequences of Iraq, for example).

Yet, promoting democratic elections in Egypt hasn’t worked out particularly well for our interests (little as we could do there), leading to the return of what will likely be another military-controlled autocracy after the Muslim Brotherhood failure. The surgically-controlled coalitional strikes to take out Gadhafi in the hopes Libyans could put something together in his wake has led to instability across North Africa, and a haven for Islamic radicalism pouring into Syria. Libya was in rough shape, and is still in rough shape.

Meanwhile, in Syria, we emboldened a weakened Putin to leverage us heavily, while allowing Assad to buy himself time. As a result, the country’s Civil War rages on, Islamist radicals have poured in, and as Adam Garfinkle pointed out on April 10th, this has had consequences for us in Crimea.

The world is watching:

‘The Syria point? The Obama Administration should watch its mouth. It should say as little as possible about reports of the Syrian regime’s use of poison gas unless it’s prepared to actually do something appropriate to the challenge. Its feckless posturing only drives its credibility further down the crapper. It’s not time to wring hands and blurt out Hamlet-like soliloquies; it’s time to wring necks. Again, if the facts prove that a poison gas attack has occurred and the Obama Administration does essentially nothing about it, it will be open season on every American and allied interest worldwide. It’s nice that Chuck Hagel went recently to Tokyo to calm our Japanese allies down, as though their jitters are not fully justified by the facts; a lot of good it will do, however, if the President does another duck-and-cover over the enormities of the Assad regime.’

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’

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine

Walter Russell Mead notes Les Gelb getting publicly uncomfortable with our current foreign policy:

‘Gelb points out that Obama’s inclination towards diplomatic negotiation without the threat of military follow-through could encourage potential aggressors to act without fear of retribution.’

Anne Marie Slaughter advocates for caution:

‘For some frustrated with the complexity of the post-Cold War world, redividing the globe along an East-West axis would be comforting. Yet doing so serves military and defense interests all too well, as George Kennan understood as he watched his original doctrine of containment become an entrenched enmity licensing military adventures in the name of anti-communism’

Yet, as Claudia Rosett points out, putting all of our energies into international institutions and law…is… well…:

‘The UN body that should really be objecting to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine is the UN Security Council. But with Russia holding one of the Permanent Five veto-wielding seats, the Security Council is even more impotent than usual. So Ukraine had to take its case to the General Assembly, where the resolutions can carry a certain heft as a reflection of general opinion, but have no binding force’

In advocating for peace, aiming U.S. energies towards peace talks and negotiations through international institutions actually leading to more peace? What about Libya, Egypt, and Syria?

As linked to before.

David Goldman wrote the following back in 2008, a few years after Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionjust as Georgia was flaring up, and when Putin stepped-in (to Georgia) to maximize his advantage:

‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.

My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’

Related On This Site:  Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And OthersFrom The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

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

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

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest-‘Part 2: Syria Policy, Up Close & Ugly’

Full piece here.

‘Now, the process of watching the President go from red line to red line to congressional ploy to Russian diplomatic life-preserver (an idea that was not as impromptu as the Administration made it seem at the time) was painful in the extreme. The new NSC Advisor, Susan Rice, was shown to be essentially incompetent as she presided over, or tried to chase, the most embarrassing excuse for a foreign policy decision process I have ever seen.’

Here we are, drifting along with events, backing into potentially serious problems, and being guided by foreign policy ideals far enough Left that the President seems wary of the U.S. military almost on principle, even if the U.N. Security Council was able to do virtually nothing for three years in Syria.

Obama does seem to have been listening to some seasoned officials at State and liberal internationalist strategists, but all the while he’s been promoting a younger, pliant B team and I’m guessing has never lost sight of elections, nor the anti-establishment, further Left base and coalitions at home.

We’ve never had good options in Syria, but in the wake of Libya, and looking at Iran, it’s not clear we have a larger strategy able to meet our objectives, nor the leadership to meet them even if we did.

Even some folks at NPR may be pining for the days of Clintonesque humanitarian intervention, as they bring in some analysts to compare the mess in Syria to the former Yugoslavia.

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

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

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

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

Views From A Citizen: Some Positives/Negatives On The Iran Deal

From Time World Magazine:

Some details at the link:

‘For the moment, diplomacy and dialogue have won the day, but the talks will have to continue — and trust between Iran and its Western interlocutors will have to deepen — before a lasting deal can be reached.’

There’s a kind of ‘upper middle-brow’ liberal secular-humanist worldview being appealed to in the article, I suspect.  It has some truths to point out.

Some positives:

There was heavy use of back-channels in the Iran deal, meaning some people on both sides were sticking their necks out pretty far.  Often, this is how the best diplomacy happens.  There was a rare window with the election of Hassan Rouhani and the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make something happen.  Not all Iranians, after all, like living under a repressive, thugocratic Islamic regime and many took serious risks to express their discontent during the 2011-2012 election protests.  This is an accomplishment as there were few if any possibilities short of a very risky war or a ratcheting-up and potential escalation of those sanctions and rhetoric likely leading to intervention and/or war.

Some negatives:

We’ve now sacrificed the sanctions that took over a decade to enforce and maintain.  We’ve freed up the Iranian economy in exchange for an iffy first-step in a tentative deal.  We’ve got an idealistic, weakened leader searching for his legacy while ignoring other unresolved crises (Syria especially) around the Middle-East.  We’re pulling out of the region without full consideration of our interests, objectives and potential consequences.

We aren’t building coalitions both at home and abroad robust enough to achieve those objectives, even if they are aiming for this peace deal.

Iran will likely continue pursuing regional domination, which will include all manner of nastiness and violation of international norms and law while destabilizing and undermining the interests of the West and most of the rest of the region.  Many people in Iran who control the deep State can be assumed to have no real intention of stopping enrichment either.

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

Israel, 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

Via The New Yorker: Negotiations With Iran

Podcast here.

‘On this week’s Political Scene podcast, Dexter Filkins and Hooman Majd join host Dorothy Wickenden to talk about the ongoing negotiations between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China—and Germany (known as the P5-plus-1) and Iran.’

Have a listen.

Bilal Saab at Foreign Policy: ‘Hezbollah Under Fire’-That’s Iranian regime-backed terrorist group Hezbollah fanning the flames in Syria.

Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

On this site, see the best I’ve been able to round-up: ‘Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’

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

 Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

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’

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

Full piece here.

Pejman Yousefzadeh trolled what he expected might be the Andrew Sullivan/Walt & Mearsheimer response to any failure in talks with Iran:  The Israel Lobby.

Sullivan responds, by clarifying that he’s not an anti-semite, but rather believes conditions on ground in Israel are leading it rightward, and that his position is one of realpolitik, tempering what are usually Left-Of-Center ideals with the reality of what’s possible:

Peace with Iran is possible:

‘My support for an agreement with Iran that grants it the right to enrich uranium at low levels and subject to routine, tough inspection regimens is also a function of dealing with the world as-it-is and not as I would like it to be’

But isn’t the theocratic, thugocratic regime of state-sponsored terror-mongers in Tehran not to be trusted?  Isn’t that the world as it is, too?

Why ally with Tehran more closely than with a Netanyahu-led Israeli government that while heading right, and admittedly playing us for its own interests, at least still has a functioning democracy?

Sullivan:

‘The Green movement proved that Iran’s younger generation is on the side of freedom, not theocracy. And yet that movement, like the regime, also insists that the country has a right to enrich uranium. On this, all of Iran is united.’

To be fair, few Western journalists have supported the Green Revolution in Iran as much as Sullivan has.  This could really shift our fortunes in the region…but note…that’s ‘could’.

Wouldn’t Obama’s failure of strategy, leadership, and basic competence in Syria lead one to pause?

What have we gotten in exchange for doing business with Assad & Putin?

What about the instability we’re seeing with the Turks and Saudis as we reduce our influence in the region…and as we basically ignore many of their interests as well as those of Israel, in order to pursue peace-talks with Iran?

These are bumps in the road for Sullivan.  Iran’s newly-elected President Hasan Rohani is a man we can do business with, or at least try and do business with.  The Iran of today is analogous to the Soviet Union of the 1980’s (when our foreign policy was led by actual realists, not liberal internationalists and Obama’s coalition).

Iran is rotting from within, ready for a strong breeze to lift the lid and unleash the forces of history, freedom, prideful self-determiniation and Persian democratic statehood.

Sullivan:

‘We found a way to rescue the country from its regime, by engagement after a ramping up of opposition. I hope Obama and Rouhani can become the Reagan and Gorbachev of this moment. ‘

That’s a lot of hope, to say the least.

Just as Obama’s foreign policy makes us ever smaller, and drifts us into ever more limited strategic corners while promising lofty ideals and goals, Sullivan seems to have followed this logic where it leads and attached his fortunes to it.

If only that pesky Israel lobby weren’t getting in the way!

We’ll see what happens.

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As noted on this blog, the neo-conservative coalition (quite ok using our military to promote our ideals, often formed out of people with liberal backgrounds mugged by reality) is lacking fresh ideas and leadership, but not necessarily the passion of its convictions and the continued support of its many stale policy prescriptions (bomb Iran…really…that’s it?).

Frankly, the Republican foreign-policy establishment doesn’t seem up to the level it was with James Baker’s realism in the 80’s either.  Much of this establishment is out of gas and hasn’t dealt with the reality of our budgets, the surge of isolationism at home, and the deep structural changes going on throughout our society and on the ground in the Middle-East.  We’re in transition, to say the least.

But the Left seems even more ideological and rudderless, seeking even loftier ideals through grubbier street politics and re-runs of bad feminist, civil-rights style coalitions with back-room dealing and bad laws.

A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

-Many Europeans, and many European leaders traffic in an easy anti-Americanism, but also with rising percentages of Muslims in their societies and combined with their own histories, an easy and virulent anti-Israeli sentiment & anti-Semitism.  When even Bernard Henri-Levy has been warning of this dangerous trend, it might be worth paying attention.

See Adam Garfinkle’s piece on the potentially changing dynamics between the U.S. and Israel:

‘In truth, however, the relationship consists of a metaphorical triangle linking American Jewry with the governments of Israel and the United States. In the natural course of political events, all three actors intermediate between the other two, for good and ill. For example, even as American Jews lobby for Israel in American politics, Israeli governments sometimes get between American Jews and their own government’

Related on this site, see: John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism (Israel can’t go on like this forever, the Israel lobby leads to bad U.S policy decisions): Repost: From Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’